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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Sentinel 65 > Test Report by Steven M Kidd

HIGH SIERRA SENTINEL 65
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - October 10, 2010
FIELD REPORT - January 03, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - February 25, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Steven M. Kidd
EMAIL: ftroop94ATgmailDOTcom
AGE: 38
LOCATION: Franklin, Tennessee, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 220 lb (99.80 kg)

Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 25 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have gained a renewed enthusiasm for the back country. I generally go on one or two night outings and now try to average a 30 lb (14 kg) pack.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS


IMAGE 1
Courtesy High Sierra Sport Company



Manufacturer: High Sierra Sport Company
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.highsierrasport.com
MSRP: US $220.00
Listed Weight: 4.8 lbs (2.18 kg)
Measured Weight: 5 lbs 2 oz (2.30 g) (Pack and Removable Accessories)
Measured Weight of Pack Only: 4 lbs 12 oz (2.15 kg)
Measured Weights of Removable Accessories: Pack Cover - 4.69 oz (133 g), Media Pocket - 0.92 oz (26 g), Soft Lashing Hardware - .50 oz (14 g)
Dimensions: 32.0" x 14.25" x 8.75" (81 cm x 36 cm x 22 cm) -- Appear accurate
Capacity: 3970 cu in (65 L)
Materials: Grid-Weave Duralite®, Mini-Weave Duralite®, Duraweave (bottom)
Available Colors: Pomodoro/Ash Wavy Stripes/Black, Pacific/Tungsten/Black, Chipotle/Tungsten/Black and Black




Product as Described from the High Sierra Website:

•65-liter (3970 cu in), 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 1000 ml (34 fl oz) 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 internal frame pack arrived packaged in a plastic protection bag with three hang tags attached to it. A large cardboard hang tag had the same 15 features that are mentioned above along with coordinating numbers on a photograph of the pack individually highlighting each description. The flipside of the tag, as seen below, showed a few close up photographs of the pack along with information on the materials, capacity and size of the pack. The second tag summarized the High Sierra Limited Lifetime Warranty against material defects for the original owner and the suggested retail value. The final tag explained that a portion of proceeds go to supporting the US Ski Team and the US Snowboarding team and highlights Visa sponsorship.

IMAGE 2


I am testing the Pomodoro/Ash Wavy Stripes/Black version of this pack, and I would refer to the colors as maroon, gray and black. The pomodoro (maroon) colored main portion of the pack is made with the Grid-Weave Duralite® material and the ash (gray) color which is on a zippered kangaroo style pouch on the front of the pack, accenting portions of the sleeping bag compartment and much of the top lip is made with Mini-Weave Duralite. I should also mention that in my opinion the "Ash Wavy Stripes" are a dizzying psychedelic pattern and until I inspected the material up closely I didn't even notice the weave in the material. Both these materials are coarse to the touch and appear very durable. Finally the bottom of the pack is black and made with Duraweave. Oddly, this material feels softer to the touch than the previous two, but is hopefully made strong as to keep abrasions and damage when the pack is set on the ground.

The Sentinel is an internal frame backpack with two moldable aluminum stays spaced 7 in (18 cm) apart on the inside bag. They are enclosed in heavy duty webbing that opens with a hook and loop enclosure to remove the frame bars and mold to my body if need be. There is also a pouch to hold a hydration reservoir (not included) inside the main compartment. Two exit ports for hydration tubing are on either side of the pack.
IMAGE 3
Hydration Port

IMAGE 4
External Pouch

The main bag is top loading and has a double spindrift collar referred to by the manufacturer as a gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid. There is daisy chain webbing, compression straps and the soft lashing hardware designed to hold hiking poles. The front of the pack has a 10 x 14 in (25 x 36 cm) zippered pouch that is about 1 1/2 (4 cm) in deep. This is attached to the main body of the pack with compression straps and creates a larger kangaroo pouch that can store bulky gear like climbing rope, or in my case a rain jacket or something similar. The zippered pouch is large, but the shallow nature of it will preclude me from storing much more than small gear in it. In fact, during this initial report I put a pair of gloves, a pack of tent stakes and a first aid kit in the compartment, only to pop the zipper teeth loose because this was too much gear. I removed the gear and fortunately was able to get the teeth realigned.



