Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review
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If you are a purist ultra lighter, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider should be on your shortlist of backpacks, plain and simple. Hyperlite Mountain Gear was able to squeeze a 40 liter capacity into a pack weighing a mere 1 lb. 9 oz. Unlike some other ultralight packs, the Windrider has solid durability and weatherproofing and even some organization ability. While it is definitely a barebones design, you get just enough comfort to carry about 30 pounds.
For most weekend trips, I like to carry close to 45 pounds worth of gear but I wanted to see if I could make a minimalist load to try out the suspension system on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider. I packed the bare essentials for a weekend trip into the top loading packbag and weighed it to just under 30 pounds. The only form of rigidity in the suspension system comes in the form of two thin, foam covered, aluminum vertical stays along the back side. These provide that little bit of extra support needed for larger UL loads. Obviously, with the lack of a rigid back plate, you have to be careful how you pack or else you will be getting poked as you hike. Fortunately, Hyperlite Mountain Gear chose to use more than just mesh or webbing for the shoulder straps and hip belt. For this kind of pack, the padding in the hip belt is very nice. While a minimal design like this will never provide the load support or carrying comfort of a traditional pack, I was able to tolerate carrying the fully loaded Windrider on a hike. I was able to get a decent percentage of the load to sit on my hips with some adjusting. Overall, I’d say the Windrider has a solid suspension system for its ultralight design.
The key to the Windrider’s light weight is Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s choice of fabric for the pack bag. The Windrider uses a nylon ripstop/ Cuben Fiber material that is normally used in competitive racing boat sails. The fabric is totally waterproof and incredibly durable. I threw around the pack and there were barely any scuffs on the material and no wear at all on any of the seams. Because I lacked a rain storm, I tested the waterproofing by sticking a towel in the pack and spraying it down with a hose. The roll top design and fully taped seams kept the towel perfectly dry. Ultralighters are not going to want to carry an extra pack cover and the Windrider is totally weatherproof without one.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear obviously went the minimalist route on features but there are a few notable ones to talk about with the Windrider. My favorite feature is the two large, waterproof hip belt pockets. I love being able to stick my larger point and shoot camera in one of the pockets and not having to worry about packing it away in the bag if it starts raining. The pockets also make a great spot for a snack bar or two. I absolutely love the big, mesh shove it pocket that wraps around the front of the bag and wish every bag had this. You can quickly and easily put a heavy shell in the pocket without having to work to get it in there. The two water bottle pockets hold a Nalgene without any trouble as well. The only negative aspect is that the mesh is not very durable and I could see it ripping fairly easily if it got snagged on something. Rounding out the features is a single ice axe holder that runs down the front of the pack.
One thing I wanted to mention about the Windrider is that I found it to make a surprisingly great bike commuting backpack. Because of the light weight, I was able to carry a larger load on my back than I normally would while biking. I even carried my big and heavy yoga mat in the pack to bike to class, which was an accomplishment because it is not an easy thing to transport. While I probably wouldn’t get the Windrider as a bike specific backpack, it shows the versatility that I like to see in all my gear.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I would definitely check out the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider if you are an ultra lighter or not overly concerned with comfort. The extremely high tech pack bag fabric probably is responsible for the somewhat high $255 price tag but it’s the price you pay for quality and light-weight design. The carrying comfort and great weather proofing set the Windrider apart in the ultralight category. For more info on the Windrider Backpack and other Hyperlite Mountain Gear, visit www.hyperlitemountaingear.com or www.backcountry.com/hyperlite.