Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review

A lower volume frameless pack constructed of a Cuben fiber/ripstop nylon laminate that’s cutting edge and raises the bar for frameless backpack elegance.

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

The Windrider is cutting edge with high quality materials and construction, and it outperforms its peers of similar volume. However, it’s not waterproof as claimed, and it’s a bit heavier and costlier than those same peers.

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by Will Rietveld |

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 1
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider pack is a cutting edge and versatile frameless backpack. Here I use it as a day pack while backcountry skiing.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear, a new small company making gear for ultralight backpacking, likes to be on the cutting edge, which definitely attracts our attention. I previously reviewed their Echo Modular Shelter System, which is innovative and highly versatile. Their Windrider pack is likewise well designed and versatile. It’s made of a Cuben Fiber/ripstop nylon laminate, which is unique and something I didn’t know even existed. As you will see in our Frameless Backpacks State of the Market Report 2011, there are a growing number of backpacks for ultralight backpacking, and most of them are highly refined. How does the HMG Windrider compare with the competition?

Specifications

Year/Model 2011 Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider (www.hyperlitemountaingear.com)
Style Frameless backpack with removable stays, top loading, drybag top closure with two side straps and one top compression Y-strap
Volume Size Large/Tall tested.
Specified volume: 2650 cubic inches (43 L) including pockets and extension collar
Measured volume: 2590 cubic inches (42 L)
Weight Manufacturer specification: 25.5 oz (723 g)
Stays weight: 2.1 oz (60 g)
Measured weight: 27.3 oz (774 g) with stays
Sizes Available Unisex S, M, L, Tall
Fabrics Pack body is 2.75 oz/yd2 (93 g/m2) Cuben Fiber/ripstop nylon hybrid fabric, front and side pockets are durable mesh
Features Wide padded hipbelt with two waterproof zippered pockets, mesh front and two side pockets with elastic binding, two compression straps each side, sternum strap, 7-in (18-cm) extension collar, drybag type closure and top compression Y-strap, one ice axe loop, one front tool loop, four front attachment buckles for accessory straps, haul loop, sewn-in backpanel foam pad, hydration sleeve and one hose port, double-reinforced flat bottom
Volume to Weight Ratio 95 in3/oz, based on 2590 in3 and measured weight of 27.3 oz (size Large/Tall)
Maximum Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity 30 lb (13.6 kg) estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day
Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio 17.5 (based on 30 lb load and a measured weight of 1.71 lb with stays)
MSRP US$255
Options Southwest version with Spectra Hardline exterior pockets (same weight and cost)

Description

The fabric used in the HMG Windrider is truly unique. It’s a Cuben Fiber/ripstop nylon hybrid weighing 2.75 oz/yd2 (93 g/m2), and that’s all they will tell me about it. The Cuben Fiber is on the inside and ripstop nylon on the outside. The pack is sewn together like a conventional frameless pack, rather than using adhesives as in a Cuben Fiber pack. The construction is very high quality.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 2
Close up of the HMG’s Cuben Fiber/ripstop nylon fabric. It’s a bit stiff, and it wrinkles and crinkles.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 3
Views of the HMG Windrider pack: The pack is a traditional style with a large mesh front pocket and two mesh side pockets (far left). The mesh used in the outside pockets is a coarse pattern and quite durable. A Southwest version of the pack with even more durable mesh pockets is available. The backpanel (second photo) is the pack fabric against your back. Each side (third photo) has a large mesh pocket and two compression straps. The top closure (far right) is a drybag type with two side straps and one top Y-strap.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 4
Frame and Suspension: the Windrider comes with two thin flat removable aluminum stays (left) that insert into sleeves on the inside of the pack’s backpanel. The backpanel has a sewn-in foam pad on the inside, plus a shallow hydration sleeve. Shoulder straps (upper right) are 2.75 inches (7 cm) wide, fairly stiff, and have 3D mesh on the underside. Hipbelt wings (right) are 4 inches (10 cm) wide, also fairly stiff, and also have 3D mesh on the inside.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 5
Features: Each hipbelt wing (above) has a large attached Dyneema ripstop pocket with a water resistant zipper.

