Dynema is hot in ultra-light equipment, and not for nothing: It is one of the strongest materials in the world, it is highly resistant to moisture and is incredibly light. Maine Hyperlite Mountain Gear is leading the way with Dyneema, and we were eager to test their 2400 Southwest, a 40-litre package designed for tough terrain. And while we knew we had to take into account the weight of the springs and their exceptional durability, we were even more impressed by the comfort and functionality of the tutu. Here is an overview of the weight, comfort, organization, strength, shape and size of the South-West and much more. To see how it fits in the competition, read our article on the best backpacks.
A 1 pound 14 ounce southwestern hyperlite deserves attention for several reasons. First he places a 40-litre pack in a small group of competing backpacks weighing up to 2 pounds. By comparison: Other lightweight packages with the same (or lower) capacity are the Granite Gear Crown2 38 (2 lbs. 4 oz.) and the Osprey Eja 38 (2 lbs. 6.7 oz.). The second point, which is even more impressive, is the surprisingly small number of compromises made by the southwest to keep the weight down. Even loaded for a trip of several days, the backpack kept my stuff in order and was noticeably comfortable on my back.
We thank Dyneema for the impressive combination of lightness and durability. Until the recent name change, Dyneema used to be known as Cuben Fiber. Dyneema is one of the strongest materials in the world in terms of strength-to-weight ratio and is also super lightweight. Although the package of Dyneema and Dyneema composites is still minimalistic in construction (see organization and pockets below for more details), the fabric of the waistband, the shoulder straps, the outer pockets and the body takes one gram compared to packages with the same capacity. After a few long and tiring kilometres, days in the wilderness of Mount Baker, I was grateful for the southwestern structure. No wonder Hyperlite’s tutus have cult status among the profiteers.
As soon as I bought the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest, I was immediately impressed with its practical design and fit. Weight and interior space are of course important considerations when it comes to packaging, but comfort is always paramount. The light and soft material of the southwest initially frightened me, but my fears disappeared as soon as I pushed the material inside and threw the backpack on my shoulders. The foam padding on the back of ¼-inch added a nice layer of cushioning that prevented the tutu from being pierced in the back, and the removable aluminium supports were effective in weight distribution (I didn’t try to carry the tutu without it, although it could have shaved the 4.4 ounces).
For a minimalist swarm, the hip belt in the southwest is quite soft and comfortable. Even on long days on a course that weighs up to 30 pounds (maximum load 40 pounds), I felt no hotspots or discomfort. However, my experience with the straps and chest hasn’t been perfect (this surprises me because it’s a fit issue specific to women and men – see the section on fit and size below for more details). It took several times to break the stiff straps, but they became comfortable and looked pretty shabby, although they were originally buried under the armpit. On the other hand, the breastplate was more difficult to sew. Finally, I realized that their optimal position on my upper half requires the misplaced Hyperlite logo to be discarded – but all in the name of comfort, right? With this adjustment, the band fits my chest perfectly.
Organisation and bags
The southwestern construction is undeniably basic. It has only one main compartment and three outer pockets for the organization (plus two waist belt pockets). Like Hyperlite’s Windrider 2400, the southwestern body is a tube that is closed by a roller system, closed at the top with a Velcro fastener and fastened at the sides with buckles. In this main compartment there is a hydration bladder cover, but otherwise there is no pouch or storage space. I’m really sorry Hyperlite didn’t have an inside zipped pocket for personal items like wallet or keys, otherwise it was hard to find room for them.
On the outside of the packaging, in the southwest, there are three large bags for the items, which offer an extra capacity of 7.3 liters. I usually used them for extra diapers, food, water or wet stuff that I wanted to keep away from the rest of the equipment. However, unlike Windrider just for outdoor storage, the Southwestern bags are made with a hard line based on Dyneema for extra strength, which also means that the filled items don’t dry as well or as fast as in the net. However, the hyperlite had a hole in the bottom of the three bags through which they could drain.
As a frequent snacker I’m a fool with big back pockets, and in the southwest I’m good at it. Two zippered pockets have been treated with water for extra insurance against the elements, and I especially like the generous size: a pocket that can easily swallow my GPS, mobile phone, heaters and snacks. In my opinion, the southwest will be transformed from an ultra-light tractor to a more complete backpack by a small addition of seatbelt pockets.
Quality and sustainability of buildings
Despite its light weight and minimalist design, the Southwest showed no signs of wear in extensive tests. Despite the fact that I have chosen the 50-Day White 2400 Southwest (the black 2400 model has a 150D fabric for an extra $20), it has withstood blows, traps and bows and has so far proven its indestructibility (the base of both models is made of 150D fabric). I had no problems with the seam, or they all held without showing any sign of wear, and the seam seal didn’t peel or wear at all. However, bear in mind that no matter how strong the dyneema is, the spaces between the woven fibres are subject to perforation. The 50 denier fabric is located at the thinnest end of the backpack fabric, which means that over time this bag is likely to require more care than the more burned models.
What makes the structure of the Dyneema good to great is that it does not affect the waterproofness. On a particularly cold hiking day in the Whistler Alpine Mountains we were flooded with rain and snow in near-frost weather. At the end of the day I leaned on my canvas leg for a couple of hours in a southwesterly direction before I saw the roof deflate directly on the tutu. After a bit of panic I tore the top of the Velcro to discover that my dear cameras were completely dry. The Dyneema and the roll closure did an exemplary job and retained every drop of moisture.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is minimalist with very little frills, so you won’t find a ventilation system on the back of the pack. For those who walk on hot roads, lack of air can be a problem. The dyneema of the backpack sits comfortably on my back and can’t breathe, causing me to get wet several times in an unpleasant way. Other lightweight packs, especially in the Osprey range, use hanging mesh inserts along the back and mesh shoulder and waist straps to promote air circulation. However, what you lose in the southwest ventilation is what you get inside – the lack of extra material along the back wall makes this unit very spacious.
Adjustment and calibration
The 2400 Southwest is available in four different sizes (from small to very large), so I chose an average size depending on the length of the body. The straps were originally a little too wide for me, but after they were loosened, they became noticeably more comfortable. However, I think that special women’s packages from companies such as the Osprey are slightly better suited for women with longer trunks (but not necessarily wider shoulders). But in general the southwest was very comfortable after a few collapses, and the dimensions were there.
Other south-western versions
We tested the 2400 Southwest (40 litres), but it is also available in 3400 (55 litres) and 4400 (70 litres) versions. In terms of cost, you pay $35 more if you increase the size from one tank to another. As said, color also plays a role: the white version of each tutu is made of 50D thinner body tissue, while the black tutu uses 150D for an extra $20 (and an extra 2.3 oz). But apart from the size and extra meat material, all models have the same construction, organisation, equipment and design. The Hyperlite also makes an almost identical Windrider in the same three sizes (see our detailed report on the Windrider here), with a big difference in the material used in the outer bags of the landfill (grid with respect to the Southwest Dyneema).
What we want in
- The 2400 Southwest is one of the lightest packages on the market, but still very practical.
- The main compartment is completely waterproof, even under water.
- Despite its feather-light appearance and sensitive materials, the packaging proved to be very stable thanks to rigorous testing.
What we don’t do is.
- For 3010 dollars it is expensive for 40 liters of packaging, especially considering the limited possibilities.
- Dinema does not breathe well and there is no net in the back to facilitate air circulation.
- The lack of inside pockets makes it difficult to organize your stay.
Few packages can match the ultra-low weight of the 2400 Southwest without too much compromise, but the Lumina 45 Fishing Eagle (and Levity male) stands out in this respect. Weighing in at 1 pound 13.6 oz (0.4 oz less than the Southwest, but 5 liters more), the Lumina offers an impressive range of features, including a real metal frame, floating mesh back panel and plenty of storage (including a zippered pocket and lid) – all for $60 less. However, Lumina’s 30-pound silicone body and sides are not as strong (or waterproof) as Hyperlite’s 50-pound Dyneema, and we’ve also found that it’s more convenient to handle 30-pound charges in the southwest. For the best price (and space) for your dollar we wink at phosphorus, but those with sealing and durability problems should keep it at Hyperlite.
Another competitor to UL is Granite Crown2 38, an impressive package of functionality for a light weight (2 pounds 1.6 ounces without lid) and reasonable price ($185). We’ve found that sewing with Crown2 is much easier, thanks in part to the Velcro system that allows you to adjust the belt size exactly to your fit. Its 100 and 210 denier design also makes it a stronger option if you tend to have stiff equipment, but don’t forget that you don’t get the same water resistance as Hyperlite’s Dyneema. Granite Gear is a great choice for the budget, but we give the South West the overall advantage for its similar features, light weight and amazing comfort on the track.
The final version of the ultralight is the Bogen Explosion Zpacks 55L. This watch costs $15 more than in the Southwest, but contains an extra 15 liters of interior space in a much lighter package (1 pound 4.6 oz.). In addition, thanks to a unique tensioning system that removes the bag from the back, the Bogenschock has a significantly higher level of ventilation. In terms of materials, Zpacks in this case uses a comparable 50 types of dynema, which means that the packaging is both waterproof and durable. However, with 50D at the base (compared to 150D in the southwest), it is less suitable for intensive use or getting stuck in the field (we have a small notch in the bottom of our Arc Blast after installing it on granite). Although Zpacks is one of the best ultra-light options for transit travellers, we believe that the southwest is the best overall option.
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