Pictured above, 3400 (55 liter) Porter Pack from Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Hyper Light and Hyper White
by Matt Dahlgreen
My old pack was perfect…when I bought it. It was light-weight silnylon, packed well, rode my back like a cloud, and its capacity was small enough that I could dodge carrying most of the communal equipment. Its main drawback was the opacity of its dark green and black fabric. Over the years, my night vision has deteriorated considerably and, in spite of the thousand-points-of-light where my ski edges have nicked the fabric, it has become impossible for me to locate anything within that black hole. When I voiced my frustration to a friend and fellow skier, he almost offhandedly mentioned an outfit called Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) that makes a pack of Dyneema Fabric (aka cuben fiber): a virtually tear-proof, white fabric. That casual comment overwhelmed my disgruntled inertia and propelled me beyond the gravitational field of my black-hole pack. I had seen the light.
I spent some time researching other packs but seriously—white, tear-resistant, and modified to carry skis (in an A-frame configuration)—who was I kidding? The only real decision was which model and load capacity. Because I wanted a pack to accommodate a wide range of activities and load capacities, I opted for the highest-capacity Porter pack (4400/70 liter), one of two models of packs Hyperlite modifies to carry skis. The ski carry modifications consist of sewn-on loops at each of the bottom side-compression straps and a more durable form of Dyneema fabric for the pack’s side panels. These modifications added a few ounces to the pack’s base weight of 37.6 ounces and $100 to its base cost of $355. I also purchased a removable rear pocket, ($40, 4.2 oz.) which provides perfect storage for my shovel blade and easy access to gotta-have-it-now items. This pocket more than compensates for the roll top’s lack of quick access.
My former pack’s best assets were its light weight and loaded comfort, both of which are equaled by the H.M.G. Porter which has the advantage of comfortably accommodating considerably heavier loads. I haven’t found the pack’s upper weight limit yet, although at my age (over 60), that limit is probably higher than mine! The internal frame consists of two aluminum stays, a plastic sheet, and one quarter-inch foam. My old pack had shoulder-level tensioners and, at times, I’ve missed being able to snug the pack to my upper back. That must be a phantom limb kind of reaction though because it doesn’t affect how the pack carries at all.
Pictured below, the Porter Pack by H.M.G. on the left and Granite Gear pack on the right.
The Porter Pack by H.M.G. has several great features beyond its comfort, light weight, durability, and ski accommodations:
· Even at dusk on a cloudy day, the remotest recesses of the pack are visible because of the fabric’s translucence and reflectivity.
· Because the pack is very slightly tapered near the bottom, I find it easier to pack heavier items and smaller stuff sacks near the top for better weight distribution and easier access, respectively.
· Dyneema fiber is somewhat rigid so the roll top doesn’t collapse when the pack is open which makes it very easy to load and unload–unlike nylon roll-top packs.
· Although the pack is quite large, it compresses extremely well for equipment intensive day trips like backcountry skiing or rock climbing.
· Dyneema fabric is a non-woven, waterproof fabric and all the seams of this pack are taped so the pack is extremely water resistant. I did experience some leakage around the bottom seam when the pack sat on saturated snow so I remedied that issue by removing the stays, turning the pack inside out, and applying Seam Grip to the offending seam.
· Hyperlite Mountain Gear has provided excellent customer service both before and after the sale.
The only real downside to this whole cuben fiber thing is the unanticipated cost of buying all new cuben fiber stuff stacks because they are so light, durable, water resistant, and are nearly transparent. That, however, is a personal problem.
Editor’s Note: Content Editor, Andy Dappen owns the Porter 3400 (55 liter) made by HMG. Here is a brief review he posted at the WenatcheeOutdoorsForum.org in a string called Favorite Gear for 2015.
3400 Porter Pack from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. This 3400 cc pack (55 liters) has become my go-to pack for both gear-intensive day tripping (e.g., backcountry skiing, rock climbing) as well as lightweight multi-day trips. It’s not the very lightest pack of its capacity out there (my pack weighs 2 pounds, 1 ounce) but is the lightest pack of its capacity that has reinforced sides and bottoms for contenting with skis, sharp tools, and rocks; foam padding and aluminum stays creating a supportive internal frame; full-feature shoulder pads and hip belts; and adequate strapping and compression straps to resize the pack quickly or to easily attach outdoor paraphernalia. Made of heavy-duty cuben-fiber fabric (a fabric first developed for America’s Cup yacht racing), the fabric is very light but super strong. And if you don’t poke holes in the fabric (somewhat inevitable over time), the fabric is completely waterproof. This summer when wildfires threatened my home and I quickly grabbed my most important gear, this pack (out of about a dozen that I own) was one of three I grabbed (I also grabbed one smaller and one larger pack). If I’d only been able to take one pack, this would have been it. The major downside of the 3400 Porter Pack, is its expense: $320 plus $100 for the holsters and side panel reinforcements I wanted for carrying skis. Fortunately you only have to bite that bullet once.
Links for Matt’s story:
Links for Andy’s Part: