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

HIGH SIERRA SUMMIT45 BACKPACK
Test Series
By Michael Wheiler

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TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Click Here To Go To The Initial Report: May 31, 2020
Click Here To Go To The Field Report:  July 10, 2010
Click Here To Go To The Long Term Report:  October 5, 2010


INITIAL REPORT

Personal Information:

Name:    Michael Wheiler
Age:   54
Gender:   Male
Height:   5'10"  (178 cm)
Weight:   180 lb (82 kg)
Torso Length:  19 3/4" (50 cm)
Hip Measurement:  34"  (86 cm)
Chest Size:  40" (102 cm)
Location:   Southeast Idaho
Email:   jmwlaw AT ida DOT net

Experience

I have about 42 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking.  I have been active in the Boy Scout program as a youth and as an adult leader.  In the past five years, I have also done quite a bit of mountaineering with summits on peaks such as Mt. Rainier and the Grand Teton.  I consider myself a mid-weight backpacker working toward carrying a lighter pack to accommodate my aging body but I do carry considerably more weight during winter months.

Field Testing Environment:

Most of my camping, hiking and backpacking occurs in the southeastern Idaho area but spills over into western Wyoming and western Montana.  I occasionally get into the mountains of central Idaho as well.  The areas I frequent generally range from 5,500 ft (1,600 m) to 8,500 ft (2,600 m).  The weather in southeastern Idaho is fairly typical of a high desert plain.

Product:
 
Manufacturer:  High Sierra Sport
Item:  High Sierra Summit 45 Backpack
Manufacturer's Web Site:  http://www.highsierrasport.com
Date Of Manufacture:  2010
Place Of Manufacture:  China
Color:  Chipotle, Tungsten, Black (also available in Black and Amazon, Tungsten, Black)
Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price:  U.S. $160.00.

Product Specifications and Features Per Manufacturer Unless Otherwise Noted:

Pack bag Fabric
Grid-Weave Duralite; Mini-Weave Duralite; the bottom of the bag is made of Duraweave
Volume
2,750 cu in/45 L
Weight
4.6 lbs. (2 kg)
As measured by tester at the US Post Office: 3 lbs 9 oz (1.6 kg)
Lid
Adjustable; 1 external zippered pocket
Frame size
20 in/51 cm with a torso fit range of 15-19 in/38-48 cm (Universal Fit)
Stabilizers
Radial side compression straps to control the load and create stability
Harness
Body shaped with removable GPS/camera/cell phone pocket attachable to either shoulder strap; sternum strap
Style/Category
Internal Frame
Load Capacity
None Provided
Frame
Single, contoured aluminum frame bar can be adjusted to fit
Feature
Extendable collar is 5 1/2 in/14 cm
Feature
Padded shoulder straps constructed of VAPEL mesh AIRFLOW with adjustable load-lifters
Feature
Top loader with front load sleeping bag compartment and divider between main compartment
Feature
Adjustable hip belt with VAPEL mesh AIRFLOW padding to wick moisture
Feature
Molded foam back panel with AIRFLOW channels
Feature
Two ice axe/trekking pole attachments with additional daisy link lash points
Feature
Rain cover stowed in its own zippered exterior pocket; located on the bottom of the pack
Feature
Two exterior mesh pockets hold 1,000 ml water bottles pockets; one on each side
Feature
Hydration system compatible
Feature
Large zipper pulls
Feature
SOS panel inside lid and key clip
Feature
Front zippered pocket
Feature
Rear haul/grasp loop
Size

Measurements By Tester
27 x 14 x 7 1/2 in/69 x 36 x 19 cm

Approximately 26 in/66 cm from the bottom of the bag to the top of the lid without using the extension collar and approximately 30 in/76 cm from the bottom of the bag to the top of the extension collar; the interior of the bag was approximately 8 1/2 in/22 cm in diameter

General Description:

High Sierra claims that the Summit is "at home on the trails or far off the beaten path" and that the Summit "holds a lot but never holds you back."

High Sierra provided information about the Summit on a "hang tag" and a placard.  Information about the pack was contained on the placard (see first photograph) and pretty much mirrors the information found on the company web page  Warranty information was contained on the hang tagIn short. High Sierra provides a limited lifetime warranty.  The company will repair or replace the pack at its option if it fails due to a material or manufacturing defect.  Simply return the pack to High Sierra with proof of purchase.

