3 litre bladder with new Hydroloc bite valve, independent harness, multiple pockets, nets and cargo lash ons, luminous yellow intestines.
Camelbak started the whole “hydrate or die”, water in a backpack revolution over ten years ago and they’re still the market leader. This is the totally new revamp of their old favourite the HAWG (Holds A lot of Water Gear).
Essentially it’s got fatter and broader but shortened slightly. The main bladder sleeve loads independently from the back with a velco flap to secure it, and then the main full length pocket sits in front of that with a 3/4 zip for easy access. this is where coats, full size pumps, saws, shock pumps, extra bladder and what ever else you fancy carrying live, and there’s a key clip in the top of the lid. The front pocket is about half the size but has dividers and mesh pockets for tools with a cunning luminous yellow fabric so you can see what’s in there easily.
A big elasticated cargo mesh on the back takes care of wet stuff, rubbish, maps or easy reach food and two more mesh pockets at the waist are ideal for stowing energy bars on the go.
A bungee at the base allows more stowage and a webbing “daisy chain” gear loop runs up the centre of the bag. The whole lot can be snugged down with two quick release compression straps which stop the whole beast from lurching about when loaded.
The bladder itself is a fairly simple 3 litre rubber unit with a broad screw top for feeding in ice cubes, energy drink, goldfish etc. It’s not as easy to clean as some of the zip lock bladders, but it’s more reliable and less of a faff to use. The crowning glory of Camelbaks new 2001 stuff is the Hydroloc bite valve which combines the “just right for easy suckling” ergo angle bend with a cunning profiled on off switch to stop dribbling in transit. The soft rubber “Jap’s eye” bite valve requires no tongue twisting or nibbling technique and water flow is excellent.
The harness system uses wide padded straps on a fully adjustable webbing harness with broad, flank padded, waistbelt and elasticated chest strap. Chest strap is also height adjsutable but the long waist straps could do with loops to tuck in flying ends – cut them short and stitch them if they really irritate. The shoulders strap are independent (they aren’t stitched to the bag, just the webbing) which allegedly helps alignment to your shoulders, allows the bag to sit more naturally and stops neck chafing. We definitely noticed it was a happy sitter even after a long fully loaded ride, and it never gave us the shoulder pinch and ache that other bags can, so we reckon that means it works.
The rear of the bag is semi stiffened with padded “islands” making up airflow channels and helping to spread weight. You’ll still sweat underneath it, but the ventilation will save you from salty rivers running down the crack of your back. Lumpy loads are also cushioned by the bladder being between cargo and rider.
The only downside is its 1kg unloaded weight, but that comes as a result of it’s massively comprehensive features list. If the bag mass bothers you check out simpler lighter systems further down the range. The other issue is of course cash and though the Camelbak isn’t cheap, from our experience with this and other bags and those who’ve sent in feedback, the bold quality is a near as indestructible as you could ask for with bags normally lasting for years. My original 1991 bag is still perfectly intact somewhere in the loft after about 7 years of use.
Verdict: A very impressive reworking of an already well loved bag makes this an excellent day ride / epic bag. Water is supplied easily and cleanly, and there’s room to stuff in or strap on anything we can think of with enough dividers for small stuff without getting over fussy. Quick reach pockets on the outside are excellent for in-flight refueling and compression straps stop cargo shifts spoiling your composure when the riding gets acrobatic. Stitch onto a well vented, padded back with an excellent comfortable and stable harness and finish with high quality materials and bombproof construction. It might seem expensive initially but the HAWG is a winner however far your going.