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

High Sierra Karadon 65 L Backpack

Test Report by Joe Schaffer

INITIAL REPORT - August 24, 2016
FIELD REPORT - November 24, 2016
LONG TERM REPORT - January 20, 2017

REVIEWER INFORMATION:
NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 68
GENDER: Male
HEIGHT: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
TORSO: 18 in (46 cm)
HIP: 36 in (91 cm)
HOME:  Bay Area, California USA

     I started backpacking when I was 11. I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year; about 30 solo. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.

INITIAL REPORT

pack frontProduct: Karadon 65 Liter Men's Backpack

Manufacturer:  High Sierra Sport Company, Inc.
    Website: www.highsierra.com
    Measures:
        Weight: 4.6 lb (2.1 kg)
        Dimensions: 28 1/2 x 11 1/2 x 13 in (72 x 29 x 33 cm)
   
Description: (from mfr. website)
    • 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
    • Female specific offering
    • Hidden rain cover

Available Colors:
    True Navy (received)
    Lime/Kelly Greenpack back
    Carmine

My Specs:  Men's Large
   Weight: 4 lb 5 oz total (1.96 kg)
    Included, removable lid: 4 oz (113 g)
    Included, removable rain cover: 2 7/8 oz (82 g) 

MSRP: $186.99 US

Received: August 19, 2016

Product Description:
    The Karadon model 65 L is an internal frame backpack with the (so far as I know) unique feature of removable harness elements that can be hand washed.
    Lid: The 3-point attachment lid can be removed, though it does not have waist straps. The top side zipper opens a pocket about equal to the top dimension of about 10 x 8 x 2 in (25 x 20 x 5 cm), stretching open to as much as about 6 in (15 cm); for an approximate volume of 160 ci (2.6 L). This compartment has a snap hook on a webbing anchor. The bottom side has a zippered access to a thin compartment such as might be used for map storage.
    Bag: Fully extended the bag is about 29 in (74 cm) deep. The bottom of the bag is about 10 in wide by 6 1/2 in (25 x 16 cm); increasing to about 11 in wide by 8 in (28 x 20 cm) at the top.
    The bag top has a cord lock, red 3 mm drawstring extender about 4.5 in (11 cm)  high, though it is sewn in 2 1/4 in (6 cm) down from the top. The top of the bag also has a red 3 mm drawstring closure with a cord lock. The side-buckle for the lid is sewn into the extender/bag seam in the front center.
    The bag front features an external pocket about 13 1/2 x 10 x 1 1/2 in (34 x 25 x 4 cm), which can pouch out to perhaps as much as 4 in (10 cm); providing roughly 200 ci (3.3 L) of storage. The pocket has zippered access on each side. The top compression strap anchors from about the center of the pocket, sewn inside an envelope to be separate from the inside of the pocket. Near the top of this pocket at each side are anchored 2 mm stretch loops with a cord lock each to stabilize the top of an ice ax or trekking pole. The anchor point for each loop is 3/8 in (10 mm) webbing. About a foot (30 cm) below each stretch loop is 5/8 in (16 mm) webbing sewn in as a loop of about 3 1/4 in (8 cm) to hold the head of an ice ax or trekking pole. removable hand wash parts
    The bag bottom has separate access provided by a zipper arc rising to about 6 in (15 cm). The bottom seam anchors 3/4 in (2 cm) webbing straps about 5 1/2 in (14 cm) apart and 14 1/2 in (37 cm) long, with male-end side lock buckles mating with female ends webbing-anchored in at the front corner of the bag, above the bottom zipper.
    Both bag sides have a side and top water resistant zipper access pocket about 5 in high by 4 1/2 in and 1 1/4 in deep (13 x 11 x 3 cm) providing about 27 ci (0.4 L) of storage on each side or about 54 ci (0.8 L) for both sides. These pockets are located about 3 1/2 in (9 cm) from the main top of the bag, just below the top compression strap. The bottom  of each side has an open-top pocket about 5 3/4 in (15 cm) wide; about 7 1/2 in (19 cm) deep on the inboard edge and 7 in (18 cm) on the outboard; with both the top and bottom edges on a steep angle rising about 3 in (8 cm) from inboard to outboard. The 3 in (8 cm) vertical center of the pocket is heavy nylon faced inside with a 2nd layer of heavy gray nylon. These pockets should each accommodate a 1 liter water bottle.
    The outboard front corners each have a 14 in (36 cm) zipper access to the bag's inside.
    The bag outside bottom stows a yellow removable rain cover, accessed by zipper with a yellow pull.
    The bag inside near-bottom holds a non-removable "shelf" about 11 in (23 cm) wide by 10 in (25 cm) deep, supported by adjustable webbing straps at each corner.
