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

High Sierra Sport Kahuna 70 Hydration Pack

Test Series by Wayne Merry

INITIAL REPORT: 1 April 2009

FIELD REPORT: 3 June 2009

LONG-TERM REPORT: 13 August 2009

About Wayne, the tester:

  • Age: 34
  • Gender: Male
  • Height: 1.8 m (5' 10")
  • Weight: 95 kg (220 lb)
  • Email address: wayne underscore merry at yahoo dot com dot au
  • City, State, Country: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Backpacking Background: I started overnight backpacking seven years ago. I hike in various terrains from moderate/hard track walks to some off track and rivers. I like the temperature to stay above freezing, and have not camped above the snowline during winter. I enjoy going on weekend and multi day walks up to two weeks as well as day walks. I carry a moderate weight pack, enjoying a few creature comforts at camp. I would normally do at least two overnight or longer walks every three months, in addition to a number of full day length walks.

About the test environment:

I will be testing the High Sierra Sport Company Kahuna 70 Hydration Pack in Victoria, Australia. Elevations will vary from sea level to 1000 m (3300 ft). The test will be conducted in the autumn (fall) and winter seasons with temperatures varying from 5 C (41 F) to 20 C (68 F). Humidity varies widely during this time of year. Conditions could vary from quite wet to very dry.

I will be testing the Kahuna on a series of day walks, a 100 km (62 mi) in 24-hours event, a 12 hour rogaine (like extended orienteering), and a series of bike rides ranging from 50 km (31 miles) up to 210 km (130 miles).

Product Details:

Kahuna 70 hydration pack

Manufacturer's description: Make no small plans. For big treks, nothing beats our Kahuna 70 pack. With a huge, thermo-silver-lined main compartment large enough to hold a 2-liter water reservoir and a bike pump, Kahuna also brings serious cyclists essential extras like a mesh sports flap big enough to hold your helmet, a bicycle-tool organizer pocket, space for your CD/MP3 player, hooks and straps that hold even more gear and lots of other features for the road ahead.

Specifications for product as tested:
  • Weight
    • As tested:
      • 840 g (1.85 lbs).
  • Dimensions
    • Manufacturer specified:
      • Height: 18.0 in (46 cm)
      • Width: 9.0 in (23 cm)
      • Depth: 5.25 in (13 cm)
      • Volume: 584 cu in (9.57 litres)
    • As tested (main compartment) :
      • Height: 43 cm (31 in)
      • Width: 23 cm (14.5 in)
      • Depth: 14 cm (8.5 in) tapering to 4 cm
      • Volume: 9.5 L (580 cu in)
    • As tested (additional compartments)
      • Bike gear compartment: height 30 cm (12 in) by width 19 cm (7.5 in)
      • Media compartment: height 16 cm (6.3 in) by width 17 cm (6.8 in)

Initial Report: Item Receipt & First Impressions:

1 April 2009

Kahuna as arrived

I received the High Sierra Kahuna 70 with slimmed down packaging to save a pound on shipping weight. The pack had a number of cardboard attachments, the largest shown over on the front as shown nearby. These were attached by plastic cables, which I then removed using scissors. The cardboard attachment shown was a retail point of sale card detailing the benefits of the Kahuna. Other attachments had cleaning instructions for the reservoir, details about High Sierra's limited lifetime warranty, and High Sierra's support of the US Ski and Snowboarding teams.

Hydration filling inlet cap Outlet valve

My first impressions of the Kahuna is that this is a nice versatile day pack. It actually took a little bit of time exploring to work out all the features as some are hidden initially. The pack lives up to it's rated volumetric size, which is nice. The pack consists of a main compartment which contains the hydration reservoir, a bike gear compartment and a media compartment at the front. The harness system consists of adjustable shoulder straps which are secured by a sternum strap. There is a waist strap to secure the lower part of the pack to the body. This waist strap can be tucked away into the pack when not in use.

