From: Jennifer Joy [mailto:jjoy@...
Sent: Tuesday, 24 June 2003 11:38 PM
Subject: HSSC Stream Initial Report -- Jennifer
Mark, I still can't get yahoo to send me a verification email (hmm) so
I cannot email to the list.
Please, can you submit this to the list.
This is my first report, so I apologize in advance if I am not on
Name: Jennifer Joy
Height: 5'4" (1.63 m)
Weight: 150 lbs (68 kg)
Email address: jjoy AT io DOT com
Location: Austin, Texas
Date: June 22, 2003
I have been camping and hiking since I was a toddler, traveling with my
parents across the Western United States. Much of my recent time in
the outdoors has been spent in Texas and in the mountains of New
Mexico, with some time spent in New England. I often camp and hike
from a sea kayak as my vehicle. I used to be not very weight
conscious, but I am actively working to move towards lightweight
backpacking and plan to replace much of my gear in an effort to help an
extreme tendency for tendonitis. My backpacking trips tend to be over
a weekend or day hikes within a multi-day kayaking trip. Multi-week
hiking is a long-term goal. I could be considered a beginner
backpacker but an experienced camper.
Manufacturer: High Sierra Sports Company
Year of manufacture: 2003
Listed weight: not listed
Weight as tested: 3 lbs (1.36 kg)
Material: 600-denier Duralite, and Duralite ripstop fabric
Listed measurements: 12" x 5" x 16" (30 cm x 13 cm x 41 cm)
On my porch was a plain brown UPS box that contained the pack ready for
retail display. It had a small placard on the front that described the
features of the pack along with informational tags that dangled from
its hang loop describing the pack, care of the pack, the company and
the warranty. Also included in the box was a nice letter from a public
relations representative as well as a catalog that described the other
products in the hydration pack line. Interestingly, the pack displayed
on the placard, the catalog and the website has a slightly different
design to the helmet retention device. The bite valve also appears to
be different from the one I received. Also, while the placard points
out many features of the pack in detail it does not point out the
storage compartment for the helmet holder. The warranty is for the
life of the product to the original owner against failure of material
Catching my eye right out of the box was the stylish looks of the pack.
My model, known as the Stream, features delightfully colored front
panels in a water inspired shade of blue known as "dive" and the rest
of the pack is black with grey reflective piping accents. The pack
comes in other colors which can be seen on the website. There is also
a small orange ice axe loop with matching orange stripes on the
shoulder straps. The orange stripes are close-fitting loops the width
of the strap and have a small reflective stripe. Two mesh pockets are
on either side of the pack and are about half the height of the bag.
The feature of the pack that appeals to me most is the VAPEL mesh
suspended mesh back. Given the hot conditions I face most of the year
in Texas, a breathable back is paramount. The mesh fabric is the
contact point with the back. It is pulled taught on a light metal
frame so the body of the back floats 2 - 3 inches (5 - 8 cm) from the
wearer, narrowing to a point at the head and foot of the pack.
Once the placard has been removed, the triangular hammock-like holder
for bulky items and front pocket of the pack are exposed. The
hammock-like holder is meant to carry a helmet according to the product
literature. It fit my bike helmet perfectly and was easy to attach.
However, the helmet needs to be removed to get to the outer pocket. It
is nearly impossible to open the pocket while the hammock section is
attached, but empty. I opened the hammock with the two quick-release
fasteners that attach at the top. The front pocket has a bib shaped
covering, that zips upwards with two pulls, opening like a large frog's
mouth at the front. This allows access into the interior compartment
which features a large pocket with mesh drainage, another smaller
zippered section that has four segmented holders with similarly
matching segmented elastic band above it. If the item is small and
easy to grab, I found only one side of the hammock helmet holder needs
to be opened and one zipper can be slid back to get inside. The
zippers tend to stick a little where the inside pocket has a horizontal
zipper than seems to stick out a tiny bit causing a small bump to get
around. All the external zipper pulls on the pack feature extended
black fabric attachments with a contrasting blue piping that looks good
and is easy to use.
The body of the pack is a simple bag with a pocket for the water
bladder and a main compartment for whatever else I want to put in
there. The bladder is secured by a clip which has a fancy pivoting
joint allowing easy removable of the bladder while still clipped in.
The clip would keep the bladder from sagging as it empties.
The bladder is 2 liters (2.1 quarts) with a screw top opening that mates
to many common water filters, as it is the same size as those found on
Nalgene bottles. The bite valve has been an incredible annoyance so
far. It has a strange texture and shape. At first I could not get it
dispense any water. I tried various configurations before I got it to
dispense water. It seems to have a sweet spot that I'm not very good
at hiting yet. It took a number of frustrating minutes for me to
figure this out. The "twist to open" or simply pull open/close valve
setting is not simply nice but a necessity! Once I had the bite valve
figured out, when I went to let it go it started dribbling on my leg.