    The bag back starts with a flat port about 1 in (2.5 cm) across the top, concealing the anchor points of a grip handle. The handle is webbing, threaded through a thick plastic tube for the hand grip. The anchor point for the load lifter straps is sewn into the flat port, with a reinforcing tab.The center of the back panel has a column of 5 tight webbing bands about 1 x 2 in (2.5 x 5 cm) for shoulder harness torso length adjustment, each band indicating almost invisibly the numerical adjustment point from 18 at the lowest band to 22 at the top band. Two metal rods about 1/4 in x 21 in (6 mm x 53 cm) run the length of the inboard corners, converging toward the center of the hip belt. The entire back is reinforced with a somewhat inflexible frame sheet. The top of the rods and sheet are held in place by the tightness of the flat port.
    The bag water port is a separate pocket attached to the back of the bag's inside, meaning against the frame sheet. The port is the full width of the frame sheet, about 11 in (28 cm) by about 15 in (38 cm) deep. It appears sufficiently large to hold a 3 L bladder. The top of the port is partially covered by a triangular flap, the point anchoring the female end of the bag's top compression strap. There is also a snap hook to support the bladder if it has an accommodating hole or loop. 
    Shoulder Harness: The shoulder straps feature a removable layer for hand washing. The layer attaches to the central part of the shoulder harness and the lower part of each strap by hook and loop material; with two 3/8 in (10 mm) blue webbing loops on each strap stabilizing the insert further, one at the shoulder crest and one near the bottom. The straps conjoin at the top in a panel about 10 in (25 cm) wide by 7 in (18 cm) high, with the upper part of this panel cut out between the straps. The 9/16 in (14 mm) blue webbing chest strap integrates a 2 in (5 cm) elastic loop of blue 9/16 (14 mm) stretch webbing, sewn onto the chest strap and shoulder strap anchor point; constrained by looping 3 3/4 in (9.5 cm) to the 2 in (5 cm) length of stretch webbing. The chest strap slides up and down on the shoulder straps for vertical adjustment. The shoulder harness adjusts vertically in 1 in (2.5 cm) increments from 18 to 22 in (46 to 56 cm) by threading a hook and loop tab under the desired band. Load lifter straps of 9/16 in (14 mm) blue webbing anchor into the shoulder strap about 1/3 of the way down the strap and buckle into the frame about 1 in (1.5 cm) below the frame top. There is no adjustment facility for the load lifter anchor location on the shoulder strap.
    Hip Belt: The belt is two layers of fabric, one of which is removable for hand cleaning. Each side of the removable layer extends about 11 in (28 cm) from the lumbar pad, measuring about 4 3/4 in (12 cm) wide at the pad and tapering to about 3 3/4 in (10 cm) just before terminating in an arc. The layer is held in place with hook and loop patches at about the middle of the belt and under the lumbar pad.
    The outer element of the hip belt is also about 4 3/4 in (12) wide at the lumbar pad, extending about 8 in (20 cm) in a taper to 4 in (10 cm) wide just before terminating in an arc. This part of the belt on each side includes a sewn-on pocket with zipper; and an open pocket. This part of the belt has an adjustable stabilizing strap of 9/16 in blue webbing. The adjustable part of the belt is blue 1 1/2 in (4 cm) webbing about 39 in (1 m) in total length on each side. The belt webbing is two-way anchored to the stiffener part of the non-removable belt section. The end is anchored into the belt at about the edge of the pocket. The webbing proceeds 4 in (10 cm) through a 3/8 in (10 mm) flat loop on the end of the belt. Released from being on me, the webbing then extends about 5 in (13 cm) to a side buckle, threads the buckle and returns through the flat loop to a slip buckle anchored at the edge of the pocket. The webbing continues through the slip buckle, again through the flat webbing, and then hangs about 16 in (40 cm). Tightening the belt thus requires the webbing to slip through two buckles, the webbing being pulled forward away from the wearer. Each side is the same, with a side clip buckle connecting them.
    Lumbar Pad: This pad at the center of the hip belt is slightly tapered, from about 7 in (18 cm) to 6 1/4 in (16 cm), with particularly rounded corners on the top edge. The pad has a V-channel about 1/4 in (6 mm) deep running the length of the pad, from about 2 1/2 in (6 cm) wide at the top to about 1 in (2.5 cm) at the bottom. Each side of the channel has a pad about 2 1/2 in (6 cm) wide running the length of the pad, about 1 1/4 in (3 cm) thick, with beveled edges. The pad attaches to the hip belt with hook and loop and can be removed for hand cleaning.
    Colors: Most of the bag outside is navy; inside has about 1/3 silver. The webbing and zipper pulls are all a lighter blue with the exception of the yellow rain cover zipper pull. The removable elements of the harness are turquoise.
   
