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Top 10 Backpacking Rain Jackets: 2018 Annual Survey Results

While there are thousands of outdoor rain jackets and hard shells available, most backpackers choose from a small set of common makes and models. If you’re in the market for a new backpacking rain jacket, here are the 10 most popular rain jackets that backpackers actually use today and recommend.

2018 Rain Jacket Survey

We been running surveys on SectionHiker.com for many years to find out about our readers’ gear-selection preferences because we feel that many manufacturers ignore their needs in order to court the higher-volume consumer market.

Backpacking is a remarkably simple hobby, but it’s easy to think otherwise if you pay too much attention to the hype put out by the outdoor news sites and printed magazines competing for gear manufacturers’ and retailers’ advertising revenue. Our reader surveys help us keep SectionHiker’s gear reviews and educational articles real and grounded in reality, rather than focused on the latest bright and shiny object or technology.

In this recent survey, we asked over 700 backpackers to answer the following questions:

  • What are the most popular rain jackets used by backpackers?
  • Would they recommend their rain jacket to their best friend?
  • How frequently do backpackers purchase new rain jackets?

Most Popular Backpacking Rain Jackets

We found that the 40% of the backpackers we surveyed use the following three rain jackets. They’re far and away the most popular choices.

We list the complete list of top ten rain jacket rankings below, including whether they’re available in distinct men’s or women’s models.

The top 10 rain jackets are used by 56.5% of the backpackers in our survey. The remaining 43.5% of those surveyed use a total of 153 other rain jackets from many different manufacturers. As an indication of product loyalty and satisfaction, we asked backpackers if they would recommend their jacket to their best friend.

Rain Jacket Replacement Rate

We also asked backpackers how often they purchase new backpacking rain jackets to replace the ones they currently own.

How often do you buy a new backpacking rain jacket

Our results show that 47.3% of the backpackers we surveyed, or nearly half, replace their rain jackets within 3 years. While that’s good news for rain jacket manufacturers and land fill owners, you have to wonder why the replacement rate is so high. We discuss some possible reasons for this below.

Discussion

There are a few conclusions that one can infer from these survey results.

Low Cost Preference

There’s a notable absence of premium makes and models from manufacturers like Arc’teryx in the top 10 backpacking rain jackets. The 10 most popular rain jackets are predominantly under $200 at retail prices, although you can often purchase them for far less during sales. Backpackers are either highly cost conscious or they have a healthy disregard for the performance claims of premium jacket manufacturers. I think both of these factors are in play in rain jacket product selection.

For example, backpacking brings out the worst in more expensive waterproof/breathable jackets. Shoulder strap and hip belt abrasion causes rapid deterioration of the DWR coatings in those jackets that incorporate a waterproof/breathable membrane. When you add in the fact that wearing a backpack blocks about 50% of the breathable area of a jacket, it’s no wonder that most backpackers perspire heavily when they hike in the rain. Carrying 20+ pounds on your back is exercise, after all. So I’m not surprised that many of the top 10 jackets use proprietary waterproof membranes with lackluster breathability performance, or none at all, since there’s little benefit in paying for more expensive ones.

Recommendation Scores

The backpacking community is closely knit and people commonly take the advice of friends or people whose opinions they trust when making purchase decisions. A common way of measuring brand or product loyalty and customer satisfaction is to ask people whether they’d be willing to recommend and promote it. A score between 90% and 100% is considered very high and favorable, which helps explain why people keep buying the same top three jackets year over year.

It also explains why savvy manufacturers (should) avoid retiring successful product lines or names, even when they significantly alter the design of existing models. A good name is a terrible thing to waste, even if it makes product changes less transparent for consumers.

Replacement Frequency

Close to half of the backpackers we surveyed replace their rain jackets every three years. There are a great many reasons to replace a rain jacket ranging from normal wear and tear to deterioration of DWR coatings. We didn’t collect data about the reasons why backpackers buy new ones so frequently, but it’s interesting to see how frequently they do. We plan to delve into this more in future surveys.

Consistency with 2017 Rain Jacket Survey

The results of the 2018 rain jacket survey (n= 728) are consistent with our findings in the 2017 survey (n=322), although more reliable because we had over twice as many respondents. We also screened out respondents who said they did do not backpack, something we did not do as carefully in the 2017 survey. While the percentages of products used differ, the top three jackets: the Marmot Precip, Outdoor Research Helium II, and Frogg Toggs Ultralight 2, are the same in both years.

