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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > High Sierra Sport Company Kahuna 70 Pack > Test Report by Chari Daignault

HIGH SIERRA KAHUNA 70 PACK
TEST SERIES BY CHARI DAIGNAULT
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - March 17, 2009
FIELD REPORT - June 08, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - August 13, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chari Daignault
EMAIL: chari.daignault@gmail.com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Orlando, Florida U.S.A.
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 135 lb (61.20 kg)

I've been an ultra light hiker for 35 years -- I take the bare minimum with me and prefer a pack under or close to 15 pounds. I've hiked all the Florida State Forest trails in Central Florida and climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan when I was nine. I have hiked dry & sandy, rough & rocky and wet & boggy trails and as a result, have found what does and doesn't work for me in terms of equipment and clothing. Central Florida affords a lot of sun and rains, with high temperatures and massive humidity. It's a great testing area for clothing, footwear and headgear.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: High Sierra Sport Company
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website:
High Sierra Sport Company
MSRP: US$ 100.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 2 lbs (.94 kg)

Other details [from manufacturer's website]:
Size: 18" x 9" x 5.25" [46 x 23 x 13 cm*]
Capacity: 584 cubic inches [10 L*]
Materials: Waffle Weave
Available Colors:
Black, Graphite
Gecko, Graphite
Chipotle, Graphite
[*conversions supplied by tester]

Color tested: Gecko, Graphite

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The pack came with a few hang tags: one with a photo and descriptions of key elements of the pack, another with High Sierra's product guarantee and a third which explains how to clean, freshen and sanitize the hydration bladder.

The bite valve on the intake tube was protectively packaged with plastic. Once removed, I found that the valve was not slit, at least not that I could see at the time. In proper light and with reading glasses [yes, I occasionally require them], I was able to see a small slit on the end of the bite valve if I squeezed it. Initially, I tried lightly biting down on the tip to see if it would open, but it didn't, even with increased pressure. I didn't want to risk damaging the tip, so I didn't use anything sharp to pry it open. Instead, using my fingernail, I was able to fully open the slit. I don't know if it was only partially cut and required my prodding to completely open it, or if while being packaged, the rubber became stuck to itself and required my assistance.

Bite Valve
Bite Valve


The bite valve is part of a system that locks in place to prevent water flow and is unlocked by pulling it to the unlocked position. Once unlocked, simply biting down on the valve and sucking allows the water to flow. So far, the valve has not leaked when unlocked, even after use.

The reservoir compartment is lined with a thermo-silver insulation. I am curious to see how this holds up with the Florida heat and if the neoprene-like insulation on the intake tube -- which was designed to keep the water from freezing -- will also assist with keeping the water cool. To me, the intake tube is quite long but I believe I can tuck any excess away into the body of the reservoir compartment. The reservoir itself holds 2L [68 fl oz] of water. The manufacturer states that the reservoir is anti-microbial and is compatible with most popular brands of filtration devices. I don't have a filtration device at this time, so I most likely will not be able to test this.

Water Reservoir
Water Reservoir


I opened all the zippered pockets and checked inside each to determine their use. With the descriptive hang tag as a guide, I was able to easily identify each feature. I like that everything on the pack is attached in some way so I won't lose anything on the trail if it's not in use. An example of this is the mesh sport flap which tucks away into a zippered compartment in the bottom of the pack. When unzipped and removed, the bottom of the flap is permanently attached to the pack itself and I can attach the top of the flap to the outside of the pack with two hooks. I can stow my bike helmet or other items in it. There is also a reflective loop on the bottom of the pack on which the manufacturer suggests attaching an LED bike blinker at night.

Mesh Sport Flap
Mesh Sport Flap


Sport Flap Connectors
Sport Flap Connectors


It appears that almost everything on the pack is adjustable -- the pack only comes in one size -- so this helps me quite a bit., as I am small-framed. I found that I ended up with a lot of slack strap hanging after tightening the pack to my torso, but I think I can find ways to creatively stow them when using the pack.

