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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Sentinel 65 > Test Report by Jeff Ruhle

HIGH SIERRA SENTINEL 65
TEST SERIES BY JEFF RUHLE
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 08, 2011

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Jeff Ruhle
EMAIL: jjruhle@madski.com
AGE: 24
LOCATION: Winter Park, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

I developed a love for backpacking while spending the semester abroad in New Zealand. I enjoy playing games and seeing how little I can pack to keep my pack light, however, I always pack a lot of food. My favorite terrain is steep, rugged, alpine terrain with more vertical and less horizontal. Living in New England, I find a lot of this terrain since the trail makers don't seem to make many switchbacks. I also am highly involved with a large number of other outdoor activities like skiing, kayaking, climbing, and biking. Generally, I like to push my comfort zone.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Front of the Pack
Manufacturer: High Sierra Sport Company
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: www.highsierrasport.com
MSRP: None listed
Listed Weight: 4.8 lbs (2.18 kg)
Measured Weight (note: with tags attached): 84 oz (2381 g)

Other details (taken from manufacturer's website):
- 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.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 2
Back of the Pack
The High Sierra Sentinel 65 (from herein referred to as the backpack), arrived with very simple packaging. It was wrapped with a plastic sleeve and had a small number of informational tags. The one on the front makes very efficient use of the space, providing all the technical details of the backpack. There are two on the back: one explains the Limited Lifetime Warranty, and the other states that a portions of the proceeds go to both the US Ski Team and the US Snowboarding Team.

I am fairly impressed with rugged appearance of the fabric used in the construction of the backpack. It is a tough-looking material that I would say closely resembles a thinner Cordura(r). High Sierra calls this fabric Duralite(r) on the informational tag that came attached to the bag. The construction of the bag seems fairly ruged as well, with many of the main seams double stitched.

IMAGE 3
Nifty Essentials List
The backpack also incorporates a handful of nifty features to make the user's life easier. The most important for me, being an unusually tall consumer, is the ERGO-FIT shoulder harness system. This allows the shoulder harness to be adjusted to varying heights to allow a much more customized fit. I have never owned a backpack with a separate sleeping bag compartment, and I was pleased to see that the divider between the sleeping bag compartment and the main compartment is removable via a zipper. Also, sewn in under the top compartment is a list of survival essentials (can be seen to the right). This is great for me, as I am a bit of a space case and often manage to forget one of the essentials. The other features I was pleased to see are a small, removable pouch up front in which I can stash a smaller camera or my GPS, hook and loop attachments that can be used for hiking poles or an ice axe, exit ports for a hydration system on both sides of the pack, and an included rain cover.

TRYING IT OUT

IMAGE 4
Sleeping Bag Compartment
In checking out the backpack, I unbuckled several of the buckles. Trying to buckled it back up to put on proved to be slightly confusing. The compression straps for the sleeping bag compartment and the compression straps that cinch the top compartment down over the top have the same sized buckle. At first I hooked the male buckle of the sleeping bag compartment compression strap into the female buckle of the top compartment compression strap. This left the two remaining buckles in a position that would make no sense. It took me several puzzled seconds before I figured out what had happened. I am not sure if this is intentionally designed like this, but I can't really think of a good reason. And while on the topic of buckles, is seems like a standard these days to integrate an emergency whistle into the sternum strap buckle. Even though it is a great idea, and a whistle is on of the items on the survival essentials list that is sewn under the brain, High Sierra neglected to incorporate one into the sternum strap.

Putting the backpack on without any load in it seemed quite comfortable, although, in my opinion, the shoulder straps (which came from the factory on their tallest setting) might be a little better if they went a bit higher. It also seemed that the pack was built for someone with a much wider frame than I. To get the hip belt properly tightened, I had to tighten down the straps almost as far as they would go. The same goes for the sternum strap, which is just barely tight enough at its tightest setting. I am worried that once the backpack is loaded, these straps will not be able to go tight enough.

IMAGE 5
ERGO-FIT Shoulder Harness
The tag also claims that it has "dual, adjustable contoured aluminum frame bars." However, there are no instructions included, and I cannot see how they are adjustable. Also, when you take the bars out, there are annoying little plastic caps on each side. The bottom one always gets stuck on the way out, pulling off the bar, and leaving me trying to find a way to fish it out. And then in all the confusion, I couldn't remember which way I had removed the contoured bar. Luckily, instead of have to double check with the other bar, they thoughtfully included a little tag on the bar that says "This side up towards user's back."

SUMMARY

Things I like:
-Double hydration system ports
-Sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider
-Height adjustable shoulder harness
-Plenty of loops for lashing gear
-Front pocket on the shoulder strap
-Included rain cover
-Backpacking essentials list under the top compartment

Things I don't like:
-Identical buckles on several sets of compression straps
-Made for someone with a much wider frame
-The adjustable frame bars, which don't appear to be adjustable
-The annoy little plastic caps on the frame bars
-Lack of an emergency whistle in the sternum strap

I would like to thank High Sierra Sport Company and BackpackGearTest.org for the oporunity to test this backpack. Please come back in two months for my field report.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

After receiving this backpack, I have used it on several one night trips and one longer trip. Here is an outline of those trips:

-Coyote Gulch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This was a 4 day trip since I took my time and explored a bit. The temperatures varied quite greatly, usually hovering in the 70 F (21 C) range but sometimes dropping into the 40 F (4.5 C) range at night. Being desert terrain, there were rarely clouds, but this particular hike has plenty of water. Being a canyon and wash, there was very little elevation change and the terrain was fairly flat and sandy, often requiring us to wade through water.

-Also in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument I hiked down 25 Mile Wash, down a section of the Escalante River, and up Scorpion Gulch. I was moving fairly quickly, and the loop only took us two days. The weather conditions and terrain were the same as listed above, as I did this right after the above trip.

