After climbing the North Ridge of Mt. Baker last spring and spending the majority of the approach and climb with my skis on my back, I realized that I needed a more beefy winter pack that would carry my skis and weight better than my Mountain Hardware Summit Rocket 40. I looked at packs from Cold Cold World, Cilo Gear, and others. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack caught my eye because it was so light and half the price of similar others. I ended up choosing the 4400 ice pack (70L, largest volume offered for this model) because there was not much weight penalty (6oz over the 40L) and with an upcoming Waddington trip, I wanted something that could carry extra volume should the need arise.
The pack is made of a Dyneema (formerly called Cuben Fiber, name changed) polyester hybrid. It appears this hybrid is woven poly on with non-woven dyneema (Cuben Fiber) laminated to the back. All the seams are taped and although it isn’t advertised as water proof, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be. The bottom is doubled up with the same material. The pack has a super durable strip of Dyneema “Hardline” on the outside for crampons.
Crampon and Ice Ax/tool Attachment
I thought the heavy duty bungee cord (complete with large metal hooks) that secures crampons on the back would be the first thing I’d cut off and replace with something lighter, but it turns out that it’s so simple and functional, I decided to keep it. Ice tools are attached via a sleeve and buckle on the bottom and shock cord and toggle on the top. The upper shock cords are extra-long and can be used to secure a helmet by clipping them together with a spare biner, or attaching a mitten hook.
Side Straps, Ski Attachment, Y Strap
HMG sells a ski option which features reinforced side panels and a ski holster. It’s $100 extra for this feature and honestly it seems unnecessary as the standard configuration is adequate for ‘A frame’ ski carry. The top of the pack has a unique ‘Y’ strap that is handy for securing things to the top of the pack, especially rope.
Shoulder and Hip Straps
It could be just me, but the haul loop seemed too light for a pack this size. I backed it up with a piece of cord in case I needed to haul or clip off the pack. The shoulder straps are padded and comfortable for an ultra-light pack. They also feature the whistle/chest buckle combo. The hip belt is wide, moderately padded, and removable. As with most packs, this one came with about three feet too much strap. I cut all but four inches off of one side and doubled it over and sewed it so it is fixed. The other side I trimmed to allow a reasonable amount of adjustment.
It comes standard with a gear loop and two ice clip holders on either side. For $10 extra, you can get zippered pockets instead of gear loops. On the Wapta traverse, I really appreciated the gear loops on the hip belt because for much of the time, we had our packs and harnesses on. The gear loops allowed me to get gear off my harness so the hip belt would sit flat on my hips.
The interior is accessed by a roll top closure, which helps make the bag weather proof. The interior has one quart sized zippered pocket. Behind the zippered pocked is two removable aluminum stays and behind that is the foam back pad and frame sheet. My biggest complaint about the pack is that this foam pad and frame sheet are sewn in. I suspect this was done because it was easier to seam seal, but the flaw with this logic is if water did penetrate the pad compartment, it would be very, very difficult to dry out. I really like the option of being able to remove the back pad and replace it with my thin folded evazote bivy pad so I made the painful decision to cut open the back pad compartment. To keep the frame sheet tied in to the aluminum stays for load distribution, I sewed Velcro between the two stays and a strip on the back of the pocket. When the pocket is folded down it forms a ‘lid’ and locks everything together.
One other note, is that this pack does not have a hydration hole. You could always cut one in but it would somewhat negate the extreme weather-proof properties of this pack. You can still use hydration bladders if the pack isn’t too full by running the hose out the top and folding the lid over.
The Hyperlite Mountain Ice Pack is specialized ultralight climbing pack that lacks the bells and whistles of main stream packs. But bells and whistles add up and many of them are under utilized. The design is well thought out and tailored to long, cold approaches. However, that doesn’t mean it can only be used for such endeavors. This pack is very similar to Hyperlite’s Porter, Southwest, and Windrider models, which are designed for ultralight packrafting and through hiking. The Ice Pack would also excel with these uses making it a true multiuse pack. I’ve been very impressed by this pack and found it to be nearly perfect for the climbing and approaches I do in the Cascades.