The parts of the pack that will be touching my body -- the shoulder straps, padded back and waist belt -- are all made of the Vapel™ mesh Airflow™ material. This material is supposed to allow air flow and wick moisture away from my body. The main body of the pack is made of waffle weave, which appears to be lightweight, moisture resistant and pretty rugged. Of course, I'll find all of this out for sure once I get it on the trail for an extended period of time.

Padded Back
Padded Back


The adjustable sternum strap has elastic built into one end of it, which I've found allows it to give a bit if the weight in the pack shifts, even when I have it cinched extremely tight. The sternum strap can be adjusted up or down on the shoulder straps, which allows me to place it at a point most comfortable for my chest. For me, they are easy enough to adjust with both hands with some force, but stay in place securely when the pack is in use.

Adjustable Sternum Strap
Adjustable Sternum Strap


The pack has a zippered, expandable gusset if I need extra space in the top, main compartment. The center compartment is an accessory pocket with several built-in sleeves for bike tools and other items. My cell phone fits nicely into one of them. There is a small hook in this section as well, which I will use for my car key. The smallest compartment is for an MP3 player and it also has a headphone port built into it. On the outside of this compartment is a "monster hook" on which I can clip extra gear that won't mind being jostled around.

Front View
Front View


mp3 Pocket
mp3 Pocket


Tool organizer pocket
Tool Organizer Pocket


For added stability, there is a stowable, adjustable waist belt. It is stored near the base of the pack, just behind the MP3 pocket. The waist belt is held secure in its sleeve with hook and loop fasteners when it's tucked in correctly. The sleeve for the waist belt is open all the way through, so I can probably use it to stow a rolled-up sitting pad or something similar when the waist belt is in use.

Adjustable Waist Belt
Adjustable Waist Belt

TRYING IT OUT

I wore the pack on a 2 mile [3 km] trail run and brought along my car keys, a cell phone, an MP3 player and headphones and I also completely filled the hydration bladder. The pack was initially very light, but filling the bladder added noticeable weight, of course.

I prefer my hydration pack to be very tight to my torso when I run or bike, as I don't like movement or shifting and don't want to risk any hot spots on my arms or back. I was able to tighten the Kahuna 70 to my satisfaction. I used the waist belt as well. Running with the pack on was very comfortable. There wasn't a lot of noise from the pack, aside from the sound of sloshing water from the hydration bladder. I didn't even hear my keys, which were stowed in the accessory pocket, clipped on a hook.

I found that the stow loop on the top of the pack [which I use to hang the pack when not in use] interferes with my MP3 headphone wires quite a bit, even with the wire slack being stowed in the MP3 pocket. Although the MP3 port for the headphone wires is very convenient for me and is an excellent idea, having the large stow loop pulling on the wires [actually pulling it out of my left ear several times] became very irritating. I managed to fix this issue somewhat by threading the wires through the stow loop itself, which stopped much of the tugging on the wires. This is not a deal-breaker for me, as I won't always be bringing an MP3 player along with me.

Surprisingly, after my run I found that my back did not have any noticeable sweat on it. The front of my shirt had sweat at the neck, stomach and underarms, but my back didn't. It appears that the padded Vapel mesh back of the Kahuna 70 is highly breathable and actually wicked moisture away from my body.

SUMMARY

Overall, I am very happy with the Kahuna 70's performance and features so far. I look forward to trying it out on future trail runs, bike rides and hikes and with different loads of gear and in different types of weather.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Field testing was done southeast of Orlando in the Hal Scott nature preserve and for five nights and six days on the Little-Big Econ forest portion of the Florida Trail. Elevation is between 12 ft [4 m] to 75 ft [23 m] above sea level. Terrain in the Hal Scott nature preserve is highly wooded with sandy trails which become extremely dry during times of drought. In Central Florida, we experienced drought conditions for several weeks and those conditions ended during what is normally our "dry" season, in the middle of May.