Impressions:
    a) Website presentation. The key metric of torso length to pack size seems to be missing. I eventually found an excellent page on how to fit other models. I also would care to know if both pack sizes (or even all four) are in fact the same weight as indicated by comparing descriptions and if they are the same actual volume. A call to customer service did not glean any additional information. I guessed at what size to request.

   Perhaps I should have understood that "adaptable back panel system" is marketing speak for adjustable torso length. I tend to look for numbers that put meaning to words.

    How to make the torso adjustment was not evident to me. I read one of the other tester reports to get enlightened, overcoming my natural inclination not to pull on something until it gives. The tab that slips under the adjustment band is in there pretty tight, and I wouldn't expect it to give way even if the hook and loop holding it gets dirty.

    I'm thrilled to test this pack, but any of the three colors would have me not reaching for it. I might be persuaded by the option to wash the harness were that option readily apparent. I don't find website product description promoting the feature; yet the man's 65 L description does indicate 'female specific offering'. Given my impression of colors, I would interpret that to mean this product will cause my buddies to ask if it has a pantyhose pocket.

    My arithmetic for (presumably) the external dimensions given yields a factor of 67 liters, so a claim of 65 liters volume would seem plausible. I don't find any reference regarding whether that does or doesn't include pockets, lid and extender; and my arithmetic isn't good enough to figure it out.

    b) General functionality rating: Very high. The pack has all the right features. It appears to be quite sturdy and well made, with what seems to me undue consideration to little matters like covering the ends of webbing anchor points.
   
    c) Weight: I think for this volume and all its features, the bag is not unduly heavy.

    d) Fit and feel: Perhaps this should wait until the bag's been through several days on the trail. No evident issues at this time.

    e) Load comfort: The hip belt is not very stiff. The frame sheet is, and with the rods I'd expect the weight to transfer to the hip belt nicely.

    f) Pockets and zippers:  I tend to be cautious of pockets that lack closure. There are a lot more zippers than I would prefer, but they all work fine and I like the pulls. I probably wouldn't have the side zippers and the bottom zipper and the "shelf" above the bottom zipper. I'd like the side top pockets a little longer.
   
    g) Compression and buckles: I think the bag has exactly the right amount of compression straps: 1 on top, 2 on each side and 2 on the bottom. I question the placement of the bottom straps, especially at the bottom end. They might be too close together to keep balanced a heavy bundle like a tent. Buckles all work smoothly. I don't know why the bag has essentially two tops and closures. The "second" top would often be an extender, but it's way too short for that.

