For over thirty years, High Sierra has been offering products that strike a good balance between quality and affordability. Their Hawk 45 backpack is a prime example. It’s not the lightest 45 liter pack out there, nor is it the most feature-rich, or even the lowest priced. But it does just about everything you would expect from it, and at a price that’s easily affordable.
While just about every pack today has the same feature set – waist and shoulder padding, some sort of back ventilation, pockets for water bottles, compression straps, various lashing options, and a compartment for a hydration bladder, the Hawk 45 has a few that extras that are usually only found on pricier packs. For instance, the waist belt has roomy pockets on both sides, making it easy to access items like a GPS, camera, or snacks, without removing the pack. The left shoulder strap has a removable media pouch. Built into the very sturdy nylon base is a pocket containing a rain cover. There’s a front loading compartment for your sleeping bag. An interesting addition is the “12 Survival Essentials” guide sewn into the top compartment.
Overall construction of the Hawk 45 is a bit higher than expected from a pack that can be found for right around $100. Different panels utilize varying grades of nylon to provide strength where necessary, and lighter weight where allowable. Our test model was a nice contrast of greens. Shades of blue, as well as a warmer toned pack are also available. Some of the stitching was not completely uniform, but all the seams were tight, and we also appreciated the large zipper pulls that could be worked with gloves.
In use, the Hawk 45 really impressed us. If you’re inclined to use a hydration bladder, there are two kinds of hooks as well as two velcro straps, to accommodate most models. There is also a port on either side, making it easy plumb for left or right hand use, or run the pressurization line in the case of the Geigerrig. Loading is easy through the large drawstring opening, and if necessary, the divider between the sleeping bag and main compartments can be unzipped for more flexibility. The lid offers access to smaller, frequently needed items from the outside, as well as having a more secure pocket on the inside. Once packed, getting the straps all adjusted went smoothly. Since the Hawk 45 is non-adjustable for size, it’s designed for a 15-19″ torso, with the most comfort felt by those in the middle of that range. One advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your intentions) of the smaller size compared to a 65 liter pack is that less gear generally equals less weight, which can translate into more comfort while hiking. So much for turning the kids into pack mules or sherpas. But if you’re buying a 45 liter pack, the expectation should be 1-2 days worth of gear, unless you’re truly packing light and roughing it. With loads of 30 pounds or less, this pack was comfortable all day, even in the ups and downs of Utah’s Wasatch range.
This isn’t the first High Sierra product we’ve tested, and we’ve once again come away impressed with the overall value. Although it does weigh a bit over five pounds, that weight appears to be the result of a heavier, more durable nylon, as well as the oversize zippers and buckles, which should hold up well over the long run. And we suspect that’s exactly what High Sierra customers are looking for. www.hssc.com