Aug 21, 2018 at 3:03 pm #3552346
I’ve been using this pack for almost four years now so I figured I’d share my experiences. Hope it is helpful.Aug 21, 2018 at 5:02 pm #3552359
Good summary. I totally agree on the need for load lifters. My 4400 Porter is gathering dust because any gear that would actually fill that pack results in serious upper trapezius muscle pain. I have a size tall and maybe if the pack had another 1-2″ of back panel it would work a little better, though it still would be no real substitute for load lifters. As the pack is currently constituted, I am limited to 35 pounds and under using the HMG suspension. I totally wince every time I see a pic of someone hauling some ridiculous load in a HMG pack with the top of the shoulder strap attachment point half way down their scapula. Ouch. All that said, I do own a half dozen HMG packs and like them in the 2400 flavors and even own a 3400 that I will take on trips up to 1 week, assuming there will be no extra-curricular activities like packrafting which drive the gear weight up. With packrafting loads, it’s 100% Seek Outside time…Aug 21, 2018 at 6:31 pm #3552371Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I rarely read gear reviews these days. My kit is dialed in and the only purchases are for things that break or wear out, which is infrequently. Bottom line is that I generally find gear reviews boring.
Given that, Philip’s comments caught my interest, especially since his posts are always lucid and well thought-out, plus he apparently has some serious backcountry skills.
Your review is comprehensive, objective, identifies things a person who needs to carry heavier loads at times should look for, offers potential options, and does an excellent job offering the pros and cons. Hopefully HMG will read this.
Bravo!Aug 21, 2018 at 8:35 pm #3552394Aug 22, 2018 at 2:38 am #3552444
The potential benefits of load lifters aren’t a novel concept to HMG. There are lots of other packs on the market that do have them so alternatives exist, therefore I can’t see HMG adding any now. I don’t think they care what a few people on message boards think as long as sales are good.Aug 22, 2018 at 3:18 pm #3552511
Philip, Yeah for sure, and sales are great. Their marketing is so good. With that in mind maybe the purpose of this review is just to inform the packrafting customer, rather than speak directly to the company.Aug 30, 2018 at 6:42 pm #3553891
This is definitely a step in the wrong direction: 5400 PorterAug 31, 2018 at 10:21 pm #3554079Jay CableBPL Member
Oh interesting – I get occasional shoulder pain with my HMG pack and didn’t realize that it could be related to the lack of load lifters. I am afraid that I am not a huge fan of my HMG pack – I love how light the pack is, but dislike the fabric it is made from (like the review mentioned, that VX stuff bike bags and seek outside seems to use on their packs seems like a better choice). I also have a bit of trouble getting water bottles out of the side pockets while I have the pack on – which is maybe due to some short comings on my part: maybe I am not flexible enough, but I don’t have that issue with other packs.Aug 31, 2018 at 11:56 pm #3554089PedestrianBPL Member
“Oh interesting – I get occasional shoulder pain with my HMG pack and didn’t realize that it could be related to the lack of load lifters. I am afraid that I am not a huge fan of my HMG pack – I love how light the pack is, but dislike the fabric it is made from (like the review mentioned, that VX stuff bike bags and seek outside seems to use on their packs seems like a better choice). I also have a bit of trouble getting water bottles out of the side pockets while I have the pack on – which is maybe due to some short comings on my part…”
I think this is the magic of HMG marketing (like the magic of Apple marketing…..but that’s a different but related story). The HMG packs are cool – black and white – what’s not to like? Except they don’t work very well for a significant number of HMG pack owners. But many continue to suffer with their decision having spent a ton of money on a pack that doesn’t work well for them as in the post above.
I owned an HMG pack for less than a month and dumped it – it was very uncomfortable for me even carrying 30 lbs. Maybe it was just the fit for my body?
I also hated the white material……Sep 1, 2018 at 12:36 am #3554097
Jay Cable – Yeah, lack of loadlifters but also there’s not much space between the straps where they attach. Both issues contribute to neck pain I think.
