Reviewed: High Above Cascadia Hip Pack

Words Pete Roggeman
Photos Dave Smith
Date Jun 28, 2016

Two years ago, anything Enduro seemed like all anyone wanted to talk about – or make fun of. That poor #endurbro horse is so beat I heard it was taking subcontract work as a whipping boy for whoever invented electric MTBs. If there was ever an enduring symbol pinned to the Bull’s Eye of the dart board of Enduro mockery, it was the hip pack. Before you insist that it be called a fanny pack, let me educate you on what a fanny is. According to the nation that just decided to go it alone and give the EU the old heave-ho: It is a vagina. That’s right, we have that word ass-backwards over here.

Bum bag I can accept. Hip pack is what many prefer. But fanny pack – let’s just let that one go silently into the night, like Panaracer Smokes and 680mm bars.

High Above Cascadia - on body - it's a hip pack, damnit! NSMB review

Bum bag doesn’t sound great, but it’s technically accurate. Hip pack works. But fanny pack it isn’t – not when you know the origin of the word Fanny. And some women have that name. But I guess we all know a dick or two.

The High Above Cascadia Hip Pack

It was also almost two years ago that I posted a review of Dakine’s hip pack. And I liked it. But I stopped using it. Don’t know why, exactly. Maybe because summer beer drinking season came along and I needed a pack to carry a tallboy to the top of a climb. And then “might need a jacket” season came and I thought the hip pack wouldn’t be big enough. Maybe I wasn’t convinced that hip packs made sense for a lot of rides. Thanks to the High Above Cascadia hip pack, I can say that I am convinced now.

High Above Cascadia Hip pack - Detail view - NSMB Review

Handmade in Bellingham by owner John Canfield (no relation to those Bros.), High Above bags come in two sizes (the Cascadia and the smaller Das Radpack) and a variety of colours. You can even go semi-custom and choose your own colours. I got to specify the Black Camo, which looks sweet, but John’s messed up sense of humor meant I ended up with hot pink side flaps – which I guess I’ve grown to like since I haven’t coloured over them with a Sharpie, like I threatened. Maybe the pink keeps people from making fun of me to my face. Either way, it’s a good looking bag and the quality of the stitching and craftsmanship is evident.

The material is waterproof, but the zipper is not. While I haven’t had much trouble with the insides getting wet, the addition of those would make this a proper 4-season riding bag – or a cool custom option.

There is a main compartment, accessed by a two full-width zippers with pulls long enough to reach without moving the bag around to the front. Yes, if you want to keep the bag on and access the insides – then it does become a fanny pack (damnit!) but that is easier than taking it off every time you’re after a multitool.

Feedback

Which brings us to one of my small complaints about the bag. The main compartment and its two inner pockets do a reasonable (if slightly basic) job of organizing the contents. However, the bag’s usability and organization would improve if there was a key hook and maybe a zip pocket or just a bit more in the way of content division. Alternatively, the side panels would benefit from a size increase and the addition of zip pockets – or at least one of them. Being able to accommodate a multitool, keys or even a phone in a hip pocket is standard now, even with small packs and hip packs. It would undoubtedly drive the price up from a reasonable $75 to something approaching $100 but for me, it’s a miss to not have it at least as an option.

High Above Cascadia Hip Pack. Rider: Pete Roggeman Location: Ashland, Oregon

Loosen the straps and slide the Cascadia around on your waist to access the contents – or take it off and dig around. Neither is perfect, but then again you can’t access your SWAT bib pocket or backpack while you’re riding either.

If I had another complaint, it would have to do with the straps. They are wide and distribute the weight of the pack well, but there is nothing to tuck the excess flaps into, so they just kind of hang there. And finally, the buckles keep the strap cinched and release easily when you need them to – but also sometimes when you would prefer they stayed at the length you chose. In other words, you have to re-tighten the straps each time you put the pack on. Like I said, small complaints.

Otherwise, the Cascadia is terrific in every way. It fits well, stays in place when riding on all kinds of terrain, and does not flop around back there unless I really pack it full. And by full I mean it’s possible to get all of this inside (barely): Jacket, tube, bar, gel, mini pump, CO2, levers, digital air gauge, car keys, wallet, pliers/blade, and a second bottle or a can of beer.

High Above Cascadia Pack contents - NSMB Review

Big haul in a compact bag: wallet, Clif bar, SOG pliers and blade, digital gauge, tube, mini pump/CO2 inflator, iPhone clip-on lenses. Not shown but in there: multi-tool, tire levers. And a jacket would still fit – barely. Plus a beer or bottle in the Bottle Rocket attached to the side.

Not all inside the pack of course – the beer or your second bottle will fit inside a Bottle Rocket (a $12 addition to your order). A bottle fits tight (almost too tight until you break it in a bit) whereas a beer will be just slightly loose. Add a strap, John! I lost a beer or two until I started wrapping an elastic over the beer. I haven’t tried using a koozie but that should do the trick. Plus, then you have a koozie.

High Above Cascadia Hip pack - beer can in the bottle rocket - NSMB Review

A beer fits loosely (needs a koozie or an elastic to help keep it in place) but a bottle fits tightly. After several uses the bottle will slide in and out but initially, it’s a bit of a chore to remove. Certainly not happening while you ride.

For rides where one – maximum two – bottles of water is enough, and where you don’t need a kitchen sink’s worth of tools and supplies, the High Above Cascadia is a great option. Unlike with the last hip pack I tested, I’ll be continuing to use this one (maybe the Dakine will get rotated in as well). For $75 (US) I think you’re looking at a great deal on a handmade pack from the emerging MTB mecca that is Bellingham.

High Above Cascadia Hip Pack NSMB Dave Smith 4

High Above also makes a gear pouch called a Hot Pocket which I have found useful for organizing things like lights or tools when packing. Not a bad $25 accessory for frequent travelers.


Can you get down with a hip pack?

Comments

Brocklanders
0
yahs  - July 4, 2016, 2:31 p.m.

Wear the Dakine 5L lowrider. Yes I get a lot of flack from my comrades but the lack of soaked back is a huge plus.

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extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - June 28, 2016, 12:40 p.m.

I'm going to be that person [dick]: Any name other than fanny pack is marketing to try to help you get over your ego so you can feel comfortable wearing it in public. If you want to wear it, you shouldn't be concerned about what other people think. If they make fun of you, embrace it… because you are wearing something that looks silly out of utility (sort of like how people justify fanny packs).
Trying to bring up the etymology of the word to nullify what it became known as is just silly. Words change meaning because of social use over a period of time… sort of like how no one uses humble correctly anymore. it's meaning has changed to most of society. Okay, bad example, more like fag being the term for cigarettes but now is only known only for it's derogatory use. The word fanny has nothing to do with a fanny pack in today's society (yes in etymology).

Jersey pockets carry almost as much, but I guess jerseys are not enduro enough for the average ego
(note: I'm referring to ego not in a derogatory way but in the sense that everyone has one and many are overly self conscious of what other people think)

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - June 28, 2016, 12:49 p.m.

I think most hip pack wearers (see - you can call it whatever you like, but I'm sticking to my guns) are comfortable enough with what it looks like.

I disagree about jersey pockets, though. Filling them up with all the stuff I put in that bag will drag a jersey down from the neck. I have been on long rides with stuffed jersey pockets, and you can get a lot in there, but not that much - comfortably. Anyway, the bigger issue is that there aren't a lot of MTB jerseys with pockets in them that I would want to wear, and I think that holds true for a lot of people. Most apparel makers seem to have made a conscious split some years ago: jerseys with pockets were for XC only and any other kind of MTB seemed to get the moto-influence to some degree. Not saying it's right, it just seems to be the case. Another strike against jerseys - and this applies to SWAT-style carry applications - is that if you fall onto your back, you can get poked by whatever is in there.

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extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - June 28, 2016, 3:30 p.m.

You can call it whatever you like, no qualms there. I was only bringing it up because it was brought up at the beginning of your review. And pointing out that people are allowed to poke fun at you and call it a fanny pack because of the 'awkward uncle who wears socks and sandals' stigma attached to it. 😀 But you should probably care less about what they call it.

I can call my jersey pockets 'Super Neato Offal & Tool Storage' pockets (SNOTS) or I can just call them jersey pockets. Someone can make fun of me and call them dork holes or something along those lines and I'd probably just shrug and let them call them that.