-Sand Ramp Trail in the Great Sand Dunes national Monument. We hiked down the Sand Ramp Trail until we were on the northern side of the park and then ventured into the dunes for a night in the great dunes. The following morning we spent sandboarding and then quickly hightailed it back to the car as the sand got very hot. The temperatures during the day ranged from in the 50s (10 C) to the 70s (21 C). The first day we did not cover much vertical, but the second day we must have done a lot as we climbed up and down the dunes the get back to the car.

-Vasquez Creek drainage area in Winter Park, Colorado. This was not an overnight trip, but a mountaineering course where we were required to bring everything we would need if we were to have to spend the night outside in the winter. I was on telemark skis with skins. That day it was around 15 F (-10 C), snowing, and quite windy. We probably only covered about 2000 ft (610 m) vertical.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I am generally very pleased with the way that the pack has performed. First I will cover fit. I do like the wide hip pads, although I think they might be a little stiff which causes a little extra rubbing. They are loosely attached to the pack with hook and loop pads so it looks like they can pivot a little bit, however, I don't really notice much movement when the pack is actually loaded. The shoulder straps I like quite well. The sternum strap is quickly and easily adjustable just by sliding it up and down it's little track, although I am not sure how this will hold up over time. I do wish I could move the ergo-fit system up one or two additional notches, however, since it is still not tall enough for my abnormally long torso.

So, let's talk about function. The pack is huge. I am a fairly minimal packer, so the pack has been plenty big for everything I need (almost too big sometimes). The pouch on the back has been amazing, giving me easily accessible storage space for a ton of smaller items. It is also very convenient to tuck items behind it. When we were in the dunes, it was a life saver with the homemade sand board we had with us. It tucked in there quite nicely leaving my hands free.

I have to admit that I have not used the sleeping bag compartment for my sleeping bag very often. But due to the removable divider between the sleeping bag compartment and the main compartment, it has been quite useful. I generally try and put heavier items, like my stove, lower and closer to my back. The sleeping bag compartment access zipper allows me to get at a lot of that stuff without having to tear everything out of the top of my pack. This is a first, and it has been a great feature.

Since none of my trips involved rain, I have not really been able to test the included pack cover. However, given that it does not completely cover my pack, I don't know if it is worth ditching the classic garbage bag as a pack liner.

I use a digital SLR camera and never take an iPod backcountry with me, so the media pocket has not been so useful for those purposes. However, it does almost perfectly contain my Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS unit. Sometimes I think it may block a bit of the GPS signal, but if the unit is in the pouch, it is probably not a time where I am concerned with looking at it anyway.

Lastly, this pack certainly is rugged. In the canyons, I have torn all sorts of holes in other packs, but the Sentinel held up to the sandstone of Utah without a problem. I have been quite impressed.

SUMMARY

Things I like:
-Double hydration system ports
-Sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider makes access to the bottom of the pack easy
-Height adjustable shoulder harness, although doesn't adjust quite tall enough for me personally
-Plenty of loops for lashing gear
-Pouch on the shoulder strap
-Included rain cover
-Backpacking essentials list under the top compartment
-Pouch on the back provides an area other than the top compartment for small item storage.
-In general, I think the pack fits well
-Great durability

Things I don't like:
-Identical buckles on several sets of compression straps
-Made for someone with a much wider frame
-The adjustable frame bars, which don't appear to be adjustable
-The annoying little plastic caps on the frame bars
-Lack of an emergency whistle in the sternum strap
-Hip pads seem a little stiff

Please return in two months for my long term report. I would like to thank High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this pack.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Due to the extreme cold of winter, my use of this backpack has dwindled since the Field Report. I really only used this backpack for its intended purpose once since the Field Report. This was in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Columbine Lake. We hiked in with all our equipment and set up a base camp next to Columbine Lake. We made snow caves for shelter and spent the better part of two days skiing the backcountry around our base camp. It was snowy the first day and sunny the second. The temperatures were in the 20 to 30 (-6 to -1) range.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

All of my observations from the Field Report still stand. I have a few new observations from the most recent trip, but nothing major or surprising.

During the first day, the snow was falling quite heavily. The snow that landed on top of my shoulders quickly melted and got soaked into the shoulder straps. This stayed there for the rest of the trip, with a cycle of freezing every time I took the pack off, and melting every time I put it back on. Since I had a waterproof jacket on, the frozen straps were just a minor annoyance, but still worth mentioning. The bigger issue was the hip straps that became caked with snow/ice. This was downright uncomfortable when they froze over. During short breaks, I often opted not to take my pack off to prevent these from freezing.

Other minor notes:
-The relatively stiff hip straps actually made it easy to prop in the door of our snow cave to seal in the heat.
-If I'm not careful and the adjustable straps on the outside of the pack get wet, it makes them quite hard to adjust.

SUMMARY

Things I like:
-Double hydration system ports
-Sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider makes access to the bottom of the pack easy
-Height adjustable shoulder harness, although doesn't adjust quite tall enough for me personally
-Plenty of loops for lashing gear
-Pouch on the shoulder strap
-Included rain cover
-Backpacking essentials list under the top compartment
-Pouch on the back provides an area other than the top compartment for small item storage.
-In general, I think the pack fits well
-Great durability
-Effective at sealing the entrance to snow cave

Things I don't like:
-Identical buckles on several sets of compression straps
-Made for someone with a much wider frame
-The adjustable frame bars, which don't appear to be adjustable
-The annoying little plastic caps on the frame bars
-Lack of an emergency whistle in the sternum strap
-Hip pads seem a little stiff
-The hip and shoulder pads are easily saturated with water which can become frozen during colder weather.

This concludes the test of this pack. I would like to thank High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this pack.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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