Thursday, March 31, 2011

Equipment Review: CamelBak Octane 18X Hydration Pack

I needed a new hiking pack, especially for my day hikes I would be venturing on this spring and summer.  My old pack, a Trager, was old, falling apart, and it just wasn't meeting my needs any more. 

So I started looking online for a pack that would meet some specific guidelines.  I wanted a pack with a water bladder, needed to be expandable, lightweight, sturdy, with hip and chest straps, just large enough for day hikes and affordable.  I found a few online that caught my interest but I wanted to try them on before purchasing.  So I spent some time in the local stores searching, but I didn't find anything that met my requirements.

My family went to Charlotte, NC for a getaway and while visiting we visited the REI store.  Walking into REI is like being a kid in a candy shop.  I can't wait to be done with school, and to be working as a I can go back to REI and invest in some more gear!  REI has a mean selection of packs, and I was eager to start looking them over and try some on.  I came across a pack that I had seen on REI's website.

The pack was the CamelBak Octane 18X Hydration Pack - 100 fl. oz.  It is a uni-sex pack, made from polyurethane-coated ripstop nylon.  The first thing I looked at was the water resevoir.  The pack features a hydration compartment which holds the reservoir flat against your back.  The reservoir is easily removed from the pack and features a large opening for easy filling.  The bite valve is positioned well on the pack, making access very convenient. 
Waist strap with zippered mesh compartments

The pack has 1,281 cubic inches of space, with a very large main compartment for your food, light clothing layers, etc.  One of the features I was very excited about was the expandable section.  The front of the pack unzips, exposing an adjustable strap with a clasp that keeps an additional pocket securely fastened. 

Pull bands to tighten the pack
Pull bands laced throughout
the pack
The hip belt has 2 small zippered pockets that gives you quick access to items you need in reach.  The pack also features a back panel with breathable mesh, that allows air to cross your back for improved ventilation and comfort. There are also a few reflective elements sews on the straps that enhance visibility in low light.

The pack weighs in at just 1 lb!!  The pack also features adjustable elastric bands that are fed throughout the pack.  When pulled tight these bands bind the pack tight around the contents, keeping them tightly in position, and decreasing the profile of the pack.  The pack also has a small zipper pouch on the front to allow quick access to small items.

Pull bands to tighten the pack
Overall, the pack is exactly what I was looking for, and it was affordable.  I am also extremely pleased to say that the pack is assembled in the United States.

I have taken the pack on a couple of hikes since I purchased it, with one long 10.6 mile day hike.  It performed just as I had hoped.  I have noticed that if my frame was any larger, the chest strap would be too tight, however it fit me perfectly, and actually has a little bit of elastic built in which allows some "give" in it if you have to move in a position that might expand your chest beyond what you have adjusted your strap to.

Zipper pocket
The pack provided just enough room for all my gear, including my lightweight jacket I started hiking with earlier in the morning.  As the day warmed, I was able to stuff it in my pack without any problems, or distorting the shape of the pack.  I had more than enough water for my spring-time hike, and I believe it still would have been adequate in the heat of the summer.  All of my gear fit well in the pack, but I didn't need to use the adjustable elastic bands as the pack was fairly full. 

I was very impressed with the breathable mesh on the back.  It truly did provide ventilation and made hiking with the pack even more comfortable.  At the end of the day, the pack looked excellent, rode well on my back, and left nothing to be desired!

I highly recommend this pack for day hikers and give it...4 out of 4.

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