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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Long Trail 90 > Test Report by Jamie Lawrence

High Sierra Long Trail 90 Litre Pack

Test Series by Jamie Lawrence

Initial Report - 22nd October 2008

Field Report - 6th January 2009

Long-Term Report - 1st March 2009

Tester Information

Name:

Jamie Lawrence

Email:

jlawrence@publictrustee.tas.gov.au

Age:

27

Location:

Hobart, Tasmania AUSTRALIA

Gender:

Male

Height:

1.70 m (5' 7")

Weight:

70 kg (154 lbs)

 

I was introduced to backpacking/tramping/hiking as a young child in Boy Scouts and through my school physical/adventure education. After leaving school, I mainly did short daywalks until recently when I started to re-walk some of Tasmania's key routes and try others I was yet to attempt. I mainly walk in the winter months, in Tasmania's central highlands area. I prefer light gear, extended walks (3-5 days) in a group of 3 or shorter walks (1-3 days) walking solo. I would generally carry a base weight pack of around 8 kg - 10 kg (17 lbs - 22 lbs).


Initial Report

22nd October 2008

Product Information & Specification

Long Trail Pack

Manufacturer:

High Sierra Sports Company

Year of Manufacture:

2008

Manufacturer's Website:

http://www.highsierrasport.com

MSRP:

US$260

Listed Weight:

2.72 kg (6 lbs)

Measured Weight:

2.78 kg (6.1 lbs)

Capacity:

90 Litres (5,500 in3)

 

High Sierra describe this pack by saying the Long Trail 90 gives you a remarkable 90 liters of main-compartment space along with a host of technically advanced and handy extras, like top, bottom and front access points, adjustable top lid, soft lashing hardware and a hydration-ready design. It is clear that this is a large pack, enormous in fact. When I first received the pack I opened the lid and actually couldn't see the bottom! The body of the pack is separated by an internal divider giving a main compartment and a sleeping bag compartment. This divide can be removed by an internal zipper. This main compartment can be accessed either by the top lid, the front zipper access point or the sleeping bag compartment. The pack also features 2 large side pockets which hold a 1 litre wide-mouth bottle as well as a large front pocket which is also the front access to the main compartment. There are other handy features such as a tuck-away rain cover, internal hydration reservoir for a hydration bladder, a detachable media pocket (for a GPS or iPod), multiple compression straps and built in webbing daisy chain with attachments to hold trekking poles or ice axes. The pack is constructed with grid weave duralite fabric which feels highly synthetic.

There are a couple of interesting notes I discovered from the swing tag vs the manufacturer's site. Firstly, the site lists the MSRP as US$260 but the swing tag has a barcode that states US$215. Also the weight is listed on the site as 6 lbs but the swing tag on the pack lists 6.1 lbs.


Trying out the Long Trail Pack

The pack arrived with a large colour swing tag attached to the front pocket. Whilst this gave plenty of information about the key features of the pack, it failed to actually give any instructions regarding the use of the features or how to adjust the Ergo-Fit harness system. I promptly removed and discarded this tag as I saw no benefit toProfile with pack retaining it.

Apart from the size, my first thought was that this is a very busy pack with all the straps and pockets. My other packs are usually very simple. The largest of my packs is 75 litres and has a single main compartment and a small front pocket with a lid. I have favoured this simple design in the past due to the ease of maintenance and the reduced risk of snagging on scrub or bush when walking.  I found that the only way I could make sense of the Long Trail Pack was to fill it with light bulky items to fill it out and give the pack some shape. I thought this would be easy, until the pack swallowed a couple of pillows, a sleeping bag and a cushion! Once I had done this, I started to realise just how big this pack is.

After the pack had some content and some shape it was much easier to fit it to my back. The Ergo-Fit harness system as it arrived did not fit my frame. I had to make considerable adjustments. It quickly became obvious that I may be at the lower limit of size for this pack as I had to adjust the waist belt to its minimum setting as well as adjust the shoulder straps down lower. Given the size of this pack, and therefore the weight it could potentially carry, I felt the shoulder straps were a bit thin and lacked padding. Despite this, they are constructed VEPEL mesh and the AIRFLOW high-density foam does feel secure and strong. However I do not like the Ergo-Fit system. The system is simply a large strip of webbing that attaches to multiple smaller webbing loops on the pack and is secured by hook & loop closure. It feels very loose and unstable to me. I will be interested to see how this harness system performs over time. The second component of the harness system is the very large waist belt. Like the body of the pack, this belt is very large. So large that I had genuinely doubted it would fit me as I may be too small. At this point I have been able to adjust the waist belt to make it fit but I am not confident of the comfort under a load. Unfortunately, I have had to pull the webbing strap in on the waist belt as far as I can. This resulted in excess webbing down past me knees. I have tucked this into the other straps to avoid tripping on it. Even at a a wider setting, there appears to be a lot of webbing for the waist strap, far more than I would ever need. Again this waist belt is constructed from the same VEPEL mesh and AIRFLOW high density foam, and again I feel it is a little too thin.