Pedestrian – Yep, that was me. I wanted to like it.Sep 2, 2018 at 6:04 am #3554246Dan DurstonBPL Member
@dandydanLocale: Canadian Rockies
Wow that 5400 Porter massive – I always thought the 4400 looked huge.
Agreed on the load lifter comments. I’d want them on the 3400.Sep 2, 2018 at 3:55 pm #3554278James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
I have the SouthWest 2400 in medium. I also have the high-durability black fabric. This all leads to a heavy pack at about 2 pounds. But, there are several kludgy things I do not like about it. I have only used it for about 30 days on the trail, so far but my preferences are for:
- wider shoulder strap It makes carrying things on your shoulders much easier.
- lower pockets. As built, the pockets are about an inch from the bottom, meaning the top of the water bottle is beyond my reach. It is difficult to get out and impossible to put back in.
- too many closures. Basically there are three ways to close the top. With a strap down to the pockets, with the Y strap at the top of the pack that connects on the front/center, and, a typical dry bag style wrap and fold. Any one of these would be sufficient and is simply excess weight.
- The compression straps on the upper sides have too much angle. While fine for storing a tent, they fail at securing my saw or fishing pole, letting these things dangle out the back a bit and subject to getting caught easily on scrub/brush. I had planned to cross the straps but Rex had a better idea simply using a wrap-around strap.
- the weight of the strapping is ridiculously heavy. A simple 1/2″ nylon strap would work as well as the 3/4″ heavy-duty traps they use.
- extraneous buckles. There are four buckles for add-ons. If I needed add-ons I would have purchased a larger pack.
- side hose outlet ports. Why on the side? This leaves any hydration tube vulnerable and difficult to run up and over the shoulder straps to the hose keeper, again subjecting these to catching on scrub.
- hip belt pockets have been improved, but they are too small for anything in the older model I got.
- no place to store my pad. I usually carry a NightLight pad for added temperature control, as a sit pad at camp, and as a pillow filler in warmer weather. When I put it inside, it takes up more space than I had first guessed. This actually leaves the usable space slightly less than my older Murmur, and I cannot just pull it out and put it back at rest stops. I have to open the pack to get it out and it is nearly impossible to replace in a full pack. I far prefer external pad keepers.
- 1/4″ foam sewn into the packs back is a waste of weight. Why?
- mesh interior pocket is poor. Dropping stakes in there means they grab onto the mesh. Not good. I would also prefer a top side pocket for toilet paper and garbage. I always collect my own after burning it and put it in a baggie. But, I also pick up trash as I hike or at a camping spot. I need to be able to get quick and easy access to my garbage bag. The interior pocket is too small for a gallon ziplock. Soo, I end up cleaning my pack out every night from the bits of garbage I pick up on the trail.
However, I cannot fault the overall durability. I have bushwhacked through some terrible areas and the pack itself is fine. Extremely rugged I would say. I don’t expect my pack to be water proof. But, it needs to hold together…so far it has with NO ill effects. After two days of bushwhacking through thorns, small pines, etc, the pockets were 1/4 full of pine needles and sticks. But it really took that well, no holes, no scrapes…nothing…Sep 19, 2018 at 7:26 pm #3556523Anthony MeaneyBPL Member
Thanks for posting this. I love reviews where the person can really give good insight into the “warts” of a product.
I’ve been looking at their packs as a potential for longer treks (7+ days).
I have a ULA Circuit and love it but it can’t hold enough food for longer than a week trip (for me and the dog).
Lack of load lifters is a deal breaker for me. Also the 50 mile break in time on the hip belt seems annoying.Sep 19, 2018 at 8:00 pm #3556530
Only one of my friends had the same hip belt issue as me. So it has affected maybe 20% of folks in my very small sample.
