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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Bobcat 65 External Frame > Test Report by Cheryl McMurray

HIGH SIERRA BOBCAT 65 BACKPACK

TEST SERIES
BY CHERYL MCMURRAY

INITIAL REPORT  June 3, 2011
FIELD REPORT  August 16, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT
  October 18, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

Name:  Cheryl McMurray
Age:  52
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight:  145 lb (66.6 kg)
Torso Length:  18.5 in (47 cm)
Waist:  34 in (98 cm)
Email Address:  cherylmcmurray2ATgmailDOTcom
City, State, Country:  Garden Grove, California, U.S.

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I've been backpacking and hiking for four years, mostly on weekends year around.  Overnight trips are usually long weekend trips in the Eastern Sierras with 32 lb to 40 lb (15 kg to 18 kg) loads depending on the season.  One class two rock climb with a day pack is common.   Day hikes are 10-15 mi (16 km to 24 km) in the San Gabriel Mountains with loads of 15 lb to 20 lb (7 kg to 9 kg).  I'm a tent style camper and have experienced snow, sub-freezing temperatures, winds (once was gale force), light rain, but mostly fair weather.


INITIAL REPORT
June 3, 2011

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer:  High Sierra Sport Company
Manufacturer Website:  www.highsierrasport.com
Year of Manufacture:  2011
Material:  Mini-Diamond Ripstop, Mini-Weave Duralite
Pack Type:  External frame
List Weight:  7 lb (3.2 kg)
Actual Weight:  5 lb 6 oz (2.45 kg)
Weight of extra pins:  long, .3 oz (8 gm); short, .25 oz (7 gm)
Listed Capacity:  3966 in^3 (65 l)
Size:  25 in x 19 in x 8.5 in (63 cm x 48 cm x 21.5 cm)
Fit:  One size-torso range 16 in to 22 in (41 cm to 56 cm), 30 in (76 cm) and up waist
Height Range:  68 in to 72 in (173 cm to 183 cm)
Available Colors:  Black, Pacific Nebula, Amazon Pine
Color Tested:  Pacific Nebula (blue)
MSRP:  NA
Warranty:  To original owner against defects

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The High Sierra Bobcat is an external frame backpack that consists of a top-loading main compartment, adjustable top lid, front-loading sleeping bag compartment, large front pocket and smaller zippered pockets on each side.  The adjustable shoulder straps and waist belt are VAPEL mesh padding that wicks moisture away and the back panel features a stretch mesh AIRFLOW system that is designed to keep the back cool and dry.  The Bobcat is hydration compatible offering dual exit ports for the reservoir tube along with a side mesh pocket that will hold a 33 oz (1 l) bottle. 

Bobcat Backpack (taken from website)
Bobcat Backpack in Amazon Pine color (taken from Website)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I've only used an external backpack on one occasion which was the first time I ever had a backpack on.  After 4 years of using internal frame backpacks, this will be a different experience for me.  When I pulled the pack out of the box after it arrived, it felt heavier than I expected.  When I first saw the pack on the website the weight was not listed so I didn't know what to expect but after weighing the pack, it wasn't quite as heavy as I thought (actually weighing 1 lb 10 oz (740 gm) less than the stated weight on the website).  I think the bulkiness of an external pack might have added to the impression that it weighed more than it did.  I do like the feel and look of the Mini-Diamond Ripstop and Mini-Weave Duralite material and the Pacific Nebula color is really nice.  The pack seemed to fit well right out of the box so I didn't think that much adjustment was going to be needed.  The pack looks very well made and both the shoulder straps and hip belt feel very cushy.  I do like the number of pockets that are included as I like to keep things organized.  The included rain cover is a nice touch along with the media pocket that fits my GPS (however I can't close the lid).  One thing that I thought was interesting, though, was that the hydration sleeve is very shallow and wide.  My first conclusion was that I would need to put my hydration reservoir in sideways and I was concerned about how that might affect the flow of water when the level gets low.  One thing I found missing were some lashing straps below the main pack and I was hoping to strap my bear canister there but I'm confident that I can get creative and make it work.  There is no user manual included with the pack but the website lists all of the features which is helpful. 

