Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L hiking backpack review: intelligently designed and lots of volume

The perfectly proportioned Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L backpack is great for overnight trail adventures and multi-day treks

Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L hiking backpack with tent
(Image: © Pat Kinsella)

Advnture Verdict

With an internal frame, plenty of carry capacity, a well-padded back and a comfortable harness, this 60L pack from US brand Sierra Designs is the perfect size for overnight and multi-day lightweight trekking adventures. Carry capacity is generous and the design is intelligent, with a side-access zip allowing you to quickly and easily locate items buried deep inside the pack without having to empty it. The enormous mesh compartments on the side also facilitate additional carry options. The harness, shoulder straps, hip wings and waist belt are all comprehensive and comfortable, although it is fiddly to adjust the back size and the pocket zips are not very robust.

Pros

  • +

    Great size for overnight adventures

  • +

    Side access zipper

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    Generous pockets

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    Four adjustment points on the waist belt

  • +

    Reasonably priced

Cons

  • -

    No rain cover

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    Pocket zips are weak

  • -

    One size only

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Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L: first impressions

The Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L comes from an American outdoor brand best known for producing good quality sleeping bags and backpacking tents, so I was looking forward to trail testing this pack. Sensibly priced, it’s ideally proportioned for those overnight or impromptu weekend escapades when you just grab a tent and sleeping bag and head off to explore a hill, mountainside or moor. In reasonable conditions – or if you travel light – you can get enough gear in the Gigawatt 60L for much longer adventures too, especially if you’re going from hut to hut, or using a tarp or bivy sack to sleep in. 

Specifications

• List price: $149.95 (US) / £129.99 (UK)
• Volume: 60L / 2.1cu ft
• Materials: 300-denier polyester ripstop, internal sprung-steel frame
• Weight: 1.84kg / 4.06lb
• Dimensions (HxWxD): 66cm x 28cm x 25.5cm / 26in x 11in x 10in
• Sizes: One size, adjustable (fits people with torso size 40cm-53cm /16in-21in)
• Colors: Gray, black & red

This Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L is only available in one size, and there’s no women’s specific version, but the harness can be adjusted and secured in the right place (using velcro fasteners) for people with back lengths of between 16 and 21 inches – although, in all honesty, it is a little fiddly to get this right. 

There is a good, easily adjustable sternum strap and the hip wings are substantial, allowing you to spread the weight of the pack properly. The waist belt is wide and comfortable, and it can be adjusted at four points for a really good fit.

On the downside, I immediately noticed that there’s no rain cover (one of my pet hates is when packs are sold without covers). In fact, there’s not even a lower pocket to carry one if you buy it separately. The 300 denier material is good, but it’s not fully waterproof, so you need to use a large drybag as a liner, or invest in a pack cover. 

Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L: on the trails

Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L hiking backpack by stream

The Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L has a substantial profile (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I’ve been testing this pack out while walking and wild camping on Dartmoor, carrying a two-person backpacking tent, lightweight sleeping bag, camping mat, small stove and enough gear and supplies for a few nights hiking and sleeping out under the stars.

The main compartment of the Gigawatt is generous – absolutely perfect for this kind of escapade. Access is excellent, with a really wide, zipped opening at the top, plus a zipped opening on the side, which is one of my favorite features on this pack because it allows you to find items that have been buried deep inside without emptying the rest of the contents all over the trailside. 

Because the top is zipped, rather than secured by a cord and toggle (which is more common), you can’t pull it tight. However, external compression straps mean you can keep the bag tight and compact even when it’s not full, and these double up as several lash points to help secure extra gear (such as trekking poles and ice axes) to the outside of the pack. There are purpose-made material hoops at the bottom of the pack for securing such technical tools too.

The back of the Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L hiking backpack

The back view of the ierra Designs Gigawatt 60L hiking backpack (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Aside from a dedicated pouch for a hydration bladder (complete with a velcro hook and a portal for the hose above each shoulder), the main compartment is a singular space (with no optional dividers). However, several external pockets allow you to organize your gear. The Gigawatt has three oversized external mesh pockets (one on either side and one on the front, which has a clip) that can be used to store extra layers and gear such as hiking gloves, waterproof jackets and rain pants, that you might need to access quickly.

There is a large zipped pocket on the lid, with a sub-pocket inside, also with a zip, for keeping important things such as car keys somewhere secure and easy to find. The pack’s hip wings also feature extra-generous zipped pockets for carrying a cell phone, compass or trail snacks. Unfortunately, during our trail test one of the zips on a hip wing pocket failed (it broke without being forced, when there was nothing in the pocket), so we’re not sold on the quality of those particular zips. This is a shame, as the rest of the pack appears robustly built, and we’ve had positive experiences with the reliability of Sierra Designs products in the past.

The padding on the back panel is comprehensive and comfortable, with a contoured design to allow some airflow. Both the back panel and the shoulder straps are constructed with a breathable mesh on the side of the fabric that comes into contact with your body, to cut down on sweatiness.

Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60L hiking backpack on white

Side-access zips allow you quick and easy access to locate items buried deep inside the pack without having to empty it (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.