High Above is back with a brand new, super minimal hip pack. Unlike many other brands, High Above releases new products so infrequently that we’re always eager to get our hands on whatever comes out of JC Canfield’s shop. The offerings from High Above are always laser-focused.
Designed and made in the USA, the new Venture focuses on quick trail rides and quick access. If you’re familiar with High Above’s other offerings, this pack will feel right at home. The winged hip belt, removable ETC Straps and Bottle Rocket are all staples of the lineup at this point. Where this new pack really stands out from the crowd is in its use of the rarely seen Fidlock Hook buckle.
|Capacity||154 cu. in.||2.5L|
Quality and Comfort
I’ve never once known High Above to produce anything short of the highest quality, with great attention to fit and finish. This, alongside their tried and true designs, are what has made High Above a staple in the mountain biking community, and even for casual carriers.
The Venture comes in either Dimension Polyant X51 Black or X50 Multicam Black. While both of these materials are waterproof, I wouldn’t go swimming with it, as the top lid does not create a full seal, nor is anything seam taped. You’ll get through the rain just fine though, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Like with other HA packs, I expect we’ll see more colors and materials down the line.
The wings are 1000D Cordura, and while they have no padding, they work well to distribute some weight and compression across a wider are of your body. Each wing also has a single column of PALS webbing for a Bottle Rocket, or anything else you might want to lash. Other versions come with a Fidlock TWIST Bottle holder.
Like many other HA packs, you can choose your belt clasp; typically an AustriAlpin Cobra or standard side release buckle, but this is the first pack to offer the Fidlock V-Buckle as an option. I opted for the V-Buckle, since I thought the Cobra, while looking great, was a bit too heavy on my High Above Lookout. The V-Buckle feels much nicer against your lower abdomen because of it’s tapered shape, and it’s much lighter. It does, however, take some time to get used to if you’ve not used these buckles before. They also tend to want their tension eased up in order to unhook it. If you’re looking to upgrade from the standard side release buckle, I think the Fidlock is the best option if you’re hitting the trails. For more casual, off-bike users, consider the Cobra.
The webbing used for the hip belt, in my opinion, is a little too stiff and rough for something that hugs so closely to sensitive areas of your body, especially when wearing lighter clothing. Your mileage my vary. I found this true on the Lookout as well. I’d prefer to see something closer to seatbelt webbing, but that comes with it’s own set of alternative issues.
Also like on the Lookout, the belt strap ends have hook and loop strips permanently attached in order to manage any dangling. I would much prefer something more akin to elastic here, and something that wasn’t permanently attached to the ends. Like I mentioned on the Lookout review, most people adjust their belts by pulling the ends, so this strap management method sort of gets in the way of that. It’s nothing you can’t change on your own if it really bothers you.
The backpanel is lined with spacer mesh, which given how tall the Venture is, is quite welcome when you start sweating. I can’t help but wish there was a small zippered pocket here. More on that later.
I really really enjoy how the Venture rides. It’s shallower, but taller than typical hip packs, allowing it to hug your body a bit better, and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to pull away from you if you have it loaded up. This takes away some of the pressure a lot of people feel on their lower abdomen while wearing hip packs. It personally doesn’t bother me, but I know many people that have ditched them in favor of hydration packs or something else. If this has stopped you before, you might want to give the Venture a shot.
Organization and Access
Now we can start talking about the standout feature on the Venture; the Fidlock Hook closure. The bag really hinges on the concept of quick access, and the Hook delivers on that promise. There’s no fumbling for a zipper pull, trying to grab the bag with one hand and pull with the other, then reversing the process, all with gloves on while standing over a bike. The Hook makes this all very simple; just a quick flip of the wrist and then after that the clasp (usually) finds it’s own way home. It takes some practice, but it’s very nice.
Since the closure is a fold-over top, you can adjust the closure height by sliding the shock cord on the Hook through the tension areas on either side. This isn’t quite as easy as typical webbing adjustment via tri-glide, and you also need to adjust both sides individually. If you’re OCD, you’ll have to make sure they’re lined up.
