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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Summit 45 Pack > Test Report by Ben Mansfield

High Sierra Sport
Summit 45 Backpack



Initial Report Field Report Long Term Report
2 June 2010 11 August 2010 5 October 2010


High Sierra Sport Summit 45 Manufacturer Photo

High Sierra Sport Summit 45 Backpack
(Photo Courtesy of Manufacturer)



  Reviewer ProfileBackpacking Background
  Name:Ben Mansfield

I have been backpacking for well over 15 years. These days my normal trips are long weekends, though I do occasionally get out for a longer trip. My normal stomping grounds are western Pennsylvania and southern Ohio, and I have backpacked nearly all of the North Country Trail as it runs through Pennsylvania.

I consider myself a mid-weight hiker, but trending with the rest of the community towards a lighter load. My typical base pack weight (no food, no water) is around 20 lbs (9 kg) or less, and doesn't vary much with the seasons.

 Age:32
 Gender:Male
 Height:6' 0" (1.8 m)
 Weight:165 lbs (75 kg)
 E-mail Address:benmansfield27 AT gmail DOT com
 City, State, Country:North Ridgeville, Ohio, USA
  



Initial Report

2 June 2010

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Product Information

Manufacturer:High Sierra Sport Company
Model:Summit 45 Backpack
Manufacturer URL:http://www.highsierrasport.com/
Year of Manufacture:2010 (Presumed)
MSRP:$160 USD
Manufacturer's Weight:4.6 lbs (2.1 kg)
Measured Weight:4.6 lbs (2.1 kg)
Manufacturer's Volume:45 L (2750 cu. in.)
Size:One size / torso length 15-19" (38-48 cm)
Country of Origin:Made in China

Product Description

The High Sierra Sport Summit 45 is a top loading internal frame backpack, offered in three colors and with myriad features. The pack that I'm testing is a dark red, but it also comes in an attractive forest green and solid black. As can be discerned from the name, the pack itself can carry up to 45 liters (2750 cubic inches). High Sierra Sport does not offer a recommended maximum weight for the pack. The Summit 45 comes in one size, suitable for a torso length between 15 and 19 inches (38 to 48 cm). At 6 ft (1.8 m) tall, my torso is at the extreme top of this range, and possibly even a little beyond depending on how and when I measure it, though I am able to get this pack to fit just fine.

The High Sierra Sport Summit 45 at Home

The High Sierra Sport Summit 45 right at home in camp

The pack gets its structure from a single flat aluminum bar about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide that runs the length of the pack, centered along the inside of the backpanel. It can be bent to fit the shape of my back, though I haven't found a need (or a good way) to do so. The backpanel itself is molded foam with what High Sierra Sport calls Airflow™ channels to facilitate air circulation. There is no rigid framesheet or any other protection from sharp cornered things poking at my back.

The Summit's Survival Essentials

The Summit 45's list of "Survival Essentials"

In addition to the main compartment, the pack offers a front-loading sleeping bag compartment which is separated from the main pack by an internal zippered divider that can be opened up to allow full access to the pack contents from the sleeping bag compartment or the top entry. The zipper itself surrounds the divider on three sides so that while the divider can be opened, it cannot be removed completely without cutting. The Summit 45 also has an internal sleeve for a hydration bladder and a large keeper hook - presumably to "hang" a bladder inside the pack, a large front zippered map pocket, and a built-in pack cover that stows in a hook-and-loop sealed pocket on the very bottom of the pack. Finally, the removable top lid has a large zippered pocket and a sewn-in list of "survival essentials."

The pack cover I mentioned above deploys from the pouch on the bottom of the pack and cinches down around the pack body and cinches down by pulling a drawcord and locking it in place with a cordlock. The pack cover is removable if desired - it is attached to the pack by a small piece of webbing threaded through a plastic buckle. The cover also includes a luggage tag where I can write my name and address and other key details. To put the cover back away, I simply stuff it back into the little pocket and re-seal the hook-and-loop closure.

