Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L Backpack Review
Looking for a backpack for your first trip? Ready to own your own pack, but not ready to shell out for a very nice one that you’re not sure if you’ll like or use? For beginners not ready to invest in expensive, high-tech gear, the Sierra Designs Gigawatt pack offers some of the best bang-for-your-buck on the market. But for people with a dialed-in base weight, who need a pack for frequent or long trips, the Gigawatt is neither as light nor as comfortable, as pricier packs. Keep reading to learn more about where this pack really shines.
Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L At a Glance
Weight: 4.06 lb
Suggested Use: Overnight hikes and short sections
Circumstances of Review
I tested this pack on two trips: the Rhode Island North South Trail in March, and a short hike and overnight at Little Rock Pond in Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont in May. The Rhode Island Trail was mostly flat with a lot of road walking and cold, clear weather. The trail in Vermont was muddy, with a bit more elevation gain and loss, and some showers.
For context, I did my PCT LASH with an Osprey Eja 58 (2.2 pounds), and prior to that, did weekend trips with a 3-4 pound Deuter.
- Durable 300-denier polyester ripstop exterior
- I had no issues with punctures or durability, and between durability and price point, I didn’t feel like I needed to baby the pack at all.
- Adjustable internal frame
- Can be adjusted to fit torsos size 16 – 21” by separating the strong velcro behind the black foam back panel and raising or lowering the shoulder harness as needed.
- Oversized external stretch mesh pockets
- The pocket design makes it possible to grab a water bottle on-the-go, with a bit of arm twisting and contortion.
- Side access and top access zipper
- I never found myself using the side zipper, but possibly that’s because I’m not used to having that kind of pack access. The top is accessible by zipper as opposed to buckles, which I liked better as sometimes buckle closures allow the brain to kind of flop around.
- Two zippered hip belt pockets keep items secure and within reach
- These were very nice and quite handy (though not quite big enough for my phone and snacks—I had to choose one or the other).
- Compression straps stabilize your load for a more comfortable carry with lash points to externally secure additional gear
- I didn’t have a ton of gear on these hikes, but could see the lash points being useful if I had more stuff.
Fit and Comfort
The comfort of this pack varied tremendously based on how much weight I was carrying, and how broken in the pack was. My first day on the RI Trail, I had about 4-5 days of food with me (I had been planning on doing the whole thing and bailed when I saw that New England Fake Spring #1 was ending and it was going to be 19 F) and a few luxury items, and the pack killed. I don’t know if there was a different way I could have adjusted it to distribute weight better, but it left bruises on my hips and made my shoulders extremely sore. This improved significantly as I ate through some of my food, and on my Vermont trip, with only about a day of food, the pack was totally comfortable.
In fairness, there’s been a break-in period with all the packs I’ve used as I figure out the exact adjustments and the pack conforms a bit to my body.
Not really, to be honest. It’s heavy and not the most comfortable. This is a beginner pack, for people who might need it for a trip or two or aren’t ready to invest in super-expensive gear, or who aren’t even sure they like backpacking. It would also be more useful for people whose gear was not as compact and dialed-in as mine, for whom the large volume and carrying capacity could be helpful. For those purposes, it works quite well.
Sierra Designs Gigawatt Pros
- It stands up when you put it on the ground: That was my biggest frustration with the Osprey Eja, which couldn’t balance on its bottom.
- Hip pockets: I love being able to eat snacks without taking off my pack.
- The top closes with a zipper: Rather than a buckle, which I found convenient.
- Water is accessible while walking.
- Affordable: At $120, it’s a fraction of the cost of most backpacking packs, making it far more accessible for new hikers on a budget.
- Outside pockets are secure and convenient.
- Durable: Granted, I haven’t used it all that much yet, but so far I’ve had absolutely no issues with wear and tear.
- Hip and shoulder straps were easily adjustable.
Sierra Designs Gigawatt Cons
- Heavy: This was the biggest con for me, but I also understand that I am not the target audience for this product. I also have pretty light gear, so I can see this pack being more useful if I had heavier stuff.
- Break-in period was quite painful.
- Water bottle pockets: While water was accessible, it wasn’t that accessible—it definitely took some arm twisting, and sometimes I needed to ask for help from my hiking partners.
- Not well-ventilated: The foam on the back and hip straps led to some sweat pooling. I’d gotten spoiled with my Osprey, which had netting over the back and light hip straps for ventilation.
- Frame adjustment not intuitive: The velcro adjustment for the shoulder harness might not be obvious to anyone unfamiliar with this style of frame adjustment. Since this pack is geared toward beginners, it would be better if there were more explicit instructions here.
At 4 lbs and a capacity of 60L, I would not recommend this pack for a thru-hike. In fact, for the experienced, dedicated, regular backpacker I would not recommend this pack— get something lighter, more expensive, with slightly more convenient features. BUT if you’re someone who just needs a pack for one or two trips? If you’re someone who’s just getting into backpacking? Someone who doesn’t want to shell out an arm, a leg, and their firstborn child for an ultralight pack, who just needs something that’ll hold all their gear reasonably well and not break? Then, I would definitely recommend trying it out.
Osprey Rook 65 ($165)
Kelty Coyote 65 ($189)
Teton Sports Scout 3400 ($80)
The Sierra Designs Gigawatt pack was donated for purpose of review.
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