During testing, I experienced extremely dry weather with higher than normal temps which ranged from 70 F [21 C] to 90 F [32 C]. Near the end of the field testing period, I experienced normal temps ranging from 67 F [19 C] to 88 F [31 C] with several days of full-on rain, thunder storms and tornadoes. Luckily, during the week we were camping out in the Little-Big Econ forest, it was still dry.

I tested the High Sierra Kahuna 70 pack during almost daily hikes and a few trail runs and bike rides in the Hal Scott nature preserve.

Our overnight trip was planned for north Georgia, but life got in the way and we decided to stay locally. We opted for the Little-Big Econ portion of the Florida Trail which is about 45 minutes from home. The 7 mile [12 km] trail on this section of the Florida Trail follows along the Econlockhatchee River [the "Econ"] and the surrounding swamps. There are areas in forest and along the river where primitive camping is permitted. We camped along the river in an inlet, spending 6 days hiking and 5 nights fighting off the bugs -- who were very "thirsty" due to the drought. The terrain went from dense forest to sandy river banks. The sandy trails are known to be treacherous to those of us with weak ankles, due to the amount of exposed tree roots and eroded trail areas. The trail allows us to cross the river at several points, with the aid of wooden walking bridges. No bicycles are allowed on this portion of the Florida Trail, so we did not bring our bikes along on this trip.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Trail running with the Kahuna 70 is very comfortable. Although the Kahuna 70 is larger than most of the hydration packs I've worn in the past, the fact that I can bring more with me than car keys is what I like best about it. Since it is a hydration pack, it's not like I'd be packing the kitchen sink for the long haul, but I do like being able to over-pack just in case. To me, it's meant for day hikes, bike rides and trail runs [if you don't mind a slightly bulkier pack when running].

I like that for bike rides, I can pack snacks, a lunch for two, my bicycle tools and some survival tools. I can even pack a ground cloth so I can actually bike to a nice area in the forest and set up a not-too-shabby picnic lunch.

For day hikes and longer hikes, I can come out with more than when I went in. In the Little-Big Econ forest, we noted several areas of the trail that were covered with what looked like tangerine peels. I couldn't imagine someone bringing and eating that many tangerines all in one spot, so we looked around at the tree canopy and discovered two tangerine trees further off the trail. Somehow, they grew out there in the middle of the forest in a clearing where they were able to get the right amount of sun and water. We made our way back there and I climbed up and threw down handfuls of tangerines.

On the Trail
On the Trail Pre-Tangerine


We stowed them in the tuck-away mesh sport flap on my Kahuna 70 and continued on our hike. It was nice to be able to pack them without smashing them and without getting anything inside my pack all sticky from tangerine juice or sap. Later on, we spied a couple raccoons peeling and eating tangerines right along the side of the trail. We found our litterbugs!

Early on during testing, I had noted that the stow loop on the top of the pack would interfere with my MP3 player's wires when running. I had tried tucking it down inside along my back, but it would pop out. I'd run the wire through the loop itself, but it would still end up tugging my earbuds out eventually. I ended up resolving that issue by getting a cordless bluetooth headset. This still allowed me to take advantage of the MP3 player pocket without having to worry about any wires -- and I could take phone calls as well. When hiking, I'm not that high-tech; it's just when running on the trails that I find music helps with finding a good rhythm.

The bite valve on the reservoir works very well. I can grab it with one hand, pull to unlock it and then am able to drink from it easily with no hands. In the Florida sun, the water does end up warming up very quickly. I'm used to this happening with pretty much any liquid I take out on the trail that does not have an icepack with it, and truthfully -- if I'm thirsty I don't care much if the water is warm as long as it's clean. There is a definite plastic taste to the water which I hope will eventually go away with use.

I've been able to refill the reservoir without removing it from the pack, but it has to be done very carefully and there needs to be plenty of room with which to work. I do this by partially lifting the top of the reservoir out and with the water source still in the off position, I place the opening directly under the water source. I then turn it on and allow it to fill. This is best done with the pack completely empty, as the reservoir can then expand fully while filling. I've done this several times in this manner without any stray water getting into the pack.

