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

HIGH SIERRA LONG TRAIL 90 BACKPACK
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
INITIAL REPORT
October 01, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Tim Tessier
EMAIL: timothy_tessier@yahoo.com
AGE: 51
LOCATION: Greensboro NC
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 17 year old son 9 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile weekend hikes (2 nights) approximately once a month year round. Additionally, we take one, 5 - 7 day extended trip each summer. Most of our hiking is done in NC, southern VA, TN, KY, and WV. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, with a typical pack weight of 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: High Sierra
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.highsierrasport.com
MSRP: US$ NOT LISTED
Listed Weight: 6 lb 1 oz (2.75 kg)
Measured Weight: 6 lb 0oz (2.72 kg)
Other details:
According to High Sierra, the Long Trail 90 is an Expedition-Style frame pack designed to hold gear and supplies for multi-day climbing or hiking. It is indeed a spacious 5500 cubic inch (90 liter) backpack, though it seems larger.

IMAGE 1

The packbag is constructed primarily of Duralite Grid-Weave fabric in a slate blue and gray color with an orange inner liner of Duralite Mini-Weave fabric. The pack has a bottom panel made of Duraweave fabric. I believe these fabrics to be unique to High Sierra. There is also an integrated rain-cover enclosed in a bottom compartment that appears to be made of the same Duralite Mini-Weave fabric as the interior of the pack.

The pack features a large zippered front compartment with a smaller pocket on the front of it with a vertical zipper. Inside the large front pocket are another pair of zippers that provide front access to the main compartment. There are also two side pockets, one on each side that are approximately 10" X 4" (25 cm X 10 cm) in size. These each feature a single zipper that goes across the top of the pocket and down the side.

IMAGE 2
Trekking Pole Attachment Point


The cavernous main pack compartment is divided into two compartments. In the rear is a compartment that is a full 24" (61 cm) deep, measured from the bottom of the collar. In front is a second compartment which is 18" (46 cm) deep. At the top is a collar that is 8" (20 cm) high. There is a drawstring with a barrel lock fastener around the bottom of this collar, and a second draw string with fastener around the top. There is a strap that can be afixed across the top of the collar from front to back placed to allow the user to firmly secure an oversized load, or to leave the lid at home if it is unneeded.

On the bottom of the main pack bag is a sleeping bag compartment. This compartment is approximately 6" (15 cm) in height and has a zipper to allow it to be opened into the main pack compartment.

Underneath the sleeping bag compartment is a compartment that contains the integrated rain cover/ travel cover. This compartment is secured with a hook and loop fastener.

The pack lid is also larger than usual, easily 4" (10cm) tall. It has a main compartment and then on the top is a smaller compartment which is lined with a soft fabric designed to protect delicate eyeglasses or camera lenses. There are also two mesh pockets designed to hold water bottles.

There are ample compression straps and a webbing daisy chain on each side. There are lots of places to secure bulky items on the outside of the pack. There are also two loops with hook and loop fasteners designed to secure trekking poles or ice axes to the outside of the pack.


The back panel is molded foam with airflow channels designed to keep your back cool and dry. The Ergo-Fit harness system is made of high density foam as is the hip belt. On one shoulder strap is a removable media pocket which appears to be an ideal place to carry a GPS or an MP3 player.

All in all, this pack seems to offer all the room and organization options I could ask for. The functionality and quality of these features will be put to the test.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The pack came in a plain cardboard shipping box. The pack itself was packed in a simple, clear plastic bag. The pack had hanging tags on both front and back.

The tags on the back advertised High Sierra's relationship with the US Ski Team and also a warranty card stating that "High Sierra products are warranted to the original owner for the life of the product against defects in materials or workmanship under normal recreational use." On the front is a larger hangtag that has a product identification tag on the front and on the back has a very useful tag that points to the various features on a photograph of the product.

My first impression is that there are a lot of straps and loops and pockets and things. However, as I began to really look at the pack these appear to be there for a purpose, not fluff, and I began to see the utility of all the pockets etc. The second impression I had was one of "Holy Cow, this thing has a LOT of space." The pack bag seems larger than the advertised size. I have another pack from a different manufacturer that is rated to be slightly larger and the High Sierra seems much roomier. I'm not sure how to explain that unless it is that one manufacturer counts every pocket in their rated size and High Sierra only counts the main packbag.

IMAGE 3
The ErgoFit Adjustment Fastner

IMAGE 4
Unhooked for adjustment


IMAGE 5
The harness system


The harness system consists of molded shoulder straps that contour to the body, which are attached to the rear frame sheet via a hook and loop fastener wrapped around a series of fabric loops. This system makes it extremely easy to adjust the length of the pack. Simply undo the fastener, slide the whole assembly up or down as necessary to make the pack longer or shorter, and re-attach the fastener. There are load lifters on each and there is a second set of buckles on the pack that would allow the load lifters to be moved approximately 1" (2.5 cm) lower on the pack in the case of a user that moved the shoulder straps lower.

The hip belt is wide, approximately 3" (8 cm) and very well padded. While there are no hip belt pockets the hip belt seems as though it will work well.

