I actually reviewed the prototype for this pack awhile back (March 2008) and was quite impressed by CamelBak's focus on what I came to view as a practical backpack for the businessman or student. The production models have been out for awhile now and I got one a couple weeks ago with a request for a new review since some things had changed. During the testing time frame the pack has been used as a "tactical briefcase", book bag for my son, travel bag for my daughter and gear bag during some training I attended. Ultimately I think it's best for the business / educational environment, but some of the "tactical" design features are what really makes it excel wherever you take it.
Now, obviously, this isn't a typical appearing "tactical" pack. It more closely resembles a computer bag than it does a tactical pack. CamelBak took what they knew about hydration packs, learned a few things from others in the tactical pack market, and combined it all to create this design.
The two measurements that matter are these:
- The hydration system holds 70 ounces
- There are 1850 cubic inches of space in the pack
As I examine the pack, trying to put together an adequate description, it occurs to me that there are six main compartments or pockets designed into the pack.
- The computer pocket: padded on both sides this pocket is accessible through a wide curved zipper at the top of the pack. The computer pocket is big enough to hold my personal laptop which measures 14"x10.5"x1.5". (17" on the diagonal)
- The largest pocket: which also has a elastic-mouthed half-pouch inside. This is the pocket for the bulk of your materials if you're traveling or need reference material, etc.
- Pocket #3: slightly smaller as the large pocket but not nearly as deep front to back. The inside face of this pocket is lined with zippered and open organizational pouches / sleeves to carry everything from keys to pens, business cards, charging cords, etc.
- Pocket #4: the velcro-flap-closed outer pocket that serves as a handy catch-all and is useful for putting the things you either didn't expect to be handed or that you need to access fairly easily.
- Pockets #5 & #6: On either side of the main pocket on the outside of the pack. I usually use these pockets for carrying the power packs and power cords for my computer but they are large enough to easily fit a water bottle. In fact, they perfectly fit the CamelBak 24oz (750ml) nalgene water bottles.
The largest pocket and #3 pocket (as described) have double zippers that permit for a half-clam shell opening. That makes it easier to get things into and out of the pack without digging through everything.
Now, let's put all that into perspective. My college-age daughter often comes to visit on a weekend. That's spending two nights, doing homework, studying, bringing her iPod, reading, etc. On her last visit she brought everything packed into this pack. Think about that: two changes of clothes, undies, toiletries, pajamas, computer, power cords, two books, two spiral notebooks, her iPod and her cell phone. She had it all organized and accessible and it wasn't uncomfortable for her to carry. The shoulder straps are nicely padded and there is a waist-belt for stabilization (there's also a chest compression strap but I know few females who use them). There is also a rubber-wrapped nylong carry handle at the top of the pack if you don't want it on your shoulders.
Being a gun guy I'd love to see someone create an insert for the outermost pocket - that velcroes shut - that holds a pistol and magazine. Attachment points for such in that pocket would be a dream. Then again, I completely understand that there may not be much of a market for that and I will seek my own solution should the time come I just decide I have to have that in there.
MSRP on the CamelBak website is $159.00 but a quick Google search found me some for as low as $129 from a reputable dealer. (I found one for $107 but I don't trust that particular dealer. As always, use caution when ordering anything on the internet). So if you want one, search around and I'm sure you'll be happy.