High Above Venture Hip Pack Review
Handmade in Bellingham, Washington, the High Above Venture is a small hip pack with a unique Fidlock magnetic closure and bottle mounting system that might just be the quickest out there. Read on for Miles’ thoughts after some local riding in his new backyard in Powell River, BC…
Just when we thought the hip pack scene was at its peak, High Above has introduced another great option for those looking for something a little bit smaller. The Venture hip pack is Bellingham-based High Above’s latest offering, featuring a Fidlock flap closure, several pockets, and the option for an additional magnetic Fidlock mounted bottle as well. Although it’s not competing for my regular DSLR-toting duties, The Venture has some interesting design elements that are perhaps better suited for faster, lighter excursions and day-rides.
You’ll notice that the majority of the photos in this review show Emily wearing The Venture, which was naturally how things went when we rode together—since my DSLR lives in my extra large Porcelain Rocket Big Dumpling and I’m not expecting anyone else to carry that for me. In turns out Emily became a big fan of The Venture hip pack, due to its smaller, sleek design—so I’ve asked her to include some thoughts on it below as well.
High Above was launched by JC Canfield in 2010, working out of a spare room in his Seattle apartment. At the time, he was primarily making backpacks and accessories for urban bike commuters. It wasn’t until much later that High Above entered the hip pack scene. Today, High Above is run by JC, Mindy McCutcheon, and Arrow the Spacewolf out of Bellingham, Washington—home to some of the best riding in the PNW.
At First Glance
The High Above Venture is much smaller than many of the other hip packs I’ve used recently. The dimensions of the bag, 11 x 2 x 7” (LxWxH), equate to about 2.5 litres, which isn’t big enough for most cameras, other than some smaller point and shoots, but is perfect for carrying a small tool kit, pump, and snacks. High Above describes it as being “designed to disappear when you’re riding with it, but be roomy enough to keep a small litany of things stashed away. We take it on shorter-than-epic rides, and find it carries everything you might reasonably desire.”
All Venture models feature a magnetic Fidlock closure, with your choice of hip buckle: a heavy-duty Cobra buckle, the magnetic Fidlock buckle, or a standard plastic buckle. I opted to test out the Fidlock Bottle / Fidlock Buckle version with an optional Bottle Rocket for good measure. Prices range from $105 to $175 USD, depending on your selection. The bag itself is constructed from nylon faced X-Pac with three interior organization pockets and an exterior pocket accessed by a weatherproof YKK Uretek zipper.
I appreciate the simple aesthetics of the bag. Minimal branding and clean lines make for a smart-looking hip pack, while no excessive exterior features make it easy to wear and use. High Above includes two of their ETC Straps, which attach onto the two webbing loops for lashing on a lightweight jacket, and you have the option of adding on more storage with their Bottle Rocket kit—which includes a plastic Malice Clip to secure it onto the webbing of one of the hip straps.
Both of these accessories function as expected, but don’t feel nearly as dialed as the rest of the pack. The ETC straps loop through two fabric loops, on each side of the bag, which allows whatever is strapped down to flop back and forth quite easily. They aren’t designed to stay on the bag when not in use, which means there’s a good chance I’ll lose them at some point. I would have preferred to see some fixed elastic cords for some additional storage. Similarly, the Bottle Rocket’s MALICE Clip attachment is a bit awkward to install and remove but does provide a reliable fit with just a little room for movement. Although I can appreciate optional accessories like these, I don’t think either of them does the actual hip pack much justice.
Thoughts While Riding
Miles: The Venture is a comfortable and low-profile hip pack. With or without the optional Fidlock Bottle Rocket in place, it’s completely out of the way while riding technical singletrack and has no interference while moving about. The Bottle Rocket is removed with an easy twist motion, which can be done while riding, and snaps back into place with the help of some integrated magnets. Initially, I wasn’t sure I’d be sold on a magnetic water bottle, but it’s been a great little backup for longer rides when some extra hydration might be handy. The cap can also be popped up with one hand, thanks to its oversized design, which makes grabbing a quick drink ultra fast. Due to its size, it really doesn’t need to be that padded, but High Above did a good job with the shape of the pack and hip straps, which felt comfortable and ergonomic where it counted.
The main magnetic Fidlock closure is really slick and easy to use. The elastic cord can be adjusted depending on what size of load you’re carrying, and it holds tight enough to not worry about losing anything. I’d love to see a larger DSLR-sized hip pack with this design. That would be a game-changer for me.
Emily: Unlike most of the hip packs Miles reviews, the Venture is manageable. I’ve worn some of the larger options out there and although they worked for short rides, anything longer (which for me is anything longer than an hour), they were heavy and always got in the way. Frankly, I don’t like a lot of weight on my back while riding and I’m not sure I’m sold on hip packs at all. Until I tried the High Above Venture, at least. First of all, it fits nicely around my torso, with straps that adjust easily and tuck out of the way to avoid floppy, loose straps.
I like that it’s small. Realistically, all I’m carrying are my glasses and a few snacks, and won’t be carrying a huge camera with me. For such a small pack, I found the weight of the bottle made it feel unbalanced, so I preferred to ride without it. Apparently, my spare glasses and a few cookies don’t weigh as much as a small bottle of water. When packed as I prefer, it stayed put, didn’t bounce, and it’ll be my go-to hip pack going forward.
- Low profile and slim design is great for technical riding and all body shapes
- Fidlock integration is unique and actually works well
- Clean aesthetics
- Made in USA
- Limited carrying capacity
- Fidlock Bottle is very small
- Expensive, especially with premium add-ons
- Capacity: ~2.5L
- Material (as tested): Black X-Pac
- Weight: TBD
- Place of Manufacture: Washington, USA
- Price: $105-$175 USD
- Manufacturer’s Details: HighAbove.net
I’ve been quite impressed with the quality and attention to detail the High Above Venture hip pack offers. I’ve been curious about their products for some time now, so it’s nice to know that the hype is well earned. Although the Venture doesn’t compete with my Porcelain Rocket Big Dumpling when it comes to carrying a camera, it’s a fantastic low-profile hip pack that’s great for day rides or those who don’t need the extra capacity of a larger pack. The various Fidlock integrations are well executed and don’t feel forced, which was my first thought when I saw the optional magnetic bottle version. For those who aren’t about the Fidlock Bottle, you can pick up a standard Venture hip pack for $105 USD.
Looking for more hip packs? We published a handmade hip pack roundup earlier this year with lots of great options.