The belt is large, being just short enough to accomodate my 36" waist. Someone with a 32" waist (like my son) could not use this pack, unless High Sierra offers an alternative size hip belt for it.

Looking the pack over carefully all workmanship and materials appear to be very solid and well-constructed. The seams are all neat and well done, the zippers all function well and don't bind. All in all, I would say the construction of this pack is well above average.

After adding some ballast to the pack I pulled the rainfly out to test how well it fit. Pulling it across the pack I attempted to pull the drawstring tight to snug it around the pack. The cord would not pull. I found that when the seam was sewn around the cord they sewed through the cord which made it impossible to pull. I whipped out my trusty Gerber tool and snipped the threads and this solved the problem. The cord snugged the rain cover securely around the pack. I will be watching this area of the rain cover to be sure that this does not create a weakness that can cause the cover to start unraveling.

My overall impression of this pack is that it is a well-built, well-featured load hauler that is very well made.

TRYING IT OUT

IMAGE 6
The pack cover

I loaded the largest sleeping bag I own, a tent, fleece pants, fleece jacket, sleep mat, water bottle, water filter, and cookset in the pack, just to give it shape and test it. This pack was nowhere near full, it wasn't even starting to fill up. I have not yet packed this pack for a real trip but I am very confident it will carry more than I want to take with me.
IMAGE 7
Detail of the drawstring


I took it for a quick spin around the neighborhood with this load in it and it handled the load without the slightest discomfort. At least for this first quick trip it was exemplary.

I will be doing a 4 day cold weather trip in November so I will soon get an opportunity to test this pack with a real load. I look forward to sharing my impressions with you.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will be using this pack throughout the fall and winter months and be doing all I can to put it to the test. I have a 4-day 50 mile (81 km) trip planned for the first week in November in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We will be in elevations as high as 5,800 feet (1,768 m) and will be carrying all we need rather than having any opportunity to re-supply.

Additionally, we will be taking a number of weekend trips in all weather throughout the fall and winter months. These trips will range from quick overnight outings to longer term hikes, hopefully including a mid-winter trip over several days in the NC mountains.

We will be testing all features of this pack, evaluating its durability, comfort, and whether the features are useful features rather than gadgets.

SUMMARY

I am excited to test this large heavy-duty load hauler. It appears to be very well made and has a ton of helpful features. It is not the lightest pack I've ever lifted, but for a hiker like me that values organization on the trail this pack appears to be well thought out.

The harness system is the most easily adjusted harness I've ever seen. Additionally, the shoulder straps and hipbelt are very robust.

The hipbelt that came with my pack is very long and would not fit anyone much smaller than my 36" waist. Unless High Sierra offers an alternate sized belt this pack would not be a good choice for a smaller waisted person.

This concludes my Initial Report. Please check back in early December for my Field Report.

Happy Trails!

Field Report - January 6, 2009

I have only had one opportunity to use the pack since I last wrote but that one trip was a killer 4-day adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We went in November when the weather was both cold and unpredictable. The official forecast said low temperatures around 25F (-4C), highs around 50F (10C) with periods of rain and wind. What all this means when packing a pack is that I had to take clothing and gear for just about anything. Additionally, with wind predicted I elected to carry a lightweight 4-season tent. So, needless to say, I had an opportunity to spend 50 miles (81 km) testing this pack's ability to carry a load!

Our trail was constantly going either up or down, generally fairly steeply. The eastern slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are defined by a series of drainages with high ridges in between. The drainages and ridges run roughly north/south. This trail runs roughly east/west so we were constantly climbing a ridge, descending the other side, crossing a stream, climbing the next ridge. There was an elevation difference of 3,000 - 3,500 ft (914 - 1067m) between each stream and each ridge. This was an outstanding opportunity to put a pack through its paces.

When initially packing I put my sleeping bag in the bottom sleeping bag compartment. Then standing the pack up against something I started loading the pack. In the top compartment in the lid I put my map, compass, and extra glasses. In the other lid compartment I put my headlamp, matches, fire-starter, a snack bar, spare batteries, and other small items that would disappear in a larger pocket. In one side pocket I placed my water filter. In the other I placed rope, and gaiters. In the front pocket I put my rain jacket and rain pants. Everything else then went in the main pack bag. I was able to fit everything in but the pack was pretty full.

Fully loaded with water on-board it topped the scale at a hefty 52 lbs. (23.6kg). After we arrived at the trailhead and began walking I got the first feel of how this pack would actually perform. To say I was pleased was an understatement. All of the buckles and straps did their jobs of keeping everything in and on the pack stable and in place. The suspension system was still a little long at first but it literally took me less than a minute during a rest break (when I had the pack off) to undo the hook and loop fastener, pull it loose, hook it through the next adjustment point and put it back. This done, the weight transferred smoothly to my hips and my shoulders were not at all uncomfortable. The small media pocket was an ideal place for my GPS device, though if I had a larger, mapping GPS it would not fit.