The Summit 45 features a lot of options for securing items to the outside of the pack. Dual daisy-chains are sewn to the front of the pack and run most of its length. There are also compression straps and mesh pockets on each side - the mesh pockets are large enough to fit a standard 1 liter water bottle. Additional compression straps run from the junction of the backpanel and pack bottom, through a set of plastic webbing tensioners and up to the front of the pack just above the sleeping bag compartment zipper, where a set of quick clips secure them in place. This really gives two spots to secure something like a sleeping pad - on the very bottom of the pack or in front of the sleeping pad compartment. At the opposite end of the pack - on the top of the lid, are four square plastic rings that can be used as tie down points for the top of the pack as well. They're sized and shaped such that they appear to be purposely built for webbing, though I'd be more likely to run some thin cord or elastic through them. A set of ice axe / gear loops are also available - one larger loop on the left side of the pack and two smaller ones on the right side. A pair of removable hook-and-loop straps attached to the daisy chains provide an upper attachment point for securing an ice axe or trekking poles. The shoulder straps are home to a few more options for securing gear - each shoulder strap has a plastic D-ring and a sewn elastic loop that can be used to secure a hydration bladder hose or something similar. In addition, the Summit 45 comes with a removable "media pocket", which is about the right size for a compact point and shoot camera, cell phone, or small GPS.

Hiking with the Summit 45

Hiking with the High Sierra Summit 45

Pack Cover in place

With the Pack Cover in Place

The High Sierra Sport Summit 45's suspension is pretty typical, featuring all of the expected adjustments. The shoulder straps have ample padding and feature "Vapel™ mesh Airflow™" to hopefully enhance breathability. Length adjustments for the shoulder straps are in the expected location at the bottom of the padded portion, and load lifter straps are positioned at the top of the strap, near my shoulders. The waist belt also features "Vapel™ mesh Airflow™" just like the shoulder straps, and have lumbar adjustments as well. Finally, the sternum strap is adjustable up and down along the shoulder straps and can be tightened or loosened as conditions warrant.

The pack is constructed using a combination of Grid-Weave Duralite® and Mini-Weave Duralite® for the pack body, with Duraweave for the bottom of the pack. The Duralite® brand is a new one to me. It appears to be a heavy denier nylon weave, though I cannot find any information from the manufacturer or elsewhere to explain exactly what the material is made from. I will say that the cloth feels substantial, and I would not think twice about rolling it down a rock face or bushwhacking through briars.

Pack Bottom showing pack cover pouch

The bottom of the Summit 45

 


Initial Impressions

My initial impression of this pack is that this is a really substantial piece of gear. It is constructed in a very heavy duty manner, with thick pack cloth, large hardware, and full sized webbing everywhere. Every possible feature and attachment point I can think of are built into this pack, and it stands out among my other modern packs as a throwback to days when things weren't all made from lightweight silnylon. In summary, it is a tank.

A tank, in the most complimentary way actually. I received the pack just before a long weekend outing, and didn't think twice about stuffing it to the gills, cinching down hard on the compression straps, and generally treating it more roughly than I'm used to with many of my other packs. I can't say I'm really too hard on gear, but if I were I wouldn't be afraid to mess up the Summit 45.

Fit-wise, the pack is fine. I was a little worried that it would be too short for my torso, but it seems to fit nicely. Adjusting the suspension and getting it onto my hips took minimal work. I did not bend or adjust the aluminum stay, and I'm not sure that I will based on my initial test drive.

More Details of the Summit 45

The lid's attachment point

I do have to mention two things that are bothering me about this pack, based on my initial outing and test drive. The first is that the backpanel doesn't really pad my back from sharp or hard things inside the pack - I have to be careful how I load the Summit 45 to make sure that soft stuff is against my back. This might be alleviated a little bit when I use a hydration bladder rather than bottles (more typical for me to use a bladder anyway), but I'll definitely be watching it. The other nitpick at this point is the lid. The way that the lid adjuster is attached to the pack - via looped pieces of webbing sewn in place, makes it very difficult to cinch the lid down tight, especially if the pack is not completely full. This manifests itself by allowing the lid to flop around up there, especially when going downhill, which might just drive me batty. Even in the picture at the right the lid is flopping and not held tightly in place, even though the strap is cinched as tightly as possible.

High Sierra Sport offers a limited lifetime warranty on the Sierra 45 that was detailed on a hang tag attached to the pack. It warrants the pack against defects in materials or workmanship encountered during normal use, and the manufacturer will either repair or replace the pack at their discretion.

Care instructions are printed on a small tag inside of the pack. The manufacturer recommends cleaning the pack with a damp cloth, no bleach or detergent, no drying, and no ironing. They also recommend the removal of wet items immediately, which is always a good practice but not always practical in the field.

 




Field Report

11 August 2010

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Field Conditions

I have had the opportunity to use the High Sierra Sport Summit 45 Backpack on a number of occasions, totaling 10 days of backpacking to date. My first and third trips were both weekenders to the North Country Trail in the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. Both weekends were summer conditions - hot and humid during the day and cooler at night, with overall temperature ranges of about 65 to 85 F (18 to 30 C). There was a little rain one afternoon, but not really enough to speak to the water resistance of the Summit 45. I generally also don't normally rely on or expect my backpacks to protect my gear from rain and snow - critical stuff goes into various waterproof or water-resistant stuff sacks. My pack weight on each of these trips was about 35 lbs (16 kg) at the beginning of the weekend as I was carrying some creature comforts as well as the usual necessities.

Right at home

The High Sierra Sport Summit 45
all tucked in for the night

My second trip was a four-day, 40-mile (64 km) trip to hike a segment of the Appalachian Trail from Harper's Ferry, West Virginia to PenMar on the Pennsylvania - Maryland border. On this trip my pack weight when setting out was about 30 lbs (14 kg). This section is fairly hilly for a flatlander, and the heat and humidity made it downright brutal. The conditions (or lack of conditioning, perhaps?) were offset however by the historic nature of this section of trail, which runs past all sorts of neat sites as it crosses in and out of Maryland and eventually the Mason-Dixon line. I endured temperatures during the day up to and probably exceeding at times 90 F (32 C), with little relief coming at night. This trip was dry for me as well - I guess it only rains when I'm testing tents (who doesn't love to pack up a wet tent?), and not when testing outerwear or backpacks.

 

Field Observations

As I suggested in my initial report, this backpack is pretty rugged. I'm able to stuff it full, wrench down on the straps, bang it up against trees and rocks, and all the other good stuff I used to do on my old-school ("classic?") packs. I haven't noticed any damage or strain in any of the seams, and I have to admit that it's somewhat liberating not to have to baby this pack like I do with some of the ultra-lightweight packs that I own. I did get the pack a little dirty - a sign of validation if nothing else. There's a spot on the lid that I haven't been able to remove by simple wiping; I haven't tried anything else to remove it as of yet, but it does appear to be one of those spots that will come out with a little water and a scrub brush.

I'm not sure that I can fairly evaluate the "Vapel™ mesh Airflow™" construction of the back panel, shoulder straps, or hip belt at this point since I'm pretty sure I would have suffered in the heat that I've hiked in this summer regardless of the pack being carried. Said another way, my back and shoulders were sweaty a lot on my trips, but I'm pretty sure the only way to change that would have been to carry around a block of ice instead of a backpack.

Although I did encounter a little afternoon rain on one of my trips, I haven't had too many occasions to use the included pack cover. When I remember, I do pull it out and put it over the pack at night (depending on the quality of my camp, I generally either hang my backpack on a tree overnight, or lean it up against a tree - the pack cover accommodates either).

As much as I usually dislike things hanging off of my shoulder straps, I do find the little removable media pocket convenient for keeping my point-and-shoot camera accessible. Too often in the past I've stowed a camera somewhere and find that I don't take the time to dig it out for random, opportunistic pictures - something I now find myself doing.

The Summit 45 continues to fit fine when loaded, and I still have not adjusted the support bar. Strategic packing has eliminated the problem of sharp corners poking me in the back while I hike - this just means that I have to put soft goods closer to my back and hard goods further away. As far as suspension is concerned, the Summit 45 provides all the adjustments I would ask for, and accessibility is fine (meaning that I can reach all the straps easily). I do find that the pack itself is good hauling up to about 30 lbs (14 kg) - beyond this things start to get a little uncomfortable.

One gripe that I still have is the top lid, which continues to flop around on top of my pack, regardless of how much or how little I put in there. The only way I've been able to prevent this from happening is to load the backpack so that the main compartment is tall enough to push the lid up. To make it tall, I just cinch down on the compression straps part way before I load it, which reduces the volume of the main pack body and extends the load upwards and into the spindrift collar. This has the unfortunate side effect of making the pack top-heavy, which I don't really like. As a result I've taken to just dealing with the flopping lid.




Long Term Report

5 October 2010

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Long Term Observations

I've only used the Summit 45 on one additional weekend trip since my Field Report, bringing my testing total to 13 days of backpacking. I have to admit that while I did take more than one trip during this period, I chose to take along smaller and lighter packs for the other outings. I find the Summit 45 is a little bit overkill for my needs.

The trip on which I did bring the High Sierra Sport Summit 45 was to Wayne National Forest in southern Ohio. It was somewhat of a shakedown trip for some new gear and new methods a few people in my group were trying out. We stretched out a short loop over a weekend, resulting in some very short hikes each day - 3 miles, 6 miles, and 4 miles (5 km, 10 km, 7 km). We basically just noodled around, taking pictures, playing with gear, and being lazy. I carried a big load - about 40 lbs (18 kg) when setting out, full of all kinds of non-essentials and doubles of some things (like two stoves - one that I'm testing and a little homemade one I've been playing around with). The good news was that the pack was sufficiently full so as not to allow the lid to flop around as normal, and we only hiked for a few hours each day. The bad news is that this pack didn't do all that well with so much weight - I had a hard time getting it to balance correctly between my shoulders and hips.

As far as durability is concerned, there are no real issues to mention. There's still some dirt ground into the pack cloth in a few places - I admit I haven't even tried to clean it, but I can't believe it's impacting performance at all so I'll likely leave it like that until I have another reason to give it a good scrubbing.

 

Summary

I continue to stand by my initial impression, even after some 4+ months of testing: The High Sierra Sport Summit 45 is a tank of a backpack. The thing takes pretty much all I've been able to dish at it - at least as far as abuse is concerned. No worse for the wear, only a small spot of ground-in dirt is evident. It fits me well and the suspension is easy to adjust on the fly. Despite my original opinion of the media pocket, I've found it useful for carrying a small camera, and as a result I'm taking more action shots.

If I had to make some suggestions to improve the Summit 45, I'd probably try to fix up the top lid's attachment so that it doesn't flop around so much. I'd also look into beefing up the suspension a bit - it would be nice if the pack carried a heavier load a bit more comfortably. The only other potential improvement for the Summit 45 is to lighten it up a bit - the pack cloth, webbing, and hardware is all pretty heavy-duty. This makes the pack a tank and practically indestructible, but at the price of excess weight. Perhaps some compromises could be made to lighten up the pack a bit but still keep some of its ruggedness.

Key Features
Areas for Improvement
  • Practically indestructible
  • Media pocket is a good spot for my camera
  • Robust webbing, pack cloth, hardware
  • Floppy top lid
  • Suspension gives up a little earlier than I'd like
  • A little heavy for its size
  •  




    I would like to thank High Sierra Sport and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Summit 45 backpack.



    Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
    Read more gear reviews by Ben Mansfield

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