Hyperlite Ultralite Junction – Review
The Hyperlite Junction is a backpacking or day hiking pack that I’ve wanted to try for a long time, but first, I had to get past its high price point. Hyperlite is arguably the King of the Ultralite long-distance backpacking category and was at the top of my gear list to purchase for 2020.
With it’s Hardline Dyneema material, sealed seams, and three outside pockets, this is one of the most durable, well made, Ultralite backpacks that I have used. If you want a pack that will handle the rigors of long-distance hiking, is lightweight and will last you for years, this backpack is probably going to be near the top of the list.
Table of contents
- Hyperlite Ultralite Junction – Review
- Hyperlite Junction – Spec Summary
- Backpack Requirements
- Hyperlite Competitors
- Junction – First Glance
- Gossamer Gear Mariposa – Fit
- Hyperlite Junction Review – Storage
- Hyperlite Junction Review – Materials
- Hyperlite Junction – Add-Ons
- Hyperlite Junction Backpack – Final Thoughts
- Related Links
Hyperlite Junction – Spec Summary
- Size: Medium
- Total Weight: 32 ounces
- Internal Volume: 3400 cu. in. (55L)
- External Volume: 600 cu. in. (9.8L)
- Center Pocket Volume: 300 cu. in.
- Side Pockets Volume: Center Pocket: 300 cu. in.
- Material: Body – DCH150, Bottom – DCH150, External Center Pocket – Mesh, External Side Pockets – Hardline with Dyneema
- Top Circumference: 40” | 101.6cm
- Bottom Circumference: 33.5” | 85.1cm
- Height (fully unrolled): 34” | 86.4cm
- Back Width: 10.5” | 26.7cm
- Max Carry Capacity: 40 Pounds
- Add-Ons: Shoulder Pocket, Pods – 2 large, 3 small
Below are my requirements when purchasing a backpack.
- Light Weight – To combat fatigue and injury on long hikes, I keep my backpack’s weight around 2 pounds or less.
- Durability – A tough pack is critical. My pack has been run over, fallen down mountains, stepped on by horses, and is often used as a seat.
- Size – The backpacks I use are 55L-65L. I sleep cold, so I carry a warmer sleeping bag or quilt. I also cook, so I carry fuel and a stove.
- Water Resistant – I use a compactor bag and not a pack cover. I like water-resistant fabrics and taped seams in my backpacks.
- Mesh Pouch – A large mesh pocket on the rear of my backpack is a “must-have.” I use it for my tarp/tent and put wet items in it to dry.
- Frame – I don’t need a frame pack in the summer, but use one for three Season hiking where my pack weight is 20-25 pounds.
- Water Bottle Pockets – I need water bottle pockets since I don’t use hydration sleeves.
|ULA Ohm 2.0||36 oz||63L||225||400 Robic Nylon||Carb||30 lbs.||Cinch|
|Gossamer Gear Mariposa||31 oz||60L||270||200 Robic Nylon||Alum.||35 lbs||Over Top|
|Hyperlite Junction 3400||32 oz||55L||345||Dyneema (DCF)||None||40 lbs||Roll Top|
|Zpack Arc Haul||23 oz||62L||299||4.85 Gridstop||Carb||40 lbs||Roll Top|
|Osprey Lumina 60||31 oz||60L||270||30 Cordura Nylon||Alum||25 lbs||Fix Top|
|Granite Gear Crown2 60||34 oz||60 L||200||210 Nylon||Poly||35 lbs||Roll Top|
|Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus||18 oz||58L||235||DX 210 Ripstop||No||25 lbs||Roll Top|
Junction – First Glance
When I pulled the Junction out of the box, I was struck by the material’s thickness. I could immediately see it was highly water-resistant Dyneema and tough as nails as I turned it around in my hands and muttering “Damn.”
I may have just found a competitor for my ULA Ohm 2.0
The pack was clearly well made with it’s sealed seams and tacked reinforcement points. I also admired its simplicity. There were only three pockets and not a lot of extra straps hanging all over the place. At first glance, this was an impressive backpack.
Heck, even the hydration port had a reinforced Velcro closure with a tiny hanging loop.
Gossamer Gear Mariposa – Fit
Some think the Hyperlite backpacks are frameless, but the Hyperlite Junction is not a frameless backpack. The Junction provides a 1/4″ back foam panel pad and has two curved aluminum stays that slide easily into small sleeves in the back of the pack. If you don’t like the shape you can bend the stays to your preference.
