Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp 8’6 x 8’6 weighs just over half a pound and is practically the most versatile and durable shelter for purchase.

I have owned this tarp for about two years and while I was concerned at first about the quality and reliability of it, I no longer have any of those concerns. There are definitely lighter options, but for overall durability, cost, speed of production and shipment, and quality, this is the way to go.

The Build

This tarp is made of Dyneema Composite Fabric (cuben fiber). It has one main seam running down the middle of the tarp which is taped. This seam has never leaked or pulled up, however, there is some dirt that has accumulated along the edges. This happens on basically any seam tape, and is just a part of use—it does not affect the weather resistance.

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The fabric is not entirely transparent. Opaque is the word I would use. You can change under it and retain your privacy. If you want to. It’s your life. One thing I will say, sunsets and sunrises look beautiful through the white option.

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There are five tie-out points on each edge of the tarp, totaling sixteen with the corners included. All of the tie-out points are reenforced with a thicker DCF patch. Also, each corner tie-out and each end of the central seam tie-out points are reenforced with larger DCF patches. Between the tarp and the plastic toggles, there is thin webbing, which is looped.

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The toggles for these tie-out points are very simple and keep adequate friction in your line so it remains taught. These are made for 2.8mm line. HMG has mentioned that they have considered smaller diameter toggles, but as for now, 2.8mm seems to be the standard on their products. If you are really, really, really in need of smaller diameter toggles, ZPacks and a few other manufacturers offer them. I don’t think the few grams saved by swapping out the toggles is worth the effort (though minimal) or a potentially voided warranty, but that’s just me.

I did have a central point loosen during a windy thunderstorm last spring when it was tied to a tree trunk. I had to retighten it every few hours, which was bothersome, but partly my fault—the point was too high and the direction of the wind caused the tarp to flap up and down at that point, making it release tension on its own. Another instance of these coming loose was in a similar situation where I tied to a tree trunk, shaped the tarp like a three-walled pyramid, and it took some snow weight. In this case, I believe I tied the point too high and the other points too low, allowing for improper snow-shedding because of the lower angle. The dense, spring snow caused drooping and by morning, the line was more extended than when I originally tied it out. Both of those occasions were user-error, but still something to be aware of. If you are wise with your tie-outs, have an appropriate angle for your circumstances, and allow some flex in the line, you’ll be fine. Also, none of the plastic bits have broken, but I did have one of the reenforcement points peel up slightly when the tarp took on the heavy snow.

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There are four additional webbing tie-out points in the center quadrants of the tarp, two are on each side of the center seam. These are also reenforced, but they do not have plastic toggles to tighten with. This is not a downside; you can always use a tree hitch to tighten the line from these points. I’ve only used them once or twice to create additional volume inside the tarp.

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On the inside of the tarp (the side with the tag and without the webbing tie-outs), there are two reenforced points with tiny plastic D-Rings. These are great for fastening a clothes line or a spot to tie on a headlamp. I use them to hook the head of my ZPacks Splash Bivy to keep the mesh off my face as well as a point for my trekking pole in certain shelter set-ups. So far, it has been durable enough to lock in the point of my poles and not tear through, even being such a sharp, finite point. I don’t recommend doing this, though, I have my doubts in violent winds or heavy precipitation; or if you hit the pole or the shelter the wrong way. I don’t think it was designed for that. However, for attaching things, it does its job and it does it well.

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The tarp comes with 2.8mm UHMWPE (Spectra) line. This stuff is great. I put it on my Porter 3400, have it in my truck for who knows what, and use it with all of my shelters. This line dries out quickly, hasn’t been affected by tree sap, is very resistant to abrasion, and doesn’t kink unless you’re really trying. Adjusting length is easy and it slides through and grips the toggles well. This line is also easy to cut (with a little effort and scissors, not by sharp, natural abrasion) and burns nicely, making the ends malleable and narrow. Compared to the 1.4mm, it is also significantly easier when tying and untying knots, especially when wet and cold. When it comes down to the weight, it’s light and unless you’re putting it on a scale, you won’t notice the difference between the 1.4mm and the 2.8mm in your pack. For me, the ease of use is more important than the hard weight.

Packability and Storage

When packed, this thing is small, and with all the lines and extras, is right around the size of a one liter Nalgene. You can easily squeeze it into any area of your pack. You could probably fit it in a large jacket pocket; you wouldn’t be comfortable, but you could do it.