The pictures above show the main compartment open revealing the open inlet of the hydration reservoir. This reservoir is rated for 2 L (122 cu in) but I have not yet had an opportunity to see how much I can fit in there. I will be doing that during the field test. The reservoir contents are made available by a tube which runs out through the top of the pack on one of the shoulder straps. Holes are provided on both straps, so the tube can be run on the left or right strap as desired. It was supplied with the tube running out on the left. There are two little straps on the shoulder strap to hold the tube in place. These are also provided on both shoulder straps. The hose is covered by a foam material with another synthetic layer on top. This appears to be fine for use on the bike. I may not have the opportunity to test it in real scrub bash territory. The insulation is to help prevent the fluid in the tube freezing. As I do not expect sub zero (below 0 C or below 32 F) temperatures, I will not be able to test this claim.

The tube outlet is also pictured above (blue). The blue rubber is pulled out to release a valve, and then the rubber is squeezed by the teeth to release fluid. This seems easy enough to do while walking. I will report how this goes on the bike. Sealing the valve also seems sufficiently easy.

There is a bicycle pump sleeve located in the main compartment. This is obscured by the lid of the inlet in the picture above. The pump can be held tight in the sleve by a small piece of Velcro. I do not intend to use this feature as I carry a small hand pump on the bike itself. My floor pump is too big to fit in the Kahuna.

Kahuna expansion Gear loft

The main compartment of the Kahuna can be expanded as shown in the above left picture. Expansion is required to meet the measured size of the compartment (9.5 L or 580 cu in). Without expansion, the compartment would be around 60% of this volume. There is a zipper expansion gusset provided for the expansion feature. This runs down one side, along the bottom and up the other side. Most of the expansion space is down the bottom of the compartment.

At the base of the Kahuna is a zipper which gives access to the gear loft. This can be pulled out and attached to two clips near the top of the bike gear compartment. This is shown in the above right picture. Objects as large as 35 cm (14 in) by 30 cm (12 in) by 25cm (10 in) could be carried secured by the gear loft. It would need to be near this size, otherwise they are likely to fall out. High Sierra have shown a bike helmet secured by the gear loft. Of course where I live, a bike rider is required to wear their helmet when riding.

The very front of the Kahuna features a large hook which could be used to attach other gear. If using the gear loft, this hook would be inaccessible. Located near this hook is a reflective loop which could be used to hold a LED light. This is also obscured by use of the gear loft.

Bike gear and Media compartments

Shown above are the bike gear and media compartments. The bike gear compartment is the larger compartment to the right. This compartment has three sleeves for storing various stuff, a hook and some elastic for securing items. I am used to carrying a small multitool, bike leavers, spare tube and puncher repair equipment in a small pocket under my bike seat. There would be heaps of room to store all of this stuff in this compartment plus more. I estimate the size of this compartment around 1 L (58 cu in).

At the very front is the media compartment. This compartment is just under half the size of the bike gear compartment. There is enough room here for a phone, an mp3 player and a wallet. These days phones are often the mp3 players, cameras, GPS and basically mini computers to boot. There does appear enough room for three or so such items in here depending on size. I often go riding with a Nokia N95 8gb. The hands free can be threaded through a small discrete headphone hole into the media compartment. The cable can reach for the cable button control to be clamped onto the water tube strap on the shoulder, leaving plenty of room for the earphones to reach my ears.

Back view of the Kahuna Waist strap

Shown in the two pictures above is the harness system of the Kahuna. The sternum strap is adjustable both in length and in vertical position. The vertical position on the chest can be adjusted up and down by about 5 cm (2 in). There is a clamp on a rail on each shoulder strap for this purpose. I have used other High Sierra packs before and have found that if the sternum strap is quite tight, these clamps can be pulled off the rail. As I will not be putting too much weight in the Kahuna (this is not a pack suitable for a week's walk after all), this should not be a problem. The sternum strap also features a small band of elastic which provides some shock absorbing capacity. This allows 1.2 cm (0.5 in) freeplay in the strap.

