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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Col 35 Backpack > Test Report by Patrick McNeilly

HIGH SIERRA COL 35 PACK
TEST SERIES BY PATRICK MCNEILLY
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - April 05, 2010
FIELD REPORT - June 05, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - August 08, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Patrick McNeilly
EMAIL: mcne4752 AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 155 lb (70.30 kg)
TORSO SIZE 18.5 in (47 cm)
WAIST SIZE 34 in (86 cm)

I have been hiking for over 20 years but backpacking only since about 2002. Most of my backpacking is done as overnight trips and occasional weekend and weeklong trips. My typical packweight is approximately 18 to 20 lb (8 to 9 kg) before food or water. Most of my backpacking is the three season variety in the mountains of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In addition to backpacking, I also fish, hunt, and enjoy orienteering. As a result, some of my backpacking equipment gets used in a number of different venues.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: High Sierra Sport Company
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.highsierrasport.com/
MSRP: US $140.00
Listed Weight: 3.0 lb (1.36 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 2.5 oz (1.43 kg)
Capacity: 2135 cu in (35 L)
Dimensions: 24.25 x 13.25 x 8.25 in (62 x 34 x 21 cm)
Color Tested: Black


Col 35 SuspensionThe High Sierra Col 35 Pack (aka the pack) is a 35 L (2135 cu in) top-loading internal frame pack. The pack is constructed of three types of polyester fabric: Grid-weave Duralite and Mini-weave Duralite on the upper portions, and Duraweave on the bottom. The pack has a single aluminum stay which runs down the center of the back panel and can be removed and bent to conform to the wearer's back. The suspension of the pack is not adjustable and has a torso range of 13 to17 in (33 to 43 cm).

The pack has a single main compartment with two spindrift collars which close with a drawstring and cordlock. The main compartment also closes with a length of webbing which secures with a quick clip. This webbing strap can also help secure items under the lid. The pack has a hydration sleeve and dual exit ports on either side at the top of the main compartment. The main compartment also has a plastic clip for storing keys, etc.

On the outside of the pack there are two mesh water bottle pockets which are designed to hold 1 L bottles. The pack has compression straps on either side, as well as straps on the bottom for compression or attaching additional gear. There is a webbing daisy chain down the center of the pack and in-line with this is a single ice axe loop at the bottom. Attached to the daisy chain there is a small strap backed with hook and loop fastener which can be used to secure trekking poles or other long items. There are also two lengths of webbing on the outside of the pack which hold the clips for the lid. These straps are sewn to the pack so that they each have two small loops (like a daisy chain) and a third loop measuring 8 in (20 cm) long. I'm not clear why there are the longer loops, unless it is for securing a longer item such as a sleeping pad.

Main CompartmentThe shoulder straps are constructed with Vapel mesh Airflow padding and each has a plastic D-ring and an elastic loop for feeding hydration tubing. On the left shoulder strap is a removable "media" pocket constructed of a heavy mesh fabric. This pocket secures to the shoulder strap using two loops of hook and loop faster. The pack also has an adjustable sternum strap and load lifter straps.

The padded hipbelt also used the Vapel mesh Airflow padding to help wick moisture and the back panel is molded with airflow channels to help keep the wearer cool.

The floating lid has a single zippered pocket. The lid also has four plastic loops on the top for tying down additional gear.

Lastly the pack comes with its own removable rain cover which stores in a small pocket at the very bottom of the pack. The rain cover appears to be made of coated nylon and secures to the bottom of the pack with a 4 in (10 cm) length of webbing. The rain cover also has a drawstring and cordlock to tighten around the pack.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

My first impression of the High Sierra Col 35 is that it looks very sturdy. The fabric seems tough, especially on the pack's bottom. The seams appear to be well done. I noted that some strap attachment points have double bar tacks while others, such as where the shoulder straps attach, do not. So, I'm hoping that the pack is as tough as it looks.

The pack has only one large pocket but appears to be large enough for me to carry enough for an overnight or weekend hike. The hydration sleeve easily held my three liter (3.2 qt) bladder and the tubing threaded nicely through the ports on either side of the pack. The single aluminum stay can be easily accessed by lifting the webbing covering the sleeve in the center of the main pocket. I needed to bend the stay after putting the pack on because it felt as though the upper portion of the stay was hitting the upper portion of my torso. A quick bend of the stay and sliding it back in fixed that problem easily.

Spindrift CollarThe pack has, what appears to be, two spindrift collars. The internal one is much taller than the exterior one and I'm not real clear on why there are two. I would also note that the drawstrings on these two collars are really long. When cinched tight, the cord on the interior collar measures 32 in (81 cm) which is just well beyond what is necessary.

