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Few of us are lucky enough to live in Jackson Hole, where accessing world-class backcountry ski zones means riding the chairlift and popping out the resort boundary gates. Or Chamonix, where a ride up the Aiguille du Midi tram can earn you a descent that lasts all day. For most of us, backcountry skiing means hiking, skinning, bootpacking, or snowshoeing long distances, mostly uphill. For all of us, pack weight matters, which is why Hyperlite Mountain Gear's new ultralight Headwall 55L ski and snowboard backcountry pack is one of this season's most exciting new releases.
Based in Maine, Hyperlite Mountain Gear has become known as the ultralight backpacking brand thanks to its design-driven line of backpacks, shelters, and accessories. Their entire lineup prominently features Dyneema Composite Fabrics, a futuristic material that's waterproof, super lightweight, and super durable (ounce for ounce, Dyneema is stronger than steel). Hyperlite's approach to making these items is decidedly minimalist, focusing instead on the essentials you need to thrive in wild and beautiful places.
But a backcountry ski pack requires a few extras—a way to carry skis or a splitboard, and a dedicated pocket for avalanche safety gear—which traditionally weighs the design down. The 55L Headwall has both features but with little extra weight: compression straps on both sides allow for an A-frame ski carry, and an internal avy pocket made with Dyneema stretch mesh contains dedicated sleeves for a probe and shovel and closes with a combo of tough velcro and a buckled strap.
The R&D team didn't stop there, though. The Headwall also has a removable hip belt with pockets on both sides, ice axe loops for true alpine ascents, and a small zippered pocket inside its main compartment for stashing smaller items. The roll-top lid provides packing flexibility, too, and the pack's strap system works for carrying a rope if your route involves glacier travel or rappels.
If all these features have you thinking that Hyperlite Mountain Gear is breaking with tradition, fear not; the Headwall 55 is as efficient as can be and is available in three torso sizes with the smallest weighing just 38.9 ounces (~2.4 lbs). All of these features come from years of development and collaboration with some of the best backcountry skiers out there, including for this newest pack, Cody Townsend, an advocate and user of Hyperlite Mountain Gear.
As with all Hyperlite Mountain Gear products, you're making an investment when you buy one—the company backs everything it makes with a promise to repair or replace anything that fails—and at $449, their latest offering is no different. Most backcountry ski packs are overburdened with features and, when empty, weigh as much as the Headwall 55 does loaded up for a day in the mountains. And none are made with Dyneema Composite Fabrics –until now.