Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack modifications and update

This year is going by quite quickly already! There’s only a few months to go until I leave to hike the Great Divide Trail in Canada :).

I’ve been busy with a few things, many mistakes have been made and hopefully you can learn from my losses, haha.

After examining my Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack, I’ve thought about various modifications. We can all pick fault in something, so don’t think of this as me saying the backpack isn’t good or something like that. As stated in a few posts now, I’ve been trying to attach a camera bag to my backpack. A camera inside a backpack on a through hike is basically a lead weight–it won’t get used.

A shopping list will be provided at the bottom of the page…

As you can see, I’ve started by sewing something near the shoulder straps at the top. The reason for this is that the webbing on the shoulder straps themselves doesn’t look super durable and I wouldn’t trust it to hold the weight of my camera (Sony a7rII and a 24-70 GM lens, plus the weight of the bag.) This camera combination is already quite heavy and I think you should forget a heavy DSLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (the extra few hundred grams will make a huge difference and it’s much easier to put a few extra batteries in your backpack i.e. offset the weight somewhere else.) If you have the money, I’d advise getting the 16-35 f/2.8 GM lens instead (assuming you’re okay with that focal length too.) It was out of budget for me and I want to bring a Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 as well, anyway, I digress…


Instead of cutting long pieces of webbing and then trimming them to size, I tried to make them the right size to begin with and I ended up with barely any material to play with. I’ve never sewn anything before and I feel like a complete idiot really. It was a stupid mistake to make.

The white you see under the webbing is white velcro, and I’m going to change some of that. The loose thread is because I haven’t finished, and if you notice the overlapping webbing on the left is shorter than on the right. I will tidy that up by trimming the excess on the right, but you get the general idea. Like I said… I’m an idiot, haha. I won’t be making that mistake again. In the middle is a carbon fibre rod and then more webbing with a d-ring on the end. Something I’ve found quite useful for preventing fraying and other things is to use a soldering iron. It’ll make the soldering iron messy and obviously a heat gun is better, but it works quite well.

The theory behind this Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack modification is that it will pull weight from two points on either side. I can then attach the camera bag to these straps. The extra weight is negligible and it feels pretty comfortable.  The two pieces of webbing coming down could be a bit longer or a bit shorter. I wasn’t 100% sure where to put them or how long to make them, all I knew was that if they were the wrong length, I would risk cutting into my neck or shoulders. I think they could possibly be slightly longer… Again, I wouldn’t have had this problem if I made the webbing longer to begin with. I’d have never made this mistake with carbon fibre or metal, so I don’t know why I made this mistake with sewing. I think perhaps because I don’t have much webbing, I was afraid of using too much… Who knows.

At the moment, the carbon fibre rod is loose. One solution is to wrap some cuben fibre tape around it and then sew through the excess tape, another idea is to epoxy one piece of webbing to the carbon fibre. The webbing in the middle has to be able to rotate but equally the carbon fibre rod cannot slide through and fall out, otherwise I’ll be a little unhappy.

Sewing through tape isn’t my favourite thing to do because the glue sticks to the needle. I’ve been using a speedy stitcher sewing awl with a fine needle. The needle has to be bought separately. If you’re from the UK, I’d buy it from eBay.

In the photograph above, you can see the carbon fibre rod is a bit long, I’ll sand the excess later on. It’s certainly not my finest work, but when I finish it, tidy it up and whatnot, it should do the job quite well I think.

I’m going to stick some d-rings near the excess shoulder straps too, as well as one more, on each side, around the hip belt. This will allow room to attach lightweight items or the second points on my camera bag to prevent it from swinging everywhere.

Here is the top of the Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack, and as you can see it has a strip of 20mm velcro. In my opinion, this is probably unnecessary most of the time. It does help to get the bag lined up but it’ll probably shred a fleece or whatever. I’m uncomfortable removing it so I’m simply going to cut some extra velcro and leave it there.

Shopping list:

  • Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl
  • Speedy Stitcher Fine needle
  • Bonded Nylon #69 black thread
  • 20mm Webbing
  • 20mm White Velcro (for backpack)
  • 20mm Black Velcro (for webbing)
  • 20mm D-rings

I bought my d-rings from eBay. These are 20mm Nexus D-rings.

On a completely unrelated note…

The size 13 bushido remains to be my favourite shoe of all time, but the high arch is painful for me. Bitcoin has dropped in value, and I’ve had duplicate customs charges (one item I received was damaged.) It’s a difficult process getting a refund, and I’ve had a string of bad luck lately. I must say that ZPacks were very helpful in replacing my item.

Some other shoes I have tried… Arcteryx Norvan, Salomon XA Pro and Salomon X ultra 3. The size 13 Salomon XA Pro’s seem to fit quite well.

