High Sierra Hawk 45 Backpack

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Manufacturer Description

The excursion-worthy Hawk 45 Backpacking Pack from High Sierra features an innovative Airflow system and mesh back panel that keeps you cool and you’re back dry on long, warm hikes. Roomy main compartment sits atop a separate sleeping-bag compartment that offers front-load convenience. Side and bottom compression straps keep gear secure, while the adjustable top lid securely cinches over-stuffed loads. Contoured backpack straps with adjustable load lifters and Vapel mesh padding are shaped to fit. Plenty of storage options to choose from, including zippered waist belt pockets, mesh water-bottle pockets and a removable media pocket. Attached rain cover tucks away in its own pocket at the bottom of the pack.


  • 45-liter, top-load main compartment with gusseted drawstring closure and adjustable top lid.
  • Front-load sleeping bag compartment with divider.
  • Precurved, nonadjustable dual aluminum stays, with supportive frame sheet, fit the contours of your back so you can pull the load firmly into your back.
  • Contoured backpack straps, with adjustable load- lifters and VAPEL mesh padding, are uniquely shaped to fit regular sized torso.
  • Stretched-mesh back panel with AIRFLOW system helps keep your back cool and dry.
  • Webbing daisy chain to attach extra gear.
  • Adjustable side and bottom compression straps keep gear secure.
  • Convenient padded grab handle on the front.

    Fully loaded from the Front
  • Internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tube (reservoir not included).
  • Removable media pocket on backpack strap.
    • 7 cm wide x 13 cm tall x 3 cm deep (2.8 in x 5.1 in x 1.2 in)
  • Adjustable sternum strap stabilizes pack.
  • Soft lashing hardware holds ice ax/hiking poles.
  • Dual mesh side pockets hold 1000ml water bottles.
  • Convenient zippered pockets on precurved, padded waist belt are ideal for quick-reach items.
    • 14 cm tall x 11 cm wide x 4 cm deep (5.5 in x 4.3 in x 1.6 in)
  • Tuck-away rain cover, stored in a bottom pocket, also protects the pack when checked for air travel.
  • Materials – Nylon Mini-Diamond Ripstop, Duralite Nylon, 840D Nylon (bottom)
  • Fit – Regular / 38-48 cm Torso (15-19 in)
  • Height Range – 1.72-1.82 m (68-72 in)
  • Waist – 66 cm and up (26+ in)
  • Available in 3 Colors
  • Measured regular size
    • Weight – 2.36 kg (5.2 lbs)
    • Dimensions – 68.6 cm tall x 34.3 cm wide x 22.9 cm deep (27 in x 13.5 in x 9 in)
    • Capacity – 45 l (2,746 cu. In.)
  • Retail – $239.95

YMMV Review

I was given the opportunity to test out a High Sierra Hawk 45 pack. Initially I was a bit skeptical of the pack due to High Sierra not being one of the high profile brands in outdoor equipment. I was pleasantly surprised though by the performance of the Hawk 45.

Mesh Back Panel and Straps

Design ★★★★☆

The High Sierra Hawk 45 is a solidly built pack. It is made out of nylon ripstop fabrics of different deniers depend in the location. The bottom of the pack has the most durable fabric to protect from wear and tear. The pack is a 45 liter top loader with a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom. This compartment has a divider that can be unattached if necessary. At the top of the main compartment there is a gusseted drawstring closure and fixed adjustable lid depending on the pack volume. On top of the main compartment there is a webbing strap that can be used to carry a rope under the lid or to secure the load. The top lid has two pockets as well; a larger outer pocket and smaller pocket on the underside. The underside of the lid has a reminder of the 12 survival essentials. On the top of the lid there are 4 attachment points if you need to attach things like crampons to the top of the pack.

The front of the pack has a daisy chain and a padded grab handle for easy carrying. There are also 2 latching points for trekking poles or ice axes. At the bottom of the pack there are webbing straps that can be used to carry sleeping pads or tents on the bottom front side of the pack. Tucked into the bottom of the pack is a rain cover for protection from the elements. It can also be used during air travel. On the sides of the pack there are webbing compression straps and mesh pockets large enough to carry a water bottle. The pack suspension uses a two

The 12 Survival Essentials

precurved aluminum stays and a supportive frame sheet to give full support. The back panel features a stretch mesh material to keep airspace between the users back and the pack to stay cooler. There is mesh padding at the shoulders and the lower back for more comfort. The shoulder straps are made out of a padded mesh for comfort with a removable media pocket on the left strap. Inside the pack is a reservoir pocket with several different attachments for hanging a bladder. On each side of the pack there are hose exits so the user can choose what side they want the hose to run down. On each shoulder strap there is a hose guide as well. The shoulder straps have an adjustable sternum strap for comfort. The padded waist belt has precurved pockets for storing things within easy reach.  These pockets are zippered for security. For better carrying comfort the pack has hip and shoulder stabilizing straps to adjust the pack to the proper fit.