The main shoulder straps are adjustable in length in a similar manner to a normal pack. Tightening these straps pulls the pack closer to the back, and higher up towards the back of the neck. There is also a waist strap. This is packed away behind the media pocket, however is shown in the above right picture.

The back features Vapel mesh Airflow cells, five on each side for a total of 10. This appears to provide air space between the pack and the wearers back. It feels comfortable enough with some brief testing. It is going out on the bike for a good ride in a few days time from this report. Watch for my field report to see how wet my back gets using the Kahuna.

The Kahuna materials look robust enough to me. The rogaining I have planned will expose the materials to some rough treatment as rogaining does involve much hiking off track and exposure to rough bush. I don't think that my bike riding will present much of a robustness challenge to the Kahuna however. The materials do not appear to be water proof. I would imagine that any sustained rain would get the contents inside wet.

Overall I think I like the Kahuna, and are keen to get on the bike with it. It should also be good for a good 12 or 24-hour rogaine, or my 100 km (62 mi) in 24-hours walk in May. I think that the materials should be strong enough for the use I have planned, but only time will tell. At this stage in summary my likes and dislikes:

  • LIKES:
    • Compact size but still roomy - the expansion gusset is nice.
    • The gear and media pockets appear well thought out.
    • The gear loft gives extra carrying capacity - but would be no good in scrub/thick bush.
    • To early to tell at this stage of the test.

Check back in about two months for my field report. Thanks to BackpackGearTest and High Sierra for the opportunity to test the Kahuna 70.

Field Test Report:

3 June 2009

Field Test details:

  • VRA Rogaine at Barmah Forest, northern Victoria. Rogaining is a long format orienteering with no fixed order of control points. The terrain was mostly forested with a light forest floor. Most of the 12 hours of the event was spent off track walking with a limited amount of running. Conditions were dry, with temperatures of around 20 C (68 F). Distance covered was 53 km (33 miles).
  • A bike ride around Port Phillip Bay. Distance covered: 205 km (127 miles), with a time of around 10 hours. Temperatures varied from around 10 C (50 F) to 20 C (68 F) and conditions were dry.
  • The VMTC 100 km in 24-hours: A walk of 93 km (58 miles) all on track, but of various track quality.
  • Numerous shorter bike rides of distances ranging from 20 km (12 miles) up to 60 km (37 miles).

The kahuna loaded up and ready to go

The nearby picture shows the Kahuna ready for 12 hours of intense rogaining. Inside the reservoir is full at 2 L (122 cu in). I also put a 2 L (122 cu in) bottle of energy drink, a range of energy bars and a rain jacket in the main compartment. With the main compartment full there was not a huge amount of room in the other compartments. It is fortunate that there is an expansion feature to the main compartment as it is amazing how quickly space can be used up.

A feature of the longer events that I participated in during the field trial was the need to refill the reservoir a number of times in the field. The rogaine was the first of these, and so I was a little green. I have found that the reservoir needs to be removed from the Kahuna to fill. This can result in the hose rotating and this affected the integrity of the seal at the base of the reservoir where the hose connects. On a few occasions I found that this leaked. It was easy to do, but in later events when I was on the lookout for it, I did not have any reoccurrences. One difficulty with this is that the hose can rotate a little when the reservoir is being put back into the pack.

I found the Kahuna comfortable to wear over my shorter events, and for the two 10 to 12 hour events. I did find that with reasonable intense activity - fast walking, running, cycling - that the air cells were not capable of removing all the moisture. This moisture accumulated, and so I did end up with a wet back using the Kahuna. Over the longer 24-hour event, this became a problem with blisters forming on my back against the base of the pack. The 24-hour event is a tough event that exposes problems that would normally go unnoticed with shorter activities. I have used the Kahuna subsequent to the 24-hour event on a number of rides and have not noticed discomfort because of this problem.

