5 Best High Sierra Backpacks: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

High Sierra is one of the best known backpack brands among avid hikers, campers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. Read on to see five of the most popular High Sierra bags reviewed in detail. We reviewed everything from High Sierra school backpacks to business bags to hiking backpacks.

We also compare High Sierra backpacks against each other in order to create the most comprehensive High Sierra backpack reviews available.

High Sierra Backpacks Compared

Image

Model

Size

Compartments

Check Price

High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack, True...

High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack

Medium, 36.5L

6+

High Sierra Fatboy Backpack

Medium, 39L

4+

High Sierra Karadon Frame Pack,...

High Sierra Karadon 45L

Large, 45L

5+

High Sierra Summit Top Load Internal Frame...

High Sierra Summit Top Load

Large, 45L

5+

High Sierra Loop-Backpack, School, Travel, or...

High Sierra Loop Backpack

Medium, 33L

6+


What Makes the High Sierra Brand Popular?

High Sierra backpacks are popular for a wide variety of reasons. The versatility and functionality of these backpacks is one of their biggest assets. Their price point also makes High Sierra backpacks appealing, as they're affordable for all budgets.

High Sierra bags are fashionably designed as well, making them attractive for those looking for a combination of style and functionality. The combination of durability, functionality, style and affordable price point has culminated into an extremely popular and well-received brand of backpacks.

While they may not be the highest end luxury brand, every High Sierra backpack offers something for everyone.


Who are High Sierra backpacks made for?

One of the reasons High Sierra is such a popular brand is due to the large selection of backpacks the company offers. While High Sierra backpacks are certainly marketed and directed towards hiking and outdoor enthusiasts first and foremost, there are many other products available for other purposes, such as the High Sierra school backpacks line.

High Sierra has an entire line of laptop bags, for example, for professionals on-the-go. They also offers messenger bags, wheeled bags, lunch bags and more. High Sierra offers styles that will appeal to almost anyone, from avid trail hikers to white collar commuters. 

Of course, High Sierra naturally draws in a demographic that consists primarily of young outdoor enthusiasts, but anyone can find a High Sierra product to love.

high sierra backpack review

What we Looked At: High Sierra Backpack Buying Guide

Materials

For the materials category, we looked at the make-up of each bag. This included the durability of the materials used to make the bag as well as any zippers, latches, straps or other parts of the bag, and whether the zippers had protective flaps for waterproofing. Finally, we looked at whether the bags were waterproof in general or otherwise extra durable.

Backpacks are made of many different materials and High Sierra capitalized on this to bring a complete range including waterproof and weather-resistant materials. You will also find each High Sierra hiking backpack to be made of durable nylon and other materials.

Straps

We evaluated the straps based on several factors. These included comfort (how comfortable are the straps for long-term use?) adjustability (can the straps be adjusted, and if so, by how much?) and finally extra features (do the straps have any other features or functionality beyond their general use to hold up the bag?). 

We made sure to pay close attention to the compression straps when comparing every High Sierra hiking backpack. We also did a thorough review of the High Sierra school backpack range by looking at the laptop sleeve. Keep in mind, you must know how to wear your backpack properly to experience the full comfort level.

Size

As far as size goes, we looked at this category both in general terms (the dimensions of the bag overall) as well as by compartment. We measured what each bag is able to carry in liters, as well as what each compartment is able to hold. We combined these to get an overall idea of the size of each bag.

You will find a range of sizes offered by High Sierra. They have everything from a full hiking backpack for long trips to a smaller daily carry bag for work or school.

Comfort

What good is a nice backpack if it isn't comfortable? This should be the main concern when shopping for a new High Sierra backpack. We looked at the overall comfort of wearing each High Sierra bag. We also took a look at the comfort of carrying it, flying with it, and traveling from place to place. 

We thought the comfort level of every High Sierra backpack was well above average. Whether you're looking for a hiking pack, a laptop backpack, or a bag for college, you can be sure you're getting comfortably designed backpacks.