Examination:

The High Sierra Summit 45 (hereinafter the "Summit"), arrived in perfect conditionA careful examination revealed a few loose threads but nothing major.  After reviewing the High Sierra web site, the Summit I received looked like what was shown and described.  Because the Summit has a number of cool features, my initial examination of the pack was very enjoyable.  In this Initial Report, I have attempted to describe in words and photographs most of the Summit's features.

The Frame:  High Sierra uses a single, contoured aluminum frame bar in the Summit that can be adjusted to fit the shape of the user's back.   The frame bar is pre-bent and I will want to check the frame bar to make sure the shape works with the shape of my back.  The Summit has a "universal fit" according to High Sierra.  The torso fit range is 15-19 in/38-48 cm.  Since my torso is 19 3/4 in/50 cm, I will report on how well the pack works with my torso length.  The Summit is designed to fit persons 68-72 in/173-183 cm in height.  I am 70 in/178 cm in height so I fit into that category.

Lumbar Padding and Back Panel:  High Sierra used molded foam in the back panel with Air Flow channels designed by High Sierra to keep the user's back cool and dry.  It is positioned in the center of back pad.  See photograph below.

Back Panel

Shoulder Straps:  The shoulder straps are formed to fit the body.  There is a removable media pocket on the left shoulder strap (see photograph below).  The lid on the pocket is closed with hook and latch.  My Garmin Vista GPS, Blackberry Storm and Olympus Stylus Tough digital camera each fit into the pocket.  A handheld radio made by Motorola fit snugly into the pocket and I was able to close the lid around the antenna.  According to High Sierra, the shoulder harness length is 18 in/46 cm.  By my measurements, the shoulder straps are approximately 1/2 in/1 cm thick and approximately 16 in/41 cm in length.  Load stabilizer straps are attached near the top of each shoulder strap.  Shoulder harness adjustment straps are also located at the bottom of each strap.  All of these straps, upon initial examination without a loaded pack, pull and release easily for quick adjustment.

Media Pocket
The Removable Media Pocket.

The Hip Belt:  High Sierra uses Vapel mesh Airflow padding in the waist belt on the Summit which is supposed to wick moisture away. The padded portion of the hip belt is approximately 10 in/25 cm long on each side and tapers from approximately 4 in/10 cm in width at the hip to approximately 3 3/4 in/9 cm at the end.  The nylon straps to which the buckle is attached are 12 1/2 in/32 cm in length on each side.  The thickness of the padding in the hip belt is approximately 1/2 in/1 cm.  There are right and left hand hip belt stabilizer straps.

Load Control:  The Summit is designed with "radial side compression" straps and load lifter straps to assist with load control and stability.

Pack Bag Material and Webbing:  The pack bag is made of  Grid-Weave Duralite and Mini-Weave Duralite material.  The bottom of the bag is made of Duraweave.

Pack Bag Capacity and Accessibility:  According to High Sierra, the Summit has a total volume of 4,500 cu in/45 L capacity with lid and collar extension.  It also has an internal hydration sleeve.  The Summit also has two compartments in the main bag with a zip-out divider and top and bottom loading capacities for easier access to gear (see photographs below).  Inside the upper portion of the main pack bag is a key clip.

Front Load Compartment
                                                                            The Summit's Front Load Sleeping Bag Compartment.

Adjustable Lid:  The Summit comes with an adjustable lid.  The lid has 1 external zippered pocket.  The interior of the lid also has suggestions for survival gear printed on the material.

Adjustable Lid
The Adjustable Lid and Exterior Pocket.

Mesh Pockets:
   There are open stretch pockets on both sides of the pack bag just above where the hip belt attaches to the frame.  I can insert a 1L Nalgene water bottle into each pocket.

Zippers and Zipper Pulls:  Right now, the zippers on the Summit are a little stiff.  The zipper pulls are metal on the front pocket and on the shelf inside the main bag and gray plastic attached to nylon cord on the lid pocket and the front load sleeping bag compartment.

Trekking Pole/Ice Axe Loops and Attachment:  The Summit has trekking pole/ice axe loops with pole holder attachments consisting of a plastic piece attached to the nylon webbing loop with an x-shaped slot cut into the center for the tip of the trekking pole.  The pole holder attachment is shown in the photograph below.

The Hiking Pole Attachment
The Hiking Pole/Ice Axe Attachment.

Rain Cover:  The Summit also comes with a rain cover conveniently stowed in a pocket at the bottom of the pack which has a hook and latch closure.  See photograph below.

Rain Cover
Rain Cover Stowed in a Pocket at the Bottom of the Bag.

Hydration Compatible:  The Summit has an internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tubes.  A hydration reservoir is not included.  I will report on how well my CamelBak reservoirs work with the Summit.

Initial Impressions
The Summit appears to be well constructed and designed.  The pack has many very cool features.  The next step is to get this pack loaded and into the field to see just how comfortable it is to wear and how well all of these cool features actually work.  I am looking forward to testing this pack.


FIELD REPORT

My first experience with the Summit was at the Jamboral (a mini-Boy Scout Jamboree) held in Blackfoot, Idaho (elevation 4,498 ft/1,371 m) on May 7-8.  We had nice weather but cold temperatures.  I know it got down to at least freezing overnight because my water froze.  I had to make multiple trips from the parking area to carry gear into the campsite including one round trip carrying the Summit which weighed in at 42 lbs/17 kg.  The round trip amounted to approximately 1 mi/1.6 km.  The contents of the pack included: a two person tent, a 0 F/-18 C sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, fuel, lighter, titanium cooking pot, metal cup, spork, plastic bowl,  head lamp, extra clothes, fleece jacket, 68 fl oz/2 L water, one package of instant oat meal, one package of hot chocolate, and camera.  Because of the amount of gear, my sleeping pad and fleece jacket were strapped to the exterior of the pack by way of the compression straps.  My travels with the pack on this trip took me over pretty level pavement, gravel, dirt and grass.  I experienced no steep inclines or declines and no side hilling on this trip.  As such, I really put no stress on the pack and needed to make no on-the-go adjustments.  I did not notice any issues with the pack.

The Summit was next used on an overnight Wilderness First Aid Certification Course at Krupp Scout Hollow near Rigby, Idaho (elevation 4,864 ft/1,483 m) on May 28-29.  We experienced rain and cool temperatures during this outing.  I carried the pack from the parking lot to the training center and then to my campsite a short distance from the training center.  The packed weighed in at 39 lbs/18 kg.  The contents of the pack included a two person tent, 30 F/17 C sleeping bag, full size sleeping pad, first aid kit, flash light, camp pillow, extra clothes and 68 fl oz/2 L water.  I believe I walked approximately 2 mi/3 km on this outing with the pack. Again, the surfaces I hiked on were fairly level and non-challenging.  Therefore, I did not have to make any adjustment to the pack.  For short periods of time, the exterior of the Summit experienced some rain which beaded up and rolled off.  However, the pack did not have to contend with a great deal of rain and, as a result, I did not use the rain cover.  Again, I noticed no issues with the pack but didn't really put it to the test either.

I next used the Summit on an overnight Lead Climber Certification Course at Island Park Scout Camp June 3-5 near Island Park, Idaho (elevation 6,293 ft/1,918 m).  There was a lot of rain and cool temperatures.  On this occasion I simply used the Summit to carry my climbing gear during the course.  My climbing gear consisting of a 197 ft/60 m rope, harness, climbing shoes, leather gloves, helmet, several lengths of webbing, four carabiners and two belay devices.   I hiked around camp during the training with the Summit.  Again, the Summit was exposed to bouts of rain and snow but, for the most part, the moisture beaded up and rolled off.  I did not have to use the rain cover.  In the two days, I estimate that I walked 3 mi/4.8 km with the Summit.  However, due to the inclement weather we did not get to do any real-world climbing.  Most of my time was spent walking to and from the training center to the artificial climbing wall and then back to the training center or to my tent.  The routes were flat and non-challenging.

The Summit went with me to National Youth Leadership Training (Cedar Badge) on June 19-26 at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp (elevation 6,500 ft/1,981 m) near Alta, Wyoming.  We had great but unseasonably cool weather.  Here, I used the Summit to carry some of my personal gear to the canvas wall tent and then used it to carry personal gear (such as books, water, lesson plans, candy, etc.) around the camp most of the week.  I walked around camp, hiked over to the shooting sports area, and hiked up and down the rappelling hill while I helped set up and run the rappel.  For the rappel, I carried my personal climbing gear (identified above) and my first aid kit.  I had no scale so could not weigh the pack.  Setting up and running the rappel entailed multiple hikes up a fairly steep trail and then climbing and scrambling over granite.  Otherwise, the week's walk with the Summit was pretty level and non-challenging.  In total during the week I believe I carried the Summit approximately 15 mi/24 km.  However, for the first time, I began to notice during the steep climbs up to the rappelling site that the shoulder straps on both sides loosened on their own while my body was straining up the steep climb.  I simply re-tightened the straps by pulling down on them and continued my climb.  I didn't think much more of the issue.