Once the harness was adjusted I was able to fit the pack to my back and was surprised by the fit. It felt secure but sloppy at the same time. I immediately noticed how thin the back of the back panel is and I worried about how to pack items in the main compartment to avoid uncomfortable protrusions into my back. This back panel appears to feature the same AIRFLOW foam with channels to allow air to circulate. I have not adjusted the 2 internal aluminium frame bars but may do to see if this assists the fit. Due to the length of this pack, the lid was very high, well past my head. This did not affect my vision but I did notice my head hit the lid if I tilted my head right back. I doubt I would need to do this when walking unless I am climbing something very steep. I was concerned that it may affect the comfort of wearing a wide brimmed hat but I am yet to test this.

There are 2 issues that I have already noticed with this pack. I find that the zippers are a little hard to use, particularly on the front access pocket and the sleeping bag compartment. Both these zippers feature a weather cover, with the front pocket having elastic in it. It is these weather covers that impeded me from freely moving the zippers. One one occasion the zipper actually jammed and I had to slide it back and forward to free it. There are many other zippers in the pack and all slide freely, have ample tabs to pull on and feel secure. The other issue is the webbing and buckles/sliders. They appear to grate and grip when under load, which makes it hard to adjust load bearing items like the shoulder straps or compression straps. The buckles feel strong and click together securely. I will monitor both of these issues over the testing period.

Testing Strategy

As the swing tag attached to the pack when it arrives states this pack is designed to hold gear and supplies for multi-day hiking or climbing. I cannot see how this pack would be suitable for shorter day or overnight walks so I plan to test it on my upcoming walks over the next few months. These walks will be over terrain ranging from high alpine mountainous environments to coastal beach walks. I will look to test just how capable the Long Trail Pack is at carrying a large and heavy load whilst being comfortable.

Summary

Generally I am quite happy with the Long Trail Pack. Based on the very few items I have packed in it, there is no doubt it can hold a lot of gear. Whilst this pack may be able to hold a lot, I am interested to see just how comfortable it will be with a heavy load. Whilst I was disappointed with the issues identified with the zippers and the webbing, overall this pack appears to be very well built and constructed of high quality materials.

This concludes my Initial Report of the High Sierra Long Trail 90 Litre Pack. Please check back in January for the results of my field testing. My thanks to High Sierra Sports Company and backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this mammoth pack.


Field Report

6th January 2009

Field Information & Locations

I have used the High Sierra Long Trail Pack on several trips to date. The most recent of these trips was a summit of Barn Bluff in Cradle Mountain National Park. During this trip elevations were between 928 m (3,044 ft) and 1,559 m (5,114 ft) above sea level. Weather conditions ranged between warm and sunny to cold with strong wind and rain.

Barn Bluff

Barn Bluff - Cradle Mountain NP

Performance in the Field

I have found that the Long Trail pack is suited to hold gear and supplies for multi-day hiking or climbing, as claimed by the manufacturer. The first major point that impressed me in the field with this pack is just how much gear this pack can hold. The main compartment is separated by an internal divider. I have found this is the easiest way to control this large compartment. I can easily pack my sleeping bag and matt, rain jacket or rain pants in the smaller base compartment. I have also packed a tent in this compartment as it is accessible from the front of the pack by a large zipper. This was very handy as I could easily access my tent in poor weather and set it up without having to open the main compartment and expose it to water.

FR2

I have also found it handy to use the lower compartment straps to secure a tent if the weather is fine. I have also used these straps to hold wet clothing on my pack so that it can dry whilst I am walking. In the image to the left I climbing Hanson's Peak with my tent and pants strapped to my pack. Over this steep and rough terrain the pack felt secure and despite having my tent strapped to the base, I did not feel this effected my balance.

