Snug as an old pair of slippers, but tough as a Mutant Ninja’s shell, Camelback’s HAWG NV is still the leader of the all-day-riding pack.
Soon to hit UK bike stores is the 2013 version of Camelbak’s popular Hawg NV drinking system and the R and D boys at Camelbak haven’t disappointed us. The excellent build quality we’ve come to expect from Camelbak is clearly present here. With its combination of durability, comfort, and devilish attention to detail, the Hawg NV will be the backpack of choice for any mountain bike guide or multi-day rider.
NV refers to the articulated support system that keeps the pack off your back, and allows a constant flow of air for ventilation. It works really well. The four segments or pods that make up the system felt firm at first, especially at the lumber region, but with a further tug on the chest straps, the snug fit evenly distributed the load along the spine of the bag; this makes for an extremely comfortable and secure fit.
Secure is a word I don’t use lightly in the context of carrying a heavy load. When carrying a full load on your back all day, the fit of the bag is extremely important, especially when the terrain gets bumpy. You need a backpack that fits correctly and offers bags of confidence and comfort, and won’t move around. The HAWG is secure on your back and is held there comfortably without feeling restricted at either the chest or waistband straps.
The three-litre lightweight reservoir features all the latest Camelbak updates: the quarter turn closure works a treat by lining up the finger handles horizontally, and then a flick of the wrist to the 12 o’clock position secures it with a resounding clunk.
You can unclip the tube at the reservoir base for cleaning. The fitting here is leak free so far, and slots together with another resounding click, a bit like a garden hose.
But what’s really neat is the handle drop slot that cunningly holds the reservoir securely in place no matter how much or little water you’re carrying. There’s nothing fancy here, just a simple slot that works really well at holding the base of the plastic closure into place, and no half-empty bladders crumpled up in the bottom of your HAWG.
The HAWG NV has an all-up carrying load of 17 litres. This is split between a14-litre main compartment, and three litres of bladder space. The four way compression straps glide neatly into place to allow for variations in carrying capacity. The main compartment is deep and wide enough to carry a full day’s wet weather load of clothing, food and spares, and this is neatly augmented by the overflow bay which sits on the back of the main compartment.
More often than not, I found myself stuffing regularly used gear, like food, a windproof or waterproof top, into the overflow bay and slipped on the handy, day-glow yellow rain cover to keep everything dry and clean, although out of habit I still double bag clothing for added protection first.
I also used the rain cover if the trails were wet anyway. It keeps the HAWG dry and clean, which is especially good if you have to unzip the bag for something. Anything that prevents unwelcome crud getting into the main compartment is good.
The helmet clips on each side of the bag are another straightforward design feature and are simple yet effective. I must admit though, I tend to carry my helmet in the overflow pouch for added protection when transporting my gear around. There’s a handy rear light strap built into the reflective logo and markings on the back; there’s a rear light strap on the rain cover too.
One of the features of the HAWG NV that I took to instantly and went “yep, that makes sense” is the ever so simple D-fit rings that hold the top end of the chest straps in place. The chunky and silky smooth D-rings allow the straps to fall into a natural alignment with your shoulders without any fuss or adjustment. It works so well you don’t even notice it – like a problem solved before the issue arises.
Other finely tuned details include the understated reflective strips on the chest straps; a chunky carrying handle; and a lined media pocket that’s ever so soft to the touch. The media pocket comfortably holds my (empty of cash) wallet and stupidly outsized smart phone, and I can safely squeeze my glasses in there too. Our sample HAWG NV weighed in at 0.97kg, which is not bad for a pack this big.
The 2013 Hawg NV is packed with plenty of well thought-out features and has a ruggedness that belies its slim looks. There’s nothing about the Hawg NV that looks or feels like an afterthought or change-for-change sakes, every detail about it makes sense and has an ergonomic, tactile feel with a functional reason for being there.
It’s weird, but after a few weeks of soggy trail riding with the new Hawg NV clinging limpet-like to my back, I still feel that I’ve experienced a dream where I had taken my original, well-worn Hawg back to the design office at Camelbak Towers to explain what I wanted from an updated, fully expedition-capable backpack: “I need compartments like this, I want padding like that, the straps should move like this, but fit like that …”. Well someone got inside my head, because the bagmen at Camelbak have came up with the almost flawless 2013 Hawg NV.