CamelBak is a company name that is so well known for its hydration systems that the very term "camelback" has come to be a generic term used to refