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

High Sierra Sport Kahuna 70 Hydration Pack

Test Series by Katie Rompala

Initial Report
Field Report
Long-term Report


Name: Katie Rompala
Age: 27
Gender: F
Height: 5'11" (1.8 m)
Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
Email: krstull [AT]
City, State, Country: Dillon, Montana, USA


I've been hiking since I was young. Current activities include car-camping and medium to long hikes in the Utah red rock, and hiking and snowshoe trips in the West. Southwest Montana is my current base for weekend trips in the area, while vacation time is usually dedicated to ~10 day trips to west-coast national parks and other wilderness spots. I hope to plan more backcountry trips in the future. For now, I don't worry much about lightweight packing, since I'm more involved in day hikes than overnights and therefore carry less. I enjoy cycling and running.


March 22, 2009


Manufacturer: High Sierra Sport Company
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$100
Listed Weight: not provided
Measured Weight: 1 lb 13.7 oz (840 g)
Listed Size: 18 x 9 x 5.25 in (46 x 23 x 13 cm)

Listed Capacity: 584 cu in (9600 cc)
Listed Reservoir Capacity: 2 L (2.1 qt)

Colors: Black/Graphite, Gecko/Graphite, Chipotle/Graphite
Material: Waffle Weave and Vapel Mesh

Color Tested: Black/Graphite


The hydration pack came wrapped in plastic with several informational tags attached. The bite valve was wrapped in plastic, and a light cardboard support had been inserted to protect the reservoir. Before I took it out of the packaging, it looked like an ordinary small pack.

Front View with Tags

But looks can be deceiving! Once I'd unwrapped everything and started looking it over, I found so many helpful features.

The reservoir is held into the back of the pack by a protective pocket and held up by a small sturdy hook. Filling it with water is a bit awkward, but is facilitated by the large screw top. Instructions for use and care are given on the front of the reservoir itself. While the pack is on, water is accessible by the long, insulated tube, which comes out of the reservoir at the bottom and loops up through the pocket and out a hole in the top. The hole at the top is reinforced with proper stitching, but as it a rather large hole, and because the hole opens to the top, I will have to see whether rain soaks into the pack.  This is a concern in part because the main compartment for extra gear is just in front of the reservoir. The bite valve is quite easy to use. It locks and unlocks by pulling up or pushing down on the small white ring near the valve itself.

Bite Valve

The long hose is secured to the shoulder straps with several small straps, which are available on both shoulder straps, in case I want to switch which side the tube is on or secure other things.

Secure Tube

The main compartment is large. Even with the reservoir full, it is big enough to fit the outer shell of my winter jacket and a pair of gloves. With the side zipper opened (shown below) to extend the size of the pack, I also fit in a long sleeved shirt and a hat. There is a long slender sleeve there as well, which fits my small tire pump perfectly (also shown below).

Side Extension

Main Compartment

The smaller compartment in front contains 3 pockets, 4 elastic straps to hold things down, and a small hook.

Bike Tool Space

This is listed as being for bicycle tools. Small bike tools were secured well by the pockets and elastic. 

The small compartment at the front of the pack is meant to hold an mp3 player, and has a protected hole at the top where headphone cords come out. There are no inner pockets in this compartment, but it is big enough to hold not only an mp3 player, but keys, a wallet, and a small notebook as well, with room to spare.  Once I put my mp3 player in the pocket and fed the cords through the top, listening to music was a bit awkward because the cords kept falling off my shoulder. I was able to solve this problem by threading the headphones through one of the small straps on the shoulder strap that did not secure the hydration hose.

On the sides of this compartment, there is a small space containing the optional adjustable waist belt for extra stability. When taken out and clipped together around me, the pack was quite secure, even for running. I had expected the straps to secure the pack too high on my torso, but I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable they felt, even when running. This was aided by the adjustable sternum straps. When I had both straps on and secure, there seemed to be a lot of long straps hanging around, and it was a bit irritating to have them flapping about as I ran.

There are small plastic clasps to secure the optional waist band straps.


With a little finagling, I can probably figure out a way to secure them better.

Just below the smallest pocket there is a reflective band, available for an LED blinker when cycling. My LED did not work well in this loop because it is quite large and was not well secured, but a smaller LED might work better. There is also a zippered pocket at the bottom containing the sport flap that holds a helmet. My helmet fit well when the flap was clipped in to the loops near the top of the pack, but the flap does not have adjustable straps, and I wonder if my helmet might be jostled around and fall out.


The back of the pack feels very comfortable. It is made of padded airmesh. It is supposed to keep my back dry by wicking sweat away, but I cannot tell how well this works since it is cold here and my sweat stays mainly underneath all my layers.

Back Mesh

At the front of the smallest compartment is a large hook for extra gear. I can't think of anything yet that I would actually put there, but it is an option.

Monster Hook

There is also a small hole at the bottom of the pack that is reinforced by plastic. This accesses the main compartment, but I cannot for the life of me determine what this hole is for.



I am quite excited about this pack. It has so many features and seems so versatile. This pack may have been nice to carry on the non-swim portions of the triathlon I did last year, and I am fairly certain it will be of great use on day hikes and cycles, especially once it gets warmer.  My main concern is that it will not do well in the rain, since there is no evidence of water-resistance or waterproofing. Otherwise, however, I am quite happy with it so far!


June 9, 2009


For field testing, the High Sierra Kahuna hydration pack was taken on numerous short day-hikes and bird-watching trips, bike rides under 20 mi (32 km) round-trip, numerous runs (4-8 mi, 6-13 km) and several runs in the mountains off-trail. Testing was done in Southwest Montana, in a variety of weather conditions, including drizzle, near-freezing temperatures, with occasional heat and sun. Strong summer weather has not yet arrived in this area of the country, so some of my initial questions about this pack will be deferred until the long-term report.