    h) Durability: The bag seems built to last, with heavy materials and reinforcing materials at stress points. I'm certainly impressed at this point.

    i) Convenience features:
            1) It's hard not to like the stowed rain cover, but I probably wouldn't go to all the trouble to put it in a separate zippered pocket. It is handy down there, and it does make sense to have a removable webbing strap holding it in place when deployed.
            2) I like belt pockets and look forward to seeing if I can pluck a food bar or gel pack from them on the trail. I'm not sure what I would trust to put in the open pockets on the belt or bag.
            3) I don't see the point of having water bottle pockets and a bladder sleeve. If I carried the typical 1 L bottles, I might like having 5 L capacity built in.
            4) Hand washing harness elements. On my first try it took me 5" to get the parts off the pack, and 8" to get them back on. It's not hard to figure out; I wouldn't have read directions had there been any. Given the overhead for this feature, and that the parts need to be hand washed anyway, I wonder how much incremental value this feature actually adds. If I could buy these parts when I've worn out the originals, that might add value. At the moment I'm seeing it more as a marketing pitch (were it actually pitched) to find a way to be different.
    The hidden helmet holder is so far eluding my efforts to find it, as is the reflective light blinker loop.
    If there's anything the designers forgot, it might be a shoulder harness clip for the bladder hose. (Wouldn't want it!) So if I have any criticism, it would be too much attention to every detail and possible user want. I see many ways to make this pack lighter, which would be more of a priority for me than making it as universally convenient and pretty. 
   
FIELD REPORT
Field conditions:
    Aug 30 - Sep 6: Yosemite Wilderness. 8 days, 5 camps. 17 mi (27 km) trail, 8 mi (13 km) XC,  22 hrs. Lv wt 43 lb (19.5 kg) Ret.wt. 35 lb (16 kg) 5,900-7,800 ft (1,800-2,400 m). Hot and dry.
    Sep 12 - 20: Dinkey Lakes Wilderness, CA. 8 days, 7 camps.  15 mi (24 km) trail, 6 mi (10 km) XC, 19 hrs. Lv wt 39 lb (18 kg) Ret. wt 34 lb (15 kg) 8,000 - 10,000 ft (2,400 - 3,000 m). Hot and dry hiking.
    Sep 25-29: Eagles Nest Wilderness, Colorado. 5 days, 4 camps. 20 mi (32 k) trail;  15 hours. Lv wt 44 lb (20 kg) Ret. wt 37 lb (17 kg) 9,200 - 11,800 ft (2,800 - 3,600 m). 40 - 60 F (4 - 16 C).
    Nov 1-7: Emigrant Wilderness, CA. 6 days, 3 camps.  4 1/2 mi (7 km) XC & 10 mi (16 km) trail; 11 hours. Lv wt 43 lb (19 kg) Ret. wt 35 lb (16 kg) 7,100 - 7,680 ft (2,165 - 2.340 m). 40 - 60 F (4 - 16 C).

Test totals to date:
    Backpacking miles:  80 (129 km)
    Wearing hours:  67
    Average load:  about 38 lb (17 kg)

Impressions:
    For a pack this size I think 80% of the comment weight should bear on how good a job it does carrying a max load. I think the Karadon performs satisfactorily in this regard. It would do better with a few design adjustments. I think the pack is as well made in construction and materials as any I've ever used. This pack has every feature I can think of, but doesn't deliver maximum benefit from many of them.
   
    Load lifters: They pull the weight closer, where it otherwise seems to want to tilt backwards; and stabilize the top. The anchor to the shoulder strap is several inches (8 cm) too high up and with the pack anchors on the low side, there is no angle at all to effect weight transfer. The straps are too narrow, making it a little more difficult to gain purchase. More importantly, the narrow webbing in the narrow buckles doesn't stay put as well as wider webbing would.