The bottom of the pack has a separate sleeping bag compartment. Internally this compartment may be zipped to create two distinct sections within the main body of the pack or unzipped to allow one large internal cavity. The pack also has a detachable top lid that has ample storage, a removable media pocket on the left shoulder harness and two large mesh storage pockets. Sewn into the inside of the top lid is a placard stating High Sierra's "12 SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS". This is an interesting and nice aid for both the novice and experienced backpacker, but I promise I could survive without a pair of sunglasses! There are D rings, clips and other attachment points for external gear on the shoulder harness, top lid and down the front of the pack. It will not be hard to find a place to externally attach an item if I need to do so. The removable waist belt and shoulder harness use a proprietary Vapel™ mesh Airflow™ technology.

IMAGE 5
Internal Seperator
IMAGE 6
Vapel™ mesh Airflow™ Waistbelt
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IMAGE 7
ERGO-FIT shoulder harness


The Sentinel is equipped with an ERGO-FIT shoulder harness. This adjustable system allows the harness to be adjusted to six individual sizes also using a hook and loop closure that attaches to horizontal webbing straps on the back of the pack. The torso size ranges from 15 - 20 in (38 - 51 cm) and I measured them to be accurate. High Sierra states the pack will fit a person in the 68" to 72" (173 cm to 183 cm) height range. I personally do not understand these assumptions, as all packs tend to measure a person based on their torso size, not their overall height. The molded foam back panel also uses Airflow™ channels to minimize sweating on the trail. Finally the pack has its own water resistant rain/travel cover that tucks into an internal pouch on the bottom of the pack. The removable cover is attached to a buckle with a small strap.



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

BEEFY!

When I unpacked my adjectives, I kept thinking of one to describe this pack, and this is the one that repeatedly came to mind. The pack appears to be well built and made of a heavy duty material that I believe will hold up to wear and tear on the trail. To best describe the term BEEFY, I immediately consider all the belts, clips, hooks, zippers, zipper pulls, double spindrift collar and other attachments on the pack. They all appear to be quite a bit larger (and potentially sturdier) than I am currently accustomed to on a pack of this size. To further explain, the waist belt clip is over 2 x 3 in (5 x 8 cm) in size when closed. An internal clip designed to hold a hydration bladder or a set of keys is over 2 in (5 cm) long alone.

Yet, with all these large (and to the initial test) sturdy parts of the pack the overall weight is not extreme in my opinion. I certainly wouldn't call it a lightweight pack, but I kept wondering how High Sierra touted the pack as 4.8 lbs (2.18 kg) when many retail websites even listed it at well over 5 lbs (2.27 kg). When I weighed the Sentinel it measured in at 5 lbs 2 oz (2.30 g). After scratching my head and continuing to ponder how they could claim this weight I decided to remove the rain cover, the media pocket and the soft lashing hardware. After doing so, it the Sentinel did indeed weigh in at 4 lb 12 oz (2.15 kg) or roughly 4.8 lbs. I can only assume advertising it at 4.8 lbs vs. 4 lbs 12 oz was a marketing decision. I didn't call High Sierra, but assumed this had to be how they came by the figure.

The pack fits me well with the shoulder harness in the largest setting even though my torso is not the full 20 in (51 cm) to which the pack claims to fit a person. If I were to adjust the harness to my true torso size the straps would come too far down the back of my shoulder blades for a comfortable fit. I've always felt that pack measurements are merely a guide for the user, and what feels best is what works. Just wearing it around the house and even before loading the pack I noticed my back beginning to sweat in a 75 F (24 C) air conditioned environment. However, I tend to sweat a lot and this is always a concern for me with an internal frame pack.
IMAGE 10
Removable Media Pocket

I find the media pocket a little over the top, as I head to the backcountry to retreat from all forms of 'media'. I will probably use it to carry a digital camera for gear and scenic shots along the trail. However, I personally would find some zippered waist belt pockets more useful the media pocket.