I drew a permit to climb Mt. Whitney and we planned to make the summit bid on July 6-7.  However, due to snow conditions on the mountain and the lack of snow climbing experience on the part of two members of our group, we decided to postpone the trip.  Instead, since I already had the week off work, my brother, youngest daughter and I decided to take a backpack trip into Alaska Basin (elevation 10,200 ft/3,108 m) on July 7-8.  The weather was spectacular.  The Summit weighed in at 43 lb/19.5 kg.  I was carrying the same gear I carried during the Wilderness First Aid course but carried a small rope, food for two full days, a 101 fl oz/3L hydration bladder, bear spray, water sandals, and a water purification pump.  The large amount of gear fit surprisingly well in the pack.  I only carried, my sleeping pad, fleece jacket, and water sandals on the exterior.  The hydration bladder fit well inside the interior pocket but, as I had anticipated, it did take up a good deal of pack bag space.  The hydration bladder tube with attached bite valve fit through the opening in the pack bag with just a bit of difficulty.

The trail was dry up to the point that we took the Devil's Stair Case trail at 2.7 mi/4 km.  Once on top of the Devil's Stair Case (a very steep additional 1 mi/1.6 km), we had a nice trail for about 1/4 mi/0.4 km and then we hit snow.  This snow was stable in places and soft in other places to the point that we had to posthole in snow up past my knees.  After approximately 5 1/2 mi/9 km, we reached the snow filled Alaska Basin and then decided to work our way back out of the basin to a snowless ridge where we made camp for the night.  The temperature was comfortable but we suffered through a significant wind storm that night.  I kept the Summit in the tent with me but hung the food in a tree using my sleeping bag stuff sack and a rope.

Overlooking The Tetons
Over-looking the Tetons

We planned to go out the Alaska Basin Trail but could not find the trail under the snow and we did not want to hike back up the Devil's Stair Case Trail in the snow so we decided to "Lewis and Clark it" cross country to where we thought the Alaska Basin Trail should be.  Ultimately this entailed cross-country hiking without a trail and then down a creek to the trail.  The round trip was approximately 17 mi/27 km over two days.  Until this trek, the Summit was really not put to the test.  On this trip, the Summit was carried over dry trail, while postholing through thigh deep snow, while traversing and side hilling on hard pack snow, and while bushwhacking our way back to the trail including a hike down a creek.

Near The Creek Bottom
Near The Creek Bottom

During this longer, more strenuous hike, I noticed that the shoulder straps were self-loosening frequently.  Likewise, when I attempted to "snug down" the hip belt, the plastic buckle simply popped open.  These two problems became more than a bit annoying especially when I needed to keep the pack snugged in tight while struggling off trail, on steep terrain or in the snow.  I really needed to limit the side-to-side travel and keep the pack high and tight on my back.  What I kept getting was a low, loose fitting pack.  I finally had to resort to adjusting the straps where I needed them and then tying the tail of each strap in a knot around the rest of the webbing to keep it from slipping or disconnecting.  For the most part, this solved the problems but also made it more difficult to adjust the straps on the go.

Additionally, the back panel material is stiff and somewhat hard.  I believe as a result of the extra pressure from the hydration bladder in the pack, the panel material rubbed on my back and eventually rubbed some of the skin off the lower middle part of my back.  This raw, open sore caused more than a bit of pain during the remainder of the trip--and for a few days afterward.  I did notice that once the water level in the hydration bladder went down, the back panel quit rubbing on my back.

Finally, after using the Summit on the two day, 17 mi/27 km trip, I would not give the Summit a good overall comfort level rating.  In addition to the problems noted above, the hip belt and shoulder straps are narrow in design and therefore do not have the wider padding I have become used to on my other packs and the material feels stiffer.  Also, for me, the pack just feels a bit too small.  All of these issues combined to reduce the comfort level of the pack in my opinion.