As I walked I began to feel that I was slightly off balance, as if someone were pulling backward on the top of the pack. I reached up and tugged the load lifter straps on shoulders and the problem was solved, for a while. After about 30 minutes I had to do it again, and again 30 minutes after that. I also had to stop and tighten the hip belt a number of times each day. This was the one annoyance I had with this product.

On the third morning I had a revelation. Rather than putting my tent in its stuff sack and in the main pack bag I tried a different approach to packing it. I put it in the deep pocket in the very back of the pack (next to my back) outside of the stuff sack. I just stood the poles up on end on one side of this pocket then stuffed the tent and rainfly in beside them as far down as I could push. I then loaded everything else as I had been. This actually worked better for two reasons. 1) Being stuffed as it was the tent conformed better to the shape of the pack so it took up less space. 2) Being in the pocket right next to my back made the heaviest single item in my pack in the lowest spot available, and closest to my back. This made the load balance better and made the ride even better.

Uphill or down, I never felt that there was any instability with this pack. It hugged right up to me and was as comfortable as I could imagine it being considering the load it was being asked to carry.

Summary

The pack performed exactly as the manufacturer claimed it would. It handled a big load in relative comfort. It remained stable throughout. I have had no service or maintenance issues whatsoever, other than a little mud it looks like the day I pulled it out of the box.

I still don't understand why the hip belt is as large as it is. I think this will significantly hurt the utility of this pack for a bunch of folks unless they offer it with an alternate belt. The belts don't always stay tight which can become frustrating when you are hiking.

I want to thank High Sierra and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

Please check back in March for my Long Term Report.

Long Term Report - March 7, 2009

I have used this pack for three more trips, two to Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia, and one to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have carried this pack an additional 35 miles in varying weather conditions on mountainous terrain.

The first trip to Mt. Rogers was in December. We hiked approximately 15 miles (24 km) in varying weather conditions. The temperature was cold when we started but warmed to around 45 F (7.22 C) and began to drizzle. This gave me an opportunity to use the rain cover, although not in a downpour. I was carrying a lighter load, approximately 35 lbs (15.9 kg) even though it was cold weather because I was not carrying a tent. We stayed in Appalachian Trail shelters.

The pack performed extremely well. The load was easily within its comfort range and it was very stable on my back. When it began to drizzle I was able to drop my pack, pull the raincover out and over, cinch it tight and have the pack back on ready to roll in less than 5 minutes. It took my son significantly longer to find his pack cover in a pocket of his pack, fit it to the pack, and get his pack back on.

The second trip was to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a cold weekend in January. Our total trip distance was a total of 20 miles (32 km). Of this distance there was about 12 miles (19.4 km) that I was carrying the pack. We hiked approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) to a backcountry campsite. The next day we day-hiked in the area, then after a second night we hiked the same 6 miles (9.7 km) back out. The ground was frozen and stability was especially important as we had to cross a couple of streams on slippery rocks.

The pack performed flawlessly, easily carrying a 45 lb (20.4 kg) load. It was easy to keep everything organized due to the abundant pockets. As I related in my Field Report, I loaded the pack with the tent stuffed in the deep pocket, next to my back. With the tent loaded this way it was very stable and the pack had plenty of room for everything else I needed.

IMAGE 8
Setting out at night


Finally we took another trip to Mt. Rogers in March. We arrived on a Friday night after dark and hiked 4.5 miles (7.25 km) on the Appalachian Trail to a shelter. It was approximately 45 F (7.2C) when we left the car and held that temperature fairly steady through the night. There had been a heavy snow in the area earlier that week so as we climbed the mountain the trail was at various times mud, snow, slush. ice, and water. Pack stability was very important and again, the High Sierra rose to the challenge. It handled a load of approximately 35 lbs. (15.9 kg) with no problem. The straps all stayed nice and snug and the pack transferred the load to my hips. I did not have the problem I had earlier with the straps loosening up as I walked.

Summary

I have found that this pack performs exactly as advertised. It handles a heavy load with no problem. It also has a very complete compression system that allows you to snug down smaller loads so that everything stays put. The generous size allows me to put everything inside the pack so that little or nothing is hanging on the outside of the pack swinging around making the pack unstable, or generating noise.

As my son says, even the pockets have pockets which can seem a little overdone at first. However, I have found that with use I get accustomed to having certain items in certain pockets and this ends up helping me be very organized on the trail, or more importantly in camp. I can say "Greg, grab my water filter, it's in the side pocket on the right." and he doesn't have to waste time trying to find it.

I am not crazy about the straps and buckles. They do not seem to be of the same high quality as the rest of the pack though honestly I have not experienced any failure. The hip belt is huge and would not fit anyone with a waist size smaller than approximately 34 - 35 inches (86 - 89 cm). If there is a a smaller size hip belt available there is no mention of it on the High Sierra website.

Things I like:
- The great size and capacity
- The packs ability to carry a heavy load and transfer the weight completely
- The generous pockets and great organization capabilities of this pack.

Things I don't like:
- The huge hipbelt
- The straps and buckles don't seem to be the best quality

I would like to thank BackpackGearTest and High Sierra for the chance to use this pack.

This concludes my review of the High Sierra Long Trail 90 Backpack.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
Read more gear reviews by Tim Tessier

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