I recently dubbed 2016 as the “year of the Big Carry.”
For the traverse of Southwest Tasmania, I started with forty-two pounds (19 kg); twenty-eight (12.7 kg) of which were food. For the early September hike along the Sangre de Cristo crest, I came out of the gate hauling thirty-four pounds (15.4 kg). And, finally, for the Badlands Traverse, I began my journey toting forty-four pounds (20 kg) total; roughly twenty-six (11.8 kg) of which were H2O.
In order to carry these loads I did something I hadn’t done for almost a decade. I used an internal frame backpack. Specifically, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest pack.
Here’s the review:
Specs (as per HMG website)
Weight: 28.6 oz (811 grams)
Sizes: HMG backpacks come in four torso sizes.
- Interior: 2400 cu. in. (40L)
- External: 600 cu. in. (9.8L)
- Center pocket: 300 cu. in.
- Side pockets: 150 cu. in.
- Body: 50D Dyneeam®/Poly hybrid
- Bottom: Double reinforced 150D Dyneema®/Poly hybrid
- External Pockets: Dyneema® Hardline
- 20 – 40 lbs as per HMG website.
- Sometimes (actually quite often) you need to take companies load ratings for their backpacks with a grain of salt. In this particular case, I can personally vouch for the 2400 Southwest being able to carry 40 lbs relatively comfortably in very challenging conditions. Whether most folks will be able to fit in 40 lbs worth of stuff is another matter entirely. 😉
The Southwest 2400 is an internal frame pack that employs two removable aluminium stays for structural support. It has a slim profile, a rolltop closure and 10 L worth of external storage space.
- Is it waterproof?: Not 100%, but pretty close. Given extended exposure to heavy rain, a tiny amount of water will come in where the shoulder straps are sewn into the main body of the pack. If you’re fording waist high rivers, H2O can also seep through the seam at the bottom of the pack. In other words, you should still line the inside of your backpack with a trash compactor bag.
- Rolltop Closure: The combination of the rolltop seal and Y-strap over the top make for a very secure closure.
- Side pockets – Ideal height at which to access your water bottles. I use either 1 litre Smartwater models or 600 ml Gatorade bottles. Both fit in easily.
- Hip belt pockets – Big enough for most point and shoot cameras or a 5 oz bag of trail mix. The zippers can be a little finicky when it’s cold and/or when the hip belt is cinched firmly whilst traversing technical terrain.
- Mesh Internal Hydration Pocket: I cut this out upon receiving the pack. I’ve never been a fan of hydration hoses.
- Shoulder Straps: Good balance of width and thickness.
- Side Compression Straps: Unlike in the photo on the HMG website, I tend not to join the side compression straps with the rolltop closure clips. Instead, I clip the side straps together over the main external pocket, which tightly secures any items I may have placed there. I have found this system to work well when bushwhacking through dense vegetation and also in winter as a way of firmly securing snowshoes (see photo below).
- Weight Distribution: Very good. Indeed, the weight transfer capability from shoulders to hips was one of the main reasons I decided to go with the 2400 Southwest pack. Over the years it has been my experience that when total pack weight exceeds 25 lbs (11.3 kg), you are better off with an internal frame pack that has a fixed hip belt. This particularly holds true when negotiating rugged off-trail terrain for extended periods.
- Colour: Virgin white will give way to a light grey after a month or two of regular usage. Personally speaking, it could be fluro pink with purple polka dots for all I care as long as it performs well in the field.
If I could give it more than a double thumbs up I would.
Without a hint of hyperbole, over the past year I’ve taken the 2400 Southwest pack through some of the harshest wilderness on the planet. It doesn’t get much tougher on backpacking gear than going off-trail in south west Tasmania. The HMG pack passed that test, as well as other demanding examinations in the Badlands, Sangre de Cristo mountains and Wind River and Beartooth Ranges, with flying colours.
Value for Money:
Retailing for $290 the 2400 Southwest pack isn’t cheap. That being said, you generally get what you pay for when it comes to high performance backpacking gear. This pack is no exception. Considering its made in the US, extremely durable and impressively comfortable under the weight of a heavy load, I would say it offers good value for money.
The HMG 2400 Southwest pack represents a great option for hikers with a base weight of 12 lbs (5.4 kg) or less, who enjoy the occasional excursion into rugged, off-trail environments. For those that generally carry a little more stuff, consider taking a look at its big brother, the 3400 Southwest Pack. Same backpack, 15 L more carrying capacity.
Disclaimer: I was given the 2400 Southwest pack free of charge in exchange for feedback from the field. I was under no obligation to write a review for the pack.