IMAGE 8
Sleeping Bag Compartment

The sleeping bag compartment is cavernous when I stuff my 7 x 14 in (18 x 35 cm) Montbell winter bag in there. There is plenty of room for some other bulky lightweight storage. What does excite me about this separate storage area is access at camp. I typically hang my pack on a tree when in camp, and digging for gear in a top load pack can be a chore. I should be able to place gear that I want to access quickly in this compartment and just unzip and grab it quickly in the evening. This does lead me to another concern with the pack. I'm concerned with the rain cover. When the pack is fully loaded it doesn't appear to cover it completely on the sides. Because I do hang my pack, I like to make sure it is completely covered in the event of inclement weather. Also the company refers to the pack cover as water resistant, not water proof.

I have a few other minor concerns with a pack that otherwise appears to be well constructed. When tightening the waist belt (which is rather long, but does have small stowage clips) the female clip appears to make a zipping sound when tightening to size and doesn't adjust smoothly. The male side never makes this noise, and I wonder if it may be a defect in the belt clasp. My final concern is that when the pack is not fully loaded the top lid appears to want to flop around a bit and doesn't secure tightly. That could be a little annoying hearing it shake about constantly on the trail and I will have to address it if it continues to be the case. Finally not a concern, but more an observation about the just mentioned waist belt; any person with a waist under 30 in (76 cm) would have to replace the belt to use this pack.

SUMMARY

IMAGE 9
Sentinel packed with Gear

Overall I'm very excited to be testing the Sentinel in the coming months. The BEEFY waist belt supported 35 lb (16 kg) of gear easily while wearing it around the house. The shoulder harness appeared to fit well, didn't pull away and the load lifters worked well in initial home testing. I'm ready to hit the trail and try it out. I hope to fill the entire volume of the pack on most of the test runs while still keeping my overall pack weight at or around the aforementioned 35 lb (16 kg). Since I have acquired lighter and smaller gear over the last several years this may be a little challenging, but I should be able to overcome this during really cold the really cold weather.

The color is appealing to me, even with the waves within the ash color. There appears to be plenty of room in this pack for the style of camping I do. In the field report I'll be sure to illustrate the items I carried over the course of this winter test. A great praise for the Sentinel is that I can actually grab a bottle of water and replace it in the side mesh pockets without assistance. I've had this component on many packs, but never been able to truly use the feature without the aid of a fellow hiker or removing the pack. That is a true positive in my opinion.

My key concerns about the pack are how much I will sweat on the trail, how well the top lid secures, the rain cover size and the strange noise and difficulty I have tightening the waist belt.

Please check back in two months for an update on the Sentinel. I'd like to thank High Sierra Sport Company and Backpack Gear Test for providing me with an opportunity to test this piece of gear.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Throughout this test period I've used the Sentinel on three separate occasions:

5 - 7, November, 2010: South Cumberland State Recreation Area, Middle Tennessee; The hike was in the Savage Gulf area along the Hobbs Cabin trail. It was just over a 20 mile (32 km) loop with an elevation change around 860 ft (262 m) and an average elevation of 1900 ft (579 m). The high temperature was 39 F (4 C) with evening lows around 24 F (-4 C) Winds were 7 mph (11 kph) from the NE.

26 - 29, November, 2010: Red River Gorge, East-Central Kentucky; This was a portion of the Daniel Boone National Forest with elevations averaging 1200 ft (366 m) and elevation changes around 400 ft (122 m). Temperatures started very mild, around 70 F (39 C) but with wind gusts around 30 mph (48 kph) from the SW. Temperatures quickly dropped to around freezing, but fortunately the wind speed became minimal.

1 - 3, January, 2011: South Cumberland State Recreation Area, Middle Tennessee; The Fiery Gizzard Trail, covering a six mile stretch with a consistent 1700 ft (518 m) elevation. High temperatures were around 38 F (3 C) and lows were 17 F (-8 C) and wind speeds minimal.

Sentinal 11
Tennessee Backcountry

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Sentinel rides very well on the body. The hip belt fits very well and is extremely comfortable, and the bag conforms well to my body. I tend to sweat quite a bit when backpacking even in cool temperatures, but I have to admit this pack did a nice job of channeling the moisture away from my body. Even during warm hiking my lower back didn't tend to gather too much perspiration, however high winds did create an interesting airflow on that particular hike. I have to say I am impressed with the Vapel™ mesh Airflow™ as it truly did wick away moisture.

My packed weight averaged 27 to 30 lb (12 - 14 kg) to include winter gear, meals and a hammock setup. During the initial report I was concerned the top lid of the pack may flop about on the trail. This was not a concern, but to ensure the lid was not too loose I did load the pack bag in a tall and narrow manner. This meant that I compressed the pack quite tightly and close to my body.