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I’ve found it best to fold it length-wise until it is about ten inches in width, then roll it up. I’ve also folded it like a blanket, but that takes up more volume in my pack than rolling, so I usually just refrain from the latter unless I’m in a hurry to go. That brings me to one really great aspect of this tarp—it can be packed wet. I’m not sure if HMG recommends this, but I have found no issues in two years of use. The material does not absorb water and doesn’t rot out or facilitate mildew growth like silnylon tarps. I’m not saying that you should leave this thing packed wet for extended periods of time or submerged, however. To give you an idea, I’ve left it in my pack after rain storms for a day or two in its DCF stuff sack and it dried out quickly (indoors) and did not have any noticeable odor. Basically, when I camp in the wet with my silnylon tents, it’s always in the back of my head that they are going to need to dry out at some point; I’m hoping for some sunlight or some decent breezes before the sun sets—with this tarp I do not have that worry. I know I will be able to unpack it, wipe off the moisture with a PackTowl and be fine.

Versatility

There are almost endless options for set up with this tarp. Your imagination really is the limit. I’ve set this tarp up in some pretty weird ways with lots of rookie mistakes when I first made my transition into the world of tarps and it has continues to hold up well. I’m talking sticking trekking pole tips in and around the D-Rings, having way too much tension in the lines, tying the lines through the webbing of the tie-outs rather than the toggles, etc.

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I’ve made pyramid shapes, the standard A-Frame and storm setups, as well as hung line from tree branches. You think it, this tarp can probably do it, within realistic limits. If you ever have a lack of ideas for a setup, there are a million tutorials and diagrams out there. If you need to get creative, this tarp allows a lot of freedom for you to adapt to your surroundings. It has a variable footprint size as well; when set up almost flat, two 6’0 people could sleep comfortably with a dog or two between, and still have space from the edges of the tarp. When pitched lower for nasty weather, things get a little more snug. For me, it’s still more comfortable than being crammed in a stuffy ultralight tent. It breathes much better, too.

Durability

HMG has gained a solid reputation for not producing crap. This tarp follows that trend. The seams are all intact, just a little dirty along the edges. Water and snow still slide right off of the fabric. Tie-outs have not broken. The stitching is still in place and is not fraying. It still rolls, folds, etc. just like it did on day one. This is a well-made product and as long as you take some kind of care of it, you will be fine in the long-term.

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There are three areas I would like to address, though. One of the glued/welded/laminated reinforcement patches I mentioned earlier peeled up a little; it’s not much, but it’s not nothing. I think this happened when I tightened the lines too much during a windy storm, gust-by-gust pulling the pieces a part.

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The other thing I want to address concerns the durability of the fabric. It’s strong, but you do have to be kind of careful with it. I’m not sure how I managed to scrape (not exactly a tear, but almost) the fabric or what it was on, but last summer I noticed a spot that looked like a soon-to-be rip. For the sake of not ruining my tarp, I won’t do the crampon test (mostly because I think a crampon is what caused it)—it’s just too thin and not exactly designed to resist impaling. If you walk on it or it grinds up agains some dirt and rocks and twigs, you should be fine as long as it’s minimal. If you’re grinding it on granite or setting rocks on top of the corners, it will resist some of the abrasion, but I would refrain from that as much as possible. It’s too light of a material to stand up to that kind of wear. The CF8 is thin; if it were the CF11 (found in grey HMG stuff sacks and packs and floors) it could take more of a beating. Be sure to check out the video at the bottom, I show a tear that happened while the tarp was pitched over a sharp rock as well as how to repair it.

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The same goes for the stuff sack it comes with. I’ve gotten a few small holes from stakes (those 6” Easton ultralight Full Metal Jacket ones). Even if you wear some holes or tears, they are ridiculously easy to repair with HMG’s repair kit, or for a better value, ZPacks’ cuben fiber tape. At the end of the day, this tarp is durable as long as you are reasonably mindful of caring for its placement and setup. Compared to most other tarps out there, even of the DCF variety, not much else feels or performs as solidly as this tarp.

Summary

Yep, it’s expensive. If you have the cash, or plan on investing in ultralight equipment this is a good direction to look. There are lighter tarps, but their fragility and thinness was a concern for me. Having used other HMG products, quality and longevity have not been issues and what issues have come in that area can generally be traced back to my rookie mistakes from early on. Has it been worth the money? Yeah, it’s like the Arc’teryx Alpha LT of tarps. It’s great for any condition, sheds moisture well, doesn’t weigh much or take up much space, and is just a smart purchase if you’re looking for a shelter to last you a decade plus. I’m firm in that, I think this tarp (and the rest of my HMG products) will hit the ten-year mark before retiring.

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It isn’t the absolute lightest, but it is incredibly versatile, spacious, packable, long-lasting, well-made, easy to use, and looks great wherever you take it. Be sure to check out the video below. I talk about it some more, show you some different angles, and it’s just the polite thing to do. Thanks for reading!

