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A Welcome Outlier in the Age of Ultralite: High Sierra Lightning 35 Pack

It’s happening again. It’s only a day-hike with the family, you say, pulling that ultralight daypack out of the closet. Yet here you are, struggling with a bag full of diapers, granola bars, cartoon-shaped fruit snacks, rain gear (just in case the 0% precipitation forecast is wrong – because your partner insisted), your 10 essentials (good for you, seriously), and maybe some dog food since Ruffwear doesn’t come in SilNy under 1 lb.

And this lightweight daypack is not cutting it. You might as well be using a bindle because your hip, ultralite bag has about as much structure and all those diapers, clean and dirty, are sitting right on your shoulders.

Lightning strikes. In the age of ultralight, the High Sierra Lightning 35 is a stalwart workhorse that makes no compromise to cut weight, and for the $60 price tag currently available on High Sierra’s site, I shouldn’t have to say more. This “full-service” pack served me well on a dozen daytrips to the crag as well as a few overnights. I cannot find any significant fault, and if I’m being honest, I hit the trail looking for trouble because I have my own loyalties within the pack industry.

The Lightning boasts pockets in all the right places including my favorite snack stash on the hipstrap, a built in rain fly so you can think about more important things, and a hydration system pocket. There are even a few extras you don’t really need like the classic shoulder-strap camera/phone pocket for all the dad’s out there who realize you can’t wear a pack and a fannypack at the same time. These are pretty standard features. But most importantly – the lightning has the structural support to carry heavy loads despite being a lower volume pack. It is overpowered in a good way. At 4 pounds and change, it doesn’t pretend to compete with that GoLite Jam that you brag about to friends (leaving out the part about how sore it makes you every time). That extra weight more than makes up for itself on the trail in terms of support. I’ve owned a number of daypacks in this volume range but none of them could hold a candle to the grace with which the lightning held heavier loads.

Some of that weight, too, comes from sturdier materials. I dragged this bag all over Appalachia, probably threw it around a few times, and might even have given it a few kicks for kicks. All I’ve been able to do to it is separate the sheath from a drawstring – a simple fix, remove the sheath, the strength of the cord is in the core anyway – and put a small tear in the bag cramming a rack of cams deep in the bag. At $60, I’m not complaining and neither is my back.

High Sierra Lightning 35 Backpack, MSRP $60

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