The padding on the shoulder straps and hipbelt is fairly firm, but not overly so, and is covered with a mesh fabric which I feel is a bit rough where it comes in contact with skin. I think I will need to keep an eye on the straps rubbing. The back panel padding is quite hard but I hardly noticed it when I put the pack on with about 15 lb (6.8 kg) of gear inside. The pack seemed to fit well enough but I have not had opportunity to take it out on trail yet.

The floating lid is a nice size to hold items like raingear or maps. The one problem I have with the pack is that the lid will not cinch down tight unless the pack is completely full or if something is placed between the pack and the lid. The problem seems to be that the webbing straps on the front of the pack are not long enough to cinch tight if the pack isn't full. This is really strange since the webbing on the front extends to the bottom of the pack but the buckles are placed higher up on the pack than they need to be. The lid can be completely removed and I may try hiking without the lid at some point in the testing.

The "media" pocket attaches to the shoulder strap with two loops made from strips of hook-and-loop fastener. I don't normally carry electronics on trail but the pocket will hold my pair of sunglasses. The pocket is also easily removed if I feel that I don't need to bring it along. The only other pockets on the pack are two mesh side pockets which will hold a one liter water bottle.

RaincoverThe rain cover easily pulls out of the pocket on the bottom and seems to cover the pack well. The cover appears to be a coated fabric but it is a little hard to tell. The one thing that is clear is that the raincover has seams which are not sealed. I don't think I will take too many chances with unprotected gear on my initial trips. If necessary, I will seal the seams.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The Col 35 pack came with single card attached to the pack which described its features. I found it interesting that the card was attached in a way that I could really only read the front. There was some important information on the back, including torso fit range and other sizing information.

The High Sierra website had a good description of the pack, however, the sizing information was a little hard to find. One nice thing on the site was a short video which described the pack and gave a better impression of its size.

SUMMARY

The High Sierra Col 35 Pack is top-load internal frame pack for day and overnight hikes.

Good things:

Well thought out features
Simple design
Good size for an overnight

Concerns:

Floating lid doesn't cinch tight
Raincover seams not sealed

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Check back then for more information on the test.

I would like to thank High Sierra Sport Company and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this pack.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Col 35 pack on five day hikes over the course of this testing period. All of these hikes were done in Maryland near Washington, DC, including Seneca Creek State Park, Little Bennett Regional Park, and the C&O Canal National Historic Park. These hikes ranged from 4 to 8 miles (6 to 13 km) and were all on maintained but sometimes rocky trails. The temperatures ranged from 45 to 85 F (7 to 29 C) with clear to overcast skies. On one hike, I did encounter light rain.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Pack is pretty comfortable. I initially had to adjust the single aluminum stay so that it would fit the curve of my back. This was very easy and after some fine adjustment the pack seems to ride fairly well. I even filled it with about 25 lb (11 kg) of gear to get a better idea of how it handles with a heavier load and felt that it was fine with that much weight. One problem I do have is that my torso is probably a little too long for the pack. The shoulder straps seem like they need to be a little longer but since I have a longer torso than recommended that would account for the shorter shoulder straps. The same can also be said for the load lifters. The pack rides lower than what might be optimal and doesn't allow for any useful adjustment of the load lifters. As a result, the pack tends to feel like it is always pulling back on the shoulder straps. The sizing information was difficult to locate and I should have been more careful about the torso size.

IMAGE 1Col 35 loaded for a simple day hi



The pack has a large volume for day hikes which is great when having to carry extra gear for a long summit hike or one with carrying the family's gear. I was a little concerned that when I carried smaller amounts of gear that items would be flopping around. I am pleased to say that this is not the case and found that the compression straps in the bottom and sides of the pack do a great job of decreasing the volume of the pack and keeping all things in place.

The pack is hydration compatible and I found it very easy to feed the tubing through the exit ports and elastic webbing on the shoulder straps. One thing I noted was that the hydration sleeve inside the pack is very wide and extends all the way to the bottom of the pack. This tends to cause two related problems. First, if the pack is not fully loaded the bladder can shift in the pack enough to move away from my spine and have the load leaning to one side which can be uncomfortable. When I loaded 25 lbs (11 kg) of gear in the pack, including a full 2 liter bladder, I found that the bladder tended to sink to the bottom of the pack and may have contributed to the feeling that the pack would tug on the shoulder straps. I would have preferred that the bladder ride higher on my back for better stability.

As I noted in my Initial Report, I find that the pack's lid does not cinch down tight. This was even the case when I filled the pack with gear. The lid pocket is a nice size and holds raingear and other small items that I might need but I find it very annoying to have the lid so loose. I did take one hike where I removed the lid altogether and felt that the pack worked just fine by rolling the spindrift collar and securing with the single strap at the top.