This 65 liter pack is cavernous and I am sure it could hold plenty of gear. However, my key concern with the Sentinel deals with the straps that holds the shoulder harness in place. The right strap slipped regularly during relatively flat trail use. I repeatedly pulled on this strap to keep the shoulder harness comfortable. It was a mild inconvenience on flat trails, but a consistent bother when I was dealing with inclines.

There are so many great things to state about the Sentinel that it saddens me to have to reflect on this issue. In my opinion there are three key essentials to backpacking; footwear, a comfortable sleep setup and a backpack. As my pack is the key piece of gear I use on the trail throughout the day, I want to make sure it rides well and is comfortable. This has not been the case with the Sentinel. Overcoming that obstacle would make it much more enjoyable. To date I've merely made a habit of keeping my right hand close to or on the strap itself, but I've thought that adding duct tape or even a clip while en route may alleviate this issue. I've not done so because I've been testing the pack as received.
IMAGE 2
Integrated Pack Cover

Once I've set camp the pack is great. As I've stated, the pack is cavernous. I've always been one to hang my pack on a tree, and the separated sleeping bag compartment came in really handy. My regular pack has only one main bag and when I hang the pack on a tree and store gear in it, I tend to have to dig for necessary gear while in camp. Fortunately, the sleeping bag storage compartment in the High Sierra pack is an excellent place to stow gear that needs to be quickly accessed during a camp stay. Lights, clothing, first aid gear and more were easily reachable through the arc shaped zipper of the sleeping bag compartment.

Because I do hang my pack when in camp I also have to give the integrated storage cover a failing grade. The storable cover is a nice feature the pack offers, as it slips away snugly in a compartment at the bottom of the sleeping bag compartment with an easily assessable hook and loop closure. Unfortunately, the provided cover will not encompass the entire pack even when it is relatively empty. I was fortunate to not face any severely wet weather during my trips, but had anything more than a mild sprinkle ensued the pack could have easily become soaked, and anything stowed inside may well have been also.

Not everyone that enters the backcountry hangs a pack as I do, so they may see this reporting as irrelevant to their use of this backpack, but I reiterate the point because I also see it as a concern if I were to required to use the cover while in transit. The pack cover simply doesn't protect the entire pack bag. Although I've not had to use it in a storm on the trail, the minimal coverage does not inspire my confidence in its ability to keep the contents of my pack dry. As a person that uses down, I see this as a serious concern.

The media pocket actually was an easily accessible storage point. I made a point of storing a point and click digital camera in this portal on each trip. I have to admit it made grabbing the camera a chore-less effort and I took more scenic shots than I have historically on a typical trek.

As I stated earlier, the pack conforms well to my body and the ERGO-FIT shoulder harness is very comfortable when not slipping. The external zippered pouch on the front of the pack is a little small for my personal taste, but I find ample storage for smaller items in the top lid. The sleeping bag compartment is a little large when my bag is in its stuff sack so I tend to add a compressed down coat or an air mattress in with the bag to fill the void in the space.

Concerning hydration; I actually find the mesh pockets on the side reachable when attempting to grab a bottle! It is never easy for me to return a bottle to a pack pocket, but it is 'do-able' for me with this pack. The internal hydration sleeve works fine and holds the water close to my back. This is a nice feature as water is often some of my heaviest weight on the trail. I find the dual hydration ports a nice feature, though I tend to use the right side out of habit. Once on the trail I did notice an elastic strap attached to the shoulder harness that keeps the tubing of a hydration bladder in place.

I try to keep a clean backpack and after having set it on the ground when resting or first setting camp I've found it relatively easy to clean off any dirt or residue with a damp cloth. The dark color doesn't stain or hold soil. It is a very sturdy product, and after 10 days of field use I believe it looks as new as it did when it arrived.

SUMMARY

There are many features of the backpack that I really enjoy. These include the ruggedness of the pack, the general fit to the back is quite comfortable and the breathability is excellent.

The key hindrance I see in the pack is with the right shoulder harness strap. It regularly slips when on the trail, and I often find myself holding the strap itself in anticipation of slippage. It has been something that has become quite a habit when using the Sentinel. I'd certainly prefer to have my hand free for balance or other concerns when on the trail. I would also suggest to the manufacturer that a larger pack cover would be more suitable for the Sentinel.

