The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest is one of our all-time favorite lightweight backpacks. We’ve been hiking with HMG packs since 2013, and we love their unique blend of ultralight toughness. Year after year, we find ourselves choosing HMG packs for our wilderness adventures. Here’s a closer look at the HMG 2400 Southwest to explain why.
Note: The HMG 2400 Southwest earned Best All-Around Backpack in our 2017 Best Lightweight Backpacks List. Check out the CleverHiker Gear Guide for our other favorite backpacking equipment recommendations (tents/sleeping/stoves/etc).
HMG SOUTHWEST SPECS
Price: The 2400 Southwest is on the expensive side for lightweight packs, but we think it’s priced fairly for its quality and durability. One of the main reasons HMG packs tend to be pricy is the unique, ultralight DCF fabric they’re built with (more info on DCF below). The Southwest is still less expensive than some ultralight packs and it’s built to last as well. If you plan to put your pack to good use, we think the Southwest (and HMG packs in general) tend to be well worth the investment. Check the HMG website for current pricing.
Weight: At only 1 pound 13 ounces, the 2400 Southwest is among the lightest framed backpacks on the market. If you’ve been following CleverHiker for a while, you know how seriously we take weight when planning backpacking trips. Carrying a lighter load has a ton of benefits, but simply stated, we find lightweight backpacking to be far less exhausting and much more enjoyable. So the Southwest’s weight earns a big win in our books.
Volume: HMG Southwest packs come in three sizes: the 2400 (40 liters), 3400 (55 liters), and 4400 (70 liters). Each pack also has an external storage capacity (front and side pockets) of about 10 liters. Our favorite size for 3-5 day spring, summer, and fall backpacking trips is the 2400 Southwest, but our gear is pretty dialed in and compact. Some backpackers prefer the additional capacity of the 55 liter 3400 Southwest, especially if they’re transitioning to lightweight backpacking or want more room for bulky winter gear. Personally, we prefer the smaller size of the 2400 and rarely need or want extra space.
Frame: The Southwest has a simple frame consisting of two curved aluminum stays and an internal foam pad for comfort. The rigidity of the DCF fabric adds a lot of structure to the backpack as well, resulting in a surprisingly sturdy overall feel. Weight is easily transferred to the hips through this design, resulting in one of the most secure feeling frames of any lightweight backpack we’ve ever used.
Max Weight Recommendation: HMG Southwest backpacks are made for lightweight backpacking, so they won’t feel comfortable if you cram them full of heavy gear. We’ve found that HMG packs are tough enough to carry heavy loads, but like most lightweight packs, they tend to be less comfortable when carrying 35 pounds or more. HMG has a max weight recommendation of 40 pounds for this pack and we think that’s about right, but we usually shoot to keep our max weight to 35 pounds or less.
Materials: One of the most unique qualities of the Southwest is it’s ultralight DCF fabric. The 50-denier DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabric, formally called Cuben Fiber) used in the Southwest is ultralight, waterproof, and durable. DCF is more rigid than the ripstop nylon typically used to build backpacks, which makes the Southwest easy to load and gives it a secure feel against your back. The choice to build this pack with DCF leads directly to some of our favorite properties of the Southwest, namely its extremely light weight, durability, and weather resistance. HMG packs are also manufactured in the USA, which is a win in our books.
Waterproofing: In our experience, HMG’s Southwest pack is about as weather resistant as ultralight backpacks get. Its DCF fabric is fully waterproof and all seams are sealed to keep water out. That said, it’s nearly impossible to fully waterproof any backpack and keeping your gear dry should always be a top priority. That’s why we recommend packing important equipment in waterproof stuff sacks (we like HMG’s roll-top stuff sacks) or using a trash compactor bag to line the inside of your pack for complete protection.
Durability: We’ve been backpacking with HMG packs since 2013 and we think they are some of the most durable ultralight packs on the market. Any backpack will break down over time and with a lot of use, but HMG packs tend to last longer than the average lightweight pack in our experience. The Southwest is also a popular choice among thru-hikers of the AT, PCT, and CDT, all of which are incredibly demanding and notoriously tough on gear.
Overall Comfort: This is one area we feel the Southwest fall short when compared to the competition. It’s not that the Southwest is uncomfortable, but it is far less padded than many of the backpacks we’ve tested over the years. This is most noticeable in the hip belt, shoulder straps, and back panel padding. We’ve found that with a little time and use, our HMG packs break in and ultimately provide a very comfortable ride (they’re still our top pick after all), but if you’re looking for super cushy comfort, this probably isn’t your pack.
Hip Belt: The hip belt on the Southwest feels firm, strong, and carries weight on the hips very well, all of which are critical for any backcountry pack. The hip belt also has two water-resistant pockets that were updated in 2018 to be much larger (thanks HMG!). Each pocket can be opened and closed using one hand (a nice touch), and they’re big enough for snack bars and trail essentials (sunscreen, lip balm, pocket knife, hand sanitizer, lighter, etc.). The new pockets are also large enough to carry a cell phone and point-and-shoot camera too, which is excellent.
Interior Storage: The Southwest has a simple design with one large compartment to hold all your gear and a roll-top closure to cinch down your load. We love this design and use a few HMG stuff sacks to help organize/waterproof our gear. There is one mesh interior pocket for holding a water balder, but we rarely ever use it.
Side Pockets: The side pockets on the southwest are a good size, allow easy access to water bottles while hiking, and won’t let your bottles fall out easily. The Southwest does come with an H2O port for water bladder users, but we prefer simple plastic bottles stored in the side pockets. We usually store two 1L bottles, a hard sunglasses case, and a water purifier in our side pockets.
Front Pocket: The front pocket on the Southwest is another useful storage space. It’s a bit smaller than some front pockets and it won’t expand like some mesh front pockets, but we still like it’s functionality. We usually store items we want easily accessible throughout the day here, like a lightweight seat, trail map, trowel/toilet paper, garbage bag, etc. We also like to leave a little space here for any layers we may shed while hiking.
Exterior straps and loops: The Southwest comes with four side compression straps, an ice axe loop, and a few buckles for optional pack accessories. We would prefer the ice axe loop to be off to the side, so as not to obstruct the front pocket, but that’s not a huge deal. We would also prefer some trekking pole straps (we rarely use trekking poles, but many lightweight backpackers do), but again, not a huge deal.
H2O Port: The Southwest comes with one mesh interior pocket to hold a water bladder and an H2O port on the side of the pack. If you like using water bladders while you hike, this will be a nice benefit. We rarely use water bladders (too much fuss), so this isn’t a huge deal for us.
HMG SOUTHWEST PHOTO GALLERY
SUMMARY OF PROS
- Very Lightweight
- Durable and dependable
- Highly weather resistant
- Secure fit and feel
- Good frame/weight transfer to hips
- Useful exterior pockets
- Simple and effective overall design
- Made in the USA
- Large and functional hip belt pockets (updated in 2018)
SUMMARY OF CONS
- Fair value, but still pricy
- Not a ton of padding for comfort (but will break in over time)
- Exterior straps setup only okay (not a huge deal)
The HMG 2400 Southwest is a unique ultralight backpack that’s one of our all-time favorites. The Southwest earned our best all-around backpack award for 2017 and it’s one of the most commonly recommended backpacks among our friends and family. We love it’s unique blend of ultralight toughness and it’s often our top choice for multi-day 3-season backpacking trips. If you think the Southwest might be a good fit for your backpacking style, we highly recommend giving it a try.
HMG sent us a 2400 Southwest backpack for testing, but we are under no obligation to give it positive reviews. Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.