Compartments

We evaluated each High Sierra backpack based on the number and functionality of its compartments. This specifically included whether each bag has a laptop sleeve, as this can be an important feature that either makes or breaks the bag, depending on what its intended use is to be once you've purchased it.

During our High Sierra product reviews, we also looked at external storage compartments. We evaluated whether each High Sierra bag served its intended purpose. If we were looking at a High Sierra hiking backpack, we searched for things like a sleeping bag compartment and hydration sleeve. If we were looking at a High Sierra school backpack, we searched for a laptop sleeve and pen organizers.

Style Options

As far as reviewing style options, we mainly focused on the variety of color and style options available for each High Sierra backpack. Having a wide variety of color and style options available can be an important factor in choosing between two similar product options, even if it may not have bearing on the functionality of the backpack.

Price

One thing we looked at during our High Sierra backpack reviews was the overall price point you can expect when shopping. We found that these High Sierra bags typically range from $30 to $130, which we think is reasonable. in terms of value. The High Sierra hiking backpacks will be more expensive than their work and school bags.

Warranty

Not every High Sierra backpack has a warranty, so we first had to determine whether each model we reviewed had a warranty at all. For bags that do have a warranty, we gave bags with longer warranties higher ratings, and those with short or limited warranties got lesser ratings. We were impressed with the High Sierra warranty on the bags that came with one.


5 Best High Sierra Backpacks Reviewed

1. High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features
  • Waterproof = No
  • Number of Compartments = 6+
  • Laptop Sleeve = Yes, 17-inch
  • Colors Available = 22+
  • Size = Medium, 36.5L
  • Warranty = Yes, 5-Year Limited

The High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack is a wonderful choice for students or commuting professionals. The bag has a somewhat compact size at only 13” in length, but has many compartments that are perfect for holding books, folders, organizers, and more.

This High Sierra backpack has a cushioned laptop sleeve, which works well to keep a personal computer safe and secure - this is great for any 17-inch laptop model. The bottom panel is also padded to protect all of your belongings. Moreover, the bag features a zippered pocket with a USB port, so it's practical if you need to charge your devices while you're on the go.

We also really liked that this High Sierra black backpack that still looked professional. if you're going to the office, you want to stick with a neutral color palette to give a more professional appeal. In our opinion, you could absolutely wear this to even the more professional business office.

One con of the High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack is that it isn't waterproof, so it may not be best for hiking or camping with valuable tech items.

The bag is also on the small side to be considered a camping or hiking bag. However, for a college student who needs to carry a ton of books, the High Sierra Swerve Laptop backpack is a great choice.

Pros

  • 17-inch padded laptop sleeve
  • Looks very professional
  • Padded bottom panel for added durability

Cons

  • Not completely waterproof

2. High Sierra Fatboy Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features
  • Waterproof = No
  • Number of Compartments = 4+
  • Laptop Sleeve = No, Tablet Sleeve Only
  • Colors Available = 10+
  • Size = Medium, 39L
  • Warranty = No

During our High Sierra Fatboy Backpack review, we found it to be the perfect compact bag for commuting to work or school. While it's not large enough for most camping, hiking, or other outdoor activities, it's perfect for commuting to the office or classroom purposes. There are more than 10 colors available, so there's an option for everyone as far as style goes.

The High Sierra Fatboy backpack features a tablet-designed sleeve, but keep in mind it could get wet if you stumble upon a storm or a spillover incident. However, for a simple, cost-effective commuter bag, the High Sierra Fatboy Backpack is an ideal choice.

We did find two things of note in our High Sierra Fatboy Backpack review. The first is the lack of a warranty. While a manufacturer’s warranty is available on request, High Sierra doesn't provide a specific warranty for the Fatboy Backpack. While most other backpacks do not have a warranty, this could be a problem for some people.