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 3400

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 3400 is a 55 liter weatherproof pack that weighs in around two pounds. At this point, I’ve had the pack for almost two years and in that time I’ve learned a fair amount about the Porter’s performance and build quality. I’ve taken it on day hikes, climbs, and backpacking trips throughout Colorado as well as on a three week trip through England and Kenya. This pack has seen both urban and wild environments. While it excels in both, it is meant for the backcountry.
The inside.

 

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Interior zippered pocket.

This pack is basically a giant tube. With this design, you’re not limited by different storage areas and it really allows you to customize your weight distribution and overall packing preferences. The only compartment on the inside is a small zippered pocket, which is perfect for a few maps, a compass, and maybe some bars. It’s sized well, not too small that it’s pointless, but not too big that it gets in the way. I prefer to leave it empty or fill it and use it as a divider when packing. The zipper doesn’t unzip on its own and, being made from the same material as the rest of the pack, it performs well with keeping contents dry on the inside. If you stuff a wet jacket in there and have a phone inside the pocket, there’s no need to worry about damaging the phone. This pocket isn’t seam sealed, but it’ll still do the job with wet contents.

 

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Removable aluminum stays.

Underneath the pocket is the frame. It’s made of foam, which is about a quarter inch thick (don’t quote me on that), and two aluminum stays. The cool thing about this is that the stays are removable and held in by simple velcro tabs. I like to leave mine in because I like the support and, to me, the weight saved by removing them isn’t enough to compromise on comfort. But if you’re someone who’s counting grams or if you need to make a splint, they come out easily. They are curved slightly, so if you do completely remove them and they don’t slide in effortlessly, that’s most likely why. The stays aren’t too thick, either, so you won’t feel them when hiking. The stays also don’t interfere with packing.

 

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Interior seam-taping.

This pack is also seam-taped. It’s basically a dry bag with suspension. The seams on the sides, the logo, and the daisy chains are all taped and the construction has held up. A few months ago I used this pack in Rocky Mountain National Park during a downpour that lasted about five hours and at the end of it, the contents of my pack were totally dry. I wouldn’t recommend submersing this pack, but it can definitely withstand nasty, wet storms. It’ll keep dry in melting snow as well. Anyway, back to the tape. A little bit of dirt will accumulate on the edges and they will peel ever-so-slightly over time, but that doesn’t compromise the weather-resistance, it’s just aesthetic.

 

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Velcro closure.

At the top of the bag is the Velcro closure. Lots of times Velcro starts to fray after extended use, but this ins’t one of those cases. This stuff is good. The stitching is solid and the hooks and loops stick together really well. Unless you thrash it open, it’s going to stay shut. And with just a few rolls, water won’t be getting in. Pet hair will get caught in the fibers and sometimes the “Made in Maine” tag will get in the way, but it’s such a small section that it hardly affects the pack’s closure.

 

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Open space beyond the closure.

The Velcro doesn’t extend across the full length of the opening. This is actually useful because it seems to allow you to squeeze all the air out of the pack to get a less inflatable-feel.

 

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 3400 in Colorado’s San Juans.

The outside.

 

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The pack filled completely next to a Thermarest Z-Lite Sol for size comparison.

There are two different ways this pack can be closed. I do both, depending on what I’m doing and carrying. The first way really compresses and streamlines the pack; it is the way HMG advertises it. The Porter has buckles on each side that connect to the buckles on the opening of the pack; once these are fastened, there is a final yoke closure that goes from the top of your shoulders to the front of the pack.

 

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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 3400 with a Mammut SuperDry 8.3mm glacier line and Black Diamond Vector helmet attached externally.

This is really handy if you’re carrying something on top, like a rope. It’s surprisingly secure. I like to put my helmet through the yoke strap. Near the handle, the yoke strap has another buckle; it makes getting into the pack easier without undo-ing the whole system.

 

 

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The pack compressed next to a Thermarest Z-Lite Sol for size comparison.

The second way is how you close a dry bag, and mimics the Arc’teryx Naos series from a few years ago. I prefer closing the pack this way most of the time. For me, accessing the inside is easier.

 

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MSR Revo Ascent snowshoes attach to the sides of the pack easily with the compression straps.

The compression straps are multi-use. You can fasten snowshoes, ice tools, sleeping pads, and so much more in addition to compressing the pack. They’ve never loosened on me, the stitching is really tight, and the reinforcement points are solid, so you can put that extra attachment weight onto them without worrying. This is also a good time for me to commend the buckles. These are easy to open with minimal pressure, wet hands, and even with gloves and cold fingers. Combined with the simple closure, everything is very user-friendly for when your dexterity is limited.

