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Initial thoughts on the CamelBak H.A.W.G hydration system.

Monday, October 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I took my new CamelBak H.A.W.G out for its inaugural ride yesterday morning, and I have some initial thoughts about it. NOTE: For a picture of the HAWG, please see yesterday’s blog.

Yesterday’s ride was around 18 miles: 9 miles on paved surfaces and 9 miles on some very rough single track.

I had the pack pretty loaded up: I completely filled the 100 ounce HydroTanium reservoir and I also had quite a few other items in the storage areas (for a complete list of what I carry on bike rides, please see my October 15 and October 16 blogs). I didn’t weigh the pack, but I’d estimate that everything weighed around 13 or 14 pounds. Even with all that gear in there, there was still so much room left over for more stuff that I could hardly believe it. I could easily pack enough food, gear and water (including a HAWG-supported second water reservoir) for an entire day of mountain biking.

The HAWG is very well padded and very adjustable. The shoulder straps are large, easily adjusted and very comfortable. The chest straps are on vertical rails, and I found the ability to adjust the vertical placement of the chest strap to be a very useful feature. There is a second thicker strap located around mid-waist level. The weight of my fairly well-loaded pack kept things from shifting around on my back, and so I decided not to use the lower straps at all. The designers of the HAWG seemed to realize that not everyone would need the lower straps, and the straps are easily removed so they won’t flap around while you’re out riding. Yesterday I rode on some very rough trails that are covered in large roots; the HAWG bounced around a bit, but I never found it annoying or had to adjust the position of it on my back. I think on trails with decent drops employing the lower straps would be useful, if not critical.

I definitely noticed the weight of the pack loaded with all my gear while I was riding, but all the padding and the way the pack sat on my back felt quite comfortable. There was no back pain or discomfort at all. The pack itself is very light at a little over two pounds, and so with a full 100 ounce water bladder you’re looking at around 9 pounds as a starting weight.

There is a padded zipper pocket at the very top of the HAWG that’s designed to hold an mp3 player. The pocket has a small opening (after it’s zipped shut) for earbud wires. Personally I don’t like to listen to music when I’m riding, but if you do then you’ll definitely appreciate this feature.

The HAWG also comes with a handy built-in rain cover. If you get caught in downpour just unzip the lower pouch and pull out the bright yellow cover. The rain cover fits perfectly and snugly around the HAWG, keeping your pack and all its gear nice and dry. Simple, but very useful feature.

On the front of the HAWG you’ll find an expandable pouch for your helmet. The helmet fits in there nicely, and will stay put if you decide to ride with it stored.

Another note-worthy feature is that the water bladder is easily accessed and removed from the dedicated zippered pouch that holds it. This makes cleaning and re-filling the water reservoir super easy and convenient.

Finally, the so-called “N.V.I.S” (Next-generation Ventilated Integrated System, pronounced “Envious”) is designed to keep the pack from resting directly on your back. The increased airflow is supposed to keep your back cooler. I found that the system worked pretty much as designed, and this pack definitely felt much cooler than my old CamelBak Classic that rested directly on my back. The pads on the back of the HAWG that do touch the back still get sweaty, of course, but I think the N.V.I.S design is a good one.

If you need a hydration pack that can sustain you for an entire day of biking or hiking, I think you’ll love the CamelBak H.A.W.G.

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