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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Peak Trango 65 > Test Report by David Wilkes

Test series by David Wilkes

High Peak Alpinismo Trango 65 Backpack

Initial Report - March 16 2011
Field Report - May 31 2011
Long Term Report - due August 02 2011

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
E-Mail: amatbrewer@yahoo.net
Age: 45
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 197 lb (89.40 kg)

Torso:

19" (48cm)

Waist:

34" (86 cm)

Biography:

I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions.  I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. I have finally managed to get my basic cold weather pack weight, not including consumables, to under 30lbs (14 kg).

Product Information

Manufacturer:

High Peak USA

Year of Manufacture:

2011

Manufacturer’s Website:

www.highpeakusa.com

MSRP:

Not listed on manufacturer's web site

Advertised Weight:

3 lbs 6 oz (1.63 kg)

Measured Weight:

3 lbs 9oz  / 1.6 kg

Advertised Capacity:

4,500 cbi / 65 liter

Product image front and Back
Image courtesy of HighPeakUSA.com

Product Description:

The Trango 65 is advertized as a high-grade lightweight rucksack without some of the extras that are on many other backpacks. It is a top loading pack and the main compartment can be divided into two sections, with the lower (sleeping bag) section accessible from the top or from a zippered opening on the lower front of the pack, with two side (water bottle) pockets and two zippered compartments in the lid. The pack comes in one size but the torso length is adjustable (described below).

Initial Report

March 16 2011

As mentioned above the Trango 65 is a top loading pack. The main compartment can be divided into two sections by pulling a drawstring that closes an internal divider creating two main compartments. In addition to the main top opening that is closed by a draw string and a lid, the contents of the bag can be accessed via a double zippered opening that creates a front access to the bottom 1/3rd of the pack. The lid contains two zippered compartments, the larger one accessible from the outside of the pack and the smaller from under the lid. The smaller (internal) lid compartment seems sized to fit flat items such a maps notebooks folded garbage bags etc. The larger lid compartment contains a clip attached to one side (a feature I like as it helps me avoid losing my keys while on the trail and then quickly locate them upon returning to the trailhead). On the top of the lid are four attachment points made from loops of cord. The lid is sewn to the pack, not removable, and secured in place by a single adjustable strap and clip. There are also two side (water bottle) pockets on the bottom sides of the pack. There is a single ice axe attachment loop at the bottom and an adjustable elastic cord retainer, for securing the ice axe handle, about 2/3rd of the way up the side of the pack. The pack has two side compression straps on either side. On the front of the main compartment (above the sleeping bag section) are six, two tone, fabric loop attachment points. These look a bit small to be used for carabiners, but look ideal for lacing some elastic cord. Note, the pack does not contain an external front pocket as many packs do. I personally like an expandable external pocket that I can use to store things like my rain gear when not in use and/or my tarp when it is wet. I plan to weave some elastic cord through the six fabric loops for this purpose as I don’t like to put wet items into my pack if I can avoid it (for obvious reasons). I am actually surprised the pack does not come set up this way as it seems to me that the six loops are obviously designed for this purpose and it would be an inexpensive way to add a feature to the pack while adding very little weight.
Cold weather gear layed out
Inside a zipper enclosed section of the pack is a removable “pre-bended suspension bar” to provide structure to the pack and help transfer the load. The suspension bar consists of two vertical and one horizontal aluminum bar attached to each other with solid rivets.

The waist belt is one of the places the manufacturer cut weight off the pack. The padding is somewhat thin and rather than the wide hip hugging side straps that many packs have, these are open in the center, and what padding there is, is perforated. While this might sound like a negative, it is a design I kind of like. It looks like it will conform to my hipbones nicely, and like it is well ventilated. The adjustable part of the waist belt is so far my least favorite part of the pack. Rather than extending all the way back to the main body of the pack, attaching to the padded part continuously or in multiple places, each of the straps terminate at a single attachment point on the end of the padded sections. This concerns me as a single point of failure could render the belt unusable. Another oddity of the waist belt is its length. The padded sections are long enough that when I tried it on I ended tightening it almost to its smallest extent. On the other hand there is quite a bit of length in the adjustable straps, so the pack could fit a much larger frame than mine and or accommodate a thick layer of clothing.

The back padding consists primarily of two vertical strips running vertically down the length of the pack. The lower sections of this padding seem quite thick while the upper sections are thinner. The gap down the middle, between the padding, should allow some ventilation.

"Vario System"One of the features of the pack is the adjustable shoulder straps. The manufacturer calls it the “Vario System”. The shoulder straps attach to the pack using a pair of horizontal fabric strips labeled XS, S, M, L, and XL. This allows the user to adjust the torso length of the pack. There were no instructions included with the pack but the use of the vario system was rather obvious once I looked at it, and after loading the pack I quickly adjusted it to its large setting using the strap marked “L.” This seems a good fit for me. The shoulder straps include adjustable load straps (attached between the tops of the shoulder straps and the base of the pack lid), and a chest strap. The clip for the chest strap is bright orange, and like many packs on the market doubles as an emergency whistle.

