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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Karadon 65L Backpack > Test Report by Brian Hartman

HIGH SIERRA KARADON 65
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
January 17, 2017

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Central Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS


IMAGE 1IMAGE 2IMAGE 3


Manufacturer: High Sierra
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.highsierra.com/
MSRP: $186.00 IMAGE 4IMAGE 8
Listed Weight: 4.6 lbs (2.1 kg)
Measured Weight: 4.7 lbs (2.1 kg)
Capacity: 3,950 cu in (65 L); as noted on hang tag
Dimensions: 28.5 x 13 x 11.5 in (72 x 33 x 29 cm)
Material: 200D Nylon, 70D Nylon, 1280D Polyester
Sizes Available: Small-Medium, Medium-Large
Size Tested: Small-Medium
Colors Available: True Navy, Lime / Kelly Green, Carmine
Color Tested: True Navy
Torso Length: Adjustable

Backpack Features:
Open side pockets
Open front pocket
Drawstring main compartment
Internal organization
Hydration compatible: dedicated reservoir sleeve
Zippered accessory pocket
Padded waist belt
Padded shoulder straps with sternum strap
Tuck-away webbing grab handle
Reflective light blinker loop
Hidden helmet holder
Adaptable back panel system
Hidden rain cover

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

High Sierra's Karadon backpacks are brand new for 2016 and range in size from 5 to 65 L (305 to 3,967 cu in). They are described as technical backpacks and appear to be versatile and rugged for most types of outdoor activities. High Sierra describes them as being built for stability, comfort, and long-distance travel.

The Karadon 65 (hereafter called Karadon, backpack or just pack) has a number of features as noted above; in addition it has fully adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt, dual side-access main compartment zippers and a removable lid. Finally, the shoulder, lumbar and waist straps are removable so that they can easily be washed when dirty.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 5 My initial impression of the Karadon 65 backpack was very positive. At first glance the pack appeared well made with high quality workmanship throughout: there were no loose seams, frayed fabric, or suspect areas that would have caused me to be concerned. It also looked sharp with a navy and bright blue color scheme and the manufacturer's name and logo on the top lid. Although it's not the lightest weight pack at 4.7 lbs (2.1 kg), the Karadon 65 feels quite durable due to the types of materials used. Speaking of which, this pack is constructed of 200D and 70D Nylon, with a 1280D Polyester bottom. It also has an internal frame made of aluminum tubing to help stabilize the pack on rough terrain and transfer load weight to the hips for support. The shoulder straps, hip belt and lumbar area are fully padded to make long days on the trail more comfortable, something I will evaluate during Field Testing. The many zippers on this pack work well and they all have large pull cords which are some of the nicest I've seen in a long time. The Karadon has plenty of straps for doing everything from adjusting the shoulder harness and waist belt to cinching awkward pack loads. All in all, this pack exudes quality and makes a great first impression.

Largest among the many pockets of the Karadon 65 is its main compartment, which is accessible not only from the top but from both sides and the bottom. Having accessibility to the main compartment from so many directions is a wonderful thing in my opinion. I can't count the number of times I've had to pull everything out of my pack in order to find an item or piece of clothing I'd tucked in the main compartment a few days prior. A large backpack with top access only to the main compartment can feel like reaching into a black hole. Before I forget, the main compartment has (count them) two draw cords, one exterior and one interior, for doubly securing any items inside. I suspect the two draw cords are there to keep items firmly in place when the top lid is not being used. Below the main compartment is a dedicated 'sleep system' compartment with its own zippered entry from the front of the pack. This compartment is ideal for a sleeping bag or top quilt. An internal divider separates the main and bottom compartments, although it can easily be removed to create one large compartment. Directly beneath the bottom compartment is a pocket that houses the pack's rain cover. I love the fact that the rain cover has its own pocket and that it is physically attached to the pack via a strap so it can't be lost. And since this pocket is on the bottom of the pack, it provides an additional barrier to water that might otherwise soak the bottom compartment when the pack is sitting on wet ground.

Continuing on, directly in front of the main compartment is a 12 x 9 in (30 x 23 cm) front compartment, perfect for storing a rain jacket or other items that need to be readily accessible. On both sides of the pack are zippered pockets measuring 6 x 4 in (15 x 10 cm) and below these are water bottle pockets that are the perfect size for 32 oz (0.94 L) wide mouth Nalgene bottles. I like the fact that these pockets are 8 in (20 cm) deep making it less likely for a water bottle to fall out on the trail, something that happened to me before with a pack that had shallow water bottle pockets. IMAGE 6

Two more zippered storage pockets are located in the removable top lid. The first of these pockets is external and features a small plastic clip for securing car keys. The second pocket is internal to the top lid and is fairly flat, making it potentially good for map storage. And last but not least are two 3 x 6 in (8 x 15 cm) pockets located on either side of the waist belt. These are among my favorite pockets for storing small valuable items as the pockets are easily accessible yet secure in the fact that they are zippered. Unfortunately many packs do not have waist belt pockets so I'm happy to see them on the Karadon.

Other features of the backpack include an externally accessible hydration reservoir sleeve, side compression straps, a sternum strap, and various loops and straps on the front of the pack for securing trekking poles, a sleeping pad and various other items. Did I mention there were lots of straps on this backpack?

The pack I'm testing, size small-medium, is adjustable in torso length from 15 to 19 in (38 to 48 cm). The procedure for doing so involves raising or lowering the shoulder strap assembly and then securing it in place via a hook-and-loop tab integral to the shoulder straps. The system is fool proof in that the tab can only be inserted into one of five inverted pockets which are clearly marked and spaced one inch apart.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The High Sierra Karadon 65 came with three hang tags. Two of the tags stated quite simply 'detachable rain cover' and 'removable / hand washable padding' respectively. The third hand tag gave a brief introduction to High Sierra and Karadon backpacks, and then proceeded to list some details regarding the pack. Finally it explained the manufacturer's limited lifetime warranty.

Instructions for care and cleaning of the pack were included on the third hang tag as well as on a cloth tag located inside the pack and on the manufacturer's website. The instructions were as follows: Clean with damp cloth as necessary. Do not use detergent or bleach. Do not tumble dry. Do not iron. Remove wet items immediately.

TRYING IT OUT

IMAGE 7 My first task before putting on the Karadon was adjusting the shoulder strap assembly and waist belt to fit my torso. For reference my torso length is 19 in (48 cm) and my waist size is 32 in (81 cm). I took measurements per the instructions on High Sierra's website and then made the necessary adjustments. The assembly was easy to slide up and down although the inverted pockets that the tab needed to go into were understandably tight so the tab wouldn't come back out on its own.

After loading the Karadon with my sleeping bag, tent, clothing and other gear I tensioned the side compression straps and put on the pack. I found the waist belt to be supportive as it minimized the weight on my shoulders. Next I adjusted the shoulder straps and sternum strap to fit over my shoulders and across my chest. At this point, although I felt like the backpack was properly adjusted, the part of it that touched my shoulder blades and middle back was not particularly comfortable. The shoulder assembly and backpanel is very hard with no contour at all, which I think is the root of the issue. Having said that, I will continue to investigate further and try some additional adjustments before coming to a final conclusion.

SUMMARY

The High Sierra Karadon 65 is a well-designed backpack with plenty of storage compartments and room for essentials, however it wasn't very comfortable when I first tried it on. I am hoping some simple adjustments remedy that situation and I look forward to getting it on the trail for in-depth testing.




FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1 Since posting my Initial Report in September I took the High Sierra Karadon 65 on three more backpacking trips for a total of six nights and 38 mi (61 km) during this test period. Temperatures ranged from 40 to 74 F (4 to 23 C) and the weather was generally nice with only one day of rain during my outings. Elevations in the areas I hiked ranged from 530 to 790 ft (161 to 241 m).

My first trip of this test period was to the Hoosier National Forest where temperatures were a comfortable 74 F (23 C). While there I hiked approximately 15 mi (24km) across mostly hard packed trails with elevations ranging from 560 to 710 ft (161 to 241 m).

Location: Southern Indiana (IN)
Type of trip: Trail hiking
Distance: 15 mi (24 km)
Length of trip: Two nights
Backpack weight: 36 lb (16 kg)
Conditions: Partly to mostly cloudy
Precipitation: None
Temperature range: 58 to 74 F (14 to 23 C)

On my second trip I attempted to retrace my footsteps from a prior hike, traveling approximately 12 mi (19 km) across farmlands and through two small forests. My trek took me alongside a meandering creek which I crossed several times before finally arriving at camp. My pack was heavier this time around as I brought a 2/3 man tent in place of my hammock.

Location: Southeast Indiana (IN)
Type of trip: Off-trail hiking
Distance: 12 mi (19 km)
Length of trip: Two nights
Backpack weight: 38 lb (17 kg)
Conditions: Mild and sunny
Precipitation: None
Temperature range: 40 to 71 F (4 to 22 C)

I hiked approximately 11 mi (19 km) on this trip. The weather was cool and rainy on the first day but then cleared up allowing me to enjoy sunny skies and moderate temperatures on days two and three.

Location: Southeast Indiana (IN)
Type of trip: Off-trail hiking
Distance: 11 mi (18 km)
Length of trip: Two nights
Backpack weight: 35 lb (15 kg)
Conditions: Rainy the first day but nice afterwards
Precipitation: 0.4 in (1.0 cm)
Temperature range: 42 to 66 F (6 to 19 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Karadon 65 has performed very well so far. It has lots of nice features, plenty of storage space, and a rugged design. It's not the lightest pack nor the most comfortable but it's well balanced, stays in place, and does a good job of handling heavy loads, all of which are great qualities for a backpack.

The average weight of the Karadon 65 with all of my supplies was 36 pounds (16 kg). The list of items I carried included the following:

* Sleeping bag
* Tent with ground cloth or hammock with rainfly
* Camp mattress
* Camp stove and fuel canister
* Cooking pot
* Additional clothing
* Flashlight and headlamp
* Food & water
* Essential backpacking articles

Fit & Comfort: Although I was able to adjust the Karadon 65 so that it stayed firmly on my back, the pack wasn't as comfortable to wear as I hoped. It would help, at least for me, if the padding on the shoulder assembly was more contoured and less rigid. As for the hip belt, it fit fine and was comfortable with no pinching. It was easy to adjust the pack's fit via the shoulder straps, load lifters, sternum strap, and waist belt. The internal aluminum frame also did a good job of transferring the weight of the pack and supplies to my hips, minimizing strain on my shoulders and back. For the most part I was able to keep the pack tight to my back and grounded on my hips and this allowed it to move with my body, making it easier for me to scramble up and down hills without getting thrown off balance. Given the design of the pack, I think it could easily handle another 10 lb (4.5 kg) of gear without breaking a sweat.

The Karadon 65 was narrow enough that it did not impede my arm movements and I didn't have any issues with the pack catching on tree limbs or bushes while hiking through forests.

Storage space: The Karadon 65 was easy to pack and the internal divider between the main and bottom compartments allowed me to insert and remove my sleeping bag from the bottom compartment without everything else falling into that space. The lid pockets came in handy for storing snacks, maps, and sunglasses, and the front pocket was a great place to store my rain jacket. Once the inside of the Karadon was packed I used the side compression straps to cinch the pack so things wouldn't move around.

I had no problems getting all of my gear into the Karadon, but it was also easy to strap items to the outside of the pack. During my trip to Southeast IN, my 2/3 man tent and reflective solar pad were two items that I attached to the outside of the pack for convenience and the straps did a great job of securing them. I also used the exterior side pockets of the pack to carry my Nalgene bottles.

Durability: The Karadon held up well during Field Testing. It is well-made, with durable nylon construction, and had no problems on or off the trail. In fact, after two months of testing the fabric shows minimal wear and no snagging. The padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt are still in good shape and all of the seams on the pack remain tight with no loose threads. Finally, the zippers and buckles continue to work well.

Ventilation: The Karadon has enough ventilation and room for airflow that my back hasn't sweated so far while backpacking. The reason there seems to be plenty of airflow is because the padding on the shoulder harness and waist belt hold the pack an inch or so (2.5 cm) off my back.

Weather Resistance: One rainy weekend when I wasn't out camping I set the Karadon outside for 15 minutes to see if it would shed water. It did an okay job for the first 5 minutes but once the nylon fabric was saturated, water easily passed through to the inside compartments. Thankfully High Sierra includes a rain cover in the bottom compartment of the pack, and on my third trip of this test period I had the opportunity to use it. What I determined after hiking in light to moderate rain for over an hour was that the rain cover does a great job of shedding rain and all of the items in my pack stayed dry.

IMAGE 2IMAGE 3

SUMMARY

The Karadon 65 performed very well during the past two months of testing. The main storage compartment had plenty of room and the pack was able to handle heavy loads and multi-day trips. It was rugged, had ample storage space and plenty of room for my water bottles. Although not overly comfortable, once I got the pack adjusted it stayed put on my back and didn't move around as I scrambled up hills and over fallen trees.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I took the Karadon 65 on two backpacking trips during this test period, for a total of four days on the trail. Both were weekend trips, one being to the Hoosier National Forest and the other to Franklin County, Indiana (IN). Daytime temperatures were in the teens (-10 C) on my first trip and in the lower 30s F (-0.5 C) during my second outing, with mild to moderate winds both weekends. I hiked a total of 14 miles (23 km) during long term testing and carried approximately 39 lb (18 kg) of pack weight. The terrain was forested and quite hilly.

Trip 1:
Location: Hoosier National Forest, Indiana (IN)
Type of trip: Trail hiking
Distance: 8.5 mi (14 km)
Length of trip: Two nights
Backpack weight: 39 lb (18 kg)
Conditions: Cloudy and cold with snow showers
Precipitation: 3 in (7.6 cm)
Daytime temperature: 14 F (- 10 C)

Trip 2:
Location: Southeast Indiana (IN)
Type of trip: Off-trail hiking
Distance: 5.5 mi (9 km)
Length of trip: Two nights
Backpack weight: 39 lb (18 kg)
Conditions: Clear and cold with gusty winds
Precipitation: None
Daytime temperature: 31 F (-0.5 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

In general, I was really pleased with the performance of the Karadon 65. I found it to be well made and well balanced with plenty of room inside for me to carry all of my gear.

During this test period I had no problems carrying almost 40 lbs (18 kg) of gear. As the weather got colder and I switched from my hammock to a tent, the Karadon made it very easy for me to secure the tent and my sleeping pad to the outside of the pack. The waist belt and aluminum frame performed extremely well in this regard, supporting the bulk of the weight as I hiked up and down steep hills and along ridgelines. I felt no tender spots or pressure points on my hips during or after hiking but, similar to my earlier experiences, the back pads weren't very comfortable. Since I was wearing additional layers to stay warm, the insulation in my jacket helped minimize any discomfort while hiking so that the stiff back pad was more a minor annoyance than anything else.

Although I wasn't able to go on any extended trips with this pack due to lack of time, I think I could have easily packed five days' worth of supplies in the Karadon as it has plenty of space and is quite capable of carrying heavy loads. The main storage compartment was a breeze to access from any direction and I had no problems working the zipper pulls while wearing gloves.

The dual side pockets securely held my 1 Liter (33 oz) Nalgene water bottles while the straps did a great job cinching my pack and also provided plenty of options for attaching things externally. I found the other pockets useful for stashing smaller items or items I needed quick access to, so that they weren't in the main compartment with everything else.

Similar to my Field Testing results, the Karadon 65 performed very well during Long Term Testing in terms of durability. The pack endured tough conditions but the fabric has no significant wear and the zippers, buckles and stitching remain in great shape. The bottom and sides of the pack have a few mud stains and scuff marks from trail use, but other than that the pack is in great shape.

My only suggestions to the manufacturer would be to shorten the waist straps, which were easily 2 ft (0.6 m) too long on each side, and make the pack belt so that it can accommodate smaller waists. It would also be nice if one of the waist pockets was a little bigger so I could keep my cell phone in it. These are all minor things which goes to show how good this pack really is.

Pros
Rugged design with heavy duty fabric and zippers
Dual suspension system helps carry heavy loads
There is plenty of space in the main compartment
The lower compartment works great for storing a sleeping bag
Zippered waist belt pockets
Plenty of straps to cinch things down and to tie additional things to the pack

Cons
Not the most comfortable pack for me

SUMMARY

The Karadon 65 proved to be rugged and well designed with plenty of easy-access storage and a really nice integrated rain cover. It's not the lightest weight backpack in its class but its innovative features and ability to handle heavy pack loads more than makes up for the additional weight. Although it wasn't the most comfortable backpack for me, I was able to wear it without any adverse effects (rubbing, pinching etc) and will continue to take it on multi-day trips that require heavy pack loads.

This concludes my report on the Karadon 65 backpack. Thanks to High Sierra for providing this pack for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
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