HIGH SIERRA SENTINEL 65 BACKPACK
TEST SERIES BY BRETT HAYDIN
INITIAL REPORT - October 15, 2010
FIELD REPORT - January 03, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - March 01, 2011
bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
5' 11" (1.80 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: High Sierra Sport Company
|Photo courtesy of High Sierra|
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: www.highsierrasport.com
MSRP: US$ 220.00
Listed Weight: 4 lb 8 oz (2.0 kg)
Measured Weight with all accessories: 5 lb 2 oz (2.3 kg)
Measured Weights select accessories:
- Pack Cover - 4.7 oz (133 g),
- Media Pocket - 0.9 oz (26 g)
Materials: Grid-Weave Duralite®, Mini-Weave Duralite®, Duraweave (bottom)
Listed Size: 32.0" x 14.25" x 8.75"
Other details provided by manufacturer:
- 65-liter, top-load main compartment with gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid.
- Front-load sleeping bag compartment with divider.
- ERGO-FIT shoulder harness, with adjustable load-lifters, is constructed with Vapel™ mesh Airflow™ and high-density foam padding.
- Dual, contoured aluminum frame bars can be adjusted to fit the shape of your back.
- Molded foam back panel with Airflow™ channels to keep your back cool and dry.
- Waist belt, with Vapel™ mesh Airflow™ and high-density foam padding, wicks moisture.
- Hinged front pocket holds ropes.
- Webbing daisy chain on both sides.
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tube (reservoir not included).
- Removable media pocket is attached to the backpack strap.
- Adjustable side and bottom compression straps keep gear secure.
- Adjustable sternum strap stabilizes pack.
- Soft lashing hardware holds ice ax/hiking poles.
- Dual mesh pockets hold 1000ml water bottles.
- Tuck-away rain cover, stored in a bottom pocket, also protects the pack when checked for air travel.
The High Sierra Sentinel 65 Backpack, which I shall call either the "Sentinel" or "pack", is a large volume backpack that can serve well for multi-day trips. According to the manufacturer, the pack can be used for day trips as well. For the most part, this is a top loading backpack with the exception that there is a front panel access to the lower sleeping compartment. There is also an exterior front panel pouch that can be accessed via a zippered entry for quick-stash items. This pouch is detached from the main pack and has room to stash wet gear or perhaps a rope (suggested by the manufacturer).
The Sentinel is an internal frame pack and has two aluminum stays that are accessed via a sturdy sleeve inside the main compartment. The sleeves have a hook and loop closure to keep the stays in place, but are easily removed and replaced. I chuckled a little at the sticker on the stay stating "UP; this side toward users back." There was an arrow above the "UP," however the stay clearly goes into the sleeve in a downward direction. The pack did come with one hang tag attached to the front of the pack and two others attached to the shoulder straps. The larger, front hang tag had a diagram of 15 features on one side, with manufacturer specifications on the other. The other two hang tags contained the warranty information and the other noted that a portion of sales go towards various snow sports teams.
The Pack does have an adjustable top lid with a decent amount of space for small items. Generally I keep rain gear in this space and it appears there would be adequate space for this. On the bottom of the lid there is a patch advertising "12 Survival Essentials." On the either side of the top lid are two lashing D-rings, although I do not see any corresponding webbing to use with these. I am actually excited about these since I might have some good uses for these over the winter months.
The main compartment is generously sized and can be accessed through the double spindrift collar. There are two drawstring closures, one for each section of the collar that slide easily. The collar is made of a nylon material I assume to be the Mini-Weave Duralite®. The exterior of the Sentinel is clearly a stiffer,
Grid-Weave Duralite®. Inside the compartment is a pouch for my hydration reservoir which I was glad to see can accommodate my 3L reservoir. This pouch goes clear to the bottom of the pack (into the sleeping bag compartment). There is no clear way to hand the reservoir internally, however there is a generously sized key ring at the top of this pouch. On the top of the spindrift collar there is a piece of 1 in (2.5 cm) webbing with a quick release buckle to compress the top.
As I mentioned above there is a zippered pouch on the outside of the pack in the front that is sewn into the pack body on the bottom of the pouch. There is a zippered opening extending approximately 12 in (30.5 cm) down the front allowing easy access to the pouch. I haven't decided what quick-stash items I will store here, but there is enough for a map and lunch and then some. While the overall size is nice, it is rather shallow so I will need to be thoughtful on what items I want to store there. On either side of this pouch there are compression straps on both the top and bottom that hold the pouch in place, secure items stashed in between the pouch and main compartment and also compress the whole pack. To either side of the pouch is a daisy chain attached to the main pack. There is a removable hook and loop strap that can hold accessories in place.
|Perfect fit for a water bottle|
There is a front entry sleeping back compartment that fit my summer bag without being compressed. The zipper pulls moved freely and are easy to access. There should be enough room to store my sleeping bag as well as some other smaller items while I hike. There are also two compression straps secured by a quick release buckle over the sleeping bag compartment. What I found interesting is that the webbing extends to the bottom of the pack and has an adjustable D-ring that can create a space to slide my sleeping pad into. What a great design!