Rain Jackets (2017) % Owned MSRP (USD) Satisfaction 1-5
Marmot Precip Jacket 28.8 $100.00 4.07
Frogg Toggs UL Suit 13.2 $24.99 4.10
Outdoor Research Helium II 8.14 $159.00 4.04
Patagonia Torrentshell 2.7 %129.00 3.44
North Face Venture 2.4 %99.00 3.60
Marmot Essence 2.4 %199.95 3.43
Columbia Watertight II 1.4 %90.00 4.00
Mountain Hardwear Plasmic 1.4 %139.95 3.80
Columbia Pournation 1.4 %90.00 3.75
Lightheart Gear Rain Jacket 1.4 %99.00 4.00

About this Survey

This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of backpacking gear.

While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general backpacking population based on the size of the survey results where n=728 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant because backpackers were not randomly selected to participate from a pre-screened population.

There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: backpackers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all backpackers, backpacker who read Internet content might not be representative of all backpackers, backpackers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all backpackers, our methods for formulating questions and recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.

The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to backpackers who are interested in learning about the most popular rain jackets carried by backpackers.

If you’d like to notified of future surveys and gear raffles, sign up for our weekly newsletter in order to be notified when they occur. Not sure you want to subscribe? Check out some recent newsletter issues to see what they’re like.

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2018 Tenkara Fly Fishing Diary

A big brook trout from the Ellis River

The trout fishing season is almost over in New Hampshire and this year been a watershed in my development as a fly fisherman. Despite the insufferable summer heat, the fishing was unexpectedly great, and I spent many a late afternoon or early evening by a riverside or stream with a fly rod. While I caught a lot of trout, I really benefited from the repetition of fishing many streams and rivers. I’ve been fishing for a few years, but this was the first year I really dedicated myself to integrating fishing into my daily routine and hiking trips.

Flies

My best performing flies this year were ants, bead head bugs, flymphs, and most recently, bead head prince nymphs. These are wet flies fished below the surface in the water column or bouncing along the river bottom. Most the rivers and streams I fish are less than 8 feet deep and often as shallow as a 1-2 feet. When I fish with a Tenkara rod, I can usually see the fly in the water, so I can adjust its depth. I’ve found that this can make a big difference on its attractiveness to feeding trout.

Typical fly assortment
Typical fly assortment – some standards, some patterns to experiment with. Mostly size 12.

I tie most of my own flies and while I watch fly tying videos on YouTube and read books that have lots of different patterns in them, I largely make up my own fly patterns with whatever materials I have hand on my fly tying bench. New Hampshire trout are not very choosy. At least not the ones in our smaller rivers and streams. Lake trout may be a different story, but I don’t do that kind of fishing because I like to hike along the streams and rivers I fish.

I experimented with a number of fly-tying ingredients this year including:

  • jig hooks and slotted beads, which are better for trout because they get hooked in the lips rather than down the throat, making for a faster and less invasive release. They are easier for trout to head-shake though.
  • ice dubbing, which is a sparkly reflective body material to get trouts’ attention in the water.
  • better quality dun and ginger capes for hackles with a better variety of feather lengths and better coloring
  • many more bead heads to help sink the flies

I wouldn’t be surprised if I spent as much time tying flies as I did fishing this year. It’s kind of hard to explain the pleasure I get from tying a nice looking fly and then using it on a river later in the day. I guess I’m hooked.

Rods

My faithful Tenkara USA Iwana remains my favorite rod to fish with, although I picked up a very sweet multi-piece 9′ Orvis Clearwater Frequent Flyer late in the season which is a better instrument for larger rivers, where more reach is required. I frequently carry both on hikes.

However, I am looking for a much shorter Tenkara rod (with a cork handle) for fishing small streams that have a lot of tree and bush cover. If you have a suggestion, let me know. I’d like a rod that’s as short as 6′ to 8′ in length.

Parapet Brook in the Great Gulf
Parapet Brook in the Great Gulf

Rivers

In previous years, I ranged far and wide looking for good trout fishing rivers, but this year I stayed surprisingly close to my New Hampshire digs, fishing the Ellis, the Wildcat River, the Peabody, and the Swift repeatedly, working different sections of the river to find the best fishing spots. This involved a surprising amount of bushwhacking, scrambling, and some wading, which doubled the fun.