I tried 3 different large (1 L) water bottles in the side pockets, and while they do fit I was surprised to see that they are made out of the same material as the pack and so do not stretch (there is some elastic around the opening). I am interested to see if keeping my water bottles from falling out will be a problem.

The final feature of the pack that I will address here is a hydration pouch pocket inside the main compartment of the pack.  There is a single exit port for the hydration tube on one side of the back just under the lid.

I should mention the zippers used for the front opening to the sleeping bag section of the pack are surprisingly large. Surprising because since this pack is intended to be lightweight, I was expecting them to be light and maybe even plastic. I like that they did not use lesser zippers since I tend to pack this compartment tight, and worry about the zippers failing on some other bags that I have.

I inspected the pack and could find no obvious defects or flaws. All of the seams are tight and well finished and I could not find any frayed material or loose threads.

Since it is currently winter, I stuffed the pack with my basic cold weather kit (including this pack and 2 days food but no water it weighed 27 lbs / 12.25 kg), set the torso length to large, and tried the pack on.  I found I could tighten the waist belt almost to its smallest size even over jeans and a belt. I made a few quick adjustments to some of the straps, and I had a comfortable fit with the weight distributed nicely. I did a few quick bends and twists and found the pack did not shift, nor did I notice any pinching or rubbing.

Likes:
  • Lightweight
  • Simple, with few extras
  • Appears well constructed
Dislikes:
  • No external pocket for wet gear
  • Hip belts have a single attachment point
  • Side, water bottle, pockets do not stretch

Field Report

May 31 2011
Usage:
  • 2 nights Ancient Lakes Central Washington State
  • 2 nights Dusty Lake Central Washington State

My first outing with this pack was an early solo spring ‘shake down’ hike into the Ancient Lakes area (never hiked this before). The forecast was for some cool but clear weather turning into rain. I packed my normal winter gear, and it turned out to be a good call. The short about 1.5 mi (2.5 km) hike was in undulating desert terrain of rock, packed dirt, and some sand. The trail was mostly unused jeep trails so the hiking was quite easy. It was clear and cool for the hike in but the clouds rolled in and wind picked up around sunset. During the night it rained then the temperatures plummeted. I awoke to a tent covered in sheets of ice and cold symptoms (sore throat & tired) so I stuck to exploring around the nearby lakes, cliffs and waterfall before retiring to bed early. I awoke to a cool but clear morning for my hike back to the trailhead.

My second trip was to further explore the Ancient Lakes area. This time I bypassed Ancient lakes and hiked on to Dusty Lake. I started late in the day for the about 3 mi (5 km) hike in, in similar terrain but a bit more elevation gained/lost (about 100 '/30 m) and I had warm sunny weather. I spent the following day hiking some of the local trails (dodging the abundant but rather unfriendly snakes), in occasional showers. I stayed up way too late talking and playing games with some folks camped nearby and so awoke late the next morning for the hike out.

I have found the pack to be quite easy to pack and organize. I found it easiest to stuff my sleeping bag in from the the top of the pack, shoving it all the way to the bottom and then tighten the cinch cord to close of the main compartment from the sleeping bag compartment to keep the sleeping bag compressed while I packed the rest of my gear. I then put my tent (without the poles), food, clothes, and other gear into the main compartment. I placed my tent poles in one of the side pockets, held in place by the compression straps and a stainless steel water bottle in the other. The two pockets in the lid of the pack worked nicely for helping me to organize my gear. I placed a few flat items (folded trash bag, notebook & Kindle book reader protected by some closed cell foam) in the inner flat pocket and assorted small items that I might want easy access to (first aid kit, trowel, snacks, 10 essentials, etc) into the larger upper pocket.

On the first trip I used a 2L hydration pouch which fit quite well, held in place with the hook and loop fasteners. For the second trip, I was using a 3L hydration pouch that I found to be almost too large for the hydration pocket. I originally held it in place with the hook and loop fasteners, but found it fit snug enough that they were unnecessary. Routing the hydration hose out of the pack and fastening it on to the shoulder straps was simple and worked well. In addition to my hydration tube, I had a fixed blade knife in a sheath and a clip on watch attached to the shoulder straps.

On the second trip, I threaded some elastic cord through the six loop attachment points on the front of the main compartment to hold my daypack in place. This worked quite nicely and I plan to leave the elastic cord in place for items like rain gear.
As I mentioned in the Initial report the padded sections of the waist belt are quite long. I have lost about 6 lbs (3 kg) since the Initial report, and I found I had to tighten the waist belt to its smallest size in order to keep the belt high on my hips like I prefer. Luckily, I don’t plan to lose much more weight. When I first saw how adjustable the torso length was I was thinking this pack could prove to be very versatile as I could shorten the length and my wife or teenage daughter could use it. But, I don’t see any way I can shorten the hip belt enough for my daughter as it barely tightens enough for me.

