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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > High Sierra Sport Titan 65 backpack > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence

TITAN 65 BACKPACK
Test Series By Theresa Lawrence
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - July 28, 2012
FIELD REPORT - November 13, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - January 09, 2013

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Theresa Lawrence
EMAIL: theresa_newell AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 35
LOCATION: Sparwood, British Columbia, Canada
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Specifications

IMAGE 6 IMAGE 7Manufacturer: High Sierra Sport Company
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: http://hssc.com
MSRP: US$ not given
Listed Weight: 5.62 lb (2.54 kg)
Measured Weight: 5 lb (2.27kg)
Capacity: 65 L
Colour Tested: Pacific/ Nebula/ Ash/ Charcoal
Other Colours Available: Cliff/ Rock/ Auburn/ Charcoal and Amazon/ Pine/ Leaf/ Charcoal
One Size: Regular 14 - 20 in (35.6 - 51 cm) torso, 30 in (76 cm) and up waist
Warranty: lifetime warranty against defects under normal use

Product Description

IMAGE 8 The Titan 65 is an internal frame pack intended for either weekend warriors or experienced mountaineers. It has an outstanding number of convenient features, which I shall describe here. The main body and the bottom are made with mini-diamond ripstop/ Duralite nylon and 840 denier nylon respectively. The main top-loading compartment is 55 L and the lid and pockets make up the extra 10 L. The main compartment closes with a gusseted drawstring and the lid is adjustable, but not removable. The titan features an adjustable S-shaped ERGO-FIT shoulder strap harness, adjustable dual aluminum stays and a high-density foam padded back panel with large AIRFLOW channels with a contoured internal frame meant to keep the back comfortable, cool and dry.

There is a front-loading sleeping bag compartment with divider to the main compartment which can be unzipped from either side. Also, a hinged pocket sits on the front with gusseted sides, which the manufacturer suggests can hold a rope or other gear. On the front of this pocket is another zippered front pocket with convenient daisy chains. A removable media pocket attaches to one of the shoulder straps. Another zippered pocket lies underneath the lid. There are also two ice axe loops and likewise two hook-and-loop lashings to keep ice axes or poles in place. There is also a reservoir hydration sleeve with dual exit ports as well as dual mesh pockets on either side of the pack for 1 L (34 oz) water bottles. Compression straps are located on both the bottom and sides. Two zippered pockets sit on either side of the padded waist belt for quick to reach items. And lastly there is a rain cover tucked conveniently into a bottom pocket.

Reading The Instructions

IMAGE 9The tags attached to the Titan 65 explained in exceptionally great detail how to adjust the ERGOFIT shoulder straps, torso, waist belt and sternum straps to fit my size. Detailed diagrams and instructions showed where the weight should sit and even how to pack items depending on the type of load being carried and terrain encountered. Cleaning instructions were also provided, which included using warm water and mild detergent to spot clean or to submerge fully in a tub, rinsing with water and hanging to dry. And my favourite, sewn on to the underneath of the lid pocket is a cute list of "12 survival essentials". In theory I should never leave behind any essentials lest I forget to look at this list that I cannot forget to take.

Impressions

The Titan 65 arrived packaged in a box. Upon opening, I was dazzled by its blue colour and all its bells and whistles (though actually no whistles or bells, ironically not even a sternum strap whistle, but that is about all it didn't have). The pack displayed a myriad of features contributing to its 5+ lbs (2.2+ kg), which felt heavy for a pack. There was much to be impressed by, which negated the extra weight. Specifically, the side pockets for water, rain cover, pockets on the belt and front pocket just to name a few. I am very curious about the AIRFLOW channels and if they will keep my back cool and dry, I have yet to experience a pack that could do this. I am also looking forward to seeing if I can fit a climbing rope into the hinged front pocket, a suggested use by the manufacturer.

The grab handles on both sides of the pack seem a bit overkill as there are ample straps, etc. that one can grab onto. I feel these beefy handles just add weight and I'm not entirely sure why I would need such specialized handles, perhaps for travel in the airport ... I do like the media pocket on the shoulder strap, which can be removed. While it's likely meant for a mobile phone suggested by its shape, it appears to be a perfect fit for my personal locater beacon, which would place it in a highly convenient spot. And because it's removable I can then strap it to a summit pack, when I'm not using the Titan on mountaineering trips.