There are loops on either side of the pack at the bottom for an ice axe and trekking poles. Unlike other packs I have used, there is one large loop on one side for an ice axe and two small loops on the other for trekking poles. Again, I appreciated the design since it simplifies the carrying of trekking poles.
On the bottom of the pack is a storage pocket that holds a removable water resistant pack cover. The pack cover is sized to cover the pack and has a built in luggage tag for travel. The pocket is secured by a hook and loop closure. There are also mesh pockets on either side of the pack for water bottles or other smaller items, pictured to the right.
On to the backpack straps... First of all, the hip belt padding is a beefy 6 in (15 cm) wide. The padding is nice and soft and is covered by Vapel™ mesh Airflow™. There are 2 in (5 cm) webbing straps secured by a quick release buckle to keep the waist belt in place. On both sides of the buckle are plastic sleeves to keep the excess webbing in place. These are removable should I find them unnecessary. The hip belt does swivel which is a feature I have come to enjoy. There are to straps that attach the hip belt to the pack I can use to secure the load close to my back.
The shoulder straps are a little more modestly sized at about 3 in (7.5 cm) padding. There are load lifters attached to the top of the straps as well as a D-ring on each strap at about chest level. I am sure I will tie a bandanna here for convenience. On my left strap there is a removable media pouch that fits either my phone or GPS. The sternum strap slides up and down easily thanks to a tongue and groove design, but the buckle does not have the incorporated whistle I have seen on other packs.
The shoulder straps are also adjustable by the ERGO-FIT harness system. This system, shown above, has 11 pieces of 3/4 in (2 cm) webbing evenly spaced up and down the pack frame. There is a hook and loop closure securing the harness to the webbing that was intuitive to use. There are no sizing markers so I will just play around with the sizing until I have a fit that feels comfortable.
The back panel is padded with Vapel™ mesh Airflow™ and indented air channels to promote ventilation.
I was quite impressed with the superior workmanship of the Sentinel. I could find no flaws in the construction whatsoever. I was a little surprised at the weight difference, however when I remove some of the accessory items I did find that the advertised weight and the measured weight match. The material appears quite durable but I don't feel that it is excessive. I don't feel like I will have to be overly gentle, but the material seems like it will handle poking sticks.
I appreciate several aspects of the overall design. I think the webbing and compression strap combination over the sleeping bag compartment is a nice touch. It will be interesting to see how that translates to the field. I also like the included pack cover. While less of a concern during the dead of winter, this should be great for rainy weather. I also love the attached media pocket. It will be great to store a small camera or my cell phone within easy reach.
I found the padding and fit of the pack to be quite nice. My only complaint is that the waist belt is perhaps a bit over the top. I appreciate the coverage over my hip bone, but it could easily be sculpted a bit to make it less bulky. My other complaint about the hip belt is that the webbing barely fits my 36 in (91 cm) waist. On top of that the webbing seems to stick in the buckle as I tighten it making securing the webbing a minor chore. I hope that this will ease up over time and that the webbing is just "newly stiff."
Another sour point is the lack of a means to hang my hydration reservoir. While the pouch to hold the reservoir is big enough for mine, it is almost too big as well. The picture to the left shows the hose exiting the pack on one side, but I fear that if the reservoir slides too far down it will impact the amount of hose I have available. I will have to monitor this as I go along.
This pack has a number of places to strap items which will be important as the winter months set in. Knowing that there are multiple lashing points makes it easy for me to carry along snowshoes, crampons or both! I may even try to take the Sentinel backcountry snowboarding for a trip or two!
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
I took some time to explore the manufacturer's website and found the information adequate. The warranty information is pretty standard and is limited to manufacturer defects. There is information on the website and hang tag that is useful should I need it.
The hang tag on the front of the pack was one of the best set of instructions I have seen for a pack yet! The easy to read and I really appreciated the numbered diagram.
TRYING IT OUT
I took the opportunity to pack a light load of about 20 lb (9 kg) worth of gear into the pack to test the fit. I found that the straps were well placed and weight distribution was fine. I don't think I will need to adjust the stays at all, but they seem pretty easy to access and adjust in the field.