The Hyperlite is often worn as a frameless pack, and I prefer it with no stays for loads under 25 pounds. I ordered Hyperlite Pods with my pack, and if these are full, they offer all the rigidity I need for the backpack.
I’ll talk more about the Pods later, but I packed my pack with one large Pod and 2 small Pods. Because the Pods served as my frame, I made sure they were full, keeping them firm against my back.
I used the pack with and without the Aluminum Stays and found the backpack with only the pods began to compress and pull back on my shoulders at about 30 pounds. When I added the aluminum stays, the stays kept the backpack comfortable up to 35 pounds. Anything over 35 pounds makes me whine, so the lack of comfort over 35 pounds is not the backpack’s fault
Shoulder Straps & Hipbelt
The Junction has Hardline with Dyneema shoulder straps with 3/8 foam padding and mesh covering. The straps are comfortable from a padding perspective, but I prefer an “S” shaped shoulder strap. The straps on this backpack have more of a classic “J” shape, so over long hikes, they are a little less comfortable than my packs with “S” shaped straps. There are ample daisy chains on the straps for attaching gear.
The hipbelt is Hardline with Dyneema® 1/8” closed cell rigid foam, 1/4″ closed cell foam, and spacer mesh. It does not have as much padding as other belts I have worn, but I found it very comfortable.
Many other Ultralite backpacks have an adjustable hipbelt, but the Junction hipbelt is fixed to the pack. The hipbelt fit me better than any other backpack hip belt I wear due to having just the right amount of padding, and I was glad to see the single large, durable buckle. I find double buckles unnecessary. The hipbelts never fit any better.
Additional Pack Straps
Like all of the Hyperlite Junction Backpack straps, the sternum strap is a full-size strap with elastic and a bright orange buckle. The side of the buckle is a small whistle. I did not find the whistle very loud but have seen other reviews commenting on the whistle’s loudness.
The Hyperlite Junction does not have load lifters. In my opinion, load lifters are more suitable for larger, heavier backpacks where I like to shift the weight off my shoulders towards my center of gravity if I am climbing. In the case of the Junction, I don’t need them. The pack is small and fits close to my body. I also don’t typically carry over 3-5 days of food and gear.
There are four full-size compression straps on the side of the Junction backpack. Two of them go over the side pockets and strap in anything you need to stay in those pockets, which I like to have when traveling off-trail or climbing.
Interestingly, the iceax loop on the bottom of the pack is in the middle, so if you have anything bulky like your tent in the large exterior mesh pocket, you really can’t use the loop easily. Hyperlite should reconsider the placement.
Hyperlite Junction Review – Storage
The Junction interior is roomy, and the extended sleeve allows you to add a significant amount of capacity for long hikes, winter hikes, large food bags, etc.
How I Packed My Hyperlite Junction Backpack
- Main Compartment (Lined with Compactor Bag): Large Pod holding 10 Degree Feathered Friends Lark, Two Small Pods with clothes, toiletries, first aid, cooking kit, hydration, food bag, sleeping pad, rain gear
- Two Side Pockets: Two Smart Water Bottles, Umbrella, Hiking Poles
- Hydration Sleeve: Map, Keys
- Back Mesh Pocket: Altaplex Tarp-tent
- Hipbelt Pockets: Snacks, Chapstick
- Shoulder Pocket Add-on: Phone, InReach Mini
The main storage compartment is large and has a large mesh hydration sleeve. I don’t use a hydration sleeve and ended up putting my map and keys in it. It would be nice to remove the sleeve, but it is sewn to the pack. I have a feeling it may not last long if I keep the Junction.
The large exterior mesh pocket on the outside is made of thick, durable mesh with large openings that promote better airflow than many exterior mesh pockets I have used. The pocket has plenty of capacity, and it easily held my Altaplex Shelter.
The substantial, Hardline Dyneema side pockets are one of the reasons I purchased the Junction. When I go off-trail, I often snag the pockets, and mesh is not durable. I don’t want to discover I have lost my water bottles three miles down the trail. The beefy solid side pockets have elastic across the top and plenty of capacity. The only frustration was that it was hard to retrieve my water bottles without taking off the backpack.
The Hip-belt pockets on the Junction have plenty of room and water-resistant zippers, which is a nice touch. I mostly use them for snacks and other small miscellaneous items like chapstick, sunblock, etc.
