FR - HSSC Long Trail 90 Backpack - Kurt Papke
- This FR is two days early, but I figger the monitors are getting bored
after that long holiday break and are looking for something to do ;-)
The FR portion text is pasted below:
During the Field Report period my first use of the backpack was on a
4-day backpacking trip along the Southern end of the Superior Hiking
trail in Northern Minnesota from October 13-16. This trail section
varies in altitude from 650 to 1200 ft (200 to 365 m). The terrain is
forested with granite outcroppings. Temperatures ranged from a high
of 60 F (16 C) to a low of 28 F (-2 C) at night. My starting total
weight was 50.7 lbs (23 kg) including 3 qts (3 l) of water.
The photo at left shows the pack at a rest break on the Pine Ridge
overlook. The remarkable aspect of the photo for me is there is
nothing tied to the back of the pack! On all my backpacking trips I
have my sleeping pad, camp shoes and rain jacket/pants strapped to the
back of my pack. I was able to put all of my gear in the pack without
even having to extend the collar to fit. The only items on the
outside of the pack are the things I want there: water, and my
knife/thermometer dangling from the zipper in the back.
Second use was December 8-10, 2008, a 3-day trip to the Superior
Hiking Trail along the Beaver Bay to Penn Creek section. Beginning
pack weight was 46.8 lb (21.25 kg) including 7.8 lb (3.5 kg) of food
and 3 qt (3 l) water. Temperatures ranged from a low of -2F (-19 C)
to a high of 15F (-9 C). Elevation ranged from 750 to 1250 ft (230 to
380 m). This was clearly a winter camping outing (see photo at
right), and I was happy for the capacity of the pack. Even with its
copious capacity, I still ended up strapping my camp boots and
snowshoes to the back of the pack.
I was pleased that my 0F (-18 C) synthetic fill sleeping bag fit in
the proper compartment of the pack. However, it took some cramming to
get it in there, and unlike with my 3-season down bag my Hennessey
SuperShelter open cell foam pad would not fit into the sleeping bag
compartment as well. It had to go into the main compartment. The
good news is the main compartment of this pack is so large it
swallowed the pad with aplomb.
* The pack fit me very well - I was able to carry virtually all
the weight comfortably on my hips.
* There are a lot of nooks and crannies, hooks and loops to store
things in this pack. One of my challenges was remembering where I put
* The side pockets are small. They are large enough to be useful,
but only about 60% of the size of the side pockets on another pack I
have. They are too small for a 1 l (1 qt) insulated Platypus bottle.
I did find them useful for storing hats, gloves, mittens and other
items I needed to access on hiking breaks without opening the pack or
accessing the front pockets which had gear strapped over the top of
* The small vertical front pocket in the picture above (with the
knife & thermometer dangling from the zipper) is very small (thin).
About all I could fit in there was a package of cigars, and it was
good they were small cigars.
* The hydration sleeve is huge. It is so deep, that once I forgot
to hang my reservoir on the hook, and it slid to the bottom of the
pack. The result was the drinking tube was so shortened (reaching to
the bottom of the deep pack) that I could hardly get it in my mouth.
* Some of the zippers required substantial effort to work,
particularly on the side and front pockets. They never snagged, but
they required a lot of force to open or close. They worked well in
frigid weather, and never froze up on me during winter.
* The adjustment for the right shoulder strap started to slip
after the second day on the trail. By the end of the 4-day trip just
moderate bouncing caused it to loosen more than I would have liked.
By the second trip both shoulder straps slipped constantly, which
annoyed me greatly and caused the pack to tilt backwards.
* The shoulder strap padding was not as comfortable as I expected
given the weight carried in the pack. The sparse padding plus the
slippage mentioned in the previous point resulted in some pretty sore
* The pack felt and looked a bit top-heavy. It was odd to twist
my neck, look behind me and see the pack cover looming behind me.
Once I got used to carrying it, the weight distribution seemed fine,
but it definitely took some getting used to.
* There are two zippered pockets in the pack lid. I cannot figure
out why the top one (the smaller pocket) is felt lined. I intend to
use it for goggles and sunglasses on my next trip, as the liner
should protect the lenses.
* I found a use for the media pocket: two energy/protein bars fit
very nicely in there. I appreciated being able to grab a snack
without putting the pack down.
* The pack fabric seems really durable. I was slinging it down on
granite outcroppings without a care, and so far it has suffered no ill
* The extension collar has a draw cord around the base and the
top. I never used the one at the bottom, but the one at the top
worked well and allowed me to corral my gear in the main compartment.
The top compression strap was effective in squeezing my gear down.
* I found the pack cover to be most useful at night. I enjoyed
being able to just pull the cover up and over the top and not worry
about my gear getting wet or full of snow. It was large enough that I
could stash boots and other gear under the cover. Nice!
Big Pack Syndrome (BPS)
Me at the grocery store before the trip: "Yeah, another bag of Peanut
M&M's, that'd be good. Ooooh, let's throw a jar of Nutella in there
too." When packing a 90 l pack, I found I had little or no
self-restraint. For me to have a pack that weighed that much for a
4-day trip is a bit of an embarrassment. This is not the fault of the
High Sierra Long Trail pack - it did not hypnotize me into loading up
like that. I just have to learn that its OK to use the compression
straps on the pack to tighten it up when its not full.
Busted hydration sleeve hookIn preparation for my December backpacking
trip I was stowing my hydration reservoir in the sleeve and heard a
"pop". As can be seen in the photo at left, it was the sound of the
reservoir hook breaking.
The good news is that the reservoir I was using is large enough to sit
in the sleeve with no support needed from the hook. To prevent any
further damage from sharp edges, I snipped off the hook with a
* I liked having the integral rain cover, which I mostly used to
cover the pack at night. As a hammock camper I do not have a
vestibule to store my pack, and I appreciated the self-protecting
* The hipbelt padding was very comfortable, and effective at
transferring the load directly to my hips.
* The main compartment, sleeping bag compartment and pack lid are
all huge and can swallow lots of gear.
* I appreciated the neat look of having all my gear inside the
pack instead of hanging off the front.
* The combination of draw cords and compression straps on the
extension collar, combined with the adjustable straps for the pack lid
made a very effective system to configure the pack for varying amounts
* There are few packs that can accommodate strapping snowshoes to
the back. This one can.
* This is a durable pack. I don't coddle my packs, and the Long
Trail 90 looks brand-new (except for the broken hydration hook) after
all my field use.
Areas for improvement:
* No pack should have shoulder strap buckles that slip and loosen up.
* The very front pocket and side pockets could be bigger to make
them more useful.
* The hydration sleeve is perhaps too big. Reservoirs just don't
come that size, and things can get lost in there. This issue is
compounded by the sole hydration reservoir hanger, which in my case
broke off. That meant my reservoir sunk to the bottom of the sleeve,
which goes all the way down to the bottom of the pack.
* The zippers require excessive effort to operate.
* The hipbelt padding wrapped around to the front of my abdomen
more than it needed to. My stomach is already sufficiently padded on
its own that having padding on the belt pressing against it seemed
overkill, and could prevent someone with a smaller waist from
completely tightening it.
* The hipbelt webbing straps are too long. The previous point
about the length of the padding contributes to this. As a result, I
had to tuck the excess straps behind the padding to keep them from
flopping around in front of me.
This concludes my Field Report for the High Sierra Long Trail 90 Pack.
The Long Term Report will follow in approximately two months. Many
thanks to High Sierra Sports and BackpackGearTest.org for the
opportunity to test this product.