PRODUCT FEATURES

MAIN COMPARTMENTS AND MAIN POCKETS

The main compartment is top loading with a gusseted closure and includes the hydration sleeve that is sewn in horizontally as opposed to vertically.  I'm hoping, though, that I can still place my reservoir in vertically.  I'll test it both ways and see if there are any issues either way.  There is a large external pocket on the front of the main compartment with lashing points on both sides to attach extra gear, and below the main compartment is a separate sleeping bag compartment.

Hydration sleeve, gusset closure
Front pocket, sleeping bag compartment

STRAPS, BELT, BACK PANEL

The shoulder straps and hip belt are both made of VAPEL mesh padding that feels soft and cushy.  One shoulder strap sports a media pocket that will fit my GPS and both have an elastic loop at the outside of the strap to run a hydration hose through along with a loop on the sternum strap that will do the same thing.  I'm used to having a whistle on the buckle of the sternum strap but this pack doesn't have that so I'll just attach my own.  The load lifters, shoulder straps, back mesh panel and hip belt are all adjustable using a pin and ring system to fine tune the fit.  The pack also includes hip stabilizer straps.

Haul strap, media pocket, shoulder straps, mesh back ring and pin system visible
Haul strap, media pocket, mesh back, shoulder straps, pin and ring system visible

POCKETS

The large lid pocket extends the full width of the top lid and includes a key clip.  One side of the pack has a tall pocket including a mesh pocket attached to the outside of it and the other side has two smaller pockets.  All of the zippers have storm flaps, seem sturdy and have large zipper pulls to grab on to. 

Tall side pocket and mesh pocket
small side pockets
Tall side pocket and mesh pocket
Smaller side pockets

Lid pocket with key clip
Lid pocket with key clip

RAIN COVER  

There is a separate smaller zippered pocket on the lid that holds the rain cover which is attached to the pack with webbing and a buckle.  It covers the complete pack down to the area above the hip belt so if I attach anything below the sleeping bag compartment I'll need to put it in a waterproof sack.  I do like having the rain cover as a part of the pack so that I don't have to carry a separate one.  There are no straps below the sleeping bag compartment to attach items there.  It would be nice to have a few straps with quick release buckles there for a tent or bear canister, however, straps can be placed around the horizontal bars to attach those items so that the area doesn't go to waste. 

Rain cover pocket
Rain cover
Rain cover pocket
Rain cover in place

TRYING IT OUT

I have a backpacking trip coming up so I decided to lay everything out and practice packing the pack.  It took some trial and error to get the weight distributed comfortably but I was eventually able to achieve it (at least the way it felt in my backyard).  The photos below show my load minus the food.  I was able to run straps around the lower frame bars to strap my bear canister on securely and I hooked my sit pad, wrapped around my tent poles, to the lashing points on both sides of the front pocket.  I tried placing my 100 oz (3 l) hydration bladder in sideways to utilize the full pocket but then found that it took up too much space and I couldn't fit my sleeping bag.  I then inserted it into the hydration sleeve vertically and found that it fit nicely.  I was then able to fit my sleeping bag in vertically along with my down booties and some smaller items.  I found that the heavier items like my tent and clothes carried better in the sleeping bag compartment for a better center of gravity.  My inflatable sleeping pad fit nicely in the long side pocket along with my rain gear.  My water filter and first aid kit went into the two smaller pockets on the other side.  The bear canister contained my stove and food that I don't need for the day and I'll put my day's food in the top lid for easy access. 

