After using many different backpacks over the years from all the big-name manufacturers and playing with all the packs our friends have, these beautifully crafted load-haulers stand out in a league of their own. By designing their gear with the light and fast style in mind, Hyperlite Mountain Gear trims off all the unnecessary and gimmicky features leaving only useful and multi-purpose components, resulting in a perfectly tuned alpine climbing pack. To make things even better, this awesomeness is designed and built in Maine, USA, by climbers.
I've been using the HMG 2400 Ice Pack (40 liters) with the ski attachment modification, for over a year now. Here's why I'll be using it for many more years to come.
Stripped down for cragging in Kalymnos.
What I Really Like:
It's damn near waterproof. The dyneema sides and bottom do tend to absorb some moisture after extended periods, but overall, this is the most waterproof backpack I've found. Since the majority of our climbing occurs in the Pacific Northwest, having the ability to keep gear dry is paramount for me. This is the primary reason I found Hyperlite in the first place. After a couple trips with drenched sleeping bags, tents or puffy coats, I was desperately searching for a better alternative. Sure, wrapping everything in a trash bag works, but if you're into doing these activities long term, get yourself a waterproof backpack. Hyperlite recommends pairing their backpacks with their stuff sacks for extra protection and a completely watertight system. I don't have any of their stuff sacks yet, but this seems like a good way to guarantee complete dryness.
It offers lots of different ways to carry and stow gear without extra weight. The strap system on the sides and top of this pack allow you to carry a rope, helmet, sleeping pad, pickets or a small child in just about every way imaginable. The crampon stow is reinforced and secures with a bungee. The ice axe or tool holster is quick and sturdy. The waist belt is removable, so the pack can be slimmed down and used as a summit pack or leader pack while climbing more technical terrain. I have yet to encounter a pack so versatile in its configuration and adaptability. I've loaded this thing with a mountaineering tent and lots of food and gear for a 3 day trip climbing Shasta and Shastina. I used it on the Grand Traverse with lots of scrambling and some technical 5th class where I removed the waistbelt several times. I've also used it on lots of ski mountaineering overnights and day trips. In all instances, it's performed wonderfully.
Loaded for a trip up Shastina.
It actually is, hyperlight. This pack is super light. My 2400 Ice Pack weights 35 oz. The BD Speed 30 I used previously weighted 42 oz (and 10 less liters of capacity). The Osprey Mutant 38L is 42.4 oz. The Cilogear 45L Worksack is 65 oz. But the super lightness comes with two caveats: 1) You can't drag this pack behind your car and not expect some wear. While the dyneema is bombproof, the cuban fiber is not. This is not to say that it is fragile however. I have two small holes in mine, about the size of a pin head, likely from ski edges rubbing on the roll top section. They haven't affected performance and have not ripped any more from the initial tear. A small sacrifice in ultimate durability is easily outweighed by the many benefits in my opinion. Nevertheless, it is something to keep in mind. 2) You must be conscience of how you pack this pack. Haphazardly loading it with cantaloupes will result in an uncomfortable and unbalanced load. Get your gong show under control and load your gear with some intelligence. When it's packed well, this pack is the most comfortable pack I've ever traveled with.
What I Like Less:
Carrying water can be tricky. If you're used to using a camelback or platypus bladder, you'll be confused. If you're used to carrying two nalgenes in side mesh pockets, you'll be at a loss. I'd reason that Hyperlite left these out because those methods of carrying water are generally contrary to the lightweight ethos. These days, most lightweight backpackers and experienced alpine climbers opt to carry relatively little water and usually in a small plastic bottle or collapsable container. Hyperlite does offer a bottle strap/pouch that can be attached to the side of the pack. Typically, I'm carrying an insulated bottle that I strap to my harness or the backpack's waistbelt. For more on how I carry water, click here.
The typical fare for our journeys in the Cascades.
Carrying skis without a full pack gets sloppy. Because the pack only hosts two small aluminum stays for a frame, skis tend to compress the bag and flop around if not appropriately tended to. If the pack is fully loaded, the ski securement is solid. I can easily carry H-frame style with no problems. When less than full, A-frame is a must and even then I occasionally need to adjust to avoid the dreaded ski-to-calf slap (this is with a 168cm ski). With either method, accessing the roll top buckles is slightly cumbersome, and exacerbated in the A frame configuration. If you're interested in a pack like this, hopefully you're dialed enough to not be digging into your pack every half mile. This pack is called the "Ice Pack", not the "Ski Pack" so I can't fault it too much, but it's still something to be aware of.
Carrying skis and a picket. This pack is thin enough that climbing with it is no problem. My arms have a full range of motion and I don't hit my elbows even with skis on the pack.
Loaded with crampons and tools for a little spring mixed climbing action. Easily accessible, easily stowed, secured and out of the way.