    Shoulder straps: Quite comfortable. They are set a little wide for me. Being anchored into the center of the pack makes the load lifters all the more important to keep the top stable. I measure my torso at 18 in (45.7 cm), but matching that slot adjusts the harness too small for me. On subsequent trips I raised the harness two notches to 20 in (51 cm) and that works better.

    Chest strap: It does a very good job of pulling and holding the shoulder straps in place, and without maxing out the elastic constraint, which when the test is over I'll remove. The strap did not migrate up or down the adjustment track. The track being situated quite near the center of the shoulder strap, tension on it tends to pull the outer edge of the shoulder strap away from the body. The result is less body contact with the shoulder strap, meaning a greater concentration of pressure. I wouldn't say it's a big deal, but it seems unnecessary.

    Hip belt: I find it quite comfortable, exacting in placement and fit for me. It might be even more comfortable if the belt were beefier, such that it could hang the weight on the hip bones with less tension on the belt. I don't like the friction buckle-loop-ring forward pull, which in my view adds a lot of stuff for no practical benefit. Run the belt webbing out to a buckle and leave enough to pull on. I may do that after the test and eliminate about 6 feet (2 m) of webbing and a couple of buckles and rings. The "double-pull" system may make sense on narrower webbing meant to pull the belt's top edge and bottom edge separately, but that is not the case here.

    Lumbar pad: Initially this pad felt unduly firm, but I quickly came to like it. It's the right thickness for me and the right size and place. I don't know whether the V channel helped keep things cooler, but I suspect it might have. This pad might work even better with a traction material facing, and then with improved load lifters and a more muscular hip belt, belt tension could be lessened for more comfort.

    Frame sheet: I didn't feel pinched anywhere. The upper back padding from the shoulder harness attaching panel does a good job of softening the top where shoulder blades protrude. The brute stiffness of the frame sheet completely isolated my back from any protrusions in the pack which might otherwise have poked through. The fatness of the lumbar pad and shoulder harness attachment create a lot of space and I felt air through it, which on a hot day is a nice thing. The bend from the shoulders up does not follow my shape, which in concert with all that air space may be the source of the bag's wanting to tilt back without a full pull on the load lifters.

    Pockets: With the pack full, the side pockets won't hold much, especially the bottom ones. I stowed my tent under the compression straps on one side, and sleeping pad on the other, with all pockets filled with about as much (little?) stuff as they hold. The lower pocket held an ankle brace and 15 ft (5 m) of para cord on one side, and I was able to squeeze in 4 tent pegs, a couple guy lines and 6 sq ft (0.5 sq m) of polyethlene sheet in the other lower pocket. I'd thought these lower pockets would hold 1 L water bottles, but evidently they're made for something flat and thin. I'd think they either need to be "pouchier" and with an elastic top hem or left off. The upper zipper pockets need to be at least an inch (2.5 cm) deeper to earn their keep. For me, the ideal pocket will stow a 22 oz (0.7 L) insulated mug with the bag stuffed--then they are big enough to be useful.
   
    The front pocket held my wool shirt, GPS and head lamp. I like the size, shape and placement, but find two zippers redundant.
   
    The lid took my map, toiletries, and water bag/filter. I like the snap hook, but I'd place it farther inside where it wouldn't be routinely in the way of the zipper. I'm also partial to stowing my car key on this hook until the last day, and I just get anxious when that thing hangs out in the open. I suppose the bottom side of the lid having a separate pocket and zipper is not a terrible idea, but it offends my sense of wanting to be a tare miser. I like how easily the lid removes and replaces, quickly getting attached to the tactic of stuffing it with stuff that goes in the tent in one tidy pouch.

    I didn't use the bladder pocket. Yosemite requires a bear can, and an 8-day trip for me requires a big one. There's no room for it and a bladder. I suppose there may be a feeling of some security in having a bladder envelope, but as a careful packer I see it as a useless feature.