Performance

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 6
I tested the Windrider on fall and spring backpacking trips in the southern Rockies and southern Utah canyon country, as well as numerous winter day trips while backcountry skiing and snowshoeing.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 7
The Windrider pack is claimed to be waterproof, no pack cover required: so is it? I also noticed that the pack’s outside ripstop nylon layer absorbs water. So I decided to test the pack’s waterproofness and water absorption by soaking it in the bathtub for half an hour. When I lifted the pack out of the water and opened it up it had about a pint of water in the bottom, and the only way it could have gotten there is by soaking through the seams. I reweighed the pack after allowing it to drip for five minutes and found it had absorbed 11 ounces (312 g) of water. The outcome: the pack is not waterproof as claimed, so the Windrider needs a rain cover like any other pack. The pack’s padding and seam binding accounts for a lot of the absorbed water, but the fabric surface also absorbs quite a bit, certainly more than silnylon would.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 8
A nice feature of the Windrider is its flat bottom, so it stands up on the ground. Many packs readily fall over, which is annoying.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review - 9
The Windrider has two compression straps on each side and compresses down to half of its full volume, which is very good compared to other packs I tested. The front mesh pocket is fully accessible when the pack is compressed.

The measured pack torso length (size Large/Tall) by the BPL method (inside of shoulder strap to middle of the hipbelt) is 20.25 inches (51 cm), and 22.25 inches (57 cm) by the conventional manufacturer method (top of shoulder strap to bottom of the hipbelt). The Windrider is available in four torso lengths, and the tallest one (tested) ranks in the top three for long torso length; the Granite Gear Virga is the same, and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa and Six Moon Designs Traveler are slightly taller.

Our pack load carrying capacity tests show the Windrider will comfortably carry loads up to 20 pounds (9.1 kg) without stays and up to 30 pounds (13.6 kg) with stays. The Windrider ranked in the middle of six packs tested that have removable stays. Interestingly, the stays help support the pack quite well up to a 20 pound (9.1 kg) load, then collapse more beyond that weight (see Part 2B of this series for specific test results).

The aluminum stays in the Windrider weigh just 2.1 ounces/pair (60 g/pair), one of the lightest among the packs in our roundup that have removable stays. They are flat aluminum stays one-half inch wide and one-sixteenth inch thick (1.3 cm x 2 mm) that will hold a bend, but they are not rigid enough to resist deformation. In other words, they readily flex with the pack’s backpanel, and bend with heavier pack weights. In my opinion, the contoured tubular stay unit used in the Gossamer Gear, Elemental Horizons, and Six Moon Designs packs is better. Its contour can be customized and it’s more rigid to resist distortion with heavier loads.

In its defense, the Windrider is a smaller volume frameless backpack, which is not intended to carry heavy loads, so perhaps the stay system is adequate for the pack’s intended purpose. For the pack’s volume, a normal load of lightweight gear plus expendables would weigh between 15 and 25 pounds (6.8 to 11.3 kg), which is well within the pack’s comfortable carrying capacity. This agrees with my field testing, where I comfortably carried 22 pounds (10 kg) in the Windrider on a three-day backpack on the Boulder Mail Trail in Southwestern Utah.

Our pack volume measurement shows a close agreement with the pack’s specified volume; the specified volume is 2650 cubic inches (43 L), and our measurement is 2590 cubic inches (42 L).

The pack’s hydration sleeve appears to be too shallow, only 9.75 inches (25 cm) deep. However, when I put a filled 2.5-liter Platypus flask in the sleeve, the bottom of the flask is level with the shoulder strap seam, so it appears to be designed to place the weight as high as possible and make the flask as accessible as possible. The side mesh pockets are also tall enough to hold a hydration bladder.

Comparisons

Comparative specifications can be found in my Frameless Backpack State of the Market Report 2011 Part 3 (coming soon). The closest comparisons are the Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet, ZPacks Dyneema X 26, and Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT. The first two are about 10 ounces (283 g) lighter, and the third is only slightly lighter.

Assessment

Although I managed to find a few flaws, I want to emphasize that the Windrider is a very nice pack. It’s cutting edge, as far as materials, design, and construction. The fact that it’s not waterproof as claimed is really a non-issue because no backpack is waterproof unless the seams are taped, and taping seams is tedious and adds weight. The stay system is simple and lightweight, but it is not as robust as some of the other packs. Actually, it’s encouraging to see a 2650 cubic inch (43 L) frameless pack come with removable stays, because it reinforces our finding that stays improve a pack’s comfortable load carrying capacity for loads heavier than 15 pounds (6.8 kg). The stays that come with the Windrider weigh only 2.1 ounces per pair (60 g), so they add minimal weight to the pack while providing multiple benefits.

The Windrider is a smaller volume frameless pack in the “sweet spot” for ultralight backpacking. With a lightweight and compact gear kit, the Windrider is a perfect size for shorter three-season backpacking trips up to about four days. On the plus side, the Windrider is durable and very well designed and constructed. The main downside is that the Windrider is on the heavy side at 25.5 ounces (723 g). Most of its competitors weigh in the 12 to 20 ounce (340 to 567 g) range. It gets down to a basic question of: “does the extra weight equal extra comfort?” The answer is basically yes, but the next question is: “do I want extra comfort features in an ‘ultralight’ frameless backpack, or do I want it Spartan and also comfortable?” That’s a question that you will need to answer for yourself. It’s like deciding between a Lexus and a Prius. If you don’t mind an extra 10 ounces (283 g) of pack weight and extra cost, then the Windrider is a pack that you will be proud to own, and it will perform as well or better than its peers of similar size.

