Gear Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 Backpack

The 3400 Windrider has made a name for itself as the ideal Appalachian Trail thru-hiking pack

Today, we’re going to look at the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 backpack purchased from Garage Grown Gear, a store and magazine dedicated to ultralight and cottage outdoor gear.

Garage Grown Gear sells lightweight backpacking and thru-hiking gear, accessories, clothing, and food. Their online magazine shares the stories behind the cottage brands sold through their site, as well as features gear reviews and ‘trail talk’ articles written by hikers in our community. 

I prefer buying from Garage Grown Gear because so much of the outdoor industry today is dominated by a few major corporations, but vibrant small businesses, like those featured on Garage Grown Gear, are the foundation of a healthy economy.

New products and businesses sold through the site are the culmination of thousands of hours of thinking, planning, and dreaming. By supporting their development, you are supporting real people with real aspirations.

These small, nimble brands are able to innovate — and iterate — much quicker than the behemoth companies sold through big box stores. Also, because they’re founded and run by people passionate about hiking and backpacking, first-hand experience in the field informs their products.  

Hyperlight Mountain Gear is a brand that has grown substantially in recent years. They’re not necessarily a cottage brand anymore, but they started out of a garage in Maine and grew to a national brand while based out of Biddeford, which is a small town about 25 minutes from Portland. So– of course — we here at Yonlander love that.

First impressions of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 ultra-light backpack

Yonlander Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 Backpack by Yonlander

The 3400 Windrider has made a name for itself as the ideal Appalachian Trail thru-hiking pack with its massive mesh pockets that help to dry wet gear on the move, and its adaptable carrying capacity as supplies accumulate and dwindle along the route.

Ideal for a weekend, section, or thru-hike where resupply points are less frequent and/or for equipment flexibility. 

When the extra volume is not in use, the 3400’s top can roll down enough to make the overall size of the pack similar to 2400, but that additional space can come in pretty handy when you need it.

The bag utilizes Dyneema® fabric, which is used in most ultra-light backpacking gear because it’s 30% lighter by weight than typical silicon-coated woven nylon.

The Windrider is our preferred pack for backpacking in open, wet and wooded trails like those on the Appalachian Trail. The bag has a load capacity of up to 40 lbs.

How do you care for a Dyneema® ultra-light backpack?

Compared with other typical woven tent wall and floor fabrics, Dyneema® Composite Fabrics are up to 3.1 times stronger and offer up to 2.1 times higher tear strength. 

Kevlar is considered seven times stronger than steel, while Dyneema® is 15 times stronger than steel, making it the world’s strongest fiber.

For backpackers, this means they can hike faster and further without compromising durability.

Dyneema® backpacks and tent tarts should be hand-washed in a bucket or bathtub with laundry detergent and warm water. Tents, traps, and backpacks should be set up and air-dried. Do Not put any Dyneema® Composite Fabric gear in a dryer, as excessive heat may cause the material to shrink.

Will my Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpack keep my gear dry?

Dyneema® is made through polyethylene crystallization and is 100% waterproof.

The bag has a Velcro, and roll-top opening, and the Dyneema® fabrics are waterproof, so your gear should definitely stay dry–especially when paired with the optional Hyperlite Stuff Sacks.

As I said, the bags are designed and sourced out of Maine but assembled in Mexico as you can see by the tag sewn into the velcro seam.

What are the benefits of a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 backpack?

I was glad to see substantial buckles on this bag. Many manufacturers will try to save weight on cheaper buckles, but the ultra-light, ultra-strong fabrics on these bags mean they can include stronger buckles which are great for longer through hikes.

The padded shoulder straps are pretty simple. But that’s expected on bags like this, which are not designed for hikes with large, heavy loads. They do, however, include some molle webbing that allows you to add additional shoulder strap accessories. And, of course, there is a port here for the hydration bladder. 

The hip belt includes two pouches on each side. They are the perfect sizes for carrying a cell phone, small battery pack, wallet, or car keys.