Brookie on Nancy Brook
Brookie on Nancy Brook

I also started carrying at least one Tenkara rod on all of my hikes and backpacking trips, sampling a growing number of smaller streams to identify other good fishing destinations. This really opened up my eyes to the potential of New Hampshire fly fishing. Every river and stream has trout in it, from Smarts Brook and Nancy Brook to Synder Brook on Mount Madison. The tiny brook trout might not be monsters, but they’re fun to find, catch, and release.

I still sampled many rivers and smaller streams, almost too many to count, since it’s so easy to stop and fish for a while with a Tenkara Rod when you happen to pass by a nice section of trouty-looking water.

Here’s a list of my many ramblings. They all have trout. The trick is to learn how to read trout water to identify the places where they’re most likely to lie.

  1. Peabody River
  2. Ellis River
  3. Saco River
  4. Swift River
  5. Wildcat Brook
  6. Wild River
  7. Snyder Brook
  8. Israel River
  9. Zealand River
  10. Ammonoosuc River
  11. Smarts Brook
  12. Sawyer River
  13. Nancy Brook
  14. East Branch Pemigewasset
  15. Parapet Brook
  16. Rocky Branch River
  17. East Branch Saco River
  18. Cold River
  19. Evans Brook
  20. Austin Mill Brook
  21. Bemis Brook
  22. Norcross Brook
  23. Meadow Brook
Smarts Brook Gorge
Smarts Brook Gorge

The New Hampshire trout season starts shutting down between September 30th to October 15th, depending on the river. There are a few that remain open later in the season and year round, which I might give a go before it gets too cold to fish.

The New Hampshire Freshwater Fishing Digest lists the seasons for each species and the special rules governing different rivers. There are a surprising number of rivers with extended seasons, including rivers that are open year-round, which is worth knowing about if you want to ease into the off-season. I might just…

But until next spring, I guess I’m going to be tying a lot of flies.

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Outdoor Retailer 2018: Editor’s Choice Gear Picks

Outdoor Retailer is a trade show held every summer where outdoor gear manufacturers come together and show off the gear they plan to bring to market in the upcoming year (2019). It’s a very social event where you get to catch up with old friends, drink a lot of beer, and try to figure out what the most promising new products will be. My focus at these shows is to look for new gear that I can use on my own trips and adventures and that I think my readers will benefit from knowing about.

Editor’s Choice

There were hundreds and hundreds of outdoor gear manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer trade show this year and I met with many of them to see their 2019 offerings. The following products are the cream of the crop in my opinion, representing a variety of needs and price points. You should expect to see many of them featured in SectionHiker’s detailed gear reviews in the coming year as they come to market. I won’t formally recommend them until I get to test them, but they all look very promising.

Tents and Shelters

Key Trends: Material science innovations continue to drive gear weights lower and lower in the tent and shelter category. Some brands have embraced the new materials, while others have been slower to adopt them until manufacturing costs fall or the real world durability of new fabrics and structural materials is better understood.

Big Agnes' Carbon Tents have Dyneema Rain Flies and Carbon Fiber Poles
Big Agnes’ Carbon Tents have Dyneema Rain Flies, Nylon and Mesh Inner Tents, and Carbon Fiber Poles

Big Agnes made a splash with the introduction of the new ultralight “Carbon” line of tents made with Dyneema rain flies, nylon and mesh inner tents, and carbon fiber poles. While the weights of these tents is outstanding, you’ll probably need to tap into your trust fund to buy one.

Model Trail Weight Price
Fly Creek HV 1 Carbon 16 oz / 454g $799.95
Fly Creek HV 2 Carbon 18 oz / 510 g $849.95
Tiger Wall 2 Carbon 25 oz / 709g $999.95
Tiger Wall 3 Carbon 30 oz / 850g $1,199.95
Scout 2 Carbon 11 oz / 312g $699.95
Onyx Tarp Carbon 8 oz / 227g $499.95
Flower Wall Bivy Carbon 6 oz / 170g TBD

Big Agnes Bikepacking Tents have short tent poles that are easier to pack on bikes
Big Agnes’ Bikepacking Tents have short tent poles that are easier to pack on bikes, with more functional stuff sacks.

Big Agnes also introduced ultralight bikepacking versions of the Fly Creek HV UL 1, Fly Creek HV UL 2, Copper Spur HV UL 1, and the Copper Spur HV UL2. The key innovation in this series are tent poles that have a maximum segment length of 12 inches, making them easier to pack in bike frame bags or panniers.