What’s Good
  • Excellent volume reduction system
  • Durable fabric and mesh
  • Removable stay system included, one of the lightest stay systems currently available
  • Excellent suspension system for a frameless backpack
  • Comfortably carries moderate loads
  • Large mesh front and side pockets for convenient access to items needed on the trail
  • Excellent construction, very sturdily built, with adequate reinforcements
  • Fits well (if you choose the correct size); four torso lengths available
  • Large hipbelt pockets included
  • Bottom is flat so pack stands up by itself
  • Hydration sleeve positions the weight higher and makes the reservoir more accessible
What’s Not So Good
  • Pack is not waterproof as claimed
  • Outer fabric absorbs water
  • Stays less supportive with heavy loads
  • At 25.5 ounces (723 g), the Windrider is on the heavy side compared to its competitors
Recommendations For Improvement
  • Offer a contoured tubular stay
  • Reduce the weight of the pack


Citation

"Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/hmg_windrider_review.html, 2011-06-07 00:05:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review on 06/07/2011 14:33:45 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review on 06/07/2011 16:12:17 MDT Print View

Thanks for the review, Will. My 2011 SW version with dyneema gridstop pockets in Large and aluminum stays weights 25.7 oz on the nose.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review on 06/07/2011 16:18:37 MDT Print View

Is that even legal, since you're not in the SW?

Edited by skinewmexico on 06/07/2011 16:21:50 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review on 06/07/2011 16:23:12 MDT Print View

Joe - I am still waiting for my invite to the SW.....

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
HMG Windrider on 06/07/2011 17:20:38 MDT Print View

David, consider this an invitation, I can submit it formally in writing if you would like. :)

That's one sharp pack, it's definitely not groundbreaking in any way, but has a really solid feature set... but that cost....oh the cost.

Edited by Eugeneius on 06/07/2011 17:23:10 MDT.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: HMG Windrider on 06/07/2011 17:25:48 MDT Print View

The Cost is not much more really. How much is a prophet with the same features(hipbelt pockets added) plus it has stays and an internal foam frame. And there isn't a wait time of after the season on them like other packs out there.

Edited by rcowman on 06/07/2011 17:26:30 MDT.

Warren Greer
(WarrenGreer) - F

Locale: SoCal
Interesting pack on 06/07/2011 23:41:47 MDT Print View

They might as well make the stays a bit stronger so it can carry loads even better. It's not like its the UL king, but then it isn't trying to be. There are others here who have bought this pack. Can't wait to hear what they say.

. .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review on 06/08/2011 00:10:00 MDT Print View

"Recommendations For Improvement: Reduce the weight of the pack"

Classic!

This pack seems like a great idea and I think Will's recommendations are spot on. It really would be handy if it were truly waterproof and lighter weight than the current model. It seems if a 1.5 oz. Cuben fiber were used it should still be plenty durable, more waterproof, and lighter weight.

Edited by biointegra on 06/08/2011 00:10:32 MDT.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review" on 06/08/2011 00:37:37 MDT Print View

If only HMG can figure out how to make it look good too. Really though, besides the cuben/nylon hybrid pack body, the pack is nothing new, it builds off of well established UL pack features found in many other packs (ie. Gossamer Gear Gorilla and Mariposa, ULA Ohm and Circuit, Prophet and Exodus, etc.) The HMG Windrider does comes fully loaded if that's what you want in a pack, but personally, I like a stipped down simple ruck I can tweak, add to, strip down if I like. Sub 30lbs. is in that weight range where it's splitting hairs as to all day comfort on the trail for me, most packs with some padding will do just fine.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: "Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review" on 06/08/2011 04:03:27 MDT Print View

This model might be more up your alley, Eugene.






It should be up on their site soon.

Edited by simplespirit on 06/08/2011 04:05:01 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
HMG Windrider on 06/08/2011 08:18:28 MDT Print View

Yes - I suspect the stays could be stiffer. However, they easily formed to one's back which ups the comfort for most lightweight loads. I agree that if you add the hydration sleeve, belt pockets, and all padding, this pack is no heavier than comparable packs in the class and the fabric is 'bomber.' Thick and has the feeling of real durability. This isn't the cuben used in stuff sacks...; )

I will have to report back when I get some miles on mine.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: HMG Windrider on 06/08/2011 08:24:41 MDT Print View

"And there isn't a wait time of after the season on them like other packs out there."