Taking a closer look at the craftsmanship, I noted several loose threads and questionable stitching (photos below), which I'll keep my eye on. Otherwise, quality appears heavy duty with beefy zippers, buckles and straps. I have some concerns with the durability of the gusseted mesh on the hinged front pocket and the mesh water bottle pockets based on previous experience with mesh ripping very easily.

IMAGE 3 IMAGE 4 IMAGE 5

Trying the pack on, so far appears quite comfortable and adjusting the pack to my size was easy, especially with the help of the accompanying instructions. I am looking forward to seeing how this pack performs in the field.

Summary

The Titan 65 sports a lot of interesting features as described above. I am looking forward to taking this pack on a number of alpine backpacking trips in the South Canadian Rockies. I'll be looking out for usability and convenience of its unique features and of course comfort and durability. Please check back in a couple months to check out my impressions in the field.
IMAGE 10
Rain Cover
LIKES
- Comfortable
- Adjustable
- Aesthetically appealing in colour and look
- Conveniently placed pockets (media pocket, hip belt pocket, hinge pocket, etc.)
- Well placed compression straps
- Sewn on survival list
- Rain cover

DISLIKES
- Heavy
- Hefty handles that appear unnecessary and add to weight
- Loose threads (concerns about the stitching)
- Concerns about durability of mesh material on gusseted hinged pocket and water bottle holders

I give my sincere thank you to High Sierra and BackpackGearTest for allowing me to test this unique backpack.


FIELD REPORT

Field Locations and Conditions

IMAGE 11 Over the past 2 months I have used this pack on the following trips:

AUGUST: Banff National Park, Twin Lakes to Gibbon Pass to Shadow Lakes: 2 nights, 3 days.
- Day 1 - Elevation Gain: 1065 m (3494 ft), Distance: 8.2 km (5.1 mi), Maximum Elevation: 2060 m (6759 ft)
- Day 2 - Elevation Gain: 750 m (2461 ft), Distance: 27 km (16.8 mi), Maximum Elevation: 2300 m (2546 ft)
- Day 3 - The reverse of the first day.
- Trail Conditions: well maintained steep mountain trail through forest, subalpine and alpine.
- Weather: dry, hot during the day, humid with short, fierce thunder showers in the late afternoon, evening and overnight. Temperatures ranged from 8-30 C (46-86 F), high winds encountered in Gibbon Pass.

SEPTEMBER: Airport Travel, Vancouver Island
- As checked airplane luggage: fully packed with kayaking and camping gear
- Used to transport sea-kayak touring gear from airport to point of kayaking

OCTOBER: Elk Lakes Provincial Park, Elk Lakes to Petain Basin: 2 nights, 3 days.
- Day 1 - Elevation Gain: 50 m (164 ft), Distance: 7 km (4.4 mi), Maximum Elevation: 1785 m (5856 ft)
- Day 2 - Elevation Gain: 600 m (1969 ft), Distance: 8 km (5 mi), Maximum Elevation: 2348 m (7703 ft)
- Day 3 - The reverse of the first day.
- Trail Conditions: day 1&3 - flat easy trail in forest, day 2 - steep head wall, narrow trail and rock slabs.
- Weather: overcast, mist & drizzle, rain, hail. Temperatures ranged from 0-15 C (32-59 F).

Performance in the Field

COMFORT: Either I or this pack have multiple personalities. Every time I put it on it felt different. On the first outing, I could not get comfortable with it. No matter how I adjusted it, and the adjustments were easy, which was nice, I could not get it to sit comfortably. Something was always lumpy in my lower back. But, on the second outing the comfort was quite satisfactory. Perhaps I just needed to break it in or maybe it was the type of hike. Since the first trip had over 1000 m (3281 ft) of elevation gain, while the second was only 50 m (164 ft) over about the same distance. Both times my pack weighed about 37 lb (17 kg). Of note the shoulder straps seemed awfully wide, making forward arm movements awkward, though this became less noticeable the more I used it.

FUNCTION: The pack proved to have a lot of functionality. The waist pockets were very useful for my small camera, snacks, knife and compass. They were in fact very roomy, which I liked. The removable media pocket attached to the shoulder strap fit my personal locater beacon perfectly. The side mesh pockets were big enough for 1 L water bottles, but the weight of them ripped the mesh pockets on the first day. Because of this I have used them for much lighter objects such as my fuel canister, bear spray and empty coffee cup. The pack is hydration system compatible, with a sewn in bladder pocket, two ports and elastic bands on each shoulder strap to keep the tube in place. This system really worked well for me, so I wasn't sad that I couldn't keep using the side pockets for water storage. A large hinge pocket on the back with gusseted mesh sides as well as a zippered pocket proved to be great storage space for rain gear (jacket , pants, gaiters, gloves, hat). When the weather turned I had easy access for these items as well as stashing warm layers as weather improved. In ill weather, there were no issues about stuff in this pocket getting wet because I could just cover the pack in the rain cover it came with, which proved waterproof so far.
IMAGE 12
Ripped Mesh Pocket
The main body of the pack was very roomy, the sleeping bag compartment fit more than just my sleeping bag. I had no problem packing all my essentials; food, warm clothes, first aid, sleeping mat, tent, etc. The top lid was roomy to the point of problematic. When it was full, and to fill it I had to put all kinds of things I wouldn't normally place in the top lid like my fat novel and guide book, toiletry stuff, my whole lunch (not just snacks), an extra layer or two just for filler. Some of this I loaded from the underneath zipper pocket, so if I was digging for quick stuff, I didn't have to sift through stuff I know I wasn't going to need. I found if I didn't fill it to the maximum volume the top would flop around because there was no way to tighten it as the buckles were too high up on the pack and the extra volume would make everything in it flop around from side to side and front to back whacking me in the head every time I leaned forward. However, filling the top to maximum volume allowed the pack to stand firm, but my head would hit it every time I looked up, not much fun. After much frustration, I found a happy medium using 1/2-3/4 of the volume and rigging the top closure straps through the compression straps for the sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the pack before fastening them closed. This resulted in the top lid being secured to the back of the pack instead of the top, which also overlapped the top of the hinged pocket, far out of the way of my head and stopped it from moving around. This rigged up arrangement has been working well, though perhaps not as intended.

As I have yet to find a pack that can keep the sweat on my back to a minimum, it was no surprise to me that the airflow design of the back, which was supposed to keep me dry and cool, didn't. In fact, I felt it trapped the heat resulting in concentrated sweat along my spine.

I don't use the side zip to the main body. When the pack is full, it's difficult to open and access anything. I find there was enough easy access pockets that there wasn't anything from the main body I needed or was easier accessed by opening the main access. Also, I haven't found a use for the hefty side handles, even at the airport I just grabbed hold of the side compression straps or top lid. The handles seemed in the wrong place to balance the load.

A whistle on the sternum strap would have been preferred, but as I always have a handy whistle to clip on to any pack, it was hardly a big deal.

DURABILITY: As mentioned above both of the mesh side pockets ripped on the first day of use under the weight of water bottles. I have no idea how I got a small hole in the middle of the rain cover, but I did. I'm thinking when I placed it on the ground. There are also abrasions in the middle of the zippered back hinged pocket that have breached full thickness. Again, I have no idea how this happened as the pack hasn't been dragged along anything to my knowledge. The trails I was on were in good condition and not overgrown. It's a bit of a mystery. I have also observed some stretched threading along the attachment points of the shoulder straps to the pack, they seem to be taking a lot of strain. I will keep my eye on these points over the next 2 months. The rest of the pack still looks new.

Summary

To date I have enjoyed the convenience the design offers for on-trail access to all sorts of items without having to fuss with the inside of the pack. The pack has proved easy to adjust and pack with lots of room for all my essential gear. Sometimes too much volume and a bit awkward or floppy at times, but I have found a rigging that works to minimize this. My favourite features so far are the quick access pockets on the belt and shoulder strap and the hinged pocket on the back. I still have some concerns with durability and comfort, which I will be observing throughout the next testing phase.