Good news and some shoe hell

Unfortunately, my shoe situation is not going too well! I bought eight pairs of shoes and I’m getting close to owning half of La Sportiva by now. This isn’t a review by any means, but here’s my quick findings:

La Sportiva Bushido

Upon initial impressions, the La Sportiva Bushido is my favourite shoe of all time, with one problem… It’s got this ridiculously high arch support in it that I find uncomfortable and I think if it’s giving me a pain now, it’s going to give me horrendous pain after 200 miles of hiking. If this arch support fits the shape of your foot, I imagine this shoe would be amazing! The tongue is the best tongue I’ve seen–it’s got a thin edge to it and then it’s padded further down. The entire upper back of the shoe feels good. There’s no rub around your ankle and I don’t know why they didn’t keep this design in all their shoes.

I read one review which said the tongue is nice but it can let in debris. I’d rather a soft tongue system and I wear gaiters rather than something which tries to do all and compromises.

I found that when I followed the “thumb width rule” (measure your longest toe away from the closest piece of fabric) and then added half a size up (for extra swelling), the shoe was a perfect fit (size 13 US.)

There’s room in the toe box if I size it like this but the smaller sizes don’t have much room for my big toe at all. The other toes have room. It’s always my big toe that suffers, even though it’s not my longest toe.

They feel incredibly light, even though they’re not ultralight shoes. Moving my feet around in circular motions or anything weird, they’re incredibly comfortable.

La Sportiva Akasha

This shoe is weird. The tongue isn’t too bad but it’s not as good. The arch is really high, much like the La Sportiva Bushido, so if you like the La Sportiva Akasha‘s, the chances are you’ll like the La Sportiva Bushido‘s or vice versa.

The back rubs my ankle, is way too padded and makes this shoe a no go.

These feel pretty light too.

La Sportiva Akyra

This is the shoe I want to love the most. Its arch system is the best for me. It’s wider in the middle, it’s rugged, it feels a lot heavier than the La Sportiva Bushido but the positive is it looks more durable.

The downside is the back of the foot doesn’t clamp down very well. If I tie up the laces to clamp my foot inside the shoe, then the tongue bites into me. I don’t like the tongue, it’s really padded and jabs into me.

It’s possible that if I wore them a lot (I will be returning most of these, so I don’t want to wear them much) I would break one in. I’m not sure if the high arch would get smaller or if the tongue on the La Sportiva Akyra would become more comfortable. If you can find a fit that works for you, I really recommend looking at this or the La Sportiva Bushido. I can’t speak about the durability or whatnot. When I decide on the pair of shoe I’ll keep, I’ll use them a lot and do a proper review :).

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 4400

In other news, I’m semi-confident I’ve found a way to affix my camera to my backpack now. I spent about two hours just staring at it, trying to think of the best way. I sewed a few loops around the side belt and that didn’t quite work out but I think I’ve come up with a solution. I’m waiting for some “D Rings” to arrive and then I’ll get started.

Zebralight lights for hiking

I’m currently researching torches (why do some people call them flashlights? They don’t flash :)) for hiking, and I’m pretty impressed with Zebralight so far.

I have a few plans in mind with the light and I’m left with a million questions… Firstly, imagine a mountain setting with a tent set up and the tent is illuminated from the inside. Do you match the colour temperature with the moon? Do you pick a daylight colour temperature? What if youwant a light during the day to act as a fill light i.e. a poor man’s flash?

I spent the whole day thinking “4000k is too warm” but then I had this eureka moment… The moon is 4000k, not 5000k. Well, it wasn’t much of a eureka moment. I’m stlil left with similar questions; do I get a 4000k or a 5000k light?

Zebralight make a few models worth considering, in my opinion. The Zebralight H600Fd IV is a high powered, 5000k high CRI (93-95 CRI) light with 1000+ lumens of power. I’m inclined to buy this model but it’s slightly heavy and really quite expensive. The light itself is 39 grams but with a battery you’re looking at 84.6 grams and a charger is another 20 grams.

Speaking of which, the Olight® Universal Magnetic USB Battery Charger looks great :).

The other model I have my eye on is the Zebralight H53c. It’s a 4000k high CRI light but it’s not half as powerful. It is lighter weight (about 55 grams with a battery) and can take AA’s (should you not wish to bring a charger, most shops sell AA’s.)

I hope that one day Zebralight will make a light the size of the Zebralight H53c with a USB-C charging port, it’ll accept a lithium battery, and it’ll have a colour temperature of 5000k :).

Unrelated sewing stuff

Lastly, an update about my previous post. I’ve found the Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl’s standard straight needle is a bit thick for what I want, so I have ordered a fine needle.