The Eureka Solitaire AL weighs 2 lbs 10 oz and costs just $99.95
The Eureka Solitaire AL weighs 2 lbs 10 oz and costs just $99.95

Eureka will be introducing a more durable version of the iconic Solitaire Tent ($99.95) that will include more durable aluminum poles instead of the fiberglass ones sold with the Solitaire today, which have a history of breaking. Weighing 2 lbs 10 ounces, the Solitaire AL is a spacious bivy style tent with a mesh roof that can be used for stargazing on cool nights. I reviewed the Solitaire 1P on SectionHiker.com a few years ago and think it will be an even better entry-level backpacking tent with the new aluminum poles.

NEMO Rocket 2 - 22 oz
NEMO Rocket 2 – 22 oz

The NEMO Rocket 2 is a two person ultralight, single-wall tent for two people with dual vestibules. Abundant side mesh helps cut down on internal condensation while high sidewalls and a deep bathtub floor provide enhanced weather protection and increased head room. The tent is made using the same conventional Silnylon/PU 7d and 10d fabrics on the NEMO Hornet UL double-wall tents.

MSR has eliminated seam taping in the Hubba Hubba NX and has a new bug bivy for use with tarps
MSR has eliminated seam taping in the Hubba Hubba NX and has a new bug bivy for use with tarps

The 2019 MSR Hubba Hubba NX will include Easton Syclone tent poles which are more durable and resilient than the aluminum poles previously included with the tent and less prone to breaking than carbon fiber poles. MSR has changed the way they sew the Hubba Hubba’s fabric seams, making them waterproof without the use of seam taping (which breaks down with use and exposure to sun), thereby increasing the tents effective lifespan. MSR also introduced a 10 oz mesh inner tent/bug bivy for use with a tarp, but it has an unusual door orientation, so I’m not sure whether it will be that convenient to use. But that’s why we test gear, to find out.

OR's new Waterproof Breathable stargazer and Interstellar Bivies have U-shaped zippers for ease of access and Delrin rods to increase headroom and livability.
OR’s new Waterproof/ Breathable Stargazer and Interstellar Bivies have U-shaped zippers for ease of access and Delrin rods to increase headroom and livability.

Outdoor Research has overhauled their entire bivy product line while introducing two new waterproof/breathable bivy sacks called the Interstellar Bivy (19.9 oz, $275)  and the Stargazer Bivy (18.5 oz, $259) that have U-shaped zippers for ease of access. The weight of the Helium Bivy ($179), originally introduced in 2014, has dropped from 18 oz to 16.8 oz, while the Alpine Bivy ($250) has dropped from 32 oz to an astounding 21.5 oz.

Backpacks

Key Trends: It’s amazing how many new backpacks are introduced every year or improved and updated. The availability of light weight packs continues to grow and more manufacturers, including Mountain Hardware and Exped, have started making packs with Dyneema DCF. But the biggest trend that stands out in the backpacking world is the widespread introduction of women’s-specific backpacks by many new manufacturers, including Mystery Ranch and Granite Gear. Take note: unisex backpack sizing is dead-on-arrival.

The new Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 has a max load rating of 50 lbs and is available in men's and women's-specific models
The new Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 has a max load rating of 50 lbs and is available in men’s and women’s-specific models.

Granite Gear unveiled an impressive upgrade of the Blaze AC 60 Backpack, with an entirely new injection molded framesheet that gives the pack an impressive 50 lb load rating. The pack has an adjustable length hip belt and adjustable torso length so you can dial in a perfect fit. It has a removable top lid than can be attached to the front of the pack and used as a large chest pocket, a rear zipper that provides full interior access, and large hip belt pockets. The new Blaze AC uses a custom 210 Robic Nylon UHMWPE triple gridstop in high wears areas, making it Granite Gear’s most durable backpack to date. The pack is available in multiple torso ranges raging from 15″ to 24″ for men and ranging from 15″ to 21″ for women, including women’s specific shoulder straps and hip belts. The Blaze AC 60 pack weight ranges from 2.9 to 3.1 lbs, depending on the size.

Mountain Hardwear and Exped have new Dyneema climbing packs.
Mountain Hardwear and Exped have new Dyneema climbing packs.