Also, the bag isn't waterproof, so if this is an important factor for you when choosing a bag, it might be best to look elsewhere. The only reason this might be a problem is if you frequently get caught in downpours. Otherwise, this shouldn't be too big of an issue for most people.  If you are looking for a waterproof bag, you can check out our guide.

Pros

  • Compact bag for daily use
  • Tablet sleeve included
  • Over 10 different color options

Cons

  • Does not include a dedicated laptop sleeve

3. High Sierra Karadon 45L

Quick Look - Bag Features
  • Waterproof = Water-Resistant
  • Number of Compartments = 5+
  • Laptop Sleeve = No
  • Colors Available = 6+
  • Size = Large, 45L
  • Warranty = Yes

During our High Sierra Karadon 45L review, we found this to be a perfect choice for hiking or camping. It is made of light, durable, water-resistant material, and has numerous compartments to store everything from backpacking water bottles (on the outer side-pockets) to hiking gear in the main compartment - which features double laces and a removable lid with a zippered accessory pocket. 

One of the best features we discovered during our High Sierra Karadon 45L review was the internal frame, which is perfect for serious hikers who carry a lot of gear. It keeps the backpack close to your body, so it prevents you from experiencing shoulder or back strain.

We also thought the pocket and organization scheme was laid out well. The main compartment is perfect for hiking gear such as camping stoves and backpacking knives. You can also attach a trekking pole to the outer loops. The lower sleeping bag compartment keeps your bedding separate from your clothes. You can also attach a sleeping bag under the lid.

One con of this backpack is that it may not be suitable for commuting or carrying onto an airplane. You will likely have to check it due to its large size. However, if you're ready for your next big adventure in the mountains, then the High Sierra Karadon 45L will work for you.

Pros

  • Large main compartment for camping gear
  • Separate sleeping bag compartment
  • Sleeve for hydration bladder

Cons

  • Not suitable as a carry on bag

4. High Sierra Summit Top Load

Quick Look - Bag Features
  • Waterproof = No
  • Number of Compartments = 5+
  • Laptop Sleeve = No, Media Sleeve Only
  • Colors Available = 2
  • Size = Large, 45L
  • Warranty = No

The High Sierra Summit Top Load backpack is another great hiking pack from this brand. This pack is the same size as the Karadon that we reviewed above, so it's great for overnight camping or hiking trips. It also comes with many of the same compartments and organization but with some slight tweaks to the outside.

In our opinion, this is more of a serious backpacking or mountaineering pack due to its external organization structure. It comes with a woven daisy chain on both sides, which is perfect for attaching carabiners. You can attach trekking poles, water bottles, or even a compass or handheld GPS. 

We liked the molded back panel, which High Sierra calls Hex-Vent. It wicked away moisture and sweat to prevent any uncomfortable hot spots. The adjustable waist belt and sternum strap helped to spread out the load over the strong points of your body.

We were also huge fans of the included raincover, which stows away in a bottom pocket when not in use. This helps on long hikes when you're not sure what kind of weather you may encounter. One potential downside for some people might be the higher price. We thought it was worth it but only for serious hikers or outdoor enthusiasts. You wouldn't want to take this High Sierra backpack to work.

Pros

  • External woven daisy chain
  • Hydration sleeve
  • Includes a raincover

Cons

  • Slightly pricier than other High Sierra bags

5. High Sierra Loop Backpack

Quick Look - Bag Features
  • Waterproof = No
  • Number Of Compartments = 6+
  • Laptop Sleeve = No
  • Colors Available = 35+
  • Size = Medium, 33L
  • Warranty = No

The High Sierra Loop backpack is a great choice for work or school, especially if you need to carry lots of books or bulky items. This bag offers a compact size with multiple large compartments that are ideal to organize all of your stuff, from pencils and keys to electronic devices. There are over 35 colors and patterns available, so there's a style for everyone to choose from.

