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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Sport Titan 65 backpack > Test Report by Kerri Larkin
HIGH SIERRA TITAN 65 LITER BACKPACK
TEST SERIES BY KERRI LARKIN
My Titan 65 arrived in a large cardboard box, in perfect condition. Three things struck me immediately when I opened the box: firstly, this pack will not be easy to lose in the bush - it's very bright. Secondly, it sure is big! Thirdly, this is way heavier than my normal 35 litre (2135 cu in) pack. Now, none of these things are bad, I'm just not used to such a voluminous pack. For the last couple of years I've been trying to lighten my load by using more light weight and ultralight equipment. My big problem was that I needed extra gear to be warm enough in my hammock in winter, and there was simply no room in my tiny pack. Enter the Titan 65 (hereafter referred to as the Titan). This is a pack designed to swallow all my gear and more besides.
I was immediately struck by how sturdy the materials are - this is no flimsy whimsy. Many of the packs I've been using recently require a certain level of care, attention, and yes, even love, if they are going to last more than a single trip. The Titan, by contrast, looks as if it could deal with everything an airport baggage handler could throw at it and simply laugh it off. Third World buses? This pack looks like it would be right at home being thrown up on the roof.
The other thing that amazed me was just how many nifty features this pack has, so let's break it down...
The High Sierra Titan 65 is a top-loading pack with an internal frame. The main part of the pack is 55 litres in volume (3356 cu in) and accessed through a gusseted drawstring closure. The closure opens pretty much to the full circumference of the bag, making it very easy for me to insert bulkier gear. An adjustable strap goes from the centre front of the pack (at the base of the gusset) to the centre rear (again at the base of the gusset) allowing a very positive lock of the top and some compression if the load is large.
A non-removable lid fits over the drawstring closure to give some weatherproofing, and contains a zip accessed pocket for storage of small, easy to lose, items. On top of the lid are four loops - one at each corner - which could be used to bungee wet weather gear or a fleece on top of the pack. Inside the lid is another zipper accessible pocket for more secure storage of small items like car keys or travel documents. One nifty feature inside the lid is a sewn-in patch listing the "12 Survival Essentials", which is a great memory prompt and is important information for inexperienced hikers. Although the lid is sewn to the pack, there is plenty of room for adjustment via two straps at the back of the lid, and two at the front. This gives a compression sack effect allowing me to crank down the lid for a good, close, fit.
Inside the main compartment, at the rear, is a sleeve with an elasticised top suited for storing an hydration bladder. Support for the bladder comes from two hook-and-loop tabs sewn in at the junction of the gusseted neck and the body of the pack. There are two options to exit the hose for the hydration bladder, one on each side of the pack, so lefties and righties are well catered for. There is also a small, but sturdy, plastic clip at the top left rear of the pack which could keep those car keys from disappearing into the bowels of this pack.
Well camouflaged in this area is another slit near the very top of the pack. This hook-and-loop flap allows access to the packs skeleton: the plastic frame and two aluminium stays which can be bent (if required) to personalise the frame fit.
Further down there is a divider between the main compartment and the lower sleeping bag compartment. The divider can be opened with a zip, thus allowing the space to be used as a single 65 litre (3965 cu in) pack rather than a 55 litre (3356 cu in) main compartment and a smaller 10 litre (610 cu in) sleeping bag space. The smaller compartment is also accessible from the outside of the pack via a zipper running horizontally across the pack.
Externally, there are straps, pockets and pouches galore. The front of the pack has an expanding, hinged pocket with gusseted sides. The instruction booklet states this space is ideal for storing climbing ropes or other gear. I'm no climber, but it looks like a top spot to stow a rain jacket or a wet tarp. This hinged area is closed with two adjustable webbing straps which can also supply some compression forces. The front pocket itself opens with a sturdy looking zip to reveal a useful amount of room for a light jacket, spare clothing or nibbles. On the front of this pocket are two sturdy hook-and-loop tabs which would be perfect for storing an ice axe or walking poles. These two tabs can be moved to any of the four daisy chain links for greater versatility - I love those kind of thoughtful touches!