I think the bigger question that you've now raised is whether by using the term hip you are referring to the skinny jean wearing craft coffee snobs who wear 'lenseless' glasses OR if you are referring to the part of the body directly below the waist. If it is the former, I can only assume that it is because wearing said packs are trendy without an actual reference to the body part… or is it potentially a double-entendre. 😉
ps. I probably say dork too often… considering it's origins as the male version of the fanny.
I also just realized that it's funny that the first photo caption refers to both male and female genitalia.

Reply

john-canfield
0
John Canfield  - June 28, 2016, 9:06 p.m.

TL;DR.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - June 29, 2016, 7:51 a.m.

Almost as if I put actual thought into the captions…

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extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - June 29, 2016, 10:33 a.m.

No worries, it was non-nonsensical gibberish.
I'll summarize: Don't let what non hip-pack wearers call hip-packs bother you.

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doug-m
0
Doug M.  - June 28, 2016, 11:25 a.m.

Been using a little ~1.5L Mountainsmith hip pack that my wife bought for running a long time ago. Fits just the flat-kit essentials for a normal 1-3 hour ride (i.e. no jacket or beer). Works GREAT! Moves with me, no back sweat. Definitely interested in larger options for longer rides as I'm not a fan of backpacks for riding.

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Killingtonvt
0
Vin Quenneville  - June 28, 2016, 10:51 a.m.

Great review, LOVE what John is doing at High Above!

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john-canfield
0
John Canfield  - June 28, 2016, 9:22 a.m.

Owner of High Above bags here: Great news! All new bags are shipping with YKK waterproof zipper (which are matte black, so you don't look like you are going scuba diving), and I'm looking at ways to reconfigure the inside pockets without adding any cost. Giving folks access to the best materials I can find without raking them over the coals price-wise is a huge focal point of my little brand.

MAXIMUM SHREDDAGE!

Reply

kwl
0
KWL  - June 28, 2016, 9:38 a.m.

This is what I love about small brands with receptive owners. Feedback given gets attention straight away. Awesome job John!

Reply

brizzy
0
Brizzy  - June 28, 2016, 7:48 a.m.

What you're looking for is the Mountainsmith TLS. They've been around forever, have key hooks, compartments, secure bottle sleeves, multiple compression straps to keep the load nice and tight to your back, and even external shock cords and cinches to stuff an extra layer into. I'm pretty sure they're the same price or cheaper than this, and come in multiple sizes. Perfect for mtb, fishing, hiking, whatever. Only thing it doesn't have is full waterproofing, but they make rain covers for them too. I've carried 2L of water, pump, tube, tools, a jacket, and lunch in there with no real discomfort or awkwardness. Much preferred over a pack on hot days.

Reply

jonathan-harris
0
Jonathan Harris  - June 28, 2016, 8:39 a.m.

Or this…

The bottle holder on the seagull looks more versatile and secure.

I'd agree it is nice riding without a pack but there are often those rides that you can't avoid it.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - June 28, 2016, 8:53 a.m.

Both look like decent options. Once you buy a cover for the Mountainsmith, you're at $100, not unreasonable for sure. It is larger, at 14L capacity, which could be a good thing or not, depending on your restraint. For me, that's the capacity of a small pack like a Camelback Volt, and more than I'd like around my waist. Strokes, folks.

The Seagull - I can't tell if it's waterproof but the zippers are, so let's assume it is. Next price range up at $139 but it has some nice features. Unfortunately they are disqualified on the grounds of this line of copy in the description: "Maximum shreddage is now possible". That is so awful I had to copy and paste - I couldn't even type it out.

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brizzy
0
Brizzy  - June 28, 2016, 10:36 a.m.

Oh I use the Tour version that's only 8 or 9 L, it's only $50 on Sierra Trading Post. For 14L of stuff I'd probably just want a backpack too, but I almost never need that much.

I've never had a bottle come loose from the holders, the elastic is plenty strong.

Actually mountainsmith also makes backpack-style shoulder straps that buckle on and essentially turn them into the new Camelbak low packs. They were years ahead of mtb fashion and didn't even know it!

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pete@nsmb.com
0
Pete Roggeman  - June 28, 2016, 12:44 p.m.

Hey, fair enough. I remember Mountainsmith from years and years ago. Nothing against their stuff, although it does still look like it's from the 90s - it could use a bit of a style update. In any case, options are good.

Reply

nopow
0
Nopow  - June 29, 2016, 9:28 a.m.

The original dakine enduro hip pack is still the best!

Reply

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