The bag isn't waterproof and doesn't have a designated warranty, so it may not be best suited for outdoor sports. If you choose to use the backpack for such activities, we do not recommend carrying your laptop or tablet inside it. The High Sierra Loop backpack is great for the office, however. We thought the all-black colorway looked very professional. The other patterns and colors might be perfect for a college student who wants to show off their style and personality a bit.

One thing we found particularly useful is the shoulder strap design. It features a large "loop" towards the top of the bag, which helps carry more weight in the middle of your back as opposed to on your neck and shoulders.

When it comes to comparing the two similar model, the High Sierra Swerve vs Loop, we recommend the High Sierra Loop if you are going to be wearing the backpack all day and walking around. If you plan to get to class and set it down, then the High Sierra Swerve might be better for you.

Pros

  • Loop shoulder straps to help with weight distribution
  • Internal organization pockets for pens and pencils
  • 35+ colors available

Cons

  • Does not have a dedicated laptop sleeve

How Do These High Sierra Backpacks Compare?

Size

The size of each backpack in order from smallest to largest is as follows: The High Sierra Loop Backpack is the smallest, followed by the High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack, followed by the High Sierra Fatboy. Both the High Sierra Karadon 45L and Summit Top Load are 45 liters in capacity.

Price

Due to their small size, the High Sierra Fatboy Backpack, High Sierra Loop Backpack, and High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack all come in at lower price points. The High Sierra Karadon 45L and Summit Top Load are more feature-packed and durable, so they have higher price points. Compared to the general hiking backpack price range, we thought they fell on the lower end of the price spectrum.

Functionality

All of these backpacks would make excellent choices for travel, depending on the length of the trip and location. Both the High Sierra Karadon 45L Backpack and the High Sierra Summit Top Load would be best suited to camping or long hikes.

The other three High Sierra backpacks function as more of urban day packs that are perfect for commuting to work or school.

man wearing a high sierra hiking backpack

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Are High Sierra backpacks good quality and durable?

High Sierra backpacks are known for their quality. If durability is an important factor in choosing a bag, it may be best to choose one of the backpacks with an extended warranty to best ensure prolonged use of the backpack.

Are High Sierra backpacks good for school?

Several of the reviewed High Sierra backpack models are good for commuting to school and carrying school supplies. The best models we reviewed that would make a good choice for school include the High Sierra Swerve Laptop backpack, the High Sierra Fatboy backpack, and the High Sierra Loop backpack. These models have the size and functionality to make them perfect for use at school.

Alternatively, if you're looking for a great school backpack then Youtuber Kiara Nelson recommends the stylish Emmett 2 backpack

I need a large backpack. Will this brand be good for me?

Two of the reviewed High Sierra backpack models would be great choices for those needing a large-sized backpack. Both the High Sierra Summit Top Load backpack as well as the High Sierra Karadon 45L backpack are great choices for this purpose.

Can you take these backpacks as a carry-on bag on airplanes?

Several of the reviewed backpacks would be great choices to use for as carry-on when travelling by plane. The best choices for these would be the High Sierra Loop Backpack, the High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack and the High Sierra Fatboy Backpack.

Be sure to check with your airline before you fly to make sure you're fully aware of the permitted dimensions for carry-on items and extra items, as these can vary significantly. 

Can you wash a High Sierra backpack?

High Sierra backpacks can have various cleaning instructions depending on the model. It's best to consult the directions with each individual bag to ensure proper cleaning instructions. We don't recommend throwing it in the washing machine as this may cause unnecessary wear and tear. You should spot clean a High Sierra backpack with soap and water.

How to pack a High Sierra backpack?

High Sierra backpacks should be packed like most other backpacks. You should load the heavier, not often used items at the base. You should pack items that you need quickly near the top.


Conclusion

The five High Sierra backpacks we reviewed all serve as great examples of functional, durable and price-conscious bags.

Depending on the intended use of the backpack, there's something in the selected reviewed bags for everyone, whether the bag is needed for a weeklong hike or for a simple school commute. Happy shopping!

  • Updated November 3, 2021