I bought this pack about a year or so ago with the intention of replacing my Zpacks arc-blast. I wanted a larger backpack capable of carrying heavier loads, yet still light enough to use on my shorter trips. There are a few backpacks that meet this criteria, but none quite fit the bill as well as the Windrider did. The arc-blast is a 55 liter backpack, and while this worked for me on a lot of my trips – I found the liter and carrying capabilities limiting for winter hikes, hikes longer than 5-7 days, family hikes and so on. I am an avid believer in Cuben textiles for backpacks because it’s waterproof, or atleast doesn’t absorb water, lighter than traditional materials and a heck of a lot stronger.
The Hyperlite mountain gear Windrider 4400 is absolutely beautiful in it’s simplicity.
With that said, I bought my Windrider form the states, and even with the winter discount HMG was running, I ended up paying about 500usd to get the pack to Sweden after import fees and shipping. Though the initial price tag was appealing! Now of course I would just buy from one of the many European retailers such as backpackinglight.dk (my own webshop).
I have been using the Windrider for all my trips since I got it last year. This includes 10 days across the wilds of Sarek national park in northern Sweden, a winter trip through Jämtland mountains, a few smaller week trips along Sörmlandsleden and many weekend trips with the family. So it’s been put through it’s paces for it’s intended purpose (or the purpose I intended to use it in)
Who is Hyperlite Mountain Gear?
HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR IS NOT ABOUT BELLS AND WHISTLES. NONESSENTIAL FEATURES. OR THE LATEST TRENDING COLORS. WHAT WE’RE ABOUT IS STRIPPED DOWN, HIGH PERFORMANCE GEAR THAT’S BEEN DIALED IN TO MEET, IN AS MINIMALIST A MANNER AS POSSIBLE, THE EXACTING REQUIREMENTS OF THE PEOPLE WHO USE IT.
Hyperlite mountain gear produce all their own gear in Maine, USA.
What is the Windrider 4400
The 4400 is a 70 liter backpack made from Dyneema (fd cuben fibre) material. The material itself is 100% waterproof, while the backpacks are not 100% waterproof, they are certainly much closer to that watermark than anything else on the market. The Windrider much like Hyperlite mountain gears other backpacks is a stripped down, essentials only backpack. I love and prefer a roll top on my bags, no zippers or anything else that will undoubtedly breakdown over time. As it goes, I also like mesh pockets on the outside, though the Southwest 4400’s solid pockets, certainly keep things aesthetically cleaner. I prefer the mesh pockets though as I like to see what I have in those pockets.
The Windrider also uses aluminum backpack stays, which are removable, and foam padding to increase the overall comfort of the packs. On top of this the packs are seam sealed, have hydro ports, ice axe loops and so on.
Another key point here is that the hip belt is not removable, I actually prefer the simplicity of this. They have just four sizes to choose from and the hip belts are meant to fit all sizes: Small, Medium, Large and Tall. Sometimes when buying gear the choice can get fairly ridiculous. Small hip belt, with medium large backpack, nano size hip belt pockets, sternum or no sternum straps so on and so forth. So points for simplicity here.
My windrider 4400 white pack weighs 988 grams. Not the lightest on the market, but light enough for most uses and most applications.
Who’s it for?
As it’s a 70Liter pack, the Windrider 4400 is probably best for trekkers who carry either a lot of gear, winter gear, longer unsupported trips or family gear. For me it has become my all in one pack that I can use on everything from my two days hikes to several weeks. It’s my go to bag for just about any trip I make, anywhere I plan to go. It’s certainly large at 70Liters, but it can easily be compressed down with the roll top and side compression straps.
Here in Sweden the HMG windrider is actually starting to be used by most “professional” hikers, lightweight or otherwise. At least when they get to choose. The HMG packs have also made a big mark on the Packraft and kayakers gear lists, as they are lightweight, waterproof and can carry a lot of weight.
If most of your hikes are summer time hikes of under a week or so, then this bag is probably a bit much, and I would suggest looking at their smaller bags such as the 3400 and 2400 which are 55Liter and 45 Liter packs.
Will it hold?
Dyneema is the strongest, lightest material being produced right now, and the HMG series backpacks are built to last. You’re probably not going to find a more robust backpack on the market – anywhere by any producer. In all seriousness, this pack will probably last as long as you do.
I’m not going to do a side by side comparison to other backpacks here with regards to ventilation on my back. When the aluminum stays are in the HMG and I stand with proper posture, the backpack doesn’t press at all against my back – regardless of how much weight I have in it. This of course allows for good ventilation and except for my shoulder blades and lower back, no part of my body is being touched by the backpack. Just how I like it.
My own experience
On my trip through Sarek it rained constantly for about 2 days as well as waist high wading daily – I don’t use rain covers or anything like that so I have to trust my backpack that it will do it’s just in keeping things dry. Now of course you’re thinking “what an idiot”. You’d be right in thinking so. In actuality I pack everything in watertight stuff sacks, I prefer the Pack pods from HMG and the Stuff sack pillow, and I use a giant trash bag as a pack liner on the inside to keep as much water as possible out. I find this combination of watertight-ish backpack with only one entry point (the roll top), a giant trash bag liner, and everything packed in watertight stuff sacks, keeps everything perfectly dry no matter the rain or wading, and this proved the case even in Sarek on the wettest of terrain, my gear was kept perfectly dry.