 

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The compressed Porter in Colorado’s Sawatch Range.

Some might find the webbing excessive; I don’t. It’s handy when I need that extra length to pull on, weighs almost nothing, and makes me look pretty majestic in the wind. If I ever decide to shorten the straps, I can always cut them and burn the ends.

 

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The compression straps and daisychain-spectra combination make this pack incredibly versatile. In this picture, I’ve attached a pair of Petzl Quarks and Black Diamond Cyborg crampons.

The daisy chain is on both sides of the pack, extending from the bottom to about half way up, as well as on 3/4 of the front of the pack. This feature really boosts the pack’s versatility. I put some spectra on the front for when I want to stuff something on the outside or don’t want to stick my crampons inside my pack. It’s helpful with ice tools, too. Spectra doesn’t come with the pack and is like an extra 12ish bucks if you order it from HMG. It was worth it for me and you never know when you’re going to need the extra line. I purchased 50′ and after looping this through the daisy chain, still had 24′ left. HMG also makes accessories you can affix to the pack like mesh sacks and pockets. This does the job for me, but it’s good that HMG offers those alternatives. If you really want some external pockets, definitely checkout their Southwest, Windrider, and Ice Pack models—they may be a better fit for you, in comparison to the stripped-down Porter.

 

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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 3400 at Kitchwa Tembo Airstrip outside of Narok, Kenya.

The suspension.

 

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For how thin the handle is, it holds the weight of the pack very well. Here, on the right, you can also see the buckle mentioned earlier on the yoke strap.

At the top of the suspension is a webbing handle. It’s great when I need to throw this thing into a truck or onto a carousel or something. Below the handle is the foam padding I was talking about earlier. You have to be conscious of your packing. Like if you put a fluke or something that juts out up against this, you’ll be uncomfortable; it won’t be miserable, just not a 10/10 on comfort, more like a 4. It’s kind of like sleeping on a pointy rock. However, for what it is, it’s comfortable and even with minimal effort in packing, it will feel fine as long as you pack softer or flatter items against the frame. When I pack my folded Big Agnes Q-Core SL against the frame, it feels like a dream. Below the padding, there is some lumbar support with mesh over foam.

 

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These pockets are spacious, but if they are filled completely or tightly near the apex of the zipper curve, they can be difficult to open. I can easily fit some bandaids, a SPOT, a personal towel, and lip balm in one pocket. For size, you can fit an iPhone 6S, but nothing larger.

Here is the hip belt. For some, this may be a downside of the pack because it’s not as customizable as some other packs out there. You don’t really have the adjustment features here that you have on some Osprey and Gregory packs. HMG doesn’t offer that, at least not at this point. I haven’t had any issues with this at all, though. For how simple this suspension system is, I’m impressed at how well it keeps the weight off my shoulders when fit correctly. I ordered mine with the hip belt pockets, their volume is weird, but you can still fit a decent amount of stuff in there.  The zippers are fairly water-resistant, but they’re finicky with closing all the way, staying completely shut when the pockets are full, and zipping and unzipping over the curve. Even then, I’ve never had water leak into them. The buckle is very secure and easy to fit, and just like the others, it’s super easy to buckle and unbuckle even with minimal dexterity.

 

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The straps are made of the same materials as the lower suspension, there’s not as much padding and they are a little narrow compared to some other straps out there, but they don’t really dig into your shoulders as much as you may think. You can’t customize the fit up top, but you can easily do so on the bottom. The sternum strap is good at bringing everything together and you can move it up and down the anchors. The whistle is loud, too. If you use it, you will be heard, even with harsh gusts.
Biggest issue with the suspension of this pack comes when there’s more than 30-35 pounds. HMG advertises that this model has a carrying capacity between 25-40 pounds. I’ve found that anything really over 32 pounds, you’re going to start feeling it on your shoulders more, even with proper fitting. Mostly because these straps are narrow and I don’t think this pack is really built for that. If you keep it under 30 pounds, you’ll definitely be fine. However, if you are considering putting that weight in there, it can hold it, just not as comfortably as it would with less. You may want to consider the 4400 model for heavier loads.

 

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So, in this picture, I’m pulling the strap from the body as hard as I can to expose the stitching. I did this to show that this pack is physically capable of supporting weight and the carrying capacity point I brought up is just a comfort issue. Who knows, maybe I’m just a wimp.

I’m 5’10, 155lbs. with an average build. HMG’s size medium fits me perfectly. It wobbles a little up top when completely full, but it fits to my back really well and does a fantastic job of keep all the weight off my shoulders. It sits just above my iliac crest. There’s definitely no pinching on my shoulders, arms, or hips. If you’re unsure of size, HMG is there to help.

