Published on July 26th, 2011 | by Greg0
Bags of Summer: High Sierra and Jansport
Luggage has come a long way in the past thousand years or so. The earliest wheeled bags we know about date back to the Crusades around 1153, and would have been essentially trunks filled with weapon and armor repair materials. We didn’t haul out or chainmail or longswords to test our latest batch of luggage- though that does sound like a fun review process for the future. Instead, we subjected them to the 21st century’s own set of hazards- kicks, drops, overfull loads and uneven surfaces, wet conditions. Actually, those don’t sound so different.
The High Sierra AT559 32-inch Expandable Wheeled Drop-Bottom Duffel is part of their family of duffel bags, including a variety of 26- and 36-inch models in different colors. This was our first time testing their products, and we were happy to see the hallmarks of serious durability- a set of strong handles including a pull-up primary, decent zippers, and Duralite material. A foot allows the bag to stand upright, though balance can be an issue. But this is a serious beast of a checked bag, as it offers almost 8000 cubic inches of space between several compartments. We especially liked the bottom compartment, growing common in larger duffels, and perfect for shoes- the hold-down straps are relatively unique and pretty handy. The wheels weren’t amazing- inline skate style, these are middle-of-the-pack and get the job done but could have been larger and more durable.
There are even included (and easily secreted) backpack straps- though we didn’t use them except when the bag was mostly empty. Even with nothing inside, it weighs around 14 pounds, and we can’t imagine trying to manage a full bag on our shoulders. But we appreciate the inclusion nonetheless, just like the reflective touches and nice grippy material on the handles. Ours was a fairly mild grey (called a bit distressingly “none” on their website), though the bag is available in three other styles as well. For a short trip, this bag is overkill, but for serious travelers a duffel like this one from High Sierra offers the best volume to bag ratio. The separator can be removed turning it into almost one big compartment, a nifty way to add some divisibility without much hassle or weight. At $180 or so, it’s well-priced for it’s class.
For those who want a lot of carrying space but prefer a backpack, the Jansport Klamath 68, model TVU4 should fit the bill. Also available in a smaller version (55) and larger (75), this middle child offers 4200 cubic inches of carrying space and weighs only about four pounds. With a bag of this size, you want to make sure that the straps are comfortable- you’ll be out hiking or walking all day and balance is essential. Too often, we’ve used bags that have poorly placed straps, or ones that are hard to adjust. Luckily, Jansport not only offers comfortable straps (and hefty ones), they also feature a neat GridFit system. It’s a bit of a gimmick, since most folks will probably not need to adjust the placement and there are only three of each dimension. But the idea is sound- individually-adjustable strap placement on a small grid, allowing for differences in torso length and shoulder width. We experimented a bit, and found it fairly easy to adjust, but only a couple of smaller folks felt the need to do so. The waist belt and sternum straps were well-placed and cinched nicely.
The fully padded foam backpanel is perforated and ribbed to allow your back to breathe, and overall the bag is well-ventilated. And like most bags in this class, compression straps were provided, and a hydration sleeve is built-in with piping though no reservoir was included. A lifetime warranty is a nice touch, and there are several pockets for gadgets, gizmos, maps, and such. For an internal frame, aluminum is a smart choice, and we definitely liked the light weight of this high-capacity bag. It packs pretty easily, and though it isn’t a full-on waterproof bag, the seams were well-sealed and we had no issues in a light rain. Those looking for technical gear or heavy use in inclement conditions might want to look elsewhere, but everyday hikers and weekend travelers should love the Jansport Klamath 68. Especially the price- around $112 available online.