    The belt pockets are perfectly executed. It's hard for me to access them with the pack on, but they are super spots for sticking little stuff that I'd otherwise have to hunt for all the time. I'm especially thinking of the quarter I carry to turn the screws on my bear can; a gel pack or two; and on the last day, my car key. The zippered pocket each side also has a "slip" pocket each side. I wouldn't want to put anything in these pockets that might be of consequence.

    Bag: I haven't figured out the reason for two cord closures at the top of the bag. I dropped the bottom "shelf" to the bottom and top-loaded clothes, 900 ci (15 L) bear can, air mattress, first aid & emergency, 50 sq ft (4.6 sq m) polyethlene sheet, camp shoes, coffee pot, mug, sleeping bag and pad for the first outing; and switched to a larger sleeping pad in subsequent outings that I put under the webbing straps outside. I also attached a gallon (3.8 L) jug, 2 L soda bottle and a sling chair; and strung my 1 L trail bottle from the shoulder strap.

    Buckles, zippers and loops: The side release buckles are too small for my fingers, and with the female end either fastened down to the fabric or anchored to a too-short webbing, I'd suggest a re-think on these. I see no value in two zippers on the front pocket or the side zippers on the bag. The bottom access zipper opens too small to be of much use even if I liked having a bottom access. I like the elastic loops on the top end as they work really slick to secure the top of my chair frame. As they are not in any way fastened to the pack, I have grave concerns about my ability to keep them. I could not use this small of a bag for a mountain overnight, and it's too heavy for a day bag, so I don't have use for the ice ax head loops at the bottom. They either don't work or I don't know how to make them work for trekking poles.

    Rain cover: It doesn't rain in California anymore (and didn't in Colorado), so I never deployed it. After the test I may remove it. The stow pocket is a cute idea, but seems to me a heavy and production-costly manner of under simplification.

    Removable parts: I feel compelled to quibble over the value of being able to remove these "liners". Since they require hand washing, I'm already 13 minutes into the job with removal and replacement before accounting any washing time. I doubt if the parts are replaceable, though it seems they easily could be if all six models used the same size and color with a single SKU for the set. I'm thinking the most valuable benefit of removing the parts is making it easier to dye them a different color.
  
    Yes or no?: Definitely yes. I am pretty happy with this pack for week-long outings. I could like it even more for shorter outings. My rants relate to lesser concerns and develop from frustration that the core design is really on track, hampered needlessly by execution seeming to pander to marketing features rather than delivering practical benefit from them.

LONG TERM REPORT


Field Conditions:
    Nov 31-Dec 3: Gooseberry Trail, Stanislaus NF, CA. Backpacking 30 lb (14 kg) tugging a 40 lb (18 kg) sled 3 mi (5 km) snowshoes on trail; 40-20 F (4 to -7  C).
    Dec 30-Jan 2: Gooseberry Trail, Stanislaus NF, CA. Backpacking 30 lb (14 kg) tugging a 40 lb (18 kg) sled 3 mi (5 km) crampons on trail; 40-20 F (4 to -7  C).

Test totals to date:
    Backpacking miles:  86 (138 km)
    Wearing hours:  72
    Average load:  about 38 lb (17 kg)

Impressions:
    The little I got out in the last two months of the reporting period yields no findings contrary to those reported previously. Tugging the sled makes for good work on snowshoes or crampons and I found the Karadon 65 a perfectly agreeable companion. The trips were short and loads light as I packed bulky stuff on the sled. I felt very comfortable and rate the pack highly in this regard. It did not pinch, shift around or in any way restrict movement. Sweat-wet belt and straps dry quickly even in cold, though did benefit from placement in sun. I didn't lay it long in snow but had no dampness inside from when I did. I never had occasion otherwise in this test to evaluate the bag's water resistance. It continues to show no sign of wear or deterioration; no broken zips or buckles. The removable parts are beginning to show some signs of getting dirty; I'm of a mind to think this has increased the aesthetics.

Quick shots:
    a) comfortable
    b) well made
    c) design exceeds execution
   
Thank you High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this pack. This report concludes my test.



Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Karadon 65L Backpack > Test Report by joe schaffer



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