We’ve published other Hyperlite Mountain Gear Backpack reviews here, including the Windrider and the Porter 4400. I’ve used the latter pack on a number of expeditions up to two weeks’ duration without resupply. The heaviest weight I’ve carried in it was around 55 pounds, which contained food, gear, and packrafts for a traverse of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. It’s been the pack I’ve used the most during the past 5 years while guiding for our Wilderness Adventures Program.
On my Bob Marshall trip, I have to admit that 13 days’ of food, plus packrafting gear, filled the 4400 cubic inch volume (72 liters) of the pack quite easily, and I still had stuff strapped to the outside. On that trip, I yearned for a larger pack bag.
So when Hyperlite Mountain Gear released the Porter 5400, my curiosity was piqued. Here’s my quick review.
- Made in USA (Maine)
- Four external, vertical daisy chains for attaching a rear pocket, water bottle holders, or extra gear for trip-specific customization
- Removable, contoured aluminum stays
- Dyneema® Hardline shoulder straps with 3/8” closed cell foam and spacer mesh
- Internal plastic frame sheet for added back panel support
- 1/4” foam back panel pad
- Compression System
- Roll-Top closure system with side compression straps for vertical compression
- Six side compression straps for horizontal compression
- Top Y-strap compression – designed to secure gear
- Internal zippered pocket
- Dyneema® Hardline dual-density hip belt with 1/8” closed cell rigid foam, 1/4” closed cell foam, plastic stiffener, and spacer mesh
- Dyneema® Hardline zippered pockets on the hip belt with #5 YKK zipper
- Adjustable sternum strap with self-tensioning elastic
- Ability to stow two ice axes on daisy chains
- Seam sealing on all side seams and behind all sewn-on pack features
- Weight (Manufacturer Claim): 3.06 lbs / 48.96 oz / 1387g
- Weight (Actual Measured): 3.19 lbs / 51.0 oz / 1446 g
- Load capacity: Up to 65 lbs
- Materials (listen to the DCF podcast for more details):
- Body: DCH150 – polyester laminated to a Dyneema Composite Fabric backing for a total fabric weight of 5.0 oz/yd2
- Bottom/Rand: DCHW – 100% woven Dyneema laminated to a Dyneema Composite Fabric backing for a total fabric weight of 5.0 oz/yd2 (but with better abrasion resistance than the polyester-based DCH150)
- Interior: 5400 cu. in. (85L)
- Top Circumference: 48.5” (114.3cm)
- Bottom Circumference: 40.5” (95.3)
- Height (fully unrolled): 40.8” (97.8cm)
- Back Width: 10.5” (26.7cm)
I’ve used the Porter 5400 for much of the past year. The two longest trips I’ve taken with it include an 8-day trek in the Eastern Sierra a few treks across the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. I carried about 45 pounds in the Sierra, and about 25-35 pounds in the Beartooths.
- Lots of volume for bulky loads;
- Simple design, simple suspension, nice aesthetic;
- Extremely low water absorption weight;
- Nearly waterproof;
- Durable fabrics and non-snagging materials make it good for bushwhacking and scrambling;
- Extremely durable bottom/rand.
- It’s white: it gets dirty;
- Simple design limits access to gear without exterior accessory pockets/attachments;
- Hip belt pockets are integrated into the curvature of the hip belt and are small, which limits their usefulness for stowing food and other essentials you need to access readily while hiking;
- Manufacturer’s load-carrying capacity specification (65 lbs) is rather optimistic if you value comfort.
Commentary: Light and Large, Why?
Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks are characterized by the following features:
- Dyneema Composite Fabric pack bags with taped seams and roll-top closures for low water-absorption and waterproofing;
- Minimalist suspensions featuring thinly padding shoulder straps, hip belts, and back padding; twin aluminum stays; and no load-lifting mechanism to transfer weight between shoulders and hips.
This philosophy works well when load weights are low.
“Low” of course is a matter of personal interpretation.
I’ve debated the merits of pack load suspension systems with Demetri “Coup” Coupounas (founder of GoLite and MyTrailCo) for years. His rationale is simple: all weight is ultimately transferred to the body’s energy systems and how it’s carried is irrelevant. Coup’s packs are frameless, and carrying a 60-pound load in them seems reasonable to him. Glen Van Peski (founder of Gossamer Gear) uses frameless packs as well. But he has a reputation for stashing things in pockets. I’m not sure if it’s to pad his gear weight spreadsheet or if it’s to improve the load carrying comfort of the pack.
On the other end of the Spectrum lies Dan McHale, who vehemently believes that any load above about 15 pounds should be carried in a pack with some type of load-supporting suspension that feels good while you’re hiking – i.e., all-day comfort.
I’ve owned and used packs from GoLite/MyTrailCo, Gossamer Gear, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, and McHale for more than two decades, and I tend to lean towards Dan McHale’s preferences that some extra weight spent on a suspension’s load-carrying performance is weight well-spent if you’re going to spend all day on the trail.
However, suspension comfort comes at a price.
Mesh and padding in the lumbar and back, straps, belts – these features absorb a lot of water and can be slow to dry in very wet conditions. And don’t negate the additional weight that comes with increasing the sophistication of a suspension – webbing, buckles, special fabrics, molded foams, etc.
I own an 85L McHale Windsauk and an 85L (5400 cubic inches) Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter. The Porter weighs a pound less. The McHale carries heavier (> 30 lb) loads more comfortably.
So that begs the question, is there a place in the market for a pack that can hold an enormous amount of gear, but may not be the most comfortable pack for heavier loads?
I’d argue that the answer is yes, and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 5400 addresses this unique niche well.
The obvious applications for a light-and-large pack are those cases where gear is bulky, but not necessarily dense (e.g., high weight, low volume):
- Winter travel;
- Camping with a hot (stove) tent;
- Family backpacking where you may be carrying bulky items for other family members (e.g., sleeping bags, parkas, a large shelter).
One final comment on a particular criticism that I’ve seen levied towards this particular pack as well as other manufacturers who do away with “load lifter strap systems”. Many users feel that load lifters are absolutely essential for heavy loads and that without them, the load pulls you “backward” and creates unnecessary strain on your shoulders. My response to this is fairly simple: the torso length of your pack is too short. Load lifters are not a critical piece of a pack suspension puzzle. Pack fit, on the other hand, most certainly is. Manufacturers, retailers, and users alike are guilty of bad pack fitting. I’m only 5′ 7″ tall, but I have a long torso, and almost always gravitate towards large-sized packs.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 5400 is no different – I can comfortably carry 35+ pounds in a size Large pack. But a size Medium? Not so much. The difference is like night and day.
Where to Buy
Product Review Disclosure
Updated September 15, 2018
- How we acquired these products: Product(s) discussed in this review were either acquired by the author from a retailer or otherwise provided by the manufacturer at a discount/donation with no obligation to provide media coverage or a product review to the manufacturer(s).
- We do not accept money or in-kind compensation for guaranteed media coverage: Backpacking Light does not accept compensation or donated product in exchange for guaranteed media placement or product review coverage.
- Affiliate links: Some (but not all) of the links in this review may be “affiliate” links, which means if you click on a link to one of our affiliate partners (usually a retailer site), and subsequently make a purchase with that retailer, we receive a small commission. This helps us fund our editorial projects, podcasts, instructional webinars, and more, and we appreciate it a lot! Thank you for supporting Backpacking Light!