The pack is still in great shape; no stains or tears are evident. There are no frays on the straps and they still tighten and loosen perfectly. I've worn the pack in light rains and it dries quickly. The interior showed no signs of water entry and there are no water stains on any material.

I had two separate times of getting a burn under my right arm just under my arm pit after longer, sweatier runs. I wear sleeveless shirts when running on the trail, so this could be a result of softer, exposed skin coming into contact with the straps.

SUMMARY

I really haven't been able to find too many things wrong with the performance of the Kahuna 70 pack. Aside from the rather painful burns I developed under my armpit and the stow loop issue, I haven't really had much to complain about.

Likes:
Can take more with me than with conventional hydration packs
Expands to carry more gear
Tuck-away mesh sport flap
Mp3 pocket
Fits tightly when needed

Dislikes:
Stow loop is too big
Can cause some skin irritation under arms


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

For the past two months, I've continued to test the High Sierra Kahuna 70 pack during several day hikes of 3 to 5 mi [4.8 to 8 km] in distance and also on at least 2 trail runs at a distance of 2.5 mi [4 km] each. The weather has been extremely hot and humid, with severe afternoon and evening thunderstorms and drenching rains. The temperatures have been hitting as high as 95 F [35 C] and factoring in the humidity, it's felt closer to well over 105 F [41 C].

The locations I've tested are all in Central Florida, on state and county trails, in dense forest, along rivers and also following a utility trail through a nature preserve. At all locations, I encountered sand, high grasses, mud, gravel and a nonillion hungry and very determined mosquitoes as big as my head. Ticks, no see-ums, and spiders are in abundance as well; to which my ankles, forearms and torso can attest.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The pack continues to work extremely well for day hikes. I stopped wearing sleeveless shirts when wearing the pack, which kept any irritation I'd experienced previously under my arms from reoccurring. I continue to experience issues with sweat on my back where the pack sits. The material on the padded back area of the pack is not wicking moisture away as well as I had hoped. I realize that our weather here in Florida can be grueling for any type of gear designed to keep me dry, so I can't really get too down on the Kahuna 70 for causing me to have a wet back. The heat and humidity here can break the best of us. Even so, [even in heavy rains] nothing I have stowed inside the pack has gotten wet. Even my sweat has not been able to penetrate through the padded back.

The large stow loop on top of the pack is still a niggling issue for me. It ends up sitting right at the base of my skull and I can feel it as I walk. Tucking it down between my back and the pack has been effective, but 50 percent of the time, it will work its way back out and up, poking me in the back of the neck. When I store the pack at home, I use the stow loop to hang it up, so removing it is not an option. I feel hanging my packs is best, as it allows air flow around the pack and I have a much less chance of mildew occurring.

The water reservoir continues to make water taste horrible. It's hard when drinking this plasticky-tasting water to not wonder what it may be doing to my insides. I've taken to bringing along a water bottle instead from which to drink; it takes up less space than the full reservoir and the water tastes like water. I am looking to possibly remove the reservoir from another smaller hydration pack I have and to put it into the Kahuna 70 to see how that works. I didn't try this during testing, as I didn't feel it was appropriate or applicable to testing this product fully.

SUMMARY

I like the fit, weight and capacity of the Kahuna 70 for day hikes and bike rides. It's a bit of overkill for short trail runs, and in my opinion is too heavy [especially with a full reservoir] for longer ones. The pack's multiple pockets and storage areas show great forethought and engineering with regard to biking and short hikes and allow gear to be stowed securely and safely. I think the reservoir material should be looked at by the manufacturer to determine why it makes water taste so badly.

CONTINUED USE

Overall, I truly like this pack and will continue to use it for day hikes and bike rides.

This concludes my Long Term Report on the High Sierra Kahuna 70 Hydration Pack. Many thanks to High Sierra Sport Company and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.


Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
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