Taking a look inside the bag. It really is just a bag with one large main compartment. And that might feel weird when you’re spending nearly $400 on a bag. But this Dyneema® fabric is super substantial. They say that this Dyneema® fabric is 15 times stronger than steel, making it one of the world’s strongest fibers. The bag has frame stays instead of a rigid wire frame or frame sheet made with hard plastic. The stays come preformed but can be easily bent to match your 

So here you can see that comfortably rolled up, it’s about 24 inches. Off camera, I did extend this out comfortably to a max height of about 30 inches, which is definitely a nice feature of that the roll top. The width is about 14 inches, So it definitely packs down to a smaller day-use bag, BUT you can extend it out if needed.

There are three external mesh pockets, making it easy to see what’s in your pockets and allowing gear to dry faster when you’re on those through hikes. I only counted two zippers on the bag found on those two hip pouches. The zippers are, of course, YKK.

The bag does include an Ice Axe Loop on the bottom — and, of course, a sternum strap with a whistle buckle as well as a grab strap on the top.

What are the drawbacks of a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 backpack?

My one complaint is that these hip pouches feel just a little bit flimsy. They’re not made with the Dyneema® fabric and are not waterproof. I have read some reviews where these hip pouches have ripped on long through hikes, so we will keep track of that and see how those work out over the next couple of weeks and months

The hip belts are not adjustable, they’re sewn in, and the belt padding feels comfortable. I purchased a large bag, and I’m about 6 feet tall. It fits me just about right. Once again, this bag is not designed to carry heavy loads but lighter loads on long trips.

Summary of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 backpack

Overall, this is a great bag. I’m definitely excited to try it out.

  • The Windrider is the original backpacking pack from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. With external mesh pockets, it provides ample room for gear without having to open your pack and dig.
  • Paired with stuff sacks for a buttoned-up, it’s nearly 100% waterproof. It features four exterior triglide buckles for adding pack accessory straps or a shoulder pocket, making the pack system more robust and functional.
  • Three external mesh pockets, making it easy to see what’s in your pockets and allows gear to dry faster
  • Adjustable sternum strap with self-tensioning elastic
  • Ideally used for wet, wooded environments for backpacking and thru hiking

Full feature list of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 ultra-light backpack

  • External Pockets:Three external mesh pockets
  • Internal Pockets:Internal Pockets
  • Zippered Pockets:Hardline with Dyneema® zippered pockets on hip belt with #5 YKK zipper
  • Internal Sleeve:Internal 8″ x 14” mesh sleeve for hydration bladder
  • Top Closure:Roll-Top closure system with side compression straps for vertical compression
  • Hip Belt:Hardline with Dyneema® dual-density hip belt with 1/8” closed cell rigid foam, 1/4” closed cell foam and spacer mesh
  • Back:Integrated 1/4” foam back panel pad
  • Loops:Grab Loop & Ice Axe Loop
  • Side Straps:Side compression straps for horizontal compression
  • Top Compression Straps:Top Y-strap compression — Designed to secure gear
  • Shoulder Straps:Hardline with Dyneema® shoulder straps with 3/8” closed cell foam and spacer mesh
  • Sternum Straps:Adjustable sternum strap with self-tensioning elastic and whistle
  • Buckles/Bungees:Four exterior triglide buckles for optional pack accessory straps
  • Stays:Two removable, contoured aluminum stays
  • Sealing:Seam tape on all vertical side seams and behind all sewn-on pack features
  • Pack Accessory Options:Shoulder Pocket, Versa, REpack, Stuff Sacks & Pods
  • Daisy Chains:Daisy chains on shoulder straps
  • Water Resistant:Yes

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Matt Hildreth
Matt Hildrethhttp://RuralOrganizing.org
Matt Hildreth is the Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org. He grew up on a small farm in eastern South Dakota and is a graduate of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota where he studied Philosophy and Communications. He earned a Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication from the University of Iowa and holds an Executive Education Certificate from Harvard University’s Leadership, Organizing and Action program.

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