Hyperlite Junction Review – Materials
Materials and construction are what set the Hyperlite Junction apart from its competitors. The main body of the backpack I ordered is constructed of DCH150 since I have the black model. The White model is made of DCH50. The fabric is highly water-resistant, and the seals are seamed with reinforced tacking found throughout the pack.
The side pockets are made of Hardline with Dyneema, and the bottom of the backpack also has DCH150 fabric. This is the most bomb-proof Ultralite backpack that I have used – very impressive. You can check out Hyperlite’s materials page for more information on their fabrics.
Hyperlite Junction – Add-Ons
Shoulder Strap Pockets
I purchased a large Shoulder Strap Pocket for this pack. It is similar to Gossamer Gear’s pocket in that it has a central zipper pocket and an outer mesh pocket. The difference is that the Hyperlite Pocket is much more water-resistant, using Dyneema Composite Fabric in its construction.
The pocket has a small inside pocket for credit cards, which is a nice feature, and the clips on the back of the pocket are easy to attach to the Hyperlite’s shoulder straps.
The two attachment clips will limit where you can place the pocket on your shoulder straps if you don’t have numerous attachment points. This is not an issue on the Junction, but it might be if you use another backpack brand. The one good thing about the GG attachment structure is that it is made of velcro straps that can wrap around various shoulder strap sections. I personally find the clips much more secure than Velcro.
I purchased large and small PODS for the backpack. The PODS are made of Dyneema fabric and have waterproof zippers. My large POD weighs 1.41 oz., and my small POD weighs 1.35 oz.
I have always put my sleeping bag in a compactor bag in the bottom of my pack, and for 20 years have NEVER had it get wet. This time I packed it in a POD. I was surprised my 10 Degree Lark fit in the POD, and it was a little tight, but it was a perfect fit in the Junction.
Everything else, except my food, sleeping pad, and rain gear, went in two small PODS. I may put my food in one or two small PODS on my next trip. The small PODS are not that much smaller than the large POD and I like that I can zip open the whole POD instead of digging around for food in my food bag. The PODS also have sturdy loops on each end so I can hang them if necessary.
The best thing about the PODS is they keep everything compressed and compact, making the backpack smaller. I had a couple of hikers tell me it looked like I was carrying a Daypack. We all want TINY PACKS! LOL Now I know why Hyperlite is often near the top!
Hyperlite Junction Backpack – Final Thoughts
Hyperlite currently offers the most durable quality backpack I have used. The DCH150 used in the pack’s construction makes it impressively resistant to abrasions and ensures it is highly water-resistant. The backpack provides plenty of capacity and stability without a lot of unnecessary pockets and straps.
If you decide to use Hyperlite’s PODS, you can almost be assured that water will be a non-issue with your Hyperlite backpack. Hyperlite Backpacks are about as close to a waterproof backpack as you will find in an UltraLite backpack. The PODS also ensure you use your pack’s capacity and that your gear is compressed for a more compact load.
I sell gear that I test in the Average Hiker Store after testing it, but I”ll probably keep the Hyperlite Junction along with my ULA Ohm 2.0. They are both awesome backpacks that I will use year-round.
- Comfort: A good fit that rests easily against my back and offers the right amount of padding.
- Durability – No backpack in the Ultraliteweight category is as durable as the Hyperlite Junction with its DCH150 material.
- Weather Resistance – Other than a dry bag, this the most weather-resistant backpack I have used. It is as close to waterproof as you will get without lining your backpack or using a Dry Bag Backpack.
- Capacity – Provides plenty of capacity, especially with its extended neck sleeve.
- Shoulder Pocket – Highly weather resistant with an inside pocket and easy to attach clips. The best shoulder pocket I have yet to use.
- Ice-ax Loop: Located at the backpack’s bottom center, making it difficult to attach if using the exterior mesh pocket.
- Breathability: This is a warm backpack. It does not use breathable material or mesh on the back and rests snugly against your body.
- Shoulder Straps: I prefer a more “S” shaped shoulder strap.
- Side Pockets: Difficult to remove water bottles when wearing the backpack.
- Hydration Sleeve – The hydration sleeve cannot be removed.
Other than an actual Dry Bag (mostly used by boaters), Hyperlite makes the most highly water resistant backpack I have used. They use proprietary seam sealing and the fabric itself is waterproof. Like any sewn garment though, there can occasionally be seep around the sewn points, so combing a Hyperlite Backpack with their PODS makes them pretty much waterproof.
Yes, Hyperlite does have sales around the holidays.
There are MANY ultralight backpacks on the market, and Hyperlite is one of the lightest, most durable and weather resistant.
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