My likes, so far, include:
  • Good capacity for this size pack
  • Lots of fun and helpful features such as a key ring, daisy chain webbing, compression straps
  • Attractive, bright color
My dislikes, so far, include:
  • Shoulder straps self loosen
  • Hip belt pops open when tightened to my liking while navigating more difficult terrain
  • Overall comfort level is, in my opinion, not great
Given the fact that I have really had no difficulties with the Summit on trips over less strenuous terrain and of shorter duration, I will likely continue to use the Summit for shorter, less strenuous outings, including day peak-bagging trips.  However, in light of my experience to date, I will really have to think hard about using the Summit on any future long, multi-day trips like my trek into Alaska Basin.

LONG TERM REPORT

I used the Summit during my Venture Crew's High Adventure Outing which took place from July 20-23, 2010.  As part of that outing, we climbed Table Mountain in the Teton Range (11,106 ft/3,385 m).  This is a 12.4 mi/20 km round trip with an elevation gain of 4,151 ft/1,265 m.  I carried the Summit, using it as a day pack, with an approximate weight of around 12 lb/5 kg.  I carried a group first aid kit, a full hydration bladder, lunch, a short rope, carabiners, a rappel device, and a rain jacket.  Other than the shoulder straps self loosening when I had to really exert myself while climbing the steep sections of the trail, I had no problems with the pack.  The first part of the trip was uneventful, but after reaching the top a fairly severe thunderstorm blew in very quickly and we were in rain for the entire return trip to our base camp.  I put the rain cover on the pack and it kept the contents of the Summit dry.  We had to cross the Teton River three times (without bridges) but the pack was light enough that it didn't cause any balance problems even though I had loosened the shoulder straps and unbuckled the hip belt in case I fell while crossing.  The pack was fairly light and was generally comfortable to carry.

On the third day of our trip, we participated in a 110 ft/33.5 m rappelling activity just outside the Teton Canyon Campground (elevation 6,640 ft/2,024 m) near Alpine, Wyoming.  The weather was perfect--no rain and daytime temperatures in the 80 F/27 C range.  I used the Summit to help pack climbing gear up to and down from the rappel site.  I carried a group first aid kit, climbing helmet, a 197 ft/60 m climbing rope, a harness, gloves, a camera, several rappel devices and carabiners. I would estimate the pack weight was around 35 lb/16 kg.  I again had some difficulty keeping the shoulder straps from self loosening.  The climb was short so I didn't need to tighten the hip belt and I didn't really use the pack long enough to really test its comfort level.

On the final day of the trip we did some cave exploring at the Wind Cave (elevation 8,940 ft/2,725 m) near Victor, Idaho.  Getting to the Wind Cave requires a round trip hike of 5.4 mi/9 km with an elevation gain of 1,870 ft/570 m.  I carried the Summit loaded with the same gear I had when I climbed Table Mountain.  The pack weighed around 12 lb/5 kg.  After we reached the cave, we attempted to reach the "Blood Room" in the cave which required a lot of belly crawling and squeezing through small openings.  I had to take the pack off and push it ahead of me for the largest part of the cave exploration.  The pack got dirty but did not tear or show any signs of wear as a result of being pushed along the cave floor.  The trail into the cave was not really challenging until we reached the last roughly 300 yd/274 m.  I had no problems with the pack until then and, again, when I started to exert myself on the trail, the shoulder straps began to self loosen.  I simply tied both straps in knots to keep them in place.

On August 27 and 28, 2010, I used the Summit while attending a Leave No Trace training sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  As part of that training we participated in an overnight campout at Kelly Island (elevation 5,000 ft/1,524 m) near Ririe, Idaho.  The weather was uneventful.  I packed my overnight gear consisting of a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpacking pillow, headlamp, change of clothing, personal hygiene kit, personal first aid kit, and Leave No Trace reading material.  I would estimate that the packed weighed about 39 lbs/18 kg.  We only had to walk a short distance to the campsite.  I had no problems with the pack.

My likes and dislikes remain the same as those noted in the Field Report section of this report.  In general, my opinion is that this pack is better suited to day hikes or short trips without a lot of weight.  I had a much more enjoyable (although not perfect) experience with the Summit when I used it in that fashion.

My thanks to High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test the Summit 45 backpack.

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