I have concerns how well it will stay closed as it opens very easily.
I keep forgetting to close it although I think the pull to drink and
push to close action will become a habit rather quickly. The insulated
water tube is a nice touch.
Tucked away in a hook and loop fastened pocket at the bottom of the
pack is a rain cover in a fabric that appears to be meant for
visibility in the rain as it is an indescribable color of yellow with a
greenish tinge. The cover has a stretchy elastic all around it and is
attached to the pack so it isn't easily lost. However, it can be
removed with a little effort should you not want the extra bulk or your
friendly giant needs a shower cap. Removal, deployment and stowage of
the cover was straight-forward.
I just discovered another pocket that hides at the front behind the
orange ice axe loop. It also features a hook and loop closure. I'm not
sure what this pocket is for. Perhaps this explains the ice axe loop.
It might instead be a pull for this pocket opening. It would be great
to stick small things in such as a small energy bar. After reading
the product description again I realize this is the hide-away place for
the helmet holder. This is a great feature since as previously
mentioned the helmet holder gets in the way if you're not holding a
As a shorter person the waist strap hits right above the usual hipbone
spot. It is lightly padded and features a 2 inch (5 cm) webbed belt
with a quick-release buckle and two well-attached keepers to hold the
excess webbing and keep it from flopping about. I liked the waist belt
and will see how well that works.
The shoulder straps are made from VAPEL mesh Airflow and are cut wide
enough to make me wonder if they will chafe. The are not padded but do
look to be very breathable. They have hook and loop fasteners that
allow the water tube to be quickly secured. Two previously mentioned
small orange loops can also be used to secure the tube.
The sternum strap unfortunately is not well placed to ride above the
bust, but it is close to being ok. Another inch (2.5 cm) of adjustment
upwards would have been nice. The strap has a nice built-in shock
absorbing segment and a quick release buckle. It has about 3 inches
(7.6 cm) of travel adjustment along the shoulder strap with a securely
Summary of initial likes:
Mesh suspended back
Construction and materials
Summary of concerns:
Shoulder and sternum strap comfort/fit
I've already used the pack three times while bike riding and on a short
hike in 90+ F / 32+ C weather. So far, there have been few problems
other than I could use a 3 liter (3.2 quart) bladder instead of the
supplied 2 liter (2.1 quart) size. I have found the bite valve
extremely problematic while biking. It has to be opened before use,
and the sweet spot for biting is very hard for me to hit, although I do
have a small overbite. Additionally, I have to close the bite valve
to keep it from dribbling at a high rate which is a dicey action while
try to ride. This is not a problem hiking as I have plenty of hands
and time to devote to drinking, but I find the general method of use
dangerous and worth mentioning for bike riders. I will monitor my
ability to use the bite valve and see if it becomes less bothersome
with practice. I also could use a key holder in the outer pocket.
Field test plan:
For the most part testing will take place in hot weather (90-100 F /
32-38 C) perhaps cooling into the 60s (16 C) and 70s (21 C) in the fall
before dropping into the beginning of winter where temperatures would
drop into the low 40s (5 C). Trips outside the state will move outside
of the usual weather found in Texas. I have a trip planned to both New
Mexico and Colorado mountains during the testing period.
I will give the pack a thorough workout covering both how well it
carries a load, how easily gear is accessed, and how easily it is
used. Testing will look at fit and comfort, use and capabilities of
the hydration bladder, and the capabilities and durability of the pack
itself. Some points of consideration are detailed below.
-Does it fit a smaller torso
-Does it adapt to a woman's body
-The fit and function of the sternum, waist and shoulder straps
-How much ventilation does the Airflow mesh provide for the back
-Stability of bag and bladder with rough terrain under various
loads (no gear, full of gear, and so on)
-What are the limits of bulk and weight of gear carried
-Utility and capacity of the front pocket and side mesh pockets will
-Any tradeoffs between water capacity and gear capacity, how do the
-How well does it carry my gear and is it easy to organize and use
The hydration component:
-Strength of bag and material
-How easy to fill and refill at a variety of water sources
-How easy to remove the bag and replace it (with and without a load
-How easy to clean the bag and tube
-The flow and ease of use of the hands-free valve
-Ability to stay clean and free from undesirable odors or taste
The pack component:
-Durability and construction of the bag will be considered
-Ease of cleaning muck, mud and other such things from the exterior
and interior of the bag
-Investigate the utility and impact of using the hide-away helmet flap
-Rain cover: how hard to deploy, stow and dry afterwards
-Reflective piping: does it work, how well
-Little orange loop: what is it for, is it really for my ice axe?
A final note:
Thank you to BackpackGearTest and High Sierra Sport for the opportunity
to test the Stream pack.