In general, the pack has lived up to my expectations.  I've found that even when the reservoir was full, I still had plenty of room in the pack, even without the expansion zipper open. My journeys with this pack were somewhat short, so I did not need too much room, but regardless, I still managed to fit what I needed inside (except an extra water bottle, as noted below). On several trips, I easily fit several maps, a compass, a GPS, a small first aid kit, keys, a wallet, an extra long-sleeve shirt, a pair of mittens, and a lunch (in addition to a full water reservoir). Even in the rare event that I was out on my own, I still had plenty of room for what I needed.  I did not really need to room in the pack when cycling, as I have a small pouch on my bike already, which holds my keys, phone, and camera, so the pack did not really help much on my bike rides, except that water was slightly  more accessible through the reservoir tube than by grabbing my water bottle after my bike holder.

The pack was quite comfortable to wear. Even when full to the brim, it felt light and comfortable on my back. It has felt secure enough that I have not felt the need to attach the waist belt when hiking.  It also works quite well as a running pack. The only caveat I might mention is that it didn't seem worthwhile for shorter runs. It was an excellent addition to my running gear for anything longer than 7 mi (11 km). But for my more frequent 4-mi (6 km) runs, it was more of a nuisance, if only because I prefer running with as few things to lug around as I can manage. That said, it is quite comfortable during long runs, especially with the two straps securing it on my back.  I have not had any trouble with chaffing or contact burns, since I haven't been able to wear short-sleeved shirts yet this season! I hope to cover this in my long-term report, once the weather has finally turned into summer.  Due to Montana's persistent coolness, I have also not been able to determine the wicking capacity of the mesh back, but my long-term report will address this, once summer has come and gone.

I was worried that water would find its way into the compartments, but have not yet encountered any problems caused by reservoir leakiness or rain.  I still suspect that a heavy downpour would cause problems in this regard, but have not had the opportunity to determine this for sure. Drizzle did not affect anything in the pack, and I could not feel anything damp inside the pack.

Filling the reservoir was a bit of a hassle. The least awkward method I found for filling the reservoir was to take it out of the pack. I have not tried filling it while in the pack, for fear that I'll spill water all over the inside. The cap for the water is not at the very top of the reservoir, so filling it with water up to the designated volume was virtually impossible without spilling water on the counter, so I was content to fill it only most of the way. However, I was constantly annoyed at the plastic-y taste of the water. Despite the trips I've gone on with this pack, the water still tastes like the plastic it's contained in. I have, however, noticed a decrease in this unfortunate taste. I hope that my long-term report will describe gradual reductions in this unfortunate taste, since it very much deters me from wanting to use the water reservoir.  I have occasionally brought an extra Nalgene water bottle with me, and have not yet been able to figure out a convenient way of carrying it in the pack. I have used the monster clip on the back as a temporary solution, but there was no easy way to secure the bottle to keep it from swinging back and forth.

Overall, the pack is still performing as it did when I received it. I have not noticed any wear to any of the pack's components, but will postpone final determinations of durability until the long-term report.

Plenty of space for gear needed for day-time activities
Feels light as a feather on my back
Secure even without extra straps, but straps make it an even nicer fit
Excellent for runs over ~7 mi (11 km)
Very comfortable

Water continues to taste like plastic, even after a few months of use
Filling the reservoir is awkward
Not worth taking on shorter runs (under ~4 mi, 6 km)

This concludes my Field Report.


August 11, 2009


For final testing, the High Sierra Kahuna hydration pack was taken on more short day-hikes and bird-watching trips, and bike rides under 20 mi (32 km) round-trip. Testing was done in Southwest Montana, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and in Oregon. A variety of weather conditions were experienced including showers, heat, and sun.


I finally encountered rainy conditions while hiking at Grand Teton. A steady rain (with some hail) fell for about 20 minutes, and I was worried about the contents of the pack (in particular, a book and some papers). Much to my surprise, the inside of the pack did not seem at all wet when I checked after the rain had stopped. I cannot claim to know what would happen with longer-lasting rainfall, but the pack's water resistance during this short shower was a pleasant surprise. On hotter hikes, I've noticed that the pack does not draw sweat away from my back, indicating that the wicking quality purported in the item description is not very effective.

The helmet mesh became quite useful. On several occasions, I rode my bike to a local birding area, and was able to put the helmet in its holder, and fit my other cycling gear inside the compartments for very convenient storage. Without the reservoir in its compartment, the extra space made for a perfect spot to put my bike lock and cable. I am quite happy with these features.

The pack shows resistance to wear. I've found no tears or deterioration of pack quality. After five months of use, it looks almost brand new. 

My only significant problem with the pack though is with the water reservoir. The terrible taste of the reservoir led me to give up on it completely. For my uses, I found it just as helpful to fill a small waterbottle and put it inside the main compartment, effectively replacing the reservoir, which I removed completely. I may go back and try out the reservoir again, or I may replace the reservoir with a new one from another brand. The problematic reservoir is really quite disappointing, as it detracts from an otherwise fantastic day pack.


I will continue to use the pack for short hikes, runs, and on my motorless birding excursions and recommend it for these uses (with reservations due to the reservoir issue). I am impressed with the features and versatility this pack provides, and I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to test it out. Thanks to High Sierra and for administrating the test.

This concludes my report of the High Sierra Sport Kahuna 70 Hydration Pack.

Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
Read more gear reviews by Katie Rampala

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

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