Check out the Seek Outside Divide 4500. Very comfortable for longer trips.Sep 19, 2018 at 8:08 pm #3556534PedestrianBPL Member
“Check out the Seek Outside Divide 4500. Very comfortable for longer trips.”
+1 on Seekoutside packs.
Having owned a HMG Porter 4400 (briefly) and currently using a Seekoutside Unaweep pack I can confirm that for ME the SO pack is much more comfortable. It also carries weight very well which I found was a problem with the HMG Porter.
Some people seem to find the HMG packs quite comfortable – it was definitely not my experience.Sep 20, 2018 at 4:30 pm #3556636Diane PinkersBPL Member
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
Thanks for this, Ben. I had been considering the HMG 2400 Ice Pack for a winter ski/snowshoe pack, but your post has made me look at the SWD packs. Their option for a zippered xpac front pocket may be a better choice for hauling a shovel, depending on how deep it is. I don’t like the thought of shoulder/neck pain from the straps at all, and if the hip belt rubbed your hips raw, I am leery of what it may do for a woman with wider hips.Sep 20, 2018 at 4:40 pm #3556638
Diane, I sort of think the 2400 would work for that use if you wouldn’t be carrying super heavy loads. I think HMG packs make more sense at that volume. That said, I’d still pick a pack with loadlifters.Jun 23, 2019 at 6:01 pm #3598967
Update: Adding Loadlifters to HMG Packs, http://theirsecretnames.com/blogJun 24, 2019 at 4:49 pm #3599070Ryan P. MurphyBPL Member
I like your load lifters attaching to the Y strap idea. I’ll be curious to see how well it works on a larger heavier pack. The Yama Mountaingear Sassafras uses this exact setup and I love it. Admittedly though the sassafras is a small fastpacking/running pack that shouldn’t need load lifters but it does a great job adjusting and securing the pack as necessary. I’ve actually done a 20 mile packrafting/hiking loop, about 10 miles of hiking and 10 miles of paddling) with an alpacka classic with whitewater deck in that pack and it handled it pretty well.Jun 24, 2019 at 5:15 pm #3599074
I had a waterhaul on my most recent trip that probably put me over 40lbs. Still comfortable. Not sure what the limit would be. I think I’d feel confident buying a 4400 HMG pack and putting this loadlifter set up on it. With super heavy loads I wonder if the side release buckles would fail before it becomes uncomfortable…Jun 25, 2019 at 4:39 pm #3599233
I put the triglide on the y strap upside down so it would secure the ladderlock and they would fit together nicely. This also allows you to pull the load forward just like a normal loadlifter. There is other hardware out there that would probably perform this function in a more streamlined way, but this is a good starting point.Jun 25, 2019 at 7:20 pm #3599252Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Adding load lifters would be a good thing, especially on the 4400, perhaps it would help me, but as sold today, I never found HMG packs comfortable. I tried a 4400 before an Alaska trip in 2015 and settled on the much more comfortable Seek Outside Unaweep 4800, then I ran across a great deal on a HMG 3400 full woven Dyneema and bought it hoping to use it as my week long pack, but again it wasn’t comfortable to me. I’ve settled in on the SO pack for two week trips/packrafting trips, and a SWD Long Haul 50 for everything else. Even though the SWD and HMG seemingly use a similar suspension system, I found the hipbelt and shoulder straps superior on the SWD.Jun 25, 2019 at 7:51 pm #3599255
Yeah I agree with all of that. The key is really SIZING DOWN so that the shoulder straps wrap and loadlifters can be added. That said, might as well buy a pack that works right out of the box.Jun 25, 2019 at 8:09 pm #3599257Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
HMG really works for some people though. I hike with a guy who did the CDT and PCT with a 2400, and you see people load them up with 50 pounds and say they feel great, but they just didn’t work for me.May 24, 2020 at 2:59 pm #3648989
Some folks wanted a video demo of how to install the loadlifters. Hope this helps: http://theirsecretnames.com/blog/2019/6/23/adding-loadlifters-to-hmg-packs
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