Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 55 Review

I tested the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 55 backpack and this is my verdict.

November 03, 2023
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The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 55 is an ultralight backpack optimized for backpacking in wet wooded environments such as the Appalachian Trail. 

Product Overview

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 55

hyperlite mountain gear windrider 55

✅ Versatile carrying capacity

✅ Water resistance

✅ Durable fabric

✅ Big hip belt pockets


❌ Lack of load lifters

❌ Difficult sizing for smaller women

❌ DCH fabric does not breathe in hot weather

❌ Roll top Velcro catches on long sleeves when packing


  • Weight: 31.6 oz (average weight for a size medium)
  • Volume: 55L internal volume; 9.8L external volume
  • Load capacity: 40 lbs
  • Materials: White - DCH50 (Main Body) & DCH150 (Bottom); Black - DCH150 (Main Body & Bottom)
  • Features: Removable aluminum frame, Y-shaped strap on top for securing foam pads, bear canisters or other bulky items

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 55 is made from water-resistant DCH fabric and has three large mesh pockets on the outside that add almost 10 liters to the overall capacity. With multiple attachment points for the variety of accessories that Hyperlite Mountain Gear offers, the Windrider is a versatile pack that works well for hikers who have started their journey toward cutting pack weight but still need to carry moderate-sized loads.

For other ultralight backpack reviews, read our post on the best ultralight backpacks.

Performance Test Results

hmg windrider 55 performance score graph

How We Tested:

I used the Windrider 55 on my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2023. Starting in March, I carried a winter setup for the first 700 miles and then switched to a summer kit for the remainder of my hike. Temperatures ranged from -5°F to 95°. During this time, I underwent 20+ mile water carries, multiple days of torrential rain, and shameless butt-scooting down the mountains of New England. In that time, I loaded the pack with at most 32 lbs heading out of Fontana Dam and into the Smoky Mountains, and at the lowest a bit under 6 lbs when slackpacking up Mount Katahdin.

Weight: 8/10

At just under 2 lbs, the Windrider is a great pack for the person who has already reduced their base weight or is looking to do so and wants to go far, fast. There aren’t many ways to reduce the weight further, save for removing the aluminum stays or cutting straps shorter which is fine for the average hiker. It’s not the lightest on the market but it’s pretty close.

Price: 6/10

At $379, it’s on the higher end of the price spectrum for backpacking packs with this capacity but falls at the midpoint for ultralight packs. At the same time, the features this pack has, namely water resistance and durability, make it so that the price reflects the quality.

hiker carrying hmg windrider 55 backpack

The Windrider retails at $379, it's in the middle of the pricing range for ultralight packs but is on the upper end for hiking packs with this capacity.

Storage Capacity: 10/10

It’s hard to believe that the main body of this pack is only 55L given how much fits in it. Combine this with the massive mesh outer pocket in the front, the Y-strap on top that can be used to last a bear canister or a foam pad, and the angled water bottle pockets on the sides, and this pack can carry just about anything a thru-hiker or weekend backpacker with a relatively light setup could need. The angled water bottle pockets can easily hold two 1L Smart Water bottles with room left over for a foam sit pad or trekking poles when they aren’t needed.

Durability: 10/10

If not for the fact that the DCH fabric on my Windrider started in Georgia as white and is now a vaguely tan color, this pack could be mistaken for new. After 2,200 miles of the AT including squeezing through Mahoosuc Notch, butt scooting down peaks in New Hampshire and Maine, getting tossed unceremoniously to the ground at camp, and being used as a stool to sit on during snack breaks, there has been almost no abrasion to the pack. The hip belt padding, though slightly compressed, is still intact, none of the straps are fraying, and the mesh never ripped.

hmg windrider 55 back view

It was challenging to maintain balance because there were no load lifters and the pack had to be constantly adjusted due to the weight of the supplies. 

Comfort: 5/10

This pack started incredibly comfortable, but as the temperatures climbed and the rain started to fall (and then didn’t stop), the chafing began. DCH fabric does not breathe and traps back sweat. The other issue I discovered with it early on was the lack of load lifters. My base weight never exceeded 18 lbs and unless I was one or two days out from town, the weight of my consumables made it so that I had to adjust the pack throughout the day to keep the weight from shifting.

Features: 7/10

Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs tend to be fairly minimalist and the Windrider is no exception. It has everything you need to carry your gear and nothing you don’t. There’s one gear loop on the bottom of the pack that could be used to attach an ice axe to it and a few loops on the front of it that a bungee cord could be threaded to lash more gear to the front.

The pack does contain an internal hydration sleeve and a port to run a hose through on the right side. The daisy chain loops on the straps could be used to hold the mouthpiece or to attach a GPS device, a shoulder pocket, a water bottle pocket, or whatever else you might need quick access to.

hmg windrider 55 outside side pockets

The Windrider is a minimalistic pack that is fully equipped with all necessary items for carrying your equipment.

Final Thoughts

I wanted this pack to work for me, and not just because it was an expensive purchase. I chose the Windrider for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Train because, in theory, it was adapted to drying out wet gear. To no fault of the pack, nothing dried on trail this year so I wasn’t able to test the way I wanted to.

As someone who is smaller framed myself, I found that this pack’s comfort broke down over time. Without load lifters, for the weight to transfer to my hips as opposed to my shoulders I had to pack it just so which was difficult when I was carrying more than three days of food or when I had long water carries in Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania.

I was not particularly rough on my pack, but even so, I found that the aluminum stays of the frame bend over time, especially when stuffing a full pack. This dug into my back at times and made carrying the pack uncomfortable.

hmg windrider 55 hipbelt close up

The pack's capacity is impressive, accommodating various items like my rain gear, camp shoes, and additional equipment like trekking poles and foam pads.

What I was happy with was the capacity of this pack. I never had an issue fitting everything inside of it, especially making use of the outside mesh for things I would need quickly such as my rain gear, my bag of toiletries, and my camp shoes. The hip belt pockets were roomy, fitting an abundance of snacks including the largest of protein bars.

Much of the reason this pack did not work for me is because I am 5’2”, my torso length barely reaches 15”, which is the lower size limit on the small, and I am narrow in the shoulders. The build of this pack is designed for someone not built like that and that is something I should have picked up on during earlier shakedown hikes.

I am going to continue using this pack on shorter trips where I want to travel quickly and will not be exposed to prolonged dampness because, for all that didn’t work for me with it, I still appreciate the sheer versatility of this pack.

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About Kimberly "Dex" Fetherston

Kimberly thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2023 and now makes her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains hiking, writing, and planning her next adventure. @kim.outdoors 

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Stoveless Backpacking Meals
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