In addition, Mountain Hardware and Exped announced two new Dyneema (DCF) climbing packs. The Mountain Hardware Alpine Light Backpack is a full-on climbing and winter sport backpack that will be competitively priced in 28L ($270), 35L ($330), and 50L ($350) sizes. Fit is unisex, but there will be multiple torso sizes available. Weights are currently unavailable. The Exped Whiteout is more of a minimalist alpine pack, with a roll-top, two external daisy chains, and a small zippered pocket. The Whiteout will be available in 35L, 45L, and 55L sizes weighing 24.5 oz, 28 oz, and 30 oz, respectively.

Mammut has a new adjustable-length backpack called the Trion Spine Pack, intended for trekking and mountaineering, which has dual pivot points at the hips and shoulders that can move independent of one another and helping you to climb or hike more efficiently. A stabilizing rod connecting the two ends of the frame dampens any excess movement, providing a very stable carry. The Trion Spine will be available this spring in men’s and women’s specific version in 35L, 50L, and 70L sizes.

Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Pads

Key Trends: Sleep system components keep getting lighter and lighter, finally rivaling those made by the ultralight cottage manufacturers in the sleeping bag and quilt category. In addition, the first version of an industry-wide sleeping pad R-value measurement standard has been ratified and will soon be an ASTM International Standard. Participation by key retailers, including REI, will likely force major sleeping pad manufacturers such as NEMO and Big Agnes to start labelling their sleeping pads with R-values instead of temperature ratings by 2020, increasing consumer confidence, and providing a basis of comparison between sleeping pad brands.

The NeoAir Uberlite only weighs 8.8 ounces (72" x 20") and has an R-value of 2
The NeoAir Uberlite only weighs 8.8 ounces (72″ x 20″) and has an R-value of 2. The crinkly potato chip layer has also been removed, providing a much quieter air mattress.

In sleeping pads, Therm-a-Rest introduced the new NeoAir Uberlite Air Mattress, which weighs 8.8 oz ($179.95) in a regular 72″ x 20″ size and just 6.0 oz ($139.95) in a small 48″ x 20″ size. The Uberlite has an R-value of 2.0, with 2.5 inches of cushioning. While the Uberlite retains the Triangular Core Matrix insulation used in other NeoAir mattresses, the crinkly (potato-chip) sounding mirrored layer has been removed, which will be a welcome relief for people who think the old NeoAir pads are noisy to sleep on.

The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is filled with 900 fill power RDS certified waterproof down
The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is filled with 900 fill power RDS certified waterproof down. A 32F, size regular, weighs under a pound.

Therm-a-Rest also has a hot new ultralight quilt called the Vesper 32F/0C & 20/F/-6V that is filled with 900 fill power, RDS-certified, Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. The Vesper 32 weighs 15 oz in a size regular ($329.95) and 17 oz in a size long ($349.95), while the Vesper 20 weighs 19 oz in a size regular ($379.95) and 21 oz in a size long (399.95). All of the Vespers have side baffles, a neckline draft collar, insulated footbox, and incorporate Therm-a-Rest’s ThermaCapture lining. They also include SynergyLink connectors to integrate with your sleeping pad to form a complete sleep system.

The Big Agnes Pluton is a 40F ultralight sleeping bag that weighs 15 oz
The Big Agnes Pluton is a 40F ultralight sleeping bag that weighs 15 oz

Big Agnes announced a new ultralight 40 degree sleeping bag called the Pluton ($349.95) that is filled with 850 fill power Downtek RDS-certified down and weighs in at 15 oz. It has a minimalist hood and a full-length, two-way zipper, so you can vent your feet if they’re too warm.

