HIGH ABOVE LOOKOUT HIP PACK REVIEW
Review by Cole Gregg
Over the past four seasons I have completely been converted to riding with a hip pack. It started with a simple non-bike specific fanny pack I had begun to use at bike parks to hold my phone, lift pass, wallet and unmentionables. Nothing fancy whatsoever, it bounced around and constantly came loose but it held what I needed it to. After that first season I dove in a bought a proper pack for my everyday rides, replacing my EVOC Stage backpack. At the time my bike had no mount for a bottle so having somewhere to keep water was needed. Fast forward a few years and I went up to Bellingham to ride at a press camp for a soon-to-be-released bike and like the rookie I am, I forgot my hip pack. I swung into Fanatik Bike Co, one of Bellingham’s top bike shops and snagged this High Above Lookout pack. I was always really keen on their products but had never had a need for multiple packs. Long story short I gave away my other 2 packs and have been exclusively using the High Above Lookout ever since.
Built in Bellingham, Washington the Lookout pack comes in at 9″ x 3″ x 5.25′” (LxWxH) and weighs next to nothing when fully empty. The material is a very durable (I have crash tested it many times) Xpac shell material from Dimension-Polyant that is waterproof and can stand up to some serious abuse. The durability comes as no surprise since Dimension-Polyant is a world leader in producing sailcloth for ship sails. The zippers are YKK Uretek #8, they are about as weatherproof as it comes. The zipper pull definitely needs a little more pressure to open compared to non-sealed zippers, a sacrifice I am more than willing to make here in wet and rainy Washington.
The exterior features a small zipper pocket that’s great for quick access, I tend to keep a tool and the jacket strap in here. It is not quite big enough to keep my iPhone in, but I don’t know anyone that would ride with the phone on the outermost pocket.
The large interior pocket is by far my favorite part about the bag. There are three dividers in total, one large on the body side and two smaller ones on the other side. The divider on the body side of the bag is not something I use often. I have kept some zip ties and stickers in there but that is about it. The two smaller pouches are the perfect size for smaller items you do not want to dig to find. For me this is generally a small pocketknife, tire plugs/CO2 and extra GoPro batteries.
Another feature I really appreciated is the long car key strap to make sure when that when the bag is open your keys don’t grow legs and make a run for it.
The main area of the bag is HUGE. For me this was a big selling point. Plenty of space for larger items like energy bars, riding glasses, GoPro and a large trail tool kit. When setting up a new bike I often bring a shock pump and I can fit this in the bag with no issues too. One thing I have found with many hip packs is there is a lot of wasted space with storage areas that are too small to be of any use.
While this pack does not have a bladder built in you could make one work if that’s your thing. What High Above does offer is their Bottle Rocket, a removable water bottle sleeve that can be fitted on both sides of the pack using their Malice Strap. You can also upgrade to a Fidlock system if you want to be the cool kid on the trails.
High Above also offers three styles of front buckles. There is the standard plastic buckle, Fidlock buckle and the Cobra buckle. Since I purchased this from a bike shop, I did not have the chance to custom build my own. If I were to do it again, I would actually still order the standard buckle and Bottle Rocket. To me the Cobra buckle looks like it may be uncomfortable due to the smaller dimensions compared to the standard buckle.
Another cool accessory is their ETC straps used to secure your knee pads or riding jacket atop the bag. I love that the location for these is on top not below, it’s a small detail but makes a difference to me.
The on-trail experience with this pack has been great. The nifty strap windups on the belt helps keep flapping to a zero and the bag has proven to stay tight even on long rough descents.
The daily versatility has been pleasant, I regularly go out for a short ride and just want my water and a phone, I have no problem taking this even when a much smaller pack would suffice. There is no restriction to your movement on the bike at all. The thick waist strap fits comfortably and is easy to loosen to spin the bag around without taking it off.
The waterproofing on the bag is top notch, the smaller outside pouch has stayed dry even in torrential down pours. The inner pouch is also extremely waterproof, although on longer really wet rides there has been some soaking through from the pad on the back. I would guess this is from water rolling off the jacket directly down to the pouch. This has not been a big issue but is something to note if you are like me and ride through the rainy winters.
The back pad on this bag is nothing groundbreaking compared to some other more ventilated packs out there, but it wasn’t a dealbreaker for me. It has a relatively small contact point compared to the EVOC 3L Race and felt it slightly reduced my sweaty back syndrome on hot days. If you are looking for more protection, there are packs out there that offer a certified back protector, but the High Above Lookout does not.
The Bottle Rocket does its job and makes it easy to access your bottle when stopped. I tend to keep a bottle with some sort of electrolyte mix there while my normal water is on the bike. When the bottle is completely full that extra weight does cause some movement but nothing major. On big rides I will usually swap out an empty bottle from the climb to keep pack movement to a minimum.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Overall this pack ticks all the boxes for a quality piece of kit you can use for years to come. High Above really killed it with the build quality, durability and function. In my opinion it is worth every penny. Plus, by purchasing from an independent brand like High Above you’re supporting a small, local business and who doesn’t love that? If you are in the market for a mountain bike hip pack, they’re definitely worth checking out.