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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Sport Sentinel Pack > Test Report by Wayne Merry

High Sierra Sport Company Sentinel 65 Backpack

Test Series by Wayne Merry


FIELD REPORT: 18 March 2008


About Wayne, the tester:

Age: 34
Gender: Male
Height: 1.8 m (5' 10")
Weight: 90 kg (200 lb)
Email address: wayne underscore merry at yahoo dot com dot au
City, State, Country: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Backpacking Background: I started overnight backpacking six years ago. I hike in various terrains from moderate/hard track walks to some off track and rivers. I like the temperature to stay above freezing, and have not camped above the snow line during winter. I enjoy going on weekend and multi day walks up to two weeks as well as day walks. I carry a moderate weight pack, enjoying a few creature comforts at camp. I would normally do at least 2 overnight or longer walks every three months, in addition to a number of full day length walks.
About the test environment:

I will be testing the High Sierra Sport Company Sentinel 65 Backpack in Victoria, Australia. Elevations will vary from 0 m to 1750 m (5750 feet). The test will be conducted in the summer and autumn (fall) seasons with temperatures varying from 10 C (50 F) to 40 C (104 F). Humidity varies widely during this time of year. Conditions could vary from quite wet to very dry.

I will be testing the Sentinel 65 backpack on all my overnight or longer walks that I have planned during the test period.
Product Details:
Sentinel 65 Backpack in shipping plastic bag

Manufacturer's description: For day trips or long-term adventures, our Sentinel 65 frame pack delivers on gear space without adding on the weight. Just 4.8 pounds and boasting 65 liters of main-compartment storage space, the Sentinel 65 features top and bottom pack access, a bottom sleeping bag compartment, a hydration-ready design and plenty of accessories to hold gear like ice axes and hiking poles.

Specifications for product as tested:
  • Weight
    • Manufacturer specified:
      • Weight: 2.18 kg (4.8 lbs)
    • As tested:
      • Weight: 2.54 kg (5.64 lbs).
  • Dimensions
    • Manufacturer specified:
      • Height: 32.0 in (81 cm)
      • Width: 14.25 in (33.5 cm)
      • Depth: 8.75 in (22 cm)
      • Volume: 65 litres (3970 cu in)
    • As tested (main compartment) :
      • Height: 79 cm (31 in)
      • Width: 37 cm (14.5 in)
      • Depth: 21 cm (8.5 in)
      • Volume: 62 litres (3783 cu in)

Initial Report: Item Receipt & First Impressions:

4 Jan 2008

Sentinel 65 unpacked

I received the Sentinel 65 backpack in a cardboard shipping container that contained the backpack inside a plastic bag. The backpack survived its international journey to arrive in excellent condition. I then removed some cardboard "brochureware" that was attached to the pack (see right), which was then ready to go.

My first impressions was that the 65 litre (3967 cu in) pack makes available quite a lot of space. I was able to fit more stuff in than I used to take in an old 80 litre (4882 cu in) travel pack I used to take backpacking before I got my current expedition pack. The Sentinel should be plenty for any of my walks up to 5 or 6 days. When packing for an overnight walk, I had a significant amount of spare space. The gusseted drawstring closure works well to enclose what I would normally take on an overnight walk, however the top lid is adjustable only on two points rather than four, which results in the lid being on quite an angle if the pack is not full.

The materials used in the Sentinel pack look well equipped for the rough scrub that can be found in the Australian bush. The pack does not pretend to be waterproof, but has a rain shield provided that can be found in the base of the pack. This shield appears to be as good if not stronger than the rain shield of my old travel pack that has taken a fair degree of punishment without failing. The rain shield of the Sentinel covers most of the pack, and we may see how well it keeps the rain out during the test period.