Other Notable Products and Updates

The Lifesaver Jerrycan is a water container capable of filtering 5282 gallons of water on one replaceable filter cartridge
The Lifesaver Jerrycan is a water container capable of filtering 5282 gallons of water per replaceable filter cartridge.
  • Sawyer will begin a sell a Micro Version of the popular Squeeze Filter in a few weeks. It will flow nearly as fast as the Squeeze, but has the benefit of dual-threaded ends for cleaning, connection to a gravity setup, and inline use.
  • The Lifesaver Jerrycan Water Filter (available today) is 4.9 gallon container with a built-in filter that can process 5,300 gallons of water, making it ideal for groups, emergency preparedness, and RV use. The Jerrycan filter removes 99.99% of viruses, 99.9999% of bacteria, and 99.99% of cysts. Once the filter cartridge is blocked, water will not pass through, so you’ll know when to replace it. A shower attachment is also available.
  • The Granite Gear Crown 2 60L gets an upgrade to its side water bottles pockets, which will be  slanted to make it easier to pull out and insert water bottles. The side pockets are also reinforced with solid fabric for increased durability.
  • Gregory will release new updated models of the Zulu and Jade Backpacks for men and women across a variety of sizes.
  • Mystery Ranch has rolled out a full line of women’s specific backpacks.
  • The Sierra Designs High Route FL 1 Tent has had a color revamp to match the other tents in the SD product line. The tent’s weight has also been reduced by 5 oz, to 1 lb 15 oz, bringing it under 2 lbs to encourage more thru-hikers to purchase it.
  • Sierra Designs will also offer an updated version of its original 800 fill power down Backcountry Quilt, renamed the Nitro Quilt in 35F (20 oz) and 20F degree (25 oz) options. Half bag, half quilt, the Nitro has a unique hood that folds away when not needed on warm nights.
  • Big Agnes has revamped their classic sleeping bag attachment system across the sleeping bag product line, making it simpler and lighter weight.
  • Vargo has entered the tent business with a new 2-person single wall, dual vestibule tent called the No-Fly 2P, weighing 2.6 lbs. The No-Fly is a freestanding tent with two interior poles that cross inside the tent’s roof and slot into the corners, providing a peak height of 43 inches for great livability.

What strikes your fancy?

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Ultralight Backpack Updates – 2018

Taking in the view from the Sachem Peak Ledges, Acteon Ridge, New Hampshire.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpacks are popular with thru-hikers and backpackers because they’re light weight, streamlined, and durable. Their 2400 Southwest backpack (40L) is my personal favorite and the pack I’ve been using for most of my backpacking trips, day hikes, and bushwhacks for the past 3 years.

While my HMG Southwest 2400 is buttery-soft and sweat-stained from use, it’s lasted far longer than any other ultralight backpack I’ve owned because it’s made with Dyneema Composite Fabric and it doesn’t have any external mesh pockets (which rip quickly). While the HMG Southwest 2400 isn’t the lightest 40L backpack you can buy, I’m willing to take the small weight penalty for a durable pack that I can count on when I have to bash through dense spruce or scramble up avalanche slides.

But the first generation Southwest 2400 wasn’t perfect because it had very small hip belt pockets that were difficult to use for much more than carrying a pair of Aquamira bottles or a small bottle of bug dope. I eventually trained myself not to depend on them as external storage, even though I do like packs with big hip belt pockets.

Hyperlite's backpack pockets are large enough to store cell phones, POS cameras, or even PLBs
Hyperlite’s new backpack pockets are large enough to store cell phones, POS cameras, or even PLBs

But HMG recently upgraded their backpacks by increasing the volume of their hip belt pockets by about 20%. That might not sound like much, but the pockets are now substantially deeper so you can store larger objects in them and get your fingers in and out without the risk of amputation. For example, you can now store a point-and-shoot camera, a cell phone, or an inReach Explorer+, which is a big improvement.

Hyperlite doesn’t offer an pocket upgrade for packs made with the smaller pockets though, at least not yet.

Pre-bent aluminum stays

Hyperlite has also started shipping pre-bent aluminum stays, instead of flat stays. Backpack frame stays prevent a backpack from collapsing on itself when you load it up and help transfer your gear weight to the hip belt.  The advantage of aluminum stays over a frame is that you can bend them to fit your exact body shape and personalize the fit like a custom backpack. But learning how to bend aluminum stays can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with them (See How to Bend Backpack Frame Stays) and the new pre-bent stays included with Hyperlite’s packs often fit without any adjustment needed.

Strap and hip belt fabric

Hyperlite has also switched from covering the inside of their shoulder straps and hip belts from spacer mesh to a softer, more densely woven fabric that’s the consistency of softshell. There’s no noticeable change in how the new fabric grips you or wicks sweat, but it’s much softer to the touch.

Wrap Up

Those are the biggest changes I’ve noticed in this latest generation of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Backpacks. None of them are huge modifications to the form and function of the packs, just incremental refinements that make them more comfortable and easier to use. While innovation is good, I shy away from backpack companies that are always changing the design or look of their backpacks from year to year. I take some comfort in knowing that I can probably replace my HMG Southwest 2400, if I ever wear it out, with a backpack that’s nearly identical to the original. Change is inevitable, but for the moment, my Southwest 2400 is dialed-in and I like it that way.

Compare 1 Prices

Last updated: 2018-07-13 02:15:24

Hyperlite Mountan Gear has provided the author with several backpacks.

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