I did play around with the adjustment for the shoulder straps and load lifting straps moving them over to the third adjusting hole (there are four on each side).  The manufacturer has a buckle on each shoulder strap that the load lifter straps are run through.  I found that when the straps went through that buckle, it kept me from being able to adjust the load properly against my back so I removed them from the buckle and the pack pulled in toward my back much better.

wearing the pack
packed, side view

front view, packed

SUMMARY

I like the color and material of the Bobcat pack and High Sierra includes some nice features like the media pocket and hydration hose loops on the shoulder straps.  The pockets seem roomy and the pack seems durable and well constructed.  I like the cushioned feel of the shoulder straps and hip belt.  I wish that they included at least one pocket on the hip belt and some straps below the sleeping bag compartment for lashing extra gear but the frame bars enable me to attach my own.  There are multiple adjustments for the shoulder straps, shoulder stabilizing straps, hip belt and mesh back using the pin and ring system to help fine tune the fit. 


FIELD TEST REPORT
August 16, 2011

TESTING LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Olancha Pass, Eastern Sierras near Olancha, California
Duration:  3 day, 2 night
Distance:  12 mi (19 km) backpack
Elevation gain/loss:  3450 ft (1,050 m)
Conditions:  Breezy, cool, morning snow
Pack weight:  42 lb (19 kg) start/36 lb (16 kg) end

Halfway Camp, San Gorgonio Wilderness, Southern California
Duration:  2 days, 1 night
Distance:  6 mi (10 km) backpack
Elevation gain/loss:  2,000 ft (600 m)
Conditions:  Warm and sunny
Pack weight:  39 lb (18 kg) start/37 lb (17 kg) end

Cedar Glen, San Gabriel Mts, Southern California
Duration: 3 day, 2 night
Distance:  5 mi (8 km) backpack
Elevation gain/loss:  1,200 ft (360 m)
Conditions:  Warm and sunny
Pack weight:  42 lb (19 kg) start/40 lb (18 kg) end

Muah Mt, Eastern Sierras near Lone Pine, California
Duration:  2 day, 1 night
Distance:  12 mi rt (19 km) backpack
Elevation gain/loss:  1,400 ft/2,000 ft (400 m/600 m)
Conditions:  Moderate temperature, sunny
Pack weight:  36 lb (16 kg) start/32 lb (15 kg) end

PACKING THE PACK

Small side pockets
First aid kit/water filter
Large side pocket
Sleeping pad, rain pants, rain jacket
Top lid
SPOT (clipped to key clip), food for the day, iPod
Sleeping bag compartment
Tent, stakes, summit pack (rolled up)
Main compartment
Sleeping bag placed vertical (in compression bag),
100 oz (3 l) hydration bladder, clothing placed vertical (in compression bag), camp shoes
Front pocket
10 essentials bag, fleece cap, glove liners, small items
Under sleeping bag
compartment
Bear Canister filled with food, stove, coffee cup, fuel

I predominately packed in the same manner for each trip except the first trip that was more of a potential snow camping trip.  For that trip I moved the clothing bag to the sleeping bag compartment and put the tent in the main compartment because I had more clothes and had to use my 4-season tent. 

I strapped my bear canister full of food, stove, pot, coffee cup and small items that I would not need for the day underneath the sleeping bag compartment with two long lashing straps that I had.  My camera, compass, sunscreen and lip balm went into two hip belt pockets that I was able to strap onto the pack.  I do wish that the pack came with hip belt pockets as I find that I use them a lot.  My GPS fit into the media pocket, however, it was a tight fit which made it difficult to pull out and even harder to replace.  I lashed my sit pad wrapped around my tent poles to the lashing points on the front pocket. 

I'm the type of person that loves to keep things organized so I love all of the pockets which makes just about everything accessible to me if I need it.  I have found that in the evening I am able to put away some of the gear I won't need the next morning, making it easier and faster to get loaded and under way, something I could not do with my internal frame packs.  I tried placing the hydration bladder in vertically and horizontally and the bladder worked well both ways.  I did find, however, that the sleeping bag and my clothing bag fit better in the main compartment when the reservoir was placed vertically. 