I have some longevity concerns here. While it’s something you could obviously replace and repair, shock cord and other elastic products have a point-of-no-return. If you accidentally catch this while riding, or otherwise, you could potentially pull the elastic far enough as to where it wont’ stretch back. It will also just wear quicker due to the nature of the material. I wouldn’t let this stop you from checking out the Venture though, especially if you’re already buying bags made of laminate materials like XPac and DCF. They’re all less-than-forever materials, and there’s a cost-benefit to the higher levels of function.
Underneath the front flap is the only zipper on the bag. It’s secured with a YKK Aquaguard and I found this was a natural place to keep your phone. It’s a slash pocket, so you’re probably not fitting much else in here unless it’s slim. While the whole bag is based on quick access, I found this pocket counter to that ideology. It’s the only area that requires two steps to get to; opening the main flap and then opening the zipper. This means that you need to expose the main compartment to access this pocket. Personally, I would have preferred this pocket be accessible without having to open the main flap. A small zip (additional or otherwise) along the backside would have sated my need here. Gotta be quick on the draw for those trail selfies.
Once you’re into the main compartment, you’ll find a simple pocket setup; one large sleeve along the back wall and two smaller ones along the front. This bucket is slim but tall. As you can see, I have a small hand pumping standing up vertically in here without issue. Besides the better on-body fit mentioned above, I like this setup quite a bit more than stacking things horizontally in a typical hip pack. Once the bag is open, you can look down into it and see everything inside, keeping true to the quick-access ethos.
One thing to note, is that since the lid flips upwards, those hoping to cross-body carry this bag when off the bike may be disappointed. It flips up into your face, making access difficult. Keep it around your hips.
The Venture also comes with High Above’s ETC Straps. These are removable sections of paracord that allow you to lash a jacket or other bulky item to the top of your pack for those iffy weather conditions. Due to the nature of the opening of the bag, this can interfere depending what you’re carrying. I highly recommend just storing these in your hip pack when not in use. You will definitely lose them otherwise.
On either wing you’ll find a single column of PALS. By default, the Venture comes with a single matching Bottle Rocket. The new version of this accessory has a cinch top closure, which is a nice improvement over the old open top design. Alternatively, some variants of the Venture are available with a built-in Fidlock TWIST bottle attachment. Less utilitarian, but high in the cool-factor. If you change your mind after the fact, you can easily add a Fidlock bottle by purchasing the Twist Tex Base. It’d be cool to see High Above release other single-column accessories for the wings.
- Fidlock Hook and fold-over closure are great for quick access
- Slim and tall build keeps the bag closer to your body for a more comfortable carry
- Perfect size for quick outings on the trail
- All around high quality build materials and workmanship
- The Fidlock Hook’s elastic could be a failure point later in the bag’s life
- Front zip pocket is awkward to access underneath the main flap
- I’d still prefer a softer webbing choice for the hip belt
As soon as the Venture arrived, I knew it was going to replace my Lookout, just as my Lookout replaced my older Das Radpack. While I love the Lookout, I’ve found that the Venture just fits my riding better. More often than not, I’m out for an hour or so at a time with friends, generally close to civilization. While the Lookout is tuned for longer outings, the Venture holds everything I need it to with some room to spare. I also find the shape to be a bit more comfortable.
High Above is doing some really cool things with their hip packs, and if this is a taste of things to come, I’m really excited. Take a look at the Venture if you’re looking for a minimal hip pack, whether on the bike, walking your dogs, or just taking a stroll. I hope to see some more colors available soon, and maybe even some of the DCF special editions like we’ve seen elsewhere in the line.
The Venture is available in a number of configurations directly from High Above starting at $105.
Disclaimer: the Venture was provided by High Above for use in this review. The content of the review was not discussed with High Above prior to publication. Our reviews are impartial and never altered to keep a brand happy.