Thursday, October 20, 2016

My New Bag

I purchased another backpack (my fourth [!] since 2010).  After my Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) camping trip I decided that a lighter backpack would be better for the Appalachian Trail (AT).  The one I chose was the Hyperlite 3400 Southwest in black (The black pack has a thicker material for added strength and the other color, white, gets dirty too easily).

The Southwest is a simple pack.  It is essentially a dry sack with arm straps.  Coming in at 2.1 lbs (0.95  kg) the pack is 2.7 lbs (1.2 kg)  lighter than the Osprey pack I used on the RMNP camping trip.  The pack has a large, deep, main compartment, three external pockets, and two belt pockets.  The main compartment closes like a standard dry sack, i.e. roll it over a few times then click the ends together.  A 'Y' strap helps compress the bag vertically as well as allows you to secure equipment on the top of the pack.  There are multiple attachment points for equipment mounting.

The Southwest is a 55 liter pack rated for 40 lbs (18 kg) though, after exchanging a few emails with hyperlite, you may be able to push it up to 50 lbs (22.6 kg).  I think forty pounds will be plenty but for some of the longer AT stages the food will probably push the weight up to the low to mid forties.

The pack is made of dyneema, a very durable and waterproof material.  The dry sack construction of the pack means it shouldn't need a pack cover for rainy days (assuming you pack waterproof stuff in the outer pockets).

The pack has a hydration sleeve inside the pack.  My Osprey had an external hydration sleeve that I found incredibly convenient.  The exit for the hydration tube is on the right.  This is odd since most packs give you the option of feeding it either right or left.  This is no big deal but I am used to the drinking tube being on my left.

The simplicity of the bag is a payoff for lack of amenities.  Along with the internal versus external hydration sleeve, there are other things missing.  For example, my Osprey pack has a bottom zipper that allows for easy access to the bottom of the main compartment.  It also has a 'J' zipper that allows you to open the main compartment for easy access to everything.  The Southwest main compartment access is only from the top which means you have to dig to get stuff on the bottom of the main compartment.  You want the bells and whistles?  Then you have to carry the extra weight.  If I'm hiking 2,200 miles I'm willing to trade convenience for less weight to carry.

I used the Southwest on my September camp and it performed well (keep in mind I had a relatively light load).  The pack does not have load lifters.  Load lifters are adjustable straps on the top of the arm straps that allow you to snug the load to your back.  The idea is, when walking on level ground or climbing up, the load should be close to your body.  When you are going down you loosen the load lifters allowing the load to flop back a little thus helping you keep your balance.  My Osprey had load lifters and, during my RMNP hike, I never adjusted the load lifters and I was moving up and down a lot on that hike.  I didn't notice much of a difference so I am not concerned about the lack of load lifters on the Southwest.

All in all I am happy with the pack so far but it is early.  I will be taking it out for a second overnight camping trip next week and I will have another chance to feel out my new AT pack.

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