High Sierra Hydration Backpack from Costco Review

The hydration backpack is a modern miracle of necessity meets convenience.  I can just imagine 20 years ago in the parking lot after a Padres game, 2 strangers run into each other while staggering back to their cars.  The first guy had one of those hard-hats that held 2 beer cans on each side with a straw that fed from both to the mouth.  The other walking with a beer bong wrapped around his neck.  The rest as they say...is history, and the hydration pack was created.
What they imagined would be a great way to smuggle beer into a ball-game, has now turned into a modern necessity for all outdoor sports enthusiasts around the world.  Dudes who shave their legs bike every day sporting a hydration pack.  Chicks who don't shave their legs hike into the mountains with hydration packs all around the world.
For years, the hydration pack market was owned by Camelbak.  In fact, I call every hydration pack a Camelbak as it is just easier to remember. (I also refer to my Zune as an IPOD, as it's better than actually explaining what a Zune is) 

But even 10 years ago, the Camelbak was very cost-prohibitive.  A very simple model would run you well over 40-50 bucks.  As a poor waiter at the Olive Garden, my tips from large parties of cheap women exchanging baby shower gifts would not pay for both tuition and luxuries such as a Camelbak.

Soon, cheaper models started popping up in Walmarts across the country.  Unfortunately, hoisting a backpack while simultaneously wearing a cutoff Levi-esque jacket with purple sweat bottoms was just too uncomfortable, so they didn't sell well.  A contributing factor to poor sales was that Milwaukee's best did not age well in the hydration packs.

On a completely separate and disgusting note, for those who don't want to spend the money on a expensive hydration pack, drinking your own urine is always an option.  (Bear Grylls says that you can drink your own urine 2-3 times before it becomes toxic.  Good thing too, as toxicity is always my first concern when ingesting urine)

While perusing Costco's "seasonal" offerings last year, I noticed an off-brand of hydration pack.  The manufacturer is High Sierra.  To the Camelbak elitists, buying a High Sierra hydration pack is akin to buying a Hyundai, or using Noodle golf balls.  While quality products, they don't carry the same name-brand cachet of a Camelbak.  (I'll admit, it's kind of embarrassing when a stranger walks up to your golf ball, and says "Is this your noodle?"  Why would you name a golf ball noodle?)
I decided to bite, as the pack seemed to be a good deal.  It was only 20 dollars, and had some decent options.  What could I lose for 20 bucks?  This was 3 to 4 times cheaper than a comparable Camelbak model.

My family now owns 3 of these packs, and after multiple trips with them, I feel comfortable giving the benefits and drawbacks of this pack.

The bladder holds 2 liters.  This would appear to be perfect to hold an entire bottle of Dr. Thunder, but alas..the manufacturer suggests against using soda in the pack.
The bladder appears to be pretty hardy.  In addition, the opening is quite large.  This aids in cleaning, and also getting liquid in the bladder.  The bladder is also surrounded by some sort of reflective material, thus keeping the liquid cold.
The pack has a decent amount of space.  There are multiple pockets to house your cell phones, pocketknives, and other items.  I found that I could fit large quantities of trail mix, beef jerky, peanut m&m's, Reese's peanut butter cups, and a 20-pack of Easter peeps.  Who wants to go hungry on the trail??
There are also a couple nice features on the pack.  There is a hideaway mesh flap which can be used for a bike helmet or a small child. (this is probably illegal)
Soft back-ridges let air circulate in order to cut down on the sweaty back syndrome.  For those of us that channel our inner Patrick Ewing in the heat, this is a plus.
There is a bike pump sleeve for flats, but I have found that the smaller cans of easy cheese also fit well in that spot.  Being able to get to the easy cheese without stopping on the trail is a big bonus.
Besides the shoulder straps, there is also a chest strap.  In addition, there are waist straps, but I didn't find them until my 2nd or 3rd trip as they are hidden in side pockets in case you don't want to use them.  It was like a late Christmas finding those bad boys.

The mouthpiece is a bite/suck model which can be used hands-free with the "docking station".  Besides begging for a double-entendre joke, the bite/suck mouthpiece works well.  In fact, the "straw/tube" thingy on the pack is insulated, also keeping the liquid a little cooler.

Oddly enough, this model isn't shown on the High Sierra web-page.  It's probably a Costco-only offering, so you'll have to be a member and check it out yourself before buying.

It is probably true that there are better and higher quality hydration packs on the market, especially if you are a hardcore outdoor enthusiast.  My idea of outdoor enthusiasm is mowing the lawn, thus this model completely fits the bill.  Plus, I still refer to it as my Camelbak.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! I just picked up two of these for my friend and I in Arizona for our trip around the state and to Zion and Bryce in Utah. We're only planning on some light hikes so I'm really pleased with the cost of this. I appreciate your review, it assures me this was a good choice!

Anonymous said...

Howdy.. Just thought that I would add my two cents in!! I too am from AZ, and picked my pack up at Costco. It is a great backpack for the price... Comfortable, etc.. Have fun with your travels... Be Safe, Be Well:-)

Henry Hiker said...

Still have this! I found the bite valve to be leaky, for $30 I bought a mil-spec camelbak reservoir, and gained 30oz water capacity, steal

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