Even with a slight mod, I got my Windrider within like three weeks. No mod and I would have had it sooner.

I bought mine as a winter pack, so I won't get a chance to use it til next fall, but I really like the feel of the pack, really like the way it seems to ride (I did load it up and try it on, but didn't do any significant walking with it). If it works out for me (and I have no doubt it will), it'll be replacing my Starlite. So I'm certainly not gaining weight with it.

Not revolutionary, no, but one sweet pack. I'm really looking forward to getting mine out on the trail.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Backpack Review on 06/08/2011 08:48:47 MDT Print View

Stiffer Stays: The Windriders stay sleeves will accomadate "doubled" stays. I have a 2nd set of stays coming from Mike at HMG and I will test and provide comments regarding using the doubled stays to add stiffness.

"Not revolutionary, no, but one sweet pack." Like Doug I use my custom Windrider SW as a winter pack. For this use the pack is near perfect IMO. My three season pack is the MLD Burn which I love, the HMG Windrider SW provides the additional volume and carrying capacity required when using true winter season type gear.

The 25 oz weight, IMO, is acceptable when considering the packs design features including the stays, the doubled bottom, the belt pockets and durable material (this weight also includes the 500d Hardline exterior pockets of the SW version). A well thought out design and high quality of workmanship and materials make the Windrider a pack worth considering.

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Windrider on 06/08/2011 10:54:56 MDT Print View

"Even with a slight mod, I got my Windrider within like three weeks. No mod and I would have had it sooner."

Similar experience with mine. Went with no hipbelt, sternum strap, and stays and the pack weighs in at 16.5 oz. Mike is a pleasure to work with and prompt with returning messages.

Rakesh Malik
(Tamerlin)

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Re: Windrider on 06/08/2011 13:05:19 MDT Print View

I've been using a 2010 model Windrider for a while now, and so far my impressions are positive as well.

I used it as my day pack on Kilimanjaro, and I've been using it for bike commuting here in Seattle. On Kili, I carried around 35 pounds (most of the weight was water + photo gear) in it, and commuting I usually carry around 15. Having had it in the rain for hours at a time now, including a driving sleet/rain storm at Kili, and finding the interior dry when I reached camp, I've gotten to the point where I trust it to keep my stuff dry... so I carry books, an iPad, and last night a small computer in it, and just clothing to pad the stuff. Though I wouldn't treat it like a dry bag, I don't worry about rain with it.

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
Waterproof on 06/08/2011 15:12:25 MDT Print View

I wouldn't use a pack cover with the Windrider. Sure there are pin holes from sewing etc, but the fabric is indeed waterproof as HMG claims and when tested in rain (as opposed to a bathtub) virtually none gets in. If you really want zero water getting in, a pack cover isn't going to accomplish this because it's open on one side of the pack. For normal use, I would say the Windrider is waterproof enough as it is, but if you want to be 100% water tight then either seam seal the pack or use a pack liner.

It is good to know that the fabric absorbs weight. I do wonder how much of these weight was soaked in the packs padding as opposed to the actual cuben/nylon fabric.

My wife has the Windrider and she's been very happy with it through about 2 weeks of trail time so far. We did snip the top strap system off because it makes the pack a lot more time consuming to open and close. These straps would be handy for a bear canister or large rolled CCF pad, but she doesn't carry these so out came the snippers. The hydration sleeve is also going to be snipped shortly.

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Waterproofing on 06/08/2011 18:55:14 MDT Print View

I spoke to Mike about the 'waterproofing' at trail days and he explained that all the seams are taped with the exception of the seams on the back panel. This is where they close up the bag during production and is also where the back padding is located. I trust the packs ability to repel water with all of my down insulation--jacket and quilt.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Waterproofing on 06/08/2011 19:21:18 MDT Print View

If you buy a drybag that says "Waterproof" you know what you expect.

That is not the case here...

"...Super-Resistant, Most Seams Taped, that Usually Keeps Water Out"

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
HMG Windrider on 06/08/2011 19:23:28 MDT Print View

Egads man!

$255? Looks pretty typical to me.

__________________________________________________

You can't buy the perfect pack.

It's a proven hokus-pokus Cosmic-ZenThing:

The perfect pack only appears when you're ready for it. The perfect pack can only be found when you stop looking for the perfect pack.

It's probably already in your closet...if you let it be.

Find something that fits good enough, accept the fact that every pack has its pros and cons, that 30 lbs will always feel $hitty after 25 miles, and forget about packs.

Behold. You've found the perfect pack.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: HMG Windrider on 06/08/2011 19:33:18 MDT Print View

Excellent advice Craig! Even works for relationships. Except, perhaps, for the bit about the closet.....