On my first hike, despite it being so short, I had considerable trouble with strain in my lower back, something I rarely experience. I contributed it to not wearing a backpack much over the previous months, but experienced a similar problem on the second trip. On the second trip I tried to adjust the shoulder straps to better balance the load, and while the straps were easy to operate, even while on the trail, I was not able to fully relieve the stress on my lower back.

On the second trip the ground was quite dry and dusty. In addition I ended up placing the pack down on some rocky ground as well as up against some sage brush. I was able to brush the dirt off the pack with ease and noticed no visible scratches or snags in the material. I also noticed that when emptied, the pack collapses rather flat, so I was able to partially slide it under my sleeping mat, allowing for a neater and much less cluttered tent.

Overall I am pleased with the pack, except for the lower back pain I experienced. I plan to try a hike with one of my older packs to see if the issue was my back or the pack, and if it does not occur with a different pack then I will concentrate on seeing if I can adjust the Trango straps to eliminate this issue.

Likes:
  • Easy to pack and organize
  • Straps are easily accessed and easy to adjust
  • Very adjustable torso length
Dislikes:
  • Very long hip belt

Long Term Report

Due August 02 2011
MtAdamsUsage
  • 3 day solo trip to climb Mt. Adams (Washington)
  • 3 day group trip to climb Mt. Adams (Washington)
On the first trip up Mt. Adams I carried my full pack from where I parked (about 2.5 miles / 4 km short of the trailhead) to a camp just below the tree line at 7300’ / 2200 m, and on the second we were able to drive to the trail head (about 5500’ / 1700 m) and I carried my gear up to an area referred to as Lunch Counter (about 9000’ / 2700 m). On both trips the route was mostly snow/ice and I wore my lightweight crampons most of the way on the first trip due to the icy conditions. On both trips I carried my ice axe attached to the pack using the ice axe attachment points (a nice feature that is well designed). I also carried a single aluminum 1L water bottle in the side pocket.

I have played with the various strap adjustments, but have been having trouble getting this pack to fit the way I like it. As mentioned previously, the hip belt is very long and I have found it necessary to tighten it to its smallest possible size and I am still having trouble getting it right. I have found that most of the weight hangs from my hips from the upper part of the hip belt while the lower part seems to do very little, besides maybe help to stabilize the pack.

I found it necessary to adjust the torso adjustment to the XL position in order to get the weight of the pack off my shoulders, but I still am having trouble getting the balance of the pack correct. I have tried adjusting the length of the shoulder and load lifter straps but no matter what I do I just can’t seem to get the weigh centered on the hip belt. It tends to pull back and down rather than distribute the weight around my hips. However, after a few adjustments I was able to get the pack balanced a little better so I am was not experiencing the back pain that I mentioned in my previous report. In addition, since adjusting the torso length I have had difficulty with hook and loop fastener that holds the shoulder straps in place digging uncomfortably into my upper back, between my shoulder blades.

My shadow while wearing the packThe pack seems to be durable. With one exception, I can find little to no indication of wear on the pack. The exception is the result of some rather over aggressive glissading on my part. On my last trip to Mt. Adams there was still so much snow that we were able to find places to glissade most of the way back down to the trailhead, and aside from some ice, the conditions were rather good for glissading. I believe it was the ice combined with excessive speed that caused the damage to the pack. On two glissades, upon reaching the bottom I detected a scent that reminded me of burning plastic or rubber, and on one of then I hit a section with ice on both sides of the glissade chute hard enough to bruise my hip. Upon returning home I found one of the stretch side pockets of the pack (the one I had a aluminum water bottle in) shows signs of abrasions and looks like it might actually be slightly melted, that could explain the burning rubber/plastic smell. I cannot fault the pack for this, as it is clearly beyond what the material should be expected to endure (not to mention my hips, it took 2 days for the bruises to fade). Aside from my obvious abuse, I had no trouble getting my water bottle in/out of the side pocked when needed and yet it stayed firmly in place even while glissading.

While in the above I have pointed out some things about the pack that I am less than pleased with, I also feel it necessary to mention that on my second trip to Adams I was debating on if I would use the High Peak, or another pack of similar size that I really love due to its comfort. While my other pack might be more comfortable to wear, the High Peak pack is close to 1lb (0.45kg) lighter, since this trip involved hauling my entire backpack halfway up the side of a mountain, the lighter weight was the deciding factor and after the trip I believe it was a good choice.

Mt AdamsAt the conclusion of this test I have mixed feelings about this pack. I really like its light weight. However, the difficulty in getting it to fit comfortably and the length of the hip belt will limit my use of it, especially if I continue to lose weight. Upon first examining the pack I was thinking that its variable torso length could make it a versatile pack that I could use myself, or loan out for use by my wife, kids, or friends, but the long hip belt severely limits who could use it. Therefore, in regards to ongoing use after the completion of this test I expect I will only use it when the weight savings overrides the other factors, e.g. climbing.



This concludes Report. I would like to thank the folks at High Peak USA and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test fine this product.

 



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