On each side of the pack is a very sturdy grab handle - a useful inclusion for those airport carousel melees, or the bus roof scenario. Personally, I find these side handles easier to use, and less painful on the hands than the standard thin strap at the top of the pack. The strap at the top of the pack looks good for hanging the pack in a wardrobe, but these two side handles look way sturdier and perfect for someone helping to get the pack on or off. Using them also means carrying the pack horizontally, which I find far more natural for my arm length, rather than having to hold my arm unnaturally high when the pack is vertical.
The grab handles are also where the compression straps meet - one goes upward to secure the top lid, one goes downward to compress the sleeping bag, and the last gives side compression to the pack. The bottom strap can also be repositioned to hold a sleeping pad across the bottom of the pack. Two strong loops are located at the front, bottom, of the pack and could hold an ice axe or be used for lashing the pack to a kayak or raft.
Each side of the pack has an elasticised pocket at the bottom which is big enough to hold a one litre (33 fl oz) bottle of beverage. I found these pockets are a perfect fit for my JetBoil stove too, so one less thing to cram inside!
One feature I especially like is a zip on the right side of the pack which allows access to the lower part of the top compartment so I don't need to completely empty the pack to reach something I've stored down low and now suddenly need.
On the bottom of the pack is a slit which is held closed by hook-and-loop. Opening the slit reveals a small pouch which holds the rain cover for the pack. This is no flimsy sheet of plastic: it's well tailored and robust. High Sierra has even thought to attach the rain cover with a strap to the base of the pack - no more lost (or stolen) rain covers! The cover has an elastic bungee to cinch it down over the top of the pack. With a fairly empty pack, the rain cover was long enough to cover the pack and my head as well - a High Sierra hoodie!
Regardless of how many pockets, pouches and straps a pack has, the key element is, of course, the carrying system: waist belt, shoulder straps and other bits and pieces that steady and support the load. The Titan doesn't seem to be wanting in this department either: there are plenty of adjustments possible. The hip belts are adjustable (of course) but the fantastic thing is they fit my somewhat ample hips with some adjustment left over. That's a rare thing I've found. Thank you High Sierra. The belts are padded with VAPEL® mesh and my initial trial suggests this will be quite comfortable. There is a reasonably large zip pocket on each belt and these seem to be quite well located. So often I've tried on a pack to find the belt pockets half way around my back, or too small to hold anything more than a single cashew. Not so on the Titan. They will easily hold something about the size of a sandwich. The pockets open wide too, so no scrounging around trying to wriggle two fingers into a tight little pouch.
The back of the pack is an interesting shape: It almost looks like a cobra standing up. This is all a part of the AIRFLOW® system which is made of high density foam. According to the instruction booklet, this is to help keep the pack away from my back so I don't get so hot and sweaty. It looks as though there is a 'Y' shaped groove down the centre back of the pack and I could see this acting like a bellows to pump air in and out of the space. If it does work this way, it certainly would help keep my back nice and cool and dry.
The shoulder straps are attached with the proprietary ERGO-FIT® 'S' shaped harness and load lifters. The ERGO-FIT system is very simple to adjust for different torso lengths: simply lift a hook-and-loop tab, slide the harness out of the daisy chain webbing and relocate it to an appropriate height. It seems simple, efficient, and very user-friendly. The shoulder harness also appears to be covered in the same VAPEL® mesh as the hip belt. Load lifter webbing straps attach the pack to the shoulder harness and work well. There's a 'D' ring sewn to each shoulder strap to allow bits and pieces to be clipped to the straps. The left-side shoulder strap has a removable "Media Pocket" which attaches to two webbing daisy chains with hook-and-loop fastener. The pocket is a reasonable size and appears as if it would take most smart phones, a GPS, or an Emergency Locating Beacon (ELB) as there's a small slot in the top to allow an antenna to poke through. I found it to be a perfect size for my monocular and allows fast access, assuming the sound of ripping the hook-and-loop closure open doesn't scare off what I want to observe. This pocket is not waterproof though.
Attached to the shoulder straps is a sternum strap which can be slid up or down to provide an infinitely variable position, so it should suit almost everyone. The Sternum strap webbing attaches to what looks like a sail track system, which is what allows it to slide for adjustment. The main part of the strap has a bungee section to allow some give without over-stretching the strap, which looks like it will make moving and chest expansion much more comfortable than a standard strap.
A small eight page instruction and care book was attached to the pack and gives a great visual clue as to what all the functions of the pack are. One page is devoted to measuring the torso and a choosing a pack size, and there is a very useful page on how to adjust the pack to fit properly. The instructions are clear, easy to understand, and don't appear to have been translated from another language, as is so often the case nowadays. There is also a page dedicated to how to load the pack and how to clean it. The back page details the High Sierra Limited Lifetime Warranty.
The recommendation for minor marks is to spot clean using a sponge, warm water and mild detergent. For a complete clean, the recommendation is to fill a tub with warm water, add mild detergent until the water bubbles, then submerse the pack. Give it a bit of a gentle shake while it's under water, rinse and hang on a clothes line to dry. Simple really.
So having given the pack a thorough inspection, it was time to try it on. I loaded everything I normally take on a weekend away and found I'd barely half-filled the Titan. This pack holds a lot! Of course, the temptation is to take extra gear to fill the pack, but I try to be fairly ruthless in culling the unnecessary. After all, what seems like a good idea in the comfort of my home seems just plain heavy after a day's walk.
Swinging the pack up on to my back was pretty much the same as for any other pack, but I noticed right away how well padded the hip belt seems to be, and that it will comfortably circumnavigate my hips.
Hooray! I'm not a size six and never will be. It's great that High Sierra recognises that larger people do hike, and sometimes that's what they do to lose weight, sometimes they just hike because they love it.
With the hip belt cinched down, the pack felt quite stable on my back, especially after adjusting the shoulder straps and lifters.
One common problem I have with packs is with the shoulder straps digging in to my underarm area. So far, the Titan feels like it won't do that.
Despite the pack's size, it didn't protrude much beyond the top of my head, making judging clearances a bit simpler.
As far as build quality goes, I haven't seen any loose threads or poor sewing on my pack - it all looks first rate.
I'm looking forward to my first outing with the pack to see if it performs anywhere near as good as it looks. Despite being heavier than my previous pack, the load feels well distributed and supported from the short trial I did around my home. I'm really excited about this pack and can't wait to get to know it better!
Please check back in around two months for my Field Report.
This concludes my Initial Report on the High Sierra Titan 65 backpack. I'd like to thank both High Sierra Sport Company and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item.
My initial use was an overnight camp at Platypus Flat, north-west of Dorrigo, New South Wales. This is a magical spot by a fast flowing river with a couple of still pools where platypus live (sorry, they are too hard to get pictures of with a standard point-and-shoot camera!). Temperatures varied from highs in the low 20's C (around 70 F) during the day to 0 C (32 F) overnight. This was a cold camp! Terrain was quite steep in places and covered with sub-tropical rainforest. Recent heavy rains had caused a lot of ground damage, and the campsite remained constantly wet from both rain and dew. My pack weight was 16 kg (35 lb). Photo above.
Next, I used the Titan on a two day, one night walk through the Boambee State Forest in northern New South Wales. This trip was a bit warmer with temps in the mid to high 20's C (around 82 F) during the day to an overnight low of 10 C (50 F). This was a eucalypt forest which was quite damp after a heavy dew overnight, but dried during the days. My pack weight was 12 kg (26 lb).
Finally, I've just returned from a twenty day trip (both car-based and hiking) to Kangaroo Island, which is a forty minute ferry ride south of Cape Jervis in South Australia. We encountered a mix of terrain and vegetation from open grassy camps to sheltered heath scrubs (no trees for the hammock!) to tall eucalyptus forest. Temperatures varied from highs of 28 C (82 F) to lows around the 7 C (45 F) mark. We encountered showers on one day and gale force winds on another, but otherwise the weather was fine to overcast for the entire trip. While there are a few low hills on the island, terrain is comparatively flat. I walked between 6 km (3.7 mi) and 15 km (9 mi) each day for eight of the twenty days, for a total of 70 km (43 mi), which is a long distance for me. The other twelve days were used for travel and car-based camping. My pack weight was 18 kg (40 lb) initially and down to 12 kg (26 lb) by the end of the eight days.