Overall I like this pack at first glance. It has plenty of space for multi-day trips and is not too heavy on its own. There are a number of features I hope to find useful over the next four months including the front pouch, lashing points and media pouch.
I'll reserve final judgment on the hip belt until the end of the test along with the hydration compatible system.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank High Sierra Sport Company for their generosity as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series. Please check back in approximately two months to see how the Sentinel is holding up.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Since first receiving the Sentinel 65, I have used the backpack a total of 9 days, which includes two overnight trips, a three day trip and two more day hikes. The first overnight trip was in the South Colony Lakes area of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness area in Colorado. I camped out at an elevation of approximately 11,800 ft (3,600 m) with overnight lows of about 40 F (4 C). As the photo to the right shows, this was mostly high alpine terrain with rocky trails and a sometimes fantastic exposure. The weather was fair, although quite windy in the wee hours of the night and into mid morning. I hiked a total of 12.5 mi (20 km) to a height over 14,000 ft (4270 m).
|Loaded up near Crestone Needle|
My second trip was another overnighter in the Mount Massive Wilderness in central Colorado. I was a little underprepared for the snow since the southern view of the ridge showed only a small amount of snow while the north ridge... well we got the SUV stuck trying to get to the trailhead and I'll leave it at that. Needless to say the trails were snow covered and the weather was in the around 30 F (-1 C) in the morning rising to 45 F (7 C) in the afternoon. Elevation was between 9,800 and 11,000 ft (2,990 and 3,350 m) with a round trip total of only 6 mi (10 km).
The final trip was a three day trek in the San Isabel National Forest along the Colorado Trail. There was snow along almost the entire route and while I took snowshoes they weren't needed much. Temperatures were cold, anywhere between 5 to 35 F (-15 to 2 C) but otherwise clear. Elevations ranged from 9,000 to 11,500 ft (2,700 to 3,350 m) with an estimated trip of 24 mi (39 km).
The two day trips were very similar to my overnight hikes with little to trace amounts of snow and mild weather conditions. One was a hunting trip in the Colorado Rockies while the other was a day hike into the South Colony Lakes area. It proved to be windy on the latter day to make a summit which is why I came back another day for an overnighter.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
So far I have had a love-hate relationship with this pack. I love many elements of the design, however some of the features haven't worked out quite as I would like so far. What I have really come to appreciate is the overall storage design of the pack. It has taken a little getting used to, but in general, here is what I have been packing on most trips.
|Full winter pack|
- Rain Gear (top lid)
- Hat/gloves (top lid)
- Tent (main)
- Food bag (main)
- Extra clothes (main)
- HelenBac Basecamp™ first aid kit (main)
- 1-2 Fuel canisters (main)
- 3 L hydration reservoir
- Sleeping Bag (sleeping bag compartment)
- cook kit and stove (sleeping bag compartment)
- 10 Essentials (front pouch)
- Miscellaneous little stuff such as cordage, maps (front pouch)
- Trekking Poles (exterior)
- Ice axe (exterior)
- Tent poles (exterior)
- Sleeping pad (exterior lower)
Even with my winter gear and adding a snow shovel, extra warm clothes and some creature comforts (down booties for example) I have not reached the full capacity of the pack. It is very well laid out, although the sleeping bag compartment is a little tight with my winter bag. Currently I am using a North Face Snowshoe which is synthetic and certainly bulkier and heavier than down. I really appreciate the design of the front pouch which has made it very easy to stow items my hiking partners can grab on the go. The space between the pouch and main pack is a great spot for my snow shovel as well.
While hiking, I have had a horrible time keeping the straps snug and in place. While the sternum straps on most of my other packs needs to be adjusted, the shoulder straps on Sentinel seem to be problematic. I can't seem to walk more than 5 minutes without having to pull the straps tighter. I have tried to adjust the load lifters to no avail and have come to the conclusion that the straps just slip. Perhaps over the next two months things will change (hopefully for the better!).
It is my opinion that the waist belt has perhaps a bit too much padding. While I appreciate the comfort of the waist belt, the pad feels large around the sides. The straps are particularly difficult to tighten and I have to suck my gut in and angle the buckle in order to get the straps to slide through. I can't tell if it is the fabric or the buckle, but for some reason the waist belt is just difficult to move. I suppose that is a better problem to have than loosening!
|Note the elastic band is split|
Overall the durability has been fine. The Sentinel has traveled with me in some rugged terrain. Despite some trips and spills the fabric seems little worse for the wear. The only problem I have had is that one of the two elastic strips came detached from the sternum strap. I don't recall when it occurred other than it happened on my most recent trip. The photo above shows that the stitching appears to have failed. Since there is another elastic band, I am not too concerned, however I do plan to contact customer service during the next test phase and will report on that experience.