The Kahuna features both a waist strap and a sternum strap. This might be overkill when walking, but I found that it gives good stability on the bike. While all of my riding was either on road or on well-formed tracks, and so I did not use the Kahuna for any serious off-road activity, I found the pack stable on my back. I didn't find that any heavy items were moving around the pack while cornering.

The hose valve is convenient enough to use both walking and on the bike. One hand is needed to operate the valve. I never found that I needed two hands, so I was able to access water from the reservoir on demand when on the bike. Access to fluid is convenient enough that I prefer using the Kahuna rather than an a bottle on the bike which requires greater balance to retrieve and replace the bottle from the bike frame.

For most of the events and rides that I have used the Kahuna, I have made use of the media pocket to hold an MP3 player. Threading the cable through the small discrete hole is easy enough. My player does have a small remote control on the headphone cable, and I am able to position this on one of the loops used by the hydration tube. If I need to access the player itself, I have to undo both the waist and sternum straps in order to get to the media pocket. This is not hard to do while walking, but it does mean stopping if I am on the bike.

I found the harness system mostly fine during the test period. Adjustments to all of the shoulder, sternum and waist straps works well apart from the vertical adjustment of the sternum strap. I find that this can tend to ride up over time and needs adjustment every hour or so. The sternum strap does have an elastic component which allows some freeplay. This does tend to get used while walking, but I was not able to observe its action while on the bike (something about keeping my eyes on the road).

I did not use the gear loft feature while walking or on the bike, however this feature was surprisingly handy. When off the bike at a stop, I could put my helmet in the gear loft, and have all of my riding gear in one place - either in the Kahuna itself, or in the gear loft.

The Kahuna has been exposed to a number of rough conditions so far in the test, but is not showing any perceptible signs of wear at this stage.

In summary, my key likes and dislikes at this stage:

  • LIKES:
    • Compact size but still roomy - the expansion gusset is a have to have for me.
    • The media pockets works well.
    • The support system carries weight in the pack well.
    • Rubbing and blisters can occur after very long continuous usage.

Long Term Report:

13 August 2009.

Long term test field locations: I used the Kahuna over a 130 km (80 mile) long ride, plus a series of shorter rides. I did not use the Kahuna for any day walks in the long term test period.

The Kahuna continued to perform in much the same way as per the field test. All of my use of the Kahuna was for riding for periods of 7 hours or less. Most of my use was for periods of around 2 hours. I have even used the Kahuna in preference to locating a water bottle on the bike.

During the test I have only put tap water in the reservoir. The lining for the reservoir does not appear to be grimy at this stage. I have not been prepared to put any sports drinks in the reservoir. I tend to use a water / sports drink combination on long events, and carry a water bottle for the sports drink. When riding, this can go in the water bottle holder.

I still find that my back will get slightly damp over several hours of riding or walking when using the Kahuna. There is an element of rubbing, but it has no ill effects during my use of the Kahuna in the long term test period. I still expect that if I were to use the Kahuna for a 24-hour event such as a Rogaine, I would need to take additional preparations, based on my experience during the field test.

One of my rides was during heavy showers. The insides of the Kahuna remained dry. No water appeared to enter any of the internal pockets, including the media pocket which had a cable running out through the headphone hole. This ride also saw me travel over some dirt tracks, which led to mud spray off the back wheel onto the Kahuna. I have found that if the pack is allowed to dry, the mud will turn to dirt and can be largely brushed off.

My overall likes and dislikes have not changed from the field test review. So, in summary at the conclusion of this test my key likes and dislikes at this stage:

  • LIKES:
    • Compact size but still roomy - the expansion gusset is a have to have for me.
    • The media pockets works well.
    • The support system carries weight in the pack well.
    • Rubbing and blisters can occur after very long (18 hours +) continuous usage.

Thanks to BackpackGearTest and High Sierra for the opportunity to test the Kahuna 70.

Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
Read more gear reviews by Wayne Merry

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