Fit ★★★★☆

The High Sierra Hawk 45 Pack fit me surprisingly well. I used the pack on several trips ranging from 1-2 nights out and had no comfort issues on any of the trips. The Hawk 45 is only made in a regular size but I was fortunate to be right in the middle of this size.

Loaded Pack from the Side

The pack did not take much adjusting to get it comfortable. It felt good right from the start. The waist belt is thicker than most but the extra padding kept it comfortably on my hips. The shoulder straps are a bit less padded but most of the weight should be on your hips anyway. I really appreciated the hip and shoulder stabilizer straps on the pack, they really work as they should. I was also pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Airflow Back Panel. I have another pack with this feature but it does not work nearly as well. I was skeptical when I saw this on the Hawk 45 but it actually worked on this pack. I did not take it out on any really hot days but in temperatures in the lower 70’s and hiking uphill it still kept my back cool. That is saying something.

Performance ★★★½☆

For the most part the Hawk 45 backpack performed as I would like a pack to. The hip belt pockets while looking a bit bulky actually hold stuff quite well. Many other hip belt pockets I have used get smaller when the belt is clipped making them much more difficult to use. These kept their size even when the hip belt was clipped. The shoulder strap pocket works just as well and is easy to remove if you wish. The hydration reservoir pocket works well and there are several hanging clips to choose from. I feel like the shoulder straps needed one more hose guide higher up the strap. If I only used the one guide the hose would stick out a ways and be more likely to snag on something. I improvised with a Velcro strap (shown in picture) to create an extra guide.

My Make-shift Hydration Tube Guide

The setup for the ice axe holders is fairly standard and adequate. The top pocket is nice and large with the extra pocket underneath for things needed to be kept more secure. This is where I liked to put my phone. The lid does a good job adjusting to larger and smaller loads and keeps the load secure. While I must admit that the front carry handle was handy from time to time. I do miss having a stuff pocket on the front of the pack for items on the go like jackets. The webbing can come in handy to clip things to but a stuff pocket I feel is better. The sleeping bag compartment opening is nice and large and the divider does a good job of separating the compartments. The main compartment is slightly more difficult to load due to the shape of the suspension. I find this is always the case with packs that have the open mesh back. In order to create this airspace the suspension has a half moon shape to it making it a bit more difficult to load. With some practice it gets easier. The webbing straps at the bottom of the pack secure longer objects well.  I used it to secure my Ridgerest pad and it kept it nice and secure and easy to remove if I wanted to sit on it during a break. I did not get to fully test the rain cover except in dry conditions. It is easy to secure around the pack and I am sure it is waterproof, it just has not rained on me yet. Lastly the stretch pockets on the side are good for carrying water bottles or tent poles, they stretch well and have not been an issue.

Sleeping Bag Compartment

Overall ★★★★☆

Overall I was impressed with the High Sierra Hawk 45 Backpack. I might look a little less flashy than some of the others on the market but it has most of the features you are looking for. The performance was good and apart from a couple small things the pack worked great. It is a bit heavier than some of the other packs in the same class. But what you lose in weight you will gain in durability which is normally the case. The pack is a good size for 1-2 nights and longer if you are really efficient with the space. On my trips I had around 25-30 pounds and found the pack very comfortable. I would definitely suggest checking out this pack but at $240 retail it is a bit steep, fortunately it is often able to be found on sale. As always, your mileage may vary.


  • Mesh back panel actually works
  • Durable fabrics
  • Included rain cover

    Wrinkled & Included Rain Cover
  • Hip belt pockets carry items well
  • Comfortable fit


  • Needs one more hydration tube guide on the strap
  • I wish it had a stuff pocket on the front
  • A bit on the heavy side


About the Author

I am an avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, climber, skier and many other activities that would make this list too long. I started Your Mileage May Vary Reviews in Early 2011 to combine two of my passions: sports and gear.

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