During this phase of testing, I've certainly not babied the Titan - it's been thrown in the back of the car, hung from trees, left laying on damp ground, and lugged around on my back. I've used it as a backpack, a suitcase, and a seat. So far, the Titan has laughed at everything I've thrown at it and while there are a few things I've had difficulty with, over all, this is a very easy pack to love.
One of the things I love most is the side handles - these are just great for schlepping the pack short distances between camping sites and the vehicle, and for manipulating the pack in the trunk of the vehicle. They have given no sign of tearing away from the pack and appear to be at the correct point to balance the pack when loaded the way I do.
Once on, the Titan has become a different beast; some days it's very comfortable and other days I just can't seem to get it adjusted for comfort. As I stated in my Initial Report, this is a much bigger pack than I'm used to wearing, which may contribute to my lack of comfort at times. Although the shoulder straps seemed comfortable initially, I've since found them hard to wear as the padding seems to go too far along the strap and ends up rubbing my shoulder and arm. Also, the cinch buckle for the shoulder strap appears to end up in my armpit some days. I haven't yet figured why this is so on some days and not others. I also believe both of these problems are most likely related to my ample size rather than any flaw in design of the pack. I've tried adjusting the "Ergo Fit" harness to shorten the torso length, but it has only minimally helped with the shoulder strap situation. I use the shoulder strap pouch for my monocular - it fits nicely and is easy to access - but I could see it working well for a GPS or small radio.
The chest strap mounting points make it very easy to slide the strap up or down, so it's easy to adjust when I notice it rubbing.
One of the things I love/hate about this pack is that all the straps are plenty long. I love this because it means they fit a big person, but hate it because the ends always seem to be tangling or getting in the way. Still, the amount of adjustability means it's so easy to tailor the pack to differing loads and shapes. For one camp, I had my tent in one of the side mesh pockets, with one of the side compression straps used to hold it stable. On the other side I had my lightweight camp stretcher attached. It worked very well, and still gave me enough strap length to compress the pack.
One of the drawbacks of being rotund is the lack of hips for the hip belt to sit on. Consequently, it's been a bit hard to get the hip belt tight enough to transfer the load to my hips. Again, this is a design flaw in me, not the pack. I found the hip belt straps a little fiddly to adjust on the fly initially, but with practice, they are very simple to adjust. The pockets on the hip belt are close to my hips and are quite handy for snacks and my camera.
I must confess, I completely forgot about the side access zip on my last two trips and relied solely on the top loading entrance to access the pack with no trouble at all. The mouth of the pack opens wide enough to make loading very easy, while the drawstring gusset adds a fair bit of volume above the lip of the pack, should it be needed. Again, with modern lightweight equipment taking so little space, I've really not truly filled this pack. I've often forgotten the strap across the top of the pack which is used to compress the top of the pack, but it doesn't appear to affect the stability as the top pouch secures with two buckles. I have found the top pouch is a bit floppy when not fully loaded, so I try to keep a jacket or other light gear in it. As this is a double section pouch, I keep my survival and first aid gear in the internal part of the pouch, and my jacket in the outside for easy access.
There's a plethora of daisy chains and pole straps on the outside of the pack, most of which I still haven't used as I can fit pretty much everything inside the pack. I have used the small hinged zip pocket on the front for my hammock, and for putting my fly sheet in the hinged section. Although that seems to push the pack out quite far I've not noticed any balance problems as they are light. It also keeps the potentially wet bits of gear out of the main pack.
I've loved having the lower part of the pack segmented to take my sleeping bag. It saves trying to squeeze it in to a stuff sack every day and helps keep the loft in the down. Nice! I have noticed the zip to this compartment seems to catch on the material which covers the zip at times, but so far there appears to have been no damage from this either to the material or the zip.
I've also enjoyed the ease of using a hydration bladder with this pack. A slit on each side of the pack for the hose gives me options, but I found bringing the hose out on the side opposite the shoulder strap with the pouch meant less chance of dripping water into my monocular. I also found the "D" rings and elastic loops were pretty much in a perfect position for clipping the bite tube to.
Probably the least successful part of the pack for me is the "Air Flow" venting system on the harness. While the theory is great - using body movement to act like a bellows and pump cooler air in and sweaty air away - in reality it just didn't work for me. Again, I think that's more to do with my size; perhaps a trim person would not have a back which fills the hollows of the bellows so readily.