The Sentinel has all the adjustment straps that I expect on a proper bushwalking pack, and they are easy enough to adjust. I have noticed that the straps for waist adjustment are quite long, and a very large person could put on this pack. What this means that for me who is only moderately overweight, the excess strap dangles down to my knees! I can fold the excess strap over a few times into a strap guard provided, but it is not designed for multiple folds. If I run the excess strap through the strap guard without folding, the straps dangle on the outside of my legs. The long straps can be seen in the picture to the right and below. The sternum strap is adjusted near a clip on the left side of the chest rather than the middle, but seems ok. The straps near the abdominal area and behind the head seem easy enough to adjust with the pack under a 15 kg (33 lb) load. There are a total of 6 compression straps - 2 on each side, and 2 on the bottom. All of the compression straps seem easy enough to use. The 4 side compression straps pull the hinged front pocket towards the main pack. There is provision to anchor hiking poles on both sides of the pack. Two thin poles can be placed on one side, with a larger pole (or ice axe) on the other side.

Waist Straps on Sentinel 65

The Sentinel has an adjustable shoulder harness that can be moved by adjusting some Velcro straps (see below). I found this was easy to do. The pack comes configured for a 51 cm (20 in) torso, and as my torso is 48.5 cm (19 in), I needed to adjust the harness by one position. The internal frame is two aluminium frame bars can be accessed from within the pack (rather from the back of the pack) and there is a good amount of Velcro to hold a wide strap over the top of both the bars. This will hopefully prevent the frame from undoing the Velcro or slipping out the side under heavy load. These bars are pre bent, and seem to be comfortable for me as supplied. The mesh/foam harness feels comfortable with a load, however I am yet to take the pack out for proper overnight walking.

The Sentinel is supplied with a media pocket which is attached by a Velcro strap to the left shoulder strap. It does not fit my mobile (cell) phone, but it should fit small media devices. I have often attached phone cases around that area of the shoulder strap with other packs. As the media pocket is too small for my needs, I will remove it from the pack. The front of the pack has a hinged front pocket. High Sierra suggests this can be used to hold ropes, but it can also be used to fit water bottles. It could take a bladder, but the tube would need to be long to go around the pack. Run through holes for bladders are provided on the other (near) side of the pack, but they would need to be placed in the main part of the pack. The two side mesh pockets are large enough to take good size water bottles. I can comfortably fit a 1.5 litre (0.40 US Gallons) bottle in each pocket. The top pocket has about 25 x 20 x 7.5 cm (10 x 8 x 3 in) of space to work with (around 3.75 litres or 229 cu in) in addition to the space provided by the main compartment and hinged front pocket.

That is all for my initial impressions of the Sentinel 65. Check back in two months or so for my observations of the Sentinel 65 in the field. Thanks to BackpackGearTest and High Sierra for the opportunity to test the Sentinel 65.

Harness system on Sentinel 65

Field Test Report:

18 March 2008.

Trips during Field Reporting Period

Over the last two and a bit months I have used the High Sierra Sentinel 65 backpack for a total of 10 days in the following locations:

  • Rubicon, Victoria, Australia
    • A forested area with elevations from 200 m (660 ft) up to 1200 m (3660 ft). Temperatures were mild to hot: 15 C (59 F) to 35 C (95 F) with humidity low.
    • This was a two day walk and I carried around 12.5 kg (27.6 lbs) total weight. I walked for up to 8 hours on the longest day with few stops as I was walking solo.
  • Mt Howitt/Howqua valley, Victoria, Australia.
    • The mountain section was first in forest and then low scrub above the tree line. The valley sections were in mostly open forest. Elevations ranged from 400 m (1310 ft) to 1700 m (5550 ft), with temperatures ranging from 15 C (59 F) through to 30 C (86 F). Humidity was medium to low.
    • Mt Howitt was a 900 m (2670 ft) climb from a base camp. From there my walking group headed off for a 2 day pack carry. The Sentinel 65 was used as a big day pack for the trip up the mountain. For the remaining time, I carried around 12.5 kg (27.6 lbs) total weight. The day walk had 8 hours of walking, while the two day pack carry had around 5 hours each.
  • Great Ocean Walk, Cape Otway to the 12 Apostles, Victoria, Australia.
    • This was a 5 day coastal track walk with some beach sections. Elevations were from sea level to 250 m (820 ft). Temperatures ranged from 15 C (59 F) to 35 C (95 F) with low humidity. I began the walk carrying all my stuff for 5 days and a two man tent. My pack weight came in at 19 kg (42 lb). Walking time each day was around 5 to 6 hours.

