High Sierra has been around for a long time. They’ve been making backpacks and luggage since 1978. That’s older than us! We think they lost their path a little bit – their products got a little WalMarty for a bit. But, it seems that they’ve started to turn the ship around since Samsonite purchased them in 2012. The Symmetry series is High Sierra’s first real foray into technical ski packs. This year, they’re updating the entire line. We took the Symmetry 18 out over the past couple of months on all sorts of terrain.
(High Sierra let us borrow a pre-production Symmetry 18 to test. We sent it back when we were done. All of the opinions in this awesome post are ours.)
Our initial impression – High Sierra put together a nice ski backpack and an awesome price. We’re stoked to add one to the quiver when they come out.
Let’s talk about features – the Symmetry 18 has only one main pocket. The inside of that main pocket includes a pair of fabric, partial sleeves – one each for your shovel handle and probe. There are also a pair of mesh pockets between the sleeves. We’re not sure what those are for. Opposite the sleeves, High Sierra includes a zipped mesh pocket for organizing small items like hand warmers, tools, and cameras. They sewed a key clip in there too. The main pocket zips fully down both sides of the pack, but there are fabric gussets sewn in at the bottom of both sides of the zip. They keep things from falling out, but they also keep the pack from opening fully.
There’s a secondary zip that leads to a dedicated hydration pocket. High Sierra includes two attachments to hang your bladder – one plastic clip and a pair of velcro strips – so no matter your bladder, it will remain secure while you rip. The pocket opens to an insulated sleeve that runs down the right shoulder strap.
The back panel appears to be made of neoprene. If that’s the case, it will provide a little bit of padding from any pokey gear inside and will also be mostly waterproof. Shoulder straps are well padded without being obnoxious and, in addition to the insulated sleeve for your bite valve, include a detachable radio pouch, secured with velcro. It will hold a camera nicely too. A standard, adjustable sternum strap with a glove-friendly buckle holds them together. The waist belt is pretty minimal, with small flaps sprouting from the pack. Otherwise, it’s one-inch flat webbing. We wish High Sierra had included a glove friendly buckle on the waist belt.
The back side of the Symmetry 18 has a kangaroo pouch. It’s very adjustable – you can cinch it down to hold a light layer or open it up to hold your helmet. The pack does not have a helmet net, so the back flap is your only option for helmet carry. Also on the backside, a deep, fleece-lined pocket for your goggles or shades.
High Sierra designed the Symmetry for diagonal ski carry and vertical snowboard carry. All of the straps for carrying boards stow away in little hiding spots when not in use. They never got in the way. Diagonal ski carry was effective and stable as we hiked up to the Six Senses area of Breckenridge. Snowboard carry is equally effective. We worry about the lack of fabric reinforcements for both ski and snowboard carry, though.
Speaking of, the fabric is surprisingly light, but appears durable. It took tree branches and ski edges without blinking. Only time will tell if our impression is correct.
Our only gripe, which we have passed on to High Sierra – the ends of the straps, where they’re folded and sewn so as not to pull through the buckles, are too small, making it tough to tighten things with gloves on.
The Symmetry series will include 12, 18, and 22L packs which will retail for $60, $70, and $80, respectively and will come in other, flashy colors when it’s available in September.
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