I also find that for my longer trips the HMG windrider holds up without any problems, at most I have had around 17 kilos in my pack and while the pack can certainly handle the wait, my body can’t. So it’s hard for me to say anything about carrying capabilities in the 17+kilo range as I think it sucks no matter what backpack I have on.
Me in northern Sweden with the windrider 4400. This was packed for a 9 day hike and around 13 kilos.
Some people have reservations about mesh pockets on the outside of a pack – they can “tip the balance”, they can easily tear in forestry and so on. Personally I don’t really have this problem. The mesh pockets I use mainly for my tenkara fishing rod, a water bottle and trash. Balance is not an issue. As far as the mesh pockets tearing, this as it were, has not shown itself to be an issue either, and I have certainly trounced through a lot of unkept forestry.
Lets face it, plunking out 500USD for a backpack is expensive. (In the USA the packs cost 375usd). Though, they are not the most expensive packs by a long shot. Many of the “big brands” have 4-500USD packs that come nowhere near the quality or robustness of the HMG backpacks. If you need one backpack for most everything, you can’t go wrong with a Hyperlite mountain gear Windrider 4400, or any of the 4400 packs. While it’s not the only bag I use, it’s certainly the one I prefer over anything else I have.
- Big 70L pack
- Simple, effective design.
- Great carrying capabilities
- 95% watertight
- Robust, durable fabric and mesh
- Removable stays
- Excellent construction and quality
- No zippers or do-dads. Just what is needed
- Small, Medium, Large and Tall. That’s what you get to choose from. Perfect. I hate too many choices as I’m always afraid of getting it wrong.
- Small hip belt pockets
- Hydropocket not easily removed – razor blade needed
- Not the lightest 70 liter pack on the market
Where to buy:
In The usa: Hyperlite mountain gear
In Europe: Backpackinglight store
Thanks so much for the review! I have been very close to buying a 4400 porter for a while now but one question I can’t seem to find an answer for is the hip belt pockets in HMG packs. Many people agree with you that they are “small”, but I am curious about what you could fit in? specifically, can you easily fit a compact camera like the sony RX100? If not in the hip belt pocket where have you found it most convenient to hold a camera in such a simple roll top bag?
Thanks again! Love the site!
Hi Ryan, No problems! With regards to the hipbelt pockets a sony rx 100 would fit without too much problem. Though I don’t ever keep mine there. I actually have a front pouch on my Windrider where I keep camera gear and so on. You can find it here: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/backpack_lid.shtml
The pockets to their credit hold everything they need to. I keep a headnet, watertight gloves, lipbalm, bug repellent and a few other items in them. So they do exactly what they need to do and nothing more 🙂
Very nice and detailed review.
I have under the spotlight the HMG products quite some time now and i think my next backpack will be the HMG 2400 ICE PACK. Though, still I am still not 100% convinced that the benefit vs costs of this backpack is justified. Nevertheless, I really like most of the HMG products and sooner or later I will purchase one.
It depends on what your looking for 🙂 Any high quality pack is going to cost. Either you pay investors or you pay workers. With HMG you pay workers – with many other brands you pay investors – at the cost of the workers. Very simplistic reasoning of course, but holds up.
HMG produce stunner gear that will last for many years of hard use, I can’t say that about too much gear. The quality and textiles are the best on the market.
How do you thing the Windrider compares to the Arc from Zpacks? I am looking at these two in the smaller 55L versions. I will be hiking mostly in the tropics or atlantic rainforest in Brasil. I have two specific questions:
1. How much bigger are the Hipbeltpockets on the Arc? I would like to keep camera lenses of 8 by 8 cms in there and it would fit in the Zpack but not sure about other.
2. Do you think the windrider is much more resistant? I have heard stuff about the delicate construction of the arc and am worried in case something happens and I have no replenishment option near.
It depends would be my answer 🙂 If your carrying a lighter load – than probably a arc-blast – in those very specific conditions (Hot, humid and bigger pockets)
If you have a light load than you can can adjust the arc-blast so that it doesn’t touch your back at all.. But only if the load is light as it loses it’s form rather easily if the loads are not well positioned.
With that said, the Windrider is meant to be used in a different manner altogether. While my Arc-blast started to show signs of wear and tear after a few hundred kilometers, the windrider looks barely used. – and I’ve used it much harder than I did my Arc-blast.
As far as lenses go I would suggest the zpacks front pocket as a viable solution for camera gear. This can be used with pretty much any backpack. The pockets on zpacks or HMG are too small for anything but the smallest of camera lenses.
Hope this helps
Yes it does indeed and I was wondering about the front pocket. Not that my decision is made but at least I have some direct comparison. If you think getting lightweight gear is difficult in Sweden you can triple that for Brasil. Not to mention that the the environment and climate is very different and it is difficult to translate experiences people make in cooler climates.
I will try to get the rest of my gear as light as possible first and then check which option suits me better. Anything will work nicely compared to my current 80l monster at 3 kg.