 

During bad weather I was very impressed by how well the built-in rain cover kept the pack dry. I have only used this rain cover twice to date and it worked as expected. In one such case I left my pack under a tree on an open exposed ridge whilst I continued on a side track for several hours. During the time I was away there was significant rain and wind. It was a welcome sight to return to my pack to discover the pack cover had remained in place and that it had protected my pack from rain, which was clearly beading on the cover. 

The other handy feature of this cover is the size. FR3As can be seen in the picture to the right, the pack cover is significantly larger than the pack. This allowed me to completely cover the entire pack and tuck the excess under the pack preventing any water seeping in from the wet ground. I am undecided about the benefit of the bright orange colour. Whilst this is handy in the dark to find my pack, particularly with the reflective High Sierra text, it is also nearly impossible to hide my pack if I am wanting to keep other walkers unaware of its location in areas where this might be beneficial for the safety and security of my gear. Given it is designed to keep weather out and not disguise the pack, it is working as expected. It appears that this cover is coated with a DWR coating. I will continue to monitor the performance of this cover as it has ongoing wear and tear in the field.

The largest issue I have had in the field is the fit of the harness system, in particular the waist belt. This is a large pack, and is expected to carry large and heavy loads. Even with a modest load, far from capacity of the pack, I have found that the shoulder straps really feel thin and I get sore shoulders and collar bones. I have tried several times to adjust the harness to get a more comfortable fit but it still eludes me. This is only really a problem for extended periods wearing the pack. I have really only noticed this after many hours without an extended break. 

The major concern I have had is the waist belt. My Initial Report stated I was able to get the waist belt to fit but was not confident of how it would perform under load. This has proven to be the case. Given the large size of this belt, I have to draw in the belt the smallest I can make it. This effectively means that the entire belt is around my waist, with vast amounts of excess webbing. Due to the extremely wide design of the belt, being some 15 cm (5.9 in) wide, and the stiff construction, I found it very difficult to move when my waist had to bend significantly. During my summit of Barn Bluff, which involved very steep terrain, I found this went from being annoying to very uncomfortable and resulted in bruising after 4 days wear. To resolve this I tried to source a smaller waist belt from the manufacturer. Despite the belt being fully removable, they were not able to provide me with a smaller belt. I was told that the Long Trail is for a larger framed person, and that I may want to consider the smaller Appalachian 75 pack. This is interesting as this pack is has a waist belt size upto 36" (91 cm) which is identical to the Long Trail Pack as outlined in the sizing chart on the manufacturer's website.

The other issues I have had in the field are with the zippers and pockets. The pack features 2 front pockets, 2 side pockets and 2 top pockets in the lid. The side pockets are able to hold a 1 litre water bottle, but despite the easy fit, it is nearly impossible for me to get the zippers closed all the way. They also do not zip open all the way at the top, meaning bottles need to be angled in. This is not possible wearing the pack, meaning I must remove it to access the bottle. This is minimised by using a hydration bladder. The main front pocket is really big and easy to get to but the smaller front pocket (with the vertical zipper) is tiny and somewhat useless if the main pocket is quite full. I found the zipper opening is too small to get a decent map into without having to bend or make extra folds. I have effectively stopped using this pocket. The 2 top pockets are quite good, and I found it handy to have the soft lining for items like my camera, glasses or iPod which I do not want scratched. However the design of the zippers limits the items I can get in this pocket due to the small opening. The issue I have had is with the large zippers that are used to access the main compartment of the pack from the front. These zippers have remained very difficult to use, often snagging and requiring significant effort to open and close. This is very annoying when packing my tent or sleeping gear in the bottom of the main compartment as I don't want this zipper becoming an avenue for water to enter.

Summary

Overall the performance of the Long Trail Pack to date has been a little disappointing. I have found many features that are a benefit. I have found the performance of the rain cover very good, the ability to carry an onboard hydration bladder is great but the design of the pocket needs some work, as it is simply too large for any bladder I know off resulting in waisted space. The general construction of the pack is of a very high quality, despite the issue with the large zippers. I have also found I am able to carry a lot of gear in this pack, and am yet to fill it to capacity. As noted I have had major issues with the harness system, mainly the waist belt. This belt appears to be just too wide and large for my build, despite being able to fit based on the manufacturer's website.


This concludes my Field Report of the High Sierra Long Trail 90 Litre Pack. 


Long-Term Report

1st March 2009

Field Information & Locations

I have continued my testing of the Long Trail Pack by completing a 4 day circuit of the Freycinet Peninsular. This walk consisted of a combination of flat coastal walking whilst traversing 2 mountain ranges. Elevations ranged from sea level to 592 m (1,942 ft) with no rain and day time temps around 23 C (73 F) with lows at night of around 10 C (50 F).

LTR1

The Hazards - Freycinet National Park

Performance in the Field

On the above trip I tried really hard to compress the pack as much as I could as there was no way I needed all 90 L (5,500 cu in) of space. In reality I could have used say a 60 L (3,661 cu in) pack with no problems but I was keen to test the ability of the pack to be an all round pack rather than a mammoth load lugger. Given my pack weight of around 18 kg (40 lbs) including food and water, it was hardly heavy either. As previously outlined in my Field Report, I've had concerns about the thickness of the straps in the harness system. 

I am pleased to report that over the above walk I did not have any major dramas with discomfort. I did not use a hydration bladder on this walk, rather used the large pocket to store my sleeping matt. This resulted in a very comfortable padded fit on my back. LTR2I still had to fiddle with the shoulder strap tension a bit due to a small amount of slipping but this was no more than a small adjustment here and there. The side compression straps did a good job of reducing the 'volume' of the pack and generally made it comfortable with a much smaller load. The same was the case for the base compression straps which I found more effective crossed over as this had a greater compressing effect. This can be seen in the image to the right. As the lid is really large, when the front clips where shortened as much as possible, the lid covered half the front pocket. No real drama as I had stopped using this front access to the main compartment of the pack.

 

As also previously outlined, the waist belt is very large, too large and wide for me. Again the extreme width of this belt caused me issues at the top of my legs and on my stomach where the stiffness of the belt caused rubbing and discomfort, mainly when climbing and having to extend my legs a lot. This is not so much a problem on flat ground when I am taking shorter strides but is still a genuine limitation to my ability to use this pack. As the belt can be removed I have asked several different retailers if an after market belt can be purchased to replace the standard belt but to date I have not been successful at locating one.

I have continued to find the zippers a bit of an issue, especially the large front zipper to access the base compartment where I store my sleeping bag and tent. The zipper remains tight and in constant need of a 'firm yank' to get it closed. Once it is moving I have no dramas. The same problem remains with the front access pocket to the main compartment. I am now sure that the zipper itself is quite good but it is the design of the surrounding elastic flap that causes the zipper to become hard to operate. Given I was carrying a smallish load on the most recent trip I simply didn't use this access pocket and used the main opening at the top of the pack for access. 

Some would say I am lucky but I have not had any more rain or bad weather whilst wearing the Long Trail Pack since the Barn Bluff walk. This means I have not had the opportunity to test the continued water resistance of the built in rain cover. I gave some thought to leaving it at home on the Freycinet walk as it was the summer and no rain was forecast so I assumed I could save the weight. It turned out to be handy to be able to pull the rain cover out and use it as a small ground sheet in the sandy coastal location. I could sit on it and rest against the pack and avoid getting sand in my shorts!

 

Overall the construction and materials of the pack remain strong. I can find no visible signs of wear and tear and nor any scuffs or stains from the rough bush. This is quite pleasing and gives me confidence this pack would last for quite some time without any ongoing regular maintenance or servicing.

Summary & Final Conclusion

I spent a total of 14 days (12 nights) testing the Long Trail Pack. Despite my issues with the waist belt and annoyance with the zippers, I actually think that High Sierra has built a very good pack in the Long Trail 90. It is without doubt a big pack, and throughout my testing I have never felt that I was capable of filling it to capacity. Generally it is constructed from good, strong and sturdy materials and the design and colour is appealing to me. There are some good onboard features such as the built in rain cover, hydration bladder compatibility and decent adjustability through good compression straps. I also like the split main compartment and the front access is handy if prepared to be annoyed by the zipper. For those with a lager waist then me, the Long Trail would be a good choice if lookinf for a larger volume versatile pack. If I am able to replace the waist belt with a smaller version more suitable to my size I would no doubt continue to use this pack in the future if I need to lug a serious amount of gear to some far off place.

 

This concludes my testing of the High Sierra Sport Long Trail 90 Litre Pack. I have enjoyed testing this product and would like to thank High Sierra Sports and www.backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity.

 

 



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