The Porter is really great for weeklong trips, but also excels when compressed as a day pack for short hikes, climbs, peak bagging, all that. Honestly, if you plan well, this pack is more than you could ever need for a thru-hike.

 

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I love how this pack shows the colors of where it’s been. Many of HMG’s packs come in either white (above) or black.

The fabric.
Every single time I take this out and tell someone about it, they always say “it’s so thin, how do you not tear it?” and that’s a good question because I don’t know. I’m not careful with it. Like at all. I think HMG’s got some kind of magic formula or something. This material is very, very, very durable. I’ve slid it down scree slopes, it’s been rubbed against granite, fallen out of a moving truck, glissaded down snow fields. It’s bomber, really. I wouldn’t call it waterproof because it’s hard to put that label on things, but I’ve had it in a few downpours and set it in a few puddles and everything inside kept dry. If anything would leak through, it would be the seams, not the fabric itself. However, that’s never something I’ve had to really worry about. Nor ever will. While everyone else is fidgeting around with their rain covers, I’ve got a cheeky grin on my face.

So, the industry is in a transition phase with the name “Cuben Fiber.” When I purchased this pack in 2014, it was advertised as a nylon-cuben fiber blend. To keep things short, cuben fiber is transitioning to the name Dyneema Composite Fabric to give more credit to the manufacturers of the material. So look out for that in the future. Same material, different name. If you want to learn more about this, here’s a link.

Information about the “cuben fiber” name change

Also, as of February 1, 2016, HMG has also changed its logo from the images above to the image below. It’s just something to be aware of if you are purchasing these items used.

 

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HMG’s new logo on the small stuff sack pillow.

Most of the pack is made of a 50D fabric. The bottom and about 1/5 of the way up the front and sides is a 150D fabric. The bottom is a lot thicker and you can definitely feel it and hear it. Oh that’s another thing, when it gets cold, like 10°F and below, this stuff gets really crinkly and noticeably more stiff. It’s not hard to work with, but there is a little bit of a change in feel when the temperature drops. When you first get it, you’ll start to get crinkles. They’re normal and the fabric isn’t any weaker because of them. My pack also has a ton of scratches and none of them have gotten through. I’m talking stepping on it with crampons, poking it with ice tools, none of it has torn. And if it did, it’s an easy repair with cuben tape. HMG sells this and so does ZPacks. HMG’s is thicker, but you get more bang for your buck with ZPacks’ tape. I’ve used both and they do the job. This is the really important part. I understand that the durability/puncture/tearing concern is one of the main reasons people are hesitant to purchase these products. Check out the video at the end. In it, I take my Black Diamond Cyborg crampons to the pack. It’s a little exaggerated, but the possibility of stepping on your pack with crampons or encountering sharp objects with it is a realistic one. It’s 6:40 into the video.

 

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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 3400 in Colorado’s San Juans.

Overall, this is a great pack. It’s really durable, light, adaptable, and weatherproof. It’s also made in Maine by a company with outstanding customer service. They’re one of the few companies out there that has actually stayed true their mission. This pack is dynamic. It’s great for day hikes and climbs as well as week long trips and traveling through different cities and countries. Only thing I can bring up in this regard is that it did raise a few security flags in London. Its “appearance” was considered suspicious. The dude was rude and went out of his way to make a deal about it. You should be fine traveling internationally.

It’s so simple, yet exceptionally designed and built. I recommend this for anyone going ultralight or lightweight that wants a do-it-all weatherproof pack that will last them. This pack isn’t the most comfortable or the most customizable, but I wouldn’t dissuade you from purchasing it on that alone. It takes on the colors of where you take it over time, but that’s going to happen regardless. Using this pack made me think more critically about how and what I pack and has ultimately made me transition from a “bring everything” mindset to one more in line with bringing only what I need. I can say that if it weren’t for this pack, I might not have enjoyed some trips as much as I would have. I might not have had the motivation to go where I’ve gone had my pack been heavier. Do I recommend this? Hell yeah. There’s a good chance this will be the only pack I use for the next few years. That’s how much I trust it.
Don’t just take my word for it. Look into what other people are saying about the Porter before you make your purchase. Here’s a link that will take you to HMG’s website for all of the specs and a few reviews.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Packs

They’re a strong company, check them out. Look forward to more Hyperlite Mountain Gear tellabouts as well as some other products I’ve beaten up. Thanks for reading and I hope this was of some use to you!

Here’s the video I mentioned earlier. Watch me tell you about the Porter while trying my hardest not to say “um.”