I am quite pleased with several other features. I took a business trip to South Padre Island, Texas in November and decided to test the pack as my luggage. Aside from a few scuff marks, the bag worked great! I really appreciated the bright orange pack cover since it was easy to spot!
The removable electronics case on the shoulder strap is a nice touch. It is perfect for small electronics, such as a simple point-and-shoot camera.. Anything more fancy and the pouch is a little small. My iPhone fit snugly in the pouch, but my Bushnell ONIX 200 GPS did not.
It has been a while since I used a top load pack without any other access, but it really did not bother me. It has taken a little more planning while packing my gear, but everything I need is accessible. Finally, I really do find the pack comfortable to carry. The padding is good and the adjustable straps are easy enough to adjust on the fly. I can even reach my water bottle without removing my pack!!
Things I Like
- The pack is comfortable
- The space and storage is well planned, easy to manage
- Integrated pack cover is awesome and works well for airline travel
- Accessories are removable as needed
Things I Don't
- The sternum strap broke
- The shoulder straps slip frequently and the waist belt is a bit stiff
- The front pouch is great, but man would it rock if it was removable for a small day hike pack.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank High Sierra Sport Company for their generosity as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series. Please check back in approximately two months to see how the Sentinel is holding up. Below is just another photo taken while resting below Mount Massive in Colorado.
|Taking a break near Mount Massive|
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Over the past two months I have been able to add two more trips, both overnight trips, to my test experience in addition to one more day hike. This brings my total use to 6 nights backpacking and 14 total days of use in the backcountry.
My first trip was an overnight hike to Mt. Shavano in the San Isabel National Forest. With warm temperatures around 40 F (4 C) and clear skies it was a great time to be in the backcountry. Elevations ranged from 9,500 to over 14,000 ft (2,900 to 4,300 m) with alpine and rocky conditions as well as snow covered trails.
My final trip was to Sand Creek Lakes in the San Isabel National Forest (Colorado). Temperatures were cold with highs only at 30 F (-1 C) and overnight lows near 10 F (-12 C). This was a brutal hike since the trail was, well hardly a trail; mostly snow covered. Elevations ranged from about 10,000 to 12,000 ft (3,000 to 3,700 m).
My day hike was very mild with good weather and a well formed snow-packed trail.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The first order of business in the test period was to contact customer service about the broken sternum strap. The staff were polite and quite helpful. In the end, I decided not to send in the pack for repair (which they offered) because I had some trips coming up. To be frank, there is still a piece of elastic so it is still functional. I have not noticed any further problems with this part of the pack.
The shoulder straps have continued to slip throughout the test period which has been a slight disappointment. None of the other straps have had this problem. I know that I have a slightly heavier load at about 45 lb (21 kg) but it a nuisance to have to adjust the straps about every 20 to 30 minutes. I have otherwise found the pack to be exceptionally comfortable! The padding is in all the right spots and the load sits well.
I think my favorite aspect of this pack is the placement of the compartments. I wasn't sure how I would like a top load pack again, but the pocket on the front makes for a great compromise. I have easy access to small essentials without having to dig in the main compartment on the trail. Additionally, the daisy chain and gear loops make for an ideal winter pack with my current gear. I have just enough places to attach items without getting carried away.
It hasn't rained at all over my test, however there has been a little snow on and off. I used the pack cover to get an idea of its usefulness and it works wonderfully. There was enough room to go around the excess gear stashed on the outside (tent stakes and a sleeping pad for that trip) but was snug enough not to look clumsy.
In my initial report I made some comments on the hip belt and I would like to follow up on this. The stiffness of the strap is still there, but it has loosened up some. I do find the padding is a bit on the bulky side for my tastes. Because my waist is at the lower limits of the range for this pack, it has been helpful to use the pack in the winter when I have more layers on. To be fair, even with a t-shirt and shorts, the pack fits me.
Looking over my notes over the past four months, my likes and dislikes remain the same. The pack is comfortable, has well planned space management features, bears a load well and the pack cover and accessories are handy.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
I was not impressed with the amount the chest straps slipped. While the sternum strap broke, or at least a portion of it, the company was willing to fix this for me and all other aspects of the pack have met my expectations in terms of durability.
Because of the layout of compartments, I plan to keep this pack as my primary pack for the winter and some of the warmer months on either end. I would like to thank High Sierra Sport Company as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.
Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
Read more gear reviews by Brett Haydin