Two views of the Sentinel 65

My experiences with the Sentinel 65 have been mostly positive. I have felt comfortable walking on each day except for when I had trouble with the chest strap (see below). I use the main area of the pack as a large single compartment with a stuff sack, inflatable mattress and tent going down the bottom, and this arrangement worked well with the Sentinel 65. When I had the full two man tent going in, it was a little bit of a squeeze, but it all worked out. I was able to fit everything for the 5 day walk in, including the two man tent. Shown to the right is the pack when full. Aside from the water bottles in the provided mesh pockets, I have not needed to strap stuff onto the outside of the pack.

The picture with the full pack shows a water bottle in a mesh pocket in the side of the pack. This water bottle is 1.5 litres (51 fl oz), which is a little larger than the 1 litre (33.8 fl oz) that High Sierra advertise as the capacity for this mesh pocket, but I found that the larger water bottle worked fine. I normally carry two of these, one each side of the pack. It can be a little tricky getting the water bottle back in with the pack on, but it is certainly do-able. Many people like to use bladders with a tube, and the Sentinel provides two feeder holes for this, but I like to use conventional bottles to see how much water I use throughout the day.

The "rope" compartment, or hinged pocket, on the back of the pack is large enough to fit two 750 ml (25.4 fl oz) bottles, plus a small amount of room for other things. As the compression straps act to pull this compartment closer to the main pack, they tend to squash the contents of this compartment far more than compress the main compartment which could be a drawback. I tend not to rely on compression straps too much, so this was not a major issue for me. There is a cavity between this rope compartment and the main pack which could be used for a larger flat item. The rope compartment is stitched into the main pack at the base, however any item wedged in here is only prevented going out the sides by the 4 compression straps. I did not try to store anything in this cavity.

The top compartment is attached to the main pack at 4 points. The two points on the harness side of the pack are adjustable, but are not readily detachable. These are the two points I incorrectly suggested could not be adjusted at all in my initial review. The other two points have clips and can also be adjusted. The adjustable straps with the clips have more free play than the other two points, which results in the top compartment sloping downwards when the pack is less than two thirds full. This can happen on an overnight walk for me.

Harness system on Sentinel 65

I tend to sweat a lot, so I was always going to provide a robust test for the moisture handling capability of the Sentinel 65. I have found that moisture does tend to clear at a reasonable rate, but nothing can save me from a wet back. I have found that a small amount of moisture can make its way into the main compartment of the pack. It's not much, but it does happen. I suspect it comes through the thin material behind the shoulder harness system which can be seen below the "Ergo Fit" area in the picture first shown in the Initial Review and also to the right.

The chest or sternum strap is secured to the main shoulder straps by a mechanism shown in the picture below. This consists of a thick cord that is enclosed in material sown into the shoulder strap. A plastic attachment clamps onto this using a C shape, and can be pulled off if pressure is applied. The plastic attachment is designed to be able to move up and down along the cord, and this is how the vertical position of the chest strap is adjusted. I tend to wear the pack high on my back as this feels more comfortable for me. The result of this is that the chest strap is adjusted to the top of the cord. If I adjust the strap to be tight the clamp can be pulled off the cord, and this happened to me twice. I suspect the more it happens, the easier it will be for it to happen again. I may try gluing the plastic clamp in place. I think this is the biggest downside to the Sentinel pack. All the other straps seem well secured, but this chest strap could be secured better.

I had to change my mobile (cell) phone during the period of the test, and found that the phone could fit into the media pocket of the Sentinel. I use my phone as a MP3 player, so this could be handy for me. I found, however that my arm tended to rub against the media player pocket in both the designed position, and a little lower down on the shoulder strap, so the pocket got removed from the pack. I don't intend reattaching it - it does not work for me.

