Wearing the Hyperlite Mountain Gear "Summit Pack" on my Alpine Guide Exam, September 2014. Mike Arnold, in the background, is wearing the slightly lighter version, the all-white model built of a lighter Cuben fabric. Great packs...and we both passed the exam! 

Wearing the Hyperlite Mountain Gear "Summit Pack" on my Alpine Guide Exam, September 2014. Mike Arnold, in the background, is wearing the slightly lighter version, the all-white model built of a lighter Cuben fabric. Great packs...and we both passed the exam! 

Despite an above-average snowpack, some of us are already tying in and getting some pitches. With my rock exam looming next week, I’ve tried to be diligent and get outside when I can or at least hit the rock gym. Colorado managed to put together a pretty good winter and it continues to snow–it’s nuking as I type this–so I booked a few days in Red Rocks with a co-candidate on the exam and a Tucson-based buddy. I love climbing in Vegas, but it also made the perfect proving ground to hammer Hyperlite Mountain Gear‘s 30L “Summit Pack” ($170; 402g, 14 oz.).

HMG crafts packs, shelters, and accessories out of “Cuben,” a tough-and-waterproof fabric that’s used in high-end sails. Cuben sandwiches Dyneema filaments between polyester film, in terms dumbed down for guys like me. It’s a bit stiffer and “louder” than nylon packcloth…in addition to being four times stronger than Kevlar, chemical resistant, UV resistant, and waterproof. The Summit comes in 150d weight, while the Ice Pack saved some tonnage by using the 50d fabric. The Summit does seem noticeably more durable, as I hauled, thrashed, chimneyed, and bombed the daylights out of the thing…and it’s still hanging tough.

The worst of the damage inflicted over the course of two weeks of climbing, the last of which was in Red Rocks.

The worst of the damage inflicted over the course of two weeks of climbing, the last of which was in Red Rocks.

That’s not to say I didn’t damage it; I did. Having nuked several plain nylon bullet packs, my impression is the Cuben does just fine, though with a price tag of $170, you’ll want to baby the thing if possible. I hauled it (filled with two liters of water, rock shoes, a puffy, food, etc.) on the chimney pitches of Red Rocks’ Epinephrine, scruffed through plenty of oak scrub, and tunneled through endless boulders while approaching and descending climbs. I’m headed back to Vegas and plan to do my entire exam with the thing. It’s nearly perfect.

The Summit’s dimensions swallow approach shoes stacked against one another. With careful packing you can stack water bottles/heavy stuff along the back and lightweight gear (puffy jackets, etc.) on the outside, making the pack ride really well when climbing.

The Summit’s dimensions swallow approach shoes stacked against one another. With careful packing you can stack water bottles/heavy stuff along the back and lightweight gear (puffy jackets, etc.) on the outside, making the pack ride really well when climbing.

Fully extended, or unrolled, the Summit holds 30+ liters. I routinely carried a light puffy, a hard shell, two liters of water, food for the day, harness, rock shoes, and a helmet inside. I’d drape a 60m cord over the top, feeding the loops of the rope through my arm straps to secure it. We had rain one day in the desert, so I quickly dumped the pack, piled the rope in the bottom, stuffed the rest on top and bumped the helmet to the outside–no problem. The Cuben fabric shed water easily and the rolltop design swallowed up plenty of gear.

The waist belt (3/4″ flat webbing) is nonexistent in terms of transferring weight to one’s waist–but it does stabilize the pack when climbing. Shoulder straps are unpadded, just plain fabric, which I appreciated. They’re cut well and with 15-20 pounds, they didn’t cut of chafe my shoulders. Another advantage of the minimalist design is the packability. When the Summit arrived in the mail, I didn’t think there was a backpack inside. The package was more like a padded envelope containing a small paperback. Point is, you could easily stow the Summit in a 40L pack on an approach and then climb with it backcountry (already thinking towards my alpine exam).

The back panel sports two daisies, through which I lashed a section of 5mm shock cord–it functions as my helmet holder on an approach, then I rethread it through a couple lash points to hold a jacket if needed. The rolltop functions as the compression, so when I had just a jacket, shoes, water, and food in it, it easily rolled down to 10-15L, without shifting or flopping around.

Improvised helmet carrier and the rolltop fully extended. Ample storage!

Improvised helmet carrier and the rolltop fully extended. Ample storage!

It’s the best bullet/summit pack I’ve ever used, but I realize the $170 is a chunk of dough. I’d say skip a couple meals out, a night at the bars…and pick up a Summit. Save it for your big days and backcountry missions. It’s winter-summer versatile, plenty tough, waterproof, and wears well, whether overstuffed or barely filled. Another score for the HMG crew. Good job.

Please check out another post on Hyperlite Mountain Gear's excellent "Ice Pack"--HERE, on Elevation Outdoors. 

This post originally appeared, in 2014, on Elevation Outdoors--thanks to my friends over there for the good work! 

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