COMFORT/PERFORMANCE

COMFORT

The first trip I took had possible snow forecasted so I had to be prepared for winter conditions raising my starting pack weight to 42 lb (19 kg).  The only other trip that pushed my pack weight up to that level was the Cedar Glen trip where I treated myself to my 2 person tent.   I must say that this is the first backpack that I've ever worn that has been comfortable from the start.  It rests well on my hips and the cushioned hip belt and shoulder straps really seemed to make the difference, never chafing me at either the pelvic bone area or collar bone (a regular problem I've had in the past).  I didn't find myself having to adjust the pack much at all once I had it on.  Trail variations also did not affect the comfort of the pack.  After about 2 hrs with the pack on, however, it did feel good to sit down and remove it to give my shoulder muscles a rest.   I don't think that the pack was resting on my shoulders at all, I think it was just due to fact that I had over 40 lb (18 kg) on my back and just needed to take a normal rest break.  I was always good as new again after those breaks.

On one trip I needed to help out a fellow hiker who was part of my group by carrying his backpack during our day hike.  I placed my summit pack in his backpack and proceeded to hike back to camp with both packs on my back.  It was an internal pack of a brand that I used to have and I began to have flashbacks of why I sold the pack.  My left side pelvic bone was getting rubbed pretty good by the hip belt.  I was curious to see if this, now pre-existing condition would be felt by the Bobcat during my pack out.  To my delight the sensitive area was not aggravated any further by the Bobcat and even seemed to disappeared giving me a comfortable backpack out.

Pack carrying 42 lb (19 Kg)
Cedar Glen Trip
Carrying 42 lb (19 kg)
Cedar Glen Trip

PERFORMANCE

Although I have only used the pack on trails, I have encountered downed trees with some of them large enough to require scrambling over.  I found the pack to be very stable and never found myself off balance, even while picking my poles up off the ground with the pack on.  This may be due to the way I distributed the weight in the pack but none the less, it has consistently felt very stable on my back.  Since most, if not all, of my backpacking trips include a day hike, usually involving rock scrambling, I've had to pack an extra summit pack instead of using the Bobcat as a day pack.  I think, though, that this is just the nature of external frame packs so I was expecting this.

The media pocket on the shoulder strap houses my GPS.  Since I'm right-handed, when putting the pack on, I put my right arm through the shoulder strap first but that puts pressure on the GPS from my back until I can get the other strap free for the other arm.  It would be nice if the media pocket could be attached on either strap but this is not the case so I have to be careful when putting the pack on.  The media pocket is removable which is nice for a quick transfer to my summit pack for a day hike.

The top bar of the frame does have one adjustment to raise it up for lashing something to the top of the pack but I'm not sure how well it would work since the top of the pack comes up pretty high when fully packed (see photos).

When adjusting the hip belt, although it fits me, has only about 2 in (5 cm) of adjustment left on each side.  If I had a smaller waist, it might be an issue.  One feature I enjoy is the elastic loop on each shoulder strap for the hydration hose.  It keeps the hose out of my way but still handy.  I haven't used the rain cover yet but maybe it will get used during the long term report.  All in all, the pack has performed very well.

Muah Mt trip

Muah Mt trip


DURABILITY

After 4 backpacking trips, totaling 8 days of use, the pack has held up very well.  The seams have had no failures, the material still looks great with no holes or tears and the zippers have worked flawlessly.  I've stayed on trail mostly while using it so it really hasn't seen any abuse or bushwhacking and I've been careful to use the haul strap when putting the pack on so as not to stress the shoulder straps too much.

