In summer of 2019, after six years with my beloved REI Crestrail 65 pack, I finally made the switch to an ultralight backpack. I knew for awhile that my next bag was going to be a Hyperlite Mountain Gear bag, but I didn’t know exactly which one. After lots of research between the the Southwest and the Windrider, I finally decided upon the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400. From the moment that it was shipped to me, it was love at first sight. This bag is lightweight, durable, roomy, and ridiculously comfortable. Not only do I use this bag for overnight trips, but it is lighter than all of my daypacks, so I also use it for dayhikes here and there. In sum, this bag rules.
WEIGHT: 32.11 ounces
CAPACITY: 55L; 9.8L of external storage
MAX LOAD: 40 pounds
CLOSURE: Rolled velcro top with buckle
MATERIALS: Cuban fiber with Dyneema exterior pockets; 1/4″ foam back panel pad
WHAT I ABSOLUTELY LOVE:
THE WEIGHT: The HMG Southwest 3400 weights in at a whopping two pounds. TWO. POUNDS. That is absolutely INSANE – my old bag weighed almost five!! The cuban fiber is lightweight, but totally sturdy, and the size of the main compartment is not compromised in the slightest by how little the bag weighs. The first time I took this bag out was like night and day from my old bag, and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to a heavier bag. I feel like I can hike infinitely longer and faster using this bag.
THE CENTER EXTERIOR POCKET: The center exterior pocket is HUGE, easily accessible, and totally secure. Every time I use this bag, I’m always surprised as to how many things I can fit into this pocket. I tend to put snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, and my trash bag in the pocket when I hike, and have never had any issue with things falling out of it. It’s almost like the Mary Poppins bag of exterior pockets. Great feature!
THE FEEL: Although the backpack does have an internal frame, it is much less supportive than my previous backpacking backpack with a FreeFlow back panel to keep my back cool. This was the only spec of the backpack that I was a little nervous about, but honestly, without all of the extra weight, the backpack was extremely comfortable sitting on my back. Because the backpack is so soft, it almost molds into the curve of your back and feels very natural. I usually am dying to take off my backpack as soon as I get to camp, but even after a long day of hiking with this pack, it still feels extremely comfortable.
THE LOOK: I’m not going to lie, “the look” usually accounts for .5% of my decision to purchase a piece of gear. In fact, if said gear is discounted due to to being a less than popular color, I will absolutely purchase said gear and rock all the crazy colors (here’s looking at you, Salomon trail runners). Don’t believe me? Just look at my old teal and orange backpacking backpack (the first time my dad saw it, he asked me if I had turned into a Miami Dolphins fan), my hot pink sleeping bag, and my lime green tent. BUT! This backpack look so.freaking.sleek. Hands down the coolest-looking piece of gear that I own.
WHAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE IMPROVED:
THE SIDE POCKETS: Although the side pockets are big enough to fit a waterbottle and an extra piece of gear (tent poles or a tripod, etc.), they are a bit on the smaller side. With the extra piece of gear in the side pocket, it is a little hard to slide the waterbottle in and out. The first time I used the pack, I had to have my hiking partner put my waterbottle back in for me every time I took a drink. By my second and third trips, the side pockets were starting to loosen a bit, but I think I would like the bag just a tad better if the the side pockets were a little bigger.
WHAT I DISLIKE:
THE LACK OF A SMALL, ZIPPERED POCKET: Okay, so as much as I wanted this bag to be absolutely perfect (and believe me, it is close!), there is just one thing that I really don’t like about the bag. There are no small, zippered pouches anywhere on the bag itself. My old bag had one with easy access, and I liked to be able to put my car key, drivers license, and a $20 bill in it for safe-keeping, not to be opened until I needed it. The only zippered pockets that the Southwest has is the hip belt pockets, and I tend to go in and out of those pockets a lot. On my latest backpacking trips, I’ve put my key into a hip belt pocket, and I was pretty nervous the entire time that my key was going to fall out when I went to get chapstick, a lighter, my knife, etc. I think that next time I go backpacking, I’ll bring a little zippered pouch to keep those things in… but it definitely won’t be as easy access because I’ll want to keep it safely in the bag.
What is the difference between the Southwest and the Windrider?
The Southwest and the Windrider are essentially the exact same bag, except the Southwest has solid Dyneema Hardline pockets and the Windrider has mesh pockets. At first, I had convinced myself to get the Windrider with the mesh pockets, but eventually, I changed my mind and decided that the Southwest pockets seemed a little more durable. Whether that is true or not, I’m not sure, but I’m super happy with my decision to get the Southwest!
Why did you purchase the 3400?
I was also going back and forth on whether to purchase the 2400 or the 3400. On one hand, the whole point of getting an ultralight bag is to carry less weight, so I figured that I should get a smaller bag to restrict how much I could bring. On the other had, the weight difference between the 2400 and 3400 is negligible, and I wanted to be able to bring more gear if I needed it (for example, on winter trips where I needed to bring more layers). This was a huge decision for me; one that I sought input on in many a Facebook hiking group. Overall, even though I always have extra room in my bag, I’m super glad that I went with the 3400, just in case.
Overall, I’m super happy that I purchased this bag, and would do so over and over again. If you have any questions about my experience with this bag, please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy adventuring!