HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR: 3400 WINDRIDER PACK
When it’s below freezing and the sideways sleet and snow blows in harsh against your body, good gear is imperative to staying warm and dry. On a long-distance hiking trail, where you don’t have access at the end of the day to get inside and thaw out, it’s crucial to keep all those warm, insulating layers that are stowed inside your backpack dry. And my 3400 Windrider Pack does exactly that: it keeps the elements out.
My pack, made in Maine by Hyperlite Mountain Gear, is an invaluable piece of equipment that is well-suited for a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail that happens to take place in winter. Single digit temperatures are not uncommon, and so is snow and freezing rain. Made of cuben fiber, it is by hiking standards, totally waterproof. As snow accumulates on its surface, as I recently saw when Winter Storm Jonas dumped up to two feet of snow in the mountains, not a drop of moisture found its way through the ultralight and ultra-durable fabric. As the freezing rain froze to the pack’s straps and buckles, not a drop found its way through the exceptional craftsmanship that uses the highest of quality materials. For me, the 3400 Windrider is both worry- and hassle-free. Instead of worrying that my down jacket or sleeping quilt is getting wet, I can let my thoughts fall onto more important matters, like enjoying the trail as the snow sparkles like glitter in the cool, winter air.
At 5’5, and as a athletic and fit woman who is shrinking in weight by the day, the 3400 Windrider allows me to carry thirty pounds without discomfort. (As one can imagine, a pack’s base-weight is significantly higher during winter than in summer and my base-weight is a wee ounce or two under twenty pounds.) And when full, the weight is distributed evenly, so as to keep the pack steady and from throwing my balance off as I hike upwards of twenty-five mile days, or, as I saw last week during Winter Storm Jonas, sixteen mile days spent hiking in snow that was ankle, calf and occasionally thigh deep.
The pack’s construction is simple. It has a tall roll-top collar that easily suits carrying four, five and six days of food. Inside, it’s like one giant black hole, which carries all the other invaluable pieces of gear needed for staying comfortable in the midst of winter. Aluminum stays and lightweight padding at the back aid in comfort and rigidity of the pack’s design. Shoulder straps, lightly padded and constructed with Dyneema, stay in place and provide comfort for both male and female hikers. Two hip-belt pockets allow weatherproof storage without adding bulk. And on the exterior, there are three durable mesh pockets allowing me to stow all the items that I need access to throughout the day, like my data book, insulated water bottle, Jetboil Titanium Sol and Stumptown Coffee. Warm, dry and caffinated: That’s how this girl will ultimately succeed in completing the Appalachian Trail this winter, followed by two additional thru-hikes this year in her quest to hike the Calendar Triple Crown. Three long-distance trails, 7,500 miles and a year’s worth of unpredictable conditions en route.