High Above brings a simple, durable sensibility to the classic hip pack. The Cascadia, which is handmade in Bellingham, Washington, where the company is based, represents the brand's most significant offering. Using waterproof material made by Dimension-Polyant, the Cascadia is primed for soggy Pacific Northwest missions. Even though pack's interior layout is sparse, with just two pockets, those pockets rest against the back of the pack, closest to your body. Because the bulk is distributed in the rear of the pack, the weight is barely noticeable when those pouches are stuffed with heavier items like multi-tools, C02 cartridges or small parts. The extra-long paracord zipper pulls make access a breeze. Even while riding, it's easy to blindly reach back and access the zipper without having to stop and spin the pack around.
Most folks use hip bags for standard trailside essentials–food, tools, tubes or perhaps a beer in the optional Bottle Rocket pocket. I've certainly used it for all that, but I primarily use the Cascadia as a slimmed-down carrier for a small camera and lens setup (my Canon 5dMK III and 40-millimeter pancake lens). I know what you're thinking: Isn't it risky to have such a precious load attached to your hip by just one buckle? I had those same concerns, so I reached out to High Above's John Canfield to see if he had other customers using their packs in a similar way. His confidence in the materials and the construction assured me that it wasn't an issue, but he did have an interesting suggestion for an upgrade to put my mind at ease: a high-load application 1.5-inch Cobra buckle. It's only about 60 grams, has a 2,000-pound tensile strength and virtually the same dimensions as the original buckle. Yep, that'll do. It's made this superbly constructed pack even more indestructible.
On the trail, the Cascadia stays where you want it, despite how much your body moves around on the bike. Using either the stock buckle or the upgraded Cobra buckle, the straps stay tight and don't have a tendency to loosen over rough terrain. At a depth of only 3 inches, all the weight hugs your body so you never feel as though the pack has a mind of its own when it's fully loaded. Simple, subtle and durable, the Cascadia has become a regular addition to my trail routine.
MSRP: $85 (with Rocket Pocket)
Review: CamelBak Palos