I love the material this pack is made from: I had numerous encounters with spear grass on Kangaroo Island. This stuff is exactly as the name suggests. The seed heads are very sharp and have a barb meaning that if they penetrate something (clothing, socks, skin) they are hard to remove. The best option is to turn the clothing inside out and pull them through, although that doesn't work so well with skin. Although the mesh side pockets and the webbing were susceptible to penetration by this grass, the actual pack material seemed impervious. I got in the habit of laying my pack with the harness up to minimise the chance of getting this nasty grass in my straps.
Overall, this is a very nice pack to use. There are plenty of design features which demonstrate it was designed by hikers rather than marketers, and it has numerous options to tailor it to a specific body size and shape. There are plenty of attachment points for carrying external gear, should that be required, and the access options make it easy to load and unload.
That concludes my Field Report on the High Sierra Titan 65 backpack. My thanks again to High Sierra Sport Company and BackPackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item. Please check back in late January for my Long Term Report.
Due to a variety of circumstances, I've only been able to take the Titan on one more two-night trip since the Field Report stage. This was to Bindarri National Park, near Bellingen on the New South Wales north coast. This was an off-track expedition following a creek from an elevation near sea level to about 200 metres (660 feet) above sea level. The terrain was mostly rainforest or wet sclerophyl forest. Temperatures varied from lows around 20 C (68 F) to highs around 28 C (82 F), with humidity around 70%, making for fairly trying conditions.
This walk involved a lot of scrabbling around root buttresses in thick leaf litter, and medium to large granite boulders. Although it didn't rain, we often wished it would!
Although I was only able to get an additional two nights (three days) use during this phase, the good news is, there were no surprises. The pack continues to perform well and is very comfortable to wear. One of the nice things I found was that the pack was easy to use in thick forest. Previous packs I've used have extended quite high above my head and have a tendency to catch on low branches. Not so with the Titan; it was pretty much at the same height as my head, so if I could walk through a space I was fairly sure I wouldn't get snagged.
Every time I use the Titan, I'm amazed at how much gear I can pack in it! Although I've rarely filled it since the warmer weather came around, it easily carries a smaller load. Again, some packs need to be fully loaded to work well, but the Titan has enough adjustability to cope with everything I've thrown at it.
I still love all the various compartments which make organisation of gear so easy. I use the top outside pocket for things like sunscreen and insect repellant, bandanas and toilet paper. The inside top pocket stows my survival and emergency gear. The outside front pocket carries my hammock. The expandable pocket carries my tarp to keep it away from everything when it's wet. I love the lower space for storing my sleeping bag, and the main part of the pack carries food, water and clothing. I put my cook system in one of the mesh side pockets. The removable media pouch keeps my monocular handy, and the hip belt pockets are used for snacks and my phone.
In terms of durability, this pack looks built to last the distance. I've not found any problems with the mesh side pockets, and the pack looks almost as good as the day it arrived. There are no worn, torn or loose threads and, despite some rough treatment, the material of the pack seems to be holding up well.
The High Sierra Titan 65 backpack is a beauty. As I stated initially, this is bigger than any pack I've used in a long time, but there really appears to be no downside to using this bigger pack. Yes, it's a bit heavier than my smaller packs but that weight penalty is more than made up for in flexibility. With my smaller packs I have to jam stuff in so tightly I have to virtually unpack everything to find any single item. With the Titan I can rummage through the pack if needed, but the extra space gives me more freedom to organise my contents more usefully. The Titan is also equipped with enough pockets to make that easy.
The Titan is, for the most part, comfortable to use and wear and, I believe, has sufficient adjustment options to tailor it to most body shapes and sizes. The fact that it fits me straight out of the box is testament to that. I've often had to pay to lengthen straps, but not with the Titan.
This appears to be a sturdy, durable, pack with room to cater for a multiday hike, or even a through hike with no fuss.
Over the last few months, I've grown to love this pack so, yes, I will continue to use it well into the foreseeable future.
This concludes my test of the High Sierra Titan 65 backpack. I'd really like to thank High Sierra Sport Company for the thoughtful design of this pack, and both High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to be included in this test series.
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