Recently I took part in a multi-day MTB stage race, and I decided to try out the Camelbak Ratchet hydration pack to carry all the necessary fluid, food, tools and clothing. Since it’s not a single-day MTB marathon, the competitor needs more of the above – in fact more than it’s practical to carry in the jersey pockets and the saddle bag. The experiment was a success, and now I’m a convert to hydration packs. But the Ratchet is one of the smallest pack the inventor of such backpacks has in its vast range, so I decided to try something bigger, in fact the largest MTB pack Camelbak offers, the H.A.W.G. NV.
Now, what Camelbak Ratchet and H.A.W.G. NV have in common, which I also tested for unsupported, private bike rides in Tuscany and Andalucía, it’s their non-fuss bladder handling. From cleaning to refilling, it’s such a cinch. Every time I have stopped at feed stations or water wells, I took me next to no-time to refill. The very same is true for cleaning. Yes, it requires a certain amount of paying-attention to, in order to get it dry properly and odor free [in case you fill it with energy drinks], but it becomes very quickly a second nature to me.
H.A.W.G. NV features all the above, mind you with a much larger volume and a tons of additional features. I haven’t used it for races. That would have been an overkill. But for those above mentioned rides it’s very well made. Funnily I used only 50% of its potential. This guy is hard to beat in terms of clever features given its light weight.
It is clearly built for a full day adventure on the trail. There is no extra preparation needed how to organize all the stuff you want to put into it. There is place for literally all those necessities, such as helmet on the hooks. There is a four point compression in case not all space is used. Media pocket, 2 waist belt pockets for easy reach, as well as dual bike tool organizer. Its integrated rain cover had been used on 2 occasion. And yes, it was a 3 hour pouring heavy rain. No concerns in regard to wet internals. Now, how Camelbak managed to nail down its super weight of 940g for its sizable 17 L cargo space and 3 L reservoir, is beyond me.
I got to mention their sturdy build as well. Yes, both of them took the beating. Under normal conditions where you have got enough time to clean it and handle it gingerly, every back pack is durable enough, and lasts for ages. Mind you, there were more than a one occasion where I was just fatigue enough or had no time to handle it cautiously. The applied material is robust enough to withstand a huge amount of misuse. I don’t encourage anybody to handle it carelessly, but at times you are just in such situation and it’s great to know, they are built to last.
It might be due to Camelbak long lasting history, expertise, etc., but it is true that plenty of brands in the marketplace that benchmarks their products against Camelbak for a reason.