Loose lid



In general, the shoulder straps and hipbelt are comfortable. I haven't had any problems with the hipbelt but have found that the left shoulder strap tends to slip. This is another annoying thing that causes me to continually be adjusting at the shoulder strap.

I didn't have too much rain during my hikes but I did leave the pack out during a moderate rain while at home, with its rain cover on. I left it in the rain for about 45 minutes. I found that water tended to bead up on the rain cover but did find its way through the seams. This was particularly noticeable in the area where there is a window for an identification tag sewn into the rain cover. While the pack was not completely soaked, there was water getting through. I also discovered that the rain cover isn't large enough to completely cover items attached to the outside of the pack. Planning is in order when I carry items like trekking poles on the outside of the pack.

Wet raincover



The side mesh water bottle pockets will hold a 1 liter bottle and seems to be easy to access even when the pack is full. I found that the electronics pocket seemed to stick out quite a bit on the shoulder strap which I didn't care for. Since it is only held on by hook and loop fasteners, I simply removed it and attached it to one of the straps on the hipbelt. It seems to work fine there.

SUMMARY

After using the Col 35 Pack for a couple months, I feel that the pack has some very nice features and could be a great pack but there are a few flaws which keep it from reaching that level. The pack is a good size and compresses easily to accommodate a variety of loads for day hikes. The padding of the back and hipbelt are comfortable and the single aluminum stay is easily adjusted for wearer. Problems I noted include that the shoulder straps tend to slip, the floating lid will not cinch down tight and the rain cover can leak.

Things I like:

1. Large volume
2. Good compression of smaller loads
3. Comfortable hip belt

Things I don't like:

1. Lid doesn't cinch down
2. Shoulder straps slip
3. Rain cover leaks


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the long-term testing period, I took the Col 35 pack along on four day hikes. These included hikes in Maryland near Washington, DC, and in the Ramapo Mountains of northern New Jersey as well as in the tidewater area of Virginia. These hikes ranged from 4 to 6 miles (6 to 10 km) and were all on maintained trails. The temperatures ranged from 65 to 95 F (18 to 35 C) with clear to overcast skies. I didn't have any rain on these hikes but a couple of hikes were in very humid conditions where it might just as well have been raining.

I also used the pack while on a project with my orienteering club doing a search for a particular invasive plant species in Greenbelt Park in Maryland. This was done on a very hot [94 F (34 C)] and humid day. This work also was done primarily off-trail thought some very thick underbrush.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During this phase of the testing, I was able to better assess a few additional features of the pack that I hadn't either noticed or paid attention to. The long-term testing period has been pretty hot and humid here in the mid-Atlantic. One thing that I notice with the pack was the performance of the back panel. This panel is very firm and has a channels which are designed to promote air flow and keep the wearer's back cool. I have not found the Col 35 to be particularly hot or uncomfortable on my back. I'm not saying that I haven't had my back sweat while wearing the pack but it hasn't bothered me. This is fairly significant because during the summer, I typically use a lumbar pack for day hikes, so that I don't have a full wet back at the end of the hike.

I was able to give the pack fabric a good test while doing an invasive plant search. The underbrush in Greenbelt Park is rather notorious for greenbrier and other thorny and nasty plants. The search took me through some really thick areas. I had the pack only partially full, without the lid, and compressed to about half its volume. After this outing, The pack fabric held up very well, better than my pants did. Even the mesh side pockets didn't have any tears or problems, although I did have a few small branches and thorns stuck in the mesh pockets. The one thing that did show some damage was the ends of the hip belt. Since the belt tends to hang down, it must have gotten caught on some brush and started to tear. I can honestly say that I have never seen a hip belt webbing get torn in that fashion.

Torn Hip Belt



Otherwise the pack has continued to perform reasonably well over the long-term testing period. I have still had problems with the shoulder straps slipping and the issue related to cinching the lid tight really can't be remedied without modifying the pack. The removable electronics pocket works better for me on the hip belt than on the shoulder strap but can be loose if I forget to tighten the belt's lumbar adjustment.

SUMMARY

My likes and dislike haven't changed from those listed in my Field Report. The pack is large enough for longer hikes with extra gear and can easily be cinched down to a smaller size, when necessary. The hip belt and pack panel are comfortable but the shoulder straps tend to slip. The pack's fabric appears to be study but I had some problems with the hip belt webbing tearing on thorns. Overall, the pack is functional but there are a few things that make using it less than optimal.

CONTINUED USE

Although this pack does have some nice features, there have been enough problems with the pack to make me say that I am unlikely to use it much in the future. If I do, I would alter the way the top lid attaches which I feel would make it more useful.

This concludes my testing of the High Sierra Col 35 Backpack. I would like to thank High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Col 35 Backpack > Test Report by Patrick McNeilly



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