High Sierra Mayhem Backpack



Violent or damaging disorder; chaos

High Sierra Mayhem backpack
High Sierra Mayhem

After spending several weeks with the High Sierra Mayhem backpack, I’ve decided that the name may actually be a bit misleading. This roomy, expandable backpack has plenty of interior and exterior pockets and storage options, allowing you to stay quite organized. Large external pockets on either side are big enough for 12 ounce drinks or a standard bicycle water bottle if tilted at an angle, or a couple of sandwiches side by side. For quick access, there’s a large pouch on the front too. Just inside, you’ll find a place to keep all your small items organized, with open slots for things like business cards, a pocket with a velcro flap, skinny sleeve-style pockets for writing utensils, and a fob to hang your keys from. Next compartment in could still swallow a laptop inside a sleeve or thin case, but that’s not even the biggest one. The back compartment is roomy enough for oddly shaped items, such as my morning grapefruit and oversized water bottle. It’s also the where you’ll find the TECH SPOT, which is comprised of a padded sleeve (with frame-sheet) that can safely hold a 17 inch laptop, and a smaller area for readers and tablets. Up top, a small zippered compartment keeps your glasses fairly safe.

With all that capacity, a pack needs to be comfortable, which comes from a combination of good design/materials, and some adjustability. The shoulder straps offer a fair bit of width at the neck, which is appreciated by big guys like me. The padding is adequate, and the HEX-VENT mesh adds visual and tactile interest, while helping to keep things cool on hot days. Adjusting the straps is as simple as pulling up on the buckles or down on the rings at the end. That allowed it to be worn over a motorcycle jacket while commuting to work, and then over a t-shirt while riding my bicycle around town. Although I didn’t find a need to use the adjustable compression straps on either side, they’re a nice touch. Speaking of which, the reflective loop for your blinkie light is a welcome feature too.

When using it as a daily pack for school or work, there’s more than enough room to fit the essentials. It securely held my 15.6 inch laptop, plus had room for an iPad or Kindle, cords, cables, headphones, snacks, lunch, a really big (32 ounce) water bottle, and analog devices like pens, pencils, and even notepads. Packing for a weekend away, it will accommodate a change of summer clothes and the necessary toiletries to keep hair clean, teeth shiny, and your body smelling nice. Over the course of nearly two months, it went back and forth with me to work almost daily, and Ms. Outsider used it for weekends at her friends. We both appreciated the flexibility if offered us, as it’s sized right for every day use, but still generous enough for trips that don’t end at a school or office. At first glance, the zippers and other hardware may not seem like the most durable available, but she’s been dragging a smaller version of this backpack to school for an entire school year, and it’s held up to the abuse of a teenager that’s a bit rough on gear. We feel High Sierra represents a good value, made even better when you catch them on sale. Look for a review of some of their outdoor packs coming soon. highsierra.com

– Brian

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