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High Sierra AT505: A Versatile Workhorse

High Sierra luggage

With escalating fees being charged by airlines for luggage, many of you are looking for a bag that will do it all – be large enough allow you to pack enough stuff for a week or two, be small enough to carry on to avoid extra bag charges, while being stylish and easy to use. High Sierra’s AT505 Carry-On Wheeled Backpack with Removable Day Pack may just grant all your wishes.

Woman wearing blue jacket rolling the High Sierra AT505

The built-in, high-density foam structure material High Sierra uses to keep this bag’s shape ensures you can use all the space and it’s an amazing amount.

RealTest-logoOn a recent trip to Spain to experience and review food, accommodations, activities and sights for readers, RFT Editor Bobbie Hasselbring put this High Sierra bag through its paces — and she gave it a serious workout. This is her experience:

The AT505 is one of High Sierra’s 3-in-1 bags – a carry-on, a backpack, and a daypack. The 22-inch bag has a full-sized backpack that zips (with a sturdy single zipper) to the front of the bag. The bag has wheels, but, when the going gets rough, you can zip out two wide, padded straps that allow you to carry the bag on your back like a backpack (great for or unpaved cobblestone streets). If you choose to use the bag without the zip-on daypack, the main compartment of the bag has a zippered pocket in the front.

The first thing I noticed about the AT505is that it isn’t the ubiquitous black all luggage these days seem to be.

While the AT505 comes in black, the one our editor tested was a neat-looking black, grey, silver, and white plaid with gray and silver accents. A flight attendant (who obviously sees thousands of bags) commented on how great it looked and how easy it would be to pick this one out on a baggage carousel.

The next surprising thing was how much you can pack into this compact bag. In the main compartment of the bag, I was able to pack:

3 pants
1 peddle pusher
4 T-shirts
1 blouse
2 jacket style overshirts
1 lightweight sweats
1 pr sandals
2 pr running socks
1 pr slippers
Plenty of socks, underwear,
A small writing notebook
A small hip bag

The “Amazing” Bag

Woman wearing blue denim jacket with High Sierra Day-pack

High Sierra’s versatile, zip-off daypack on the AT505 made hands-free travel a snap. And it made eating Spanish churros a breeze for RFT editor Bobbie Hasselbring.

While this editor has packed similar-sized bags plenty of times, the built-in, high-density foam structure material High Sierra uses to keep this bag’s shape ensures you can use all the space and it’s an amazing amount. I was able to easily fold in a number of nicer items like my blouse and linen over shirt without using compression bags or my usual rolling and rubber banding technique and get them in – and did so without wrinkling. Two interior tie-down straps keep it all in place. The inside zippered mesh area creates a place for smaller items like underwear.

I was able to get all of this in without even using the daypack, which features three separate compartments. There’s a small pocket for things like sunglasses, and a larger, u-shaped one where you can put books or other medium-sized items. On one side is stretchy mesh water bottle holder, a must-have for this traveler. The daypack’s main section is long and wedge-shaped at the bottom, which allows for more items. It also makes the whole bag, roll on and daypack together, pretty chunky, and it a bit challenging to carry or roll down the airplane aisle without bumping others. And in order to store the carryon in the upper bin of a plane, you’ll have to unzip the daypack (with the daypack it’s too fat for the upper plane bins). However, this shouldn’t present any difficulties. I found zipping the daypack on and off with the heavy-duty zipper a snap.

At one point during our journey, we’d collected a few too many items, including a kilo of sea salt and a bottle of olive oil, and I packed the daypack portion of the bag chock full. I was surprised that not only could I get everything into the bag, I could zip the day pack back onto the main bag and roll the whole thing effortlessly. As our trip wore on and we collected even more stuff, we took to calling it “the amazing bag,” as I was able to accommodate more and more items without a problem. During the day and evenings, I took to carrying just the daypack complete with a large DSLR camera and lens, money, ID, hairbrush, water bottle, pashmina, and more. And the extra wide, padded straps made it all fit comfortably for hours at a time.

Easy Roller

The AT505 is a nice roller, cruising effortlessly through airports and train stations. (It also has what I call “racing wheels,” snazzy-looking wheels with covers that rival those on fancy cars.) Rolling through Spanish Metro underground stations, often bumping up and down steps, I gave this bag a thorough and rough workout and it came through flawlessly. I loved the button located on the rolling handle, which makes extending the handle to the shorter or longer positions convenient and easy. At first, I found the high position of the handle an inch or two longer than I really like, but I quickly became accustomed to it. I also found the extra-long bag strap on the top of the bag a terrific feature. Often, these straps are too short. This one, with a heavy-duty push clip and extra long length, enabled me to roll up my jacket in warm airports and easily attach it to the bag.

After two weeks of hard use, the AT505 still looks great, with just a few scuffs on the bottom kickplate between the wheels I repeatedly dragged it over rough concrete steps on the Metro. The more I used this bag, the more I fell in love with it. The designers at High Sierra have been very thorough in thinking of everything, including a a PDA pocket and key fob, an MP3 player headphone port, a back strap on the pack to allow it to slip over the extended handle of the main bag, and even reflective piping for added safety.

Real Bottomline: The AT505 is the perfect bag for someone who wants a workhorse of a bag that looks great, rolls well, carries an incredible amount of stuff (including a big paella pan!), and is versatile enough to serve as a daypack. High Sierra’s AT505 may just be one of my all-time favorite pieces of luggage.

HighSierra AT505 Carry-On Wheeled Backpack with Removable Day Pack
Materials: 1680 Denier Duraweave,® Metallic Mini-Weave, 900 Denier Duralite®
Size: 22″ x 14″ x 8″ (day pack: 19″ x 12″ x 5.5″)
Weight: 8.85 lbs.
Price: $149.99

Editor’s note: I liked the AT505 so much that I immediately took it on a trip to Louisiana. I wanted to try all the ways to carry the zip on/off backpack so I put it on the bag’s extended handle using the strap on the back of the backpack. That worked, but felt a little too heavy. Then I tried clipping it to the tow strap and that proved just right. However, in my rush, I somehow managed to lose that long, lovely tow strap. I called High Sierra’s Customer Service and, without any questions or charges, they shipped me a second tow strap right away. Now that’s customer service, RFTers!

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Bobbie Hasselbring

RFT founder and the website's former editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. She's been an award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook.

3 thoughts on “High Sierra AT505: A Versatile Workhorse

  1. Sandi

    Thank you for your review. Very helpful. I was looking to replace a simlar type of bag with the same features that had broken and could not be fixed.

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