The materials on the Sentinel seem to be handling the test quite well, although I have noticed some decolourisation occurring. Some of the orange colour is a little gray on the edges, so the material can pick up dirt and sweat. Aside from this, the materials feel fine at this stage of the test. Chest strap attachment

In summary, the things that I like about the Sentinel 65:

  • The 65 litres (3967 cu in) is a good size for me for walks up to 5 days, and the compartment space is quite accessible.
  • The pack has a comfortable feel throughout the walking day.
  • I can fit two good size water bottles in the mesh pockets.

and on the downside:

  • The pack does not prevent all of my sweat from getting into the main compartment.
  • The chest strap is not well secured for me.

My Long Term Test will continue to test the Sentinel 65 in similar ways to that seen during the field test period. I am also now testing a two man tent for BackpackGearTest, so the pack will tend to be more full than seen during the Field Test period. Check back in about two months for the Long Term Test Report.

Long Term Report:

21 May 2008.

Trips during Long Term Reporting Period

Over the last two and a bit months I have used the High Sierra Sentinel 65 backpack for a total of 4 days in the following locations:

  • Cape Howe, Victoria and New South Wales, Australia
    • A forested and open beach area with elevations from sea level up to 200 m (660 ft). Temperatures were mild: 10 C (50 F) to 25 C (77 F) with humidity low.
    • This was a four day mostly off track walk and I carried around 14 kg (30.86 lbs) total weight. I am also testing a two man tent for BackpackGearTest, so this has increased the weight I carry and volume used in my pack.

The one walk in the long term test period was for 4 days, so I headed out with a fairly full pack. If I carried only a single man tent, there would still be some spare room. My observations on this pack were similar to those in the Field Test Report. I found the pack comfortable in carrying 12 to 14 kg (26.46 to 30.86 lbs) over the 4 days. The walk included some scrambling, climbing under tree trunks, and crossing rivers on fallen trunks, but I felt balanced with the pack on. The pack holds the weight close to my back, although this is partially dependent on how the backpack is packed at the start of the day. As I am now carrying around a two man tent, I have less available space in my Sentinel backpack, but everything can still fit.

I have not used the rain cover. During the walk, I had some very light rain, but this was not sufficient for me to bother putting the rain cover on. As noted in the Field Test Report, the chest strap is vulnerable to being pulled off, but if I do not place much stress on it, then it holds. As my walk had some tricky bits, having the chest strap in place is important for pack stability.

Shoulder adjustment system wear

During the long term test period, I found a use for the rope compartment. I have found that I can fit two 750ml (0.79 US Quarts) water bottles quite conveniently in there - although these water bottles may have been used to contain some red alcoholic beverages for use at camp (cough). I also found that I could store flat pack plates and bowls plus a raincoat in the cavity between the main pack and the rope compartment. The rope compartment is stitched into the main pack at the base, but is separated on the sides and the top, allowing for some bulk in the cavity.

During the Long Term Test period, I became aware that there is some wear on the material that holds the shoulder straps in place. This is shown in the picture to the right / above. The shoulder strap is held in place by a belt that is threaded underneath a set of small horizontal straps. These straps can stretch, and as the picture shows, have stretched. The picture shows the shoulder harness disconnected from the adjustment straps so the stretching can be seen more clearly. Two small straps have stretched in the picture, and this is because I adjusted the pack after wearing it for a while to the next strap down. The stitching at the end of the small straps is still secure. I found it interesting that the lower strap had stretched more, and perhaps this is because I carried more weight in the pack when I used it in that position. In any case, I would be concerned if I needed to carry large weights in this pack, however my pack weight did not exceed 14 kg (30.86 lbs) during the test.

I plan to continue using the Sentinel 65 backpack as I did during the test period, and I have found that overall it is quite a suitable pack for me. Aside from the media pocket being no good, the chest strap needing a bit of TLC (tender love and care) and the issue with the shoulder harness system described above, I have found the pack had worked well, and has survived some interesting tough walking environments that dished out some punishment to exposed skin (ouch).

This concludes this test series. I would like to thank High Sierra Sport Company and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test the Sentinel 65 backpack.

Read more reviews of High Sierra Sport Company gear
Read more gear reviews by Wayne Merry

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Sport Sentinel Pack > Test Report by Wayne Merry

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