Ultralight backpacking is a streamlined approach to covering a lot of terrain in the most efficient manner possible. We looked at Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s lightweight, trail-tested gear as a window into its broader approach to hiking ‘essentialism.’
The word “ultralight” describes the basic principle behind the gear you’ll carry, where less is more. Ultimately, it comes down to simplicity and service: the best ultralight gear functions in more ways than one. Another word for this is “essentialism,” an underlying principle that can be applied to the way you pack and the way you travel.
As the Hyperlite Mountain Gear website explains, “Essentialism isn’t about going without, creating an unnecessary challenge for dramatic effect, or pursuing a half-cocked bragging right. It’s about eliminating the overbuilt, the redundant, the bright shiny object glimmering in social media posts and on the clearance racks of stores.”
Essentialism pays off more when traveling with others. One person can carry a tent while another carries food, for example. Ironically, once you get an efficient approach dialed in, it opens the door for hauling other gear for bigger adventures, like a packraft.
The essentials mindset inherently overlaps with a need for product quality. If you’re packing with the least amount you comfortably can, it has to work and it has to last.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear speaks to that mindset. In fact, our review of the climbing-oriented Prism Alpine pack called it “about as perfect as a pack can get.”
This article runs through some ultralight principles to help you better understand its advantages — and how to consider what tradeoffs to make so that you’re comfortable in your travels.
Ultralight Packing ‘Essentialism’
Don’t Skimp on Room and Board
You need a tent or shelter, a sleeping bag, and a pack to carry them in. Then you need food, a change of clothes, repair supplies, and a first aid kit. Everything else is luxury, relatively speaking, but don’t fret over pampering yourself with an item that provides safety or comfort.
The idea may be to push you outside your comfort zone a little bit, but not so that your trek becomes worrisome or miserable.
Organization: Build Your System
Hyperlite Mountain Gear takes a system approach to its packs and the contents. Gear is tested before it goes on your multiday backpacking trip, which leaves more time to focus on the hike and surroundings.
The brand’s gear represents a highly intentional approach to backpacking with a system made up of high-quality, lightweight gear that is efficient but still provides comfort while keeping your clothes and food dry.
Part of a successful system is clear organization. That’s where stuff sacks and pods play a large role. Accessories obviously keep things compartmentalized, like clothes, food, and supplies you hope you won’t need but must carry.
You unpack and repack your bag often on a backpacking trip, and it’s worth the forethought to plan how you’ll sort your gear before hitting the trail. That’s why Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks use waterproof Dyneema fabrics.
However, the construction can allow water near stitching. So, Hyperlite Mountain Gear suggests using weather-resistant stuff sacks to add redundancy to keeping food and clothes dry.
Other items will live outside the bag, like snacks, an extra layer, or sunscreen. It’s all about keeping things you’ll need within reach and packing the rest of your camp in a secure, safe, and comfortable manner within the bag.
Food Is Gear
More gear weighing you down means more spent energy, which requires more food to replace and thus more weight. So, there’s a balancing act while fueling for the trail that takes experience to learn — not just in terms of how much to carry, but also how much you burn on hard days.
Look at your food as a return on investment. It should be calorie-dense and taste good enough that you’ll want to eat it all.
Dry goods that can be hydrated into a proper meal, like oatmeal or ramen noodles, are trail favorites for this reason. You can camp near water and create a filling meal with the taste and texture of a meal at home.
Meanwhile, comfort foods can provide a mental boost after a hard day on the trails. And Fritos. Don’t underestimate the caloric punch and crunch of corn chips. They can salvage a mediocre meal — and serve as great firestarters in a pinch, too.
Camp meals will likely rest somewhere in the middle of your backpack so they aren’t crushed by heavier gear. They also don’t need to be accessed easily, like your trail snacks.
To stay organized and make unpacking easier, you can keep this food together in its own pack. (If you’re in bear country, a canister may be the way to go here.)
A Pack That’s Up for the Challenge
The three main ultralight trail backpacks Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes are purpose-built with tough, light materials. Hyperlite Mountain Gear uses Dyneema composite hybrid fabrics as backing for lightweight polyester face fabrics (50-denier in the 2400 and 3400 models).
This construction is designed to withstand abrasion and to bolster its strength and ripstop properties. The straps feature a polyethylene fiber that’s woven into the nylon base for added tensile strength.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest
The 3400 Southwest is large enough for thru-hikes and can roll down for shorter ventures. Its name reflects the intent behind its reinforcements for rugged and tight trails, like slipping between canyon walls or over rocky obstacles.
The versatile size makes it a good entry-level pick for hikers on longer missions of 5 to 7 days. It has a 55L capacity and weighs 1.98 pounds.
Once you’ve got your ultralight essentialism dialed in, you can upgrade to a smaller pack. The 2400 model Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks are built for short weekend hikes or section hikes where extra food is fairly accessible.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Windrider, Junction
The 2400 Windrider is the original Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpack. It’s aimed at classic thru-hiking in wet and wooded environments such as the Appalachian Trail. It has a 40L capacity inside, a 9.8L capacity outside, and it weighs 1.87 pounds.
The 2400 Junction shares the volume specs and weighs just a smidge more. It’s built with the diverse environments of the PCT in mind, but it’ll work anywhere else, too.
Check out all of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s backpacks, organization accessories, and shelters to see what else is out there. Not just as gear, but as a system approach to moving through nature more efficiently.