I remember the first time I went for a “real” multi day hike in “real” nature. It was a big step for me. The unknown. Before that, I always had been a city boy, fascinated by the chaos and the maze created by big cities. I was home in cities like Paris, Barcelona, New York and Warsaw. It was my world. Then I became fascinated by what we can call “the great wilderness”. I remembered myself as a kid, dreaming of unspoiled nature, encounters with grizzlies and everything you see in old western movies and the series Davy Crockett (I’m a kid from the 80’s, it was still on air). Anyway, where was I? Yes, my first hike. The very second I started to walk the trail I realized how bad was my gear. The only decent piece of gear I had were my boots. It saved me (and my trip). The rest of my kit was just the cheapest things you could buy at any outdoor retailer. They broke, felt apart, did not keep me dry nor warm. At the end of the trip, two weeks after, I looked like a survivor after a nuke strike. Or like a bum. I had fun but I was miserable. I learned my lesson.
Year after year my kit evolved a lot. I spent time to find the best and more appropriate gear I needed for my trips. And I spent quite a good amount of money buying and ordering them. My trips would never be like the first one. Once I find something that works I tend to stick to it. I’m always interested in new stuff on the market but I tend to be faithful to brands and gear I like.
Couple of years back I became more interested in the ultralight philosophy, I also started packrafting, two things linked together. So I naturally came across Hyperlite Mountain Gear.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is not a mainstream brand. They produce technical and goal oriented gear, this goal being traveling fast and light. What chocked me first was the look of the products. Everything is white (well not anymore, but it stays the norm) due to the material used: cuben fiber. In Sweden most of the outdoor packs and clothes produced and used are military green, and they also look like the army.
Cuben fiber is a resistant, high end laminated fabric used to produce sails, kites and other thing that need a high resistance to abrasion and a light weight. More information can be found there.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a cottage company, which means their production is made in a small local workshop, the total opposite of major brands like The North Face that produces millions of pieces in China. Here we talk quality against quantity.
What works for me: HMG packs
I am the happy owner of three backpacks from HMG: Summit pack, Ice pack and Porter pack. Three packs, three different purposes.
The Summit pack (30L) is probably the one I use the most. It’s my go-to pack not only for every outdoor activity, but also for commuting, city travels, going to the grocery and everything that involves carrying something that fits inside the pack.
This backpack is super versatile and can easily be rolled to the size of a Nalgene Bottle (1L). It can be used for the final push to the summit of your dreams, leaving the big load in the tent at base camp. I’ve been using it since about 9 month almost every day. Of course it’s not as white as it used to be, but apart from the color, and the fabric that is a bit more flexible than on the first day, nothing has changed: no sign of wear, no hole, nothing. Impressive.
In this pack I can easily fit a MLD Duomid, a wood gas stove, my waterproofs, a sleeping bag and mat, a down jacket, some food and a six pack (hydration is crucial).
The Ice Pack , as the name implies, is designed for icy terrain: ice climbing, glacier traveling and general mountaineering. I used mine also on short packrafting trips and days at the crag.
The external crampon and ice axe attachment system comes in handy when traveling in the mountains, heading to an alpine route. I also love the rope attachment system: it holds the rope on the top of the bag, nothing moves. When scrambling, the ice tools are firmly secured too and are easily accessible.
I ordered this pack in size 2400 cubic inches (40 liters) and find it just as adequate for a long day in the mountains, for overnighters with climbing gear (otherwise I use my Summit pack) or for a 2 day lightweight packrafting trip (without the helmet and the drysuit).
It’s a great medium sized backpack, when used for its original purpose it flirts with perfection. If you find this pack still too heavy, belt can be removed as well as the two aluminum stays.
The Porter pack is the summit pack’s big brother. Both share the same design, the big difference is the size and capacity of the Porter. If I’m right, the first name of this backpack was the Expedition pack. At 4400 cubic inches (70 liters), you easily understand why this name. Some people may wonder why such a big load if going ultralight? My answer will be this drawing:
The Porter is the perfect pack for packrafting trips. Both for short and technical rivers and for weeks long trips in the backcountry. The stuff pocket is a great add on worth the few extra bucks. I use it to carry paddles and PFD.
This backpack has been my best friend on many long trips over the past few years. It looks used of course, I repaired a couple of tiny holes while on the field with Tyvek tape, but it’s still in perfect condition and will last some more years.
These 3 backpacks are the only ones I need right now for the outdoors and more. They are minimalist, versatile, ultralight and durable. I don’t need more pockets or anything else. Their minimalist design encourage a good and effective gear management. These packs are pricey and hard to find (you have to order online from their website), but they are totally worth the money. So if you are reading this because you still hesitate to get yourself one of the best bags around, just go for it!
Disclaimer: I spent my own money to get these packs and wrote freely this post.
Pics on this post have been shot during trips in Nepal, Sweden, France. Pics by Natasza, FX and Peter Allen