Please return for a final long term follow up in approximately two months concerning Sentinel. I want to again thank High Sierra Sport Company and Backpack Gear Test for providing me with an opportunity to test this product.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

19 - 20, February 2011: South Cumberland State Recreation Area, Middle Tennessee; Grundy Falls Area, a solo trip covering a several mile stretch averaging 1585 ft (483 m) elevation. High temperatures were around 59 F (15 C) and lows were 48 F (9 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During the final test phase I was able to make one more overnight trip to the South Cumberland area. I traveled a trail I wasn't familiar with near an old 1930's Civilian Conservation Corps site. Maps and Ranger Station information stated that water was only available at the trail head, so I carried 4.5 L (4.76 qt) in the pack. The water was distributed as follows: 3 L (3.17 qt) in a hydration bladder, 1 L (1.06 qt) in a Nalgene bottle and 0.5 L (0.53 qt) in a disposable water bottle. I mention this because it caused my packed weight to be the heaviest by far since testing the Sentinel. It weighed in at over 35 lb (16 kg) for this overnight venture, but the pack weight was very evenly distributed and rode like a jewel. Coincidentally I did find water near the campsite, but hey...Be Prepared and safety first!

The most interesting thing that I noticed during this trip was how well the shoulder harnesses supported the weight. My key concern with the pack during the field trial was how often I had to readjust my shoulder harness due to the straps slipping. The terrain was relatively level for most of the hike, but I had noticed this issue on similar trails earlier in the trial. My assumption was that additional pack weight would only worsen the issue. I was surprised to find this was not an issue on this trip until I hiked out with considerably less weight. It was then noticed the issue again.

IMAGE 1 IMAGE 2


















Carrying a pack that was 25% heavier did not make the ride any less comfortable. As I mentioned after first receiving the Sentinel, it is beefy in my opinion. It took a load that is much heavier than I generally carry and it was pleasure while doing so. The pack itself looks practically unused. I try to take relatively good care of my gear, but packs are known to be set on the dirty ground, hung on a tree or simply dropped from my back after reaching camp. The Sentinel is no worse for the wear. I have noticed no abrasions in the material, any dirt has been removed with a damp sponge after returning from the wilderness and all buckles, hook and loop and other closures look practically new to me.

One of the most impressive things I will continue to reiterate about the pack is how well the ventilation works. I never had any extremely sweaty experiences with it. Granted most of my trips were in cooler temperatures, but I can easily perspire when it is freezing outside. A true test of that measure for me would be a midsummer outing. Another benefit I noticed from the recent trip was that when the pack is filled closer to capacity the top lid easily stayed in place without cinching it down as tight as possible.

Overall, I've been satisfied with the High Sierra Sentinel and believe it is a sturdy well built pack.

SUMMARY

In final retrospect my opinion of the pack remains quite similar to how I felt at the end of the second portion of the test phase. It is well built, in general it rides remarkably well on me and it gives me superior ventilation.

My concerns continue to concentrate on the potential for shoulder harness slippage and the way the top lid attaches to the pack and the rain cover. I could find a way to live with the lid, but continued use of the pack would require me to find a way to ensure the shoulder straps don't repeatedly slip while on the trail. Adding 8 lb (3.6 kg) of packed weight is certainly not my personal suggestion for overcoming that issue. Although I haven't had to put the rain cover to the true test, I don't find it adequate to properly cover the backpack. Continued use would require me to use a different cover.

In my opinion, if these nuances were addressed by High Sierra they would take the Sentinel from a good product to a great one. I don't expect to personally use it regularly in the future as I prefer a lighter weight pack. I do, however, believe it is a great product to have in my gear closet to lend out to friends that I want to invite on the trail with me. I find it is easily adjustable for multiple body types, and though the shoulder slippage is not ideal I believe that could be overcome with some minor tweaks, that we do not do when testing a product. I will be happy to loan it to someone that doesn't own a pack if they want to hit the trails and find out about the great outdoors.

I'd also like to offer a final thanks High Sierra Sport Company and Backpack Gear Test for providing me with an opportunity to test the Sentinel.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
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