MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 296
edited March 8 in THE GEAR LAB

Words and Photos from @sockedinhikes

If you’ve followed along on my hiking journey for any amount of time, you know that I am a diehard Hyperlite backpack fan. Since 2019, I have worn the same backpack on 99.9% of my hikes, the Hyperlite Southwest 40, and when asked whether I recommend this pack, the answer is always a loud, heck yes! But finding the right pack was a journey that landed me in the hospital with a cyst on my spine after being poorly fitted for my first real backpack in 2016, something that I don’t wish upon my worst enemy. After tossing that pack in the trash and being properly fitted for a small Osprey pack, I vowed to stick with what worked and never subject myself to a new pack ever again. Enter backpacking. 

When I started researching a new pack, I knew that I wanted something that was light but could handle the rugged trails in New England. Finding a pack that would serve my needs was super intimidating, and not being able to try on custom-made packs prior to purchase left me wondering whether I would end up wasting a ton of money on packs that didn’t fit well. I started my journey towards finding the perfect backpack with a variety of larger Osprey packs before finally settling on the super popular Osprey Exos 48-Liter pack. Convinced that this was the pack for me, I tore off the tags and headed out on a day hike, only to realize that I hated the way it fit. Disappointed and several hundred dollars in the hole, I started researching backpacks again and, this time, decided that I wanted to explore a more ultralight setup.

2019 was still early in the days of cottage-brand hiking gear, but there was one brand that seemed to be taking the trails by storm: Hyperlite Mountain Gear. I had seen their packs bobbing down the trails in the White Mountains a handful of times prior to 2019 and found myself intrigued by their sleek setup and bright white color. These were still the days when most hikers were wearing Osprey packs with all the bells and whistles, so seeing one of these pared-down packs was rare and caught my attention. After giving it some thought, I decided that I would throw down the cash and give this wild white pack a try. The rest is history. The Southwest was the perfect pack for my needs, regardless of how long or short the hike was. And weighing under two pounds, I really didn’t see the point in carrying a different pack, even on shorter hikes. 

This pack went with me everywhere. From Baxter State Park in Maine to the northern terminus of the Long Trail in Vermont and everything in between, I sewed my patches to its outer pocket and wore this pack like a badge of honor for five years and over 5,000 miles of hiking. But after finishing my White Mountain Guide hiking goal in the late fall of 2023, I was ready to switch. The newer designs that had been coming out over the last few years had me, once again, wondering if there was a better option for me. However, I had become enamored not only with the Southwest’s design, but the Hyperlite brand as a whole. I loved the simplicity of the pack, the familiarity of how packs designed by Hyperlite fit me, and the fact that they were local to New England. Every few years, a new pack would drop, and every time, I would wonder if it was time to switch, but nothing seemed to be just right until, in fall 2023, a 35-liter, sleek pack similar in many ways to the Southwest popped on the scene. 

I was in love again. The Waypoint 35 pack seemed like the ideal pack for me. It had hip belt pockets, a narrower, taller design than the Southwest, and the center external pocket was made of the new mesh material so many other packs seemed to be adopting. I loved it. And to top it all off, this new design had shoulder strap pockets that were the perfect added storage I never knew I needed. 

Since making the switch, I think it’s safe to say I will not be going back to the Southwest. And although I still love that pack and have continued to recommend it to hikers, the Waypoint is the pack that works best for my hiking style. It’s slightly lighter than the Southwest, and for me, the size is just right. I don’t feel overwhelmed by it, even on day hikes with minimal gear, and the large mesh pocket is big enough to fit extra stuff as needed. I can attach my snowshoes to the top of the pack (something that is a must for me), and having the hip belt pockets for snacks, tissues, and other small items makes me feel spoiled while romping through the mud carrying the bare necessities. 

This spring, I wholly intend on taking this bad boy out on a few backpacking trips to test it out with a heavier load. But in the meantime, I have sewn all my patches to the mesh pocket, taken this pack on over a half dozen day hikes, and will continue to praise it up and down the mountains of New England as my new favorite backpack of all time.

Side note: after over 5,000 miles of hiking, the Southwest is still water-resistant and has almost no wear. Hyperlite packs are built to last, and I cannot state it enough: a pack that can endure the trail conditions and weather in New England can handle just about anything.