THINGS I LIKE

Most comfortable pack I have ever had on my back
Media pocket is nice
Has many pockets of varying sizes, lashing points and two large compartments for organizing
Hydration hose loop on each shoulder strap
Attached rain cover
Seems well made and durable

THINGS I DISLIKE

No hip belt pockets
Media pocket is snug and only fits on the left shoulder strap
No lashing straps below the sleeping bag compartment
Pack weight is a little heavy
Horizontal hydration sleeve


LONG TERM REPORT
October 18, 2011

TESTING LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Lower Desolation Lake, Eastern Sierras near Bishop, California
Duration:  1 night, 2 days
Distance:  15 mi total (24 km)
Elevation gain/loss:  2,300 ft (700 m)
Conditions:  Sunny, warm
Pack weight:  38 lb (17 kg) start, 35 lb (16 kg) end

Pilot Knob/Lower Desolation Lake, Eastern Sierras near Bishop, California
Duration:  2 night 3 days
Distance:  15 mi total (24 km) (with Bobcat)
Elevation gain/loss:  2,300 ft (700 m)
Conditions:  Sunny, warm
Pack weight:  41 lb (19 kg) start, 35 lb (16 kg) end

Hungry Packer Lake, Eastern Sierras near Bishop, California
Duration:  3 nights, 4 days
Distance:  14 mi total (23 km) (with Bobcat)
Elevation gain/loss:  2,700 ft (800 m)
Conditions:  Sunny, warm
Pack Weight:  42 lb (19 kg) start, 35 lb (16 kg) end

Dry Lake, San Bernardino Mts, Southern California
Duration:  2 night, 3 days
Distance:  12 mi total (19 km) (with Bobcat)
Elevation gain/loss:  2,100 ft (650 m)
Conditions:  Sunny, cool
Pack weight:  39 lb (18 kg) start, 35 lb (16 kg) end

COMFORT/PERFORMANCE

This pack has remained as comfortable as the first day I used it and I still have not felt any chafing or soreness of any kind.  At the absolute most my shoulders get a little tired after carrying it for about 2 hrs straight but after a short break I always feel as good as new and ready to roll again.  I'm sure part of that is due to the fact that I still have 40 lb (18 kg) on my back which is going to eventually leave some impression on me along the way, plus rest breaks are to be expected.  Stability of the pack on my back has never been an issue with the method I've used for packing it.

I've been spoiled with all of the pockets for organization and the pack still remains the easiest and quickest of all the packs I own to load up.  I still wish that there were hip belt pockets along with a way to switch the media pocket to the other shoulder strap.  Although I have used my hydration reservoir vertically in the horizontal pocket provided, there has not been any fit issue whatsoever.  The reservoir did function well horizontally but the bulk of it hindered me from fitting my sleeping bag and clothing stuff sack in the main compartment.

Fortunately for me, unfortunately for the test, I have not had the opportunity to test the rain cover except for covering the pack overnight in case of rain.  It does seem to cover the pack well and it is nice to know that I don't have to think about bringing one.  I could, however, detach it and use the pocket for a small stash pocket if I needed to. 

DURABILITY

I have used the High Sierra Bobcat on 8 trips which translates into 16 days of backpacking use.  I've been mostly on trails with the occasional scramble over and under downed trees.  I've always used the haul strap to put the pack on along with taking it off.  The zippers have worked flawlessly, even when the pockets were packed a little tight.  The fabric has had no tears or holes but only a small slight surface abrasion under the sleeping bag compartment.  The frame has held up very well and only has scuff marks on the bottom where the pack came in contact with the ground when I removed it.  The bottom line is that it has held up really well with no failures of any kind.

CONCLUSION

I must admit that I was not too keen on using an external frame backpack but the High Sierra Bobcat has changed all of that.  The only downside that I have found to using a pack like this is that I have to bring a summit pack with me for the off-trail day hikes that I usually do on my trips but that is a minimal complaint and only reflects on the nature of external frame packs in general and not the Bobcat specifically.  Although the pack weighs about 2 lb (.9 kg) more than I would like to use, the comfort of it more than makes up for that. 

I plan on using this pack on many trips in the future and would like to thank High Sierra and BGT for the opportunity to test the Bobcat 65 and expand my pack horizons. 

This concludes my test series of the High Sierra Bobcat 65 Backpack.




Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
Read more gear reviews by Cheryl McMurray

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