PROS
- Lots of quick access pockets
- Rain cover keeps pack dry
- Easy adjustability
- Hydration system compatible
- Mesh side pockets good for light items like bear spray

CONS
- Volumous top lid hits head because the straps can't be tightened (suggestion: move closure clips further down the pack to allow for tightening of the straps)
- Mesh side pockets ripped on first day under load of water bottles
- Small hole in rain cover and full thickness abrasions on back hinge pocket noticed on second trip
- First trip was uncomfortable (lumpy back), but comfortable on second trip (jury is still out)

Thank you to High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this interesting pack.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Long-Term Test Locations and Conditions

I have brought the Titan on two more overnight trips in December and January. The conditions represented winter in the Canadian Rockies near Banff, Alberta and Sparwood, British Columbia. They were both overnight ski-tours with lows of -13 C (9 F) and highs of -11 C (12 F) on the most recent trip and -5 C (23 F) to -3 C (27 F) on the earlier trip. There was lots of snow, great for ski-touring, no precipitation, just clear skies. The average elevation gain to camp on skis was about 700 m (2297 ft) on either trip. Highest elevation encountered was 2620 m (8596 ft).

Performance In The Field

IMAGE 13
Camp packed up
IMAGE 14
Rigged for skiing from camp
Using the Titan as a winter pack has been very positive. The front hinge pocket has proved to be a useful space for storing avalanche gear (shovel and probe) and ski-touring skins. The top lid which I found too large during the field report actually performed very well with my winter pack. Where before I had found the pack too voluminous to hold its shape causing all sorts of problems, this time I had no such issues filling it with my winter gear. I had space for a -30 C (-22 F) down sleeping bag, extra warm layers, four season tent, stove, sleeping mat, food and water. I stored water in two 1L bottles inside my pack instead of the hydration pack only because I've had some issues with my hose freezing in the past. The zippered pocket attached to the hinged pocket was great for extra gloves or stored my wet used ones. The hip belt pockets were big enough to hold my gloves and beanie when I got too hot skinning up hill, all while still holding my camera, snack bars, knife and other handy odds and ends.
IMAGE 15
Loose pulled thread


The fit continues to improve the more I use it, I would even say there was a definite break-in period. All the straps and buckles still function. Nothing has ripped since the field report. I still see the threads being pulled under strain at the top of the shoulder straps. While this makes me nervous it has not let go, though I feel the gap is increasing and there is a loose thread. I'm not sure if it can be seen clearly in my photo. The photo was taken without any weight in the pack.

Summary

Overall I've been happy with the pack. I've used this pack in summer, fall and winter conditions and feel it is best suited for winter. Its large volume main compartment and various pockets on the outside accommodate accessibility during winter conditions for all sorts of winter needs. I rarely needed to fish inside my pack for delayering and layering in the varying conditions because of all the external pockets. When the pack isn't being used to full volume I have a system that works to strap the top lid to the back of the pack overlapping the hinge pocket (shown in above photo). This works well for hiking around after camp has been set up and all the heavy stuff has been unpacked. To date I have not felt any advantages with its thermoregulating back panel design. The pack has endured cold and wet weather and has so far stood up, keeping contents dry and protected. I still have some reservations for durability with loose threads and pulled stitching, though nothing has come undone. Going forward I plan to continue using this pack as my winter overnight backpack.

PROS
- I've decided the pack is comfortable it just needs a break-in period
- Accommodates winter accessories (avalanche gear, ski-touring skins)
- Lots of volume for winter gear (large down sleeping bag, etc.)
- Large, functional accessory pockets on the hip belt (these really are great)
- Removable media pocket on the shoulder strap (fits a personal locater beacon perfectly)
- Hydration compatible

CONS
- Loose and pulled threads (no stitching has actually failed on this test series)
- No built-in whistle (I forgot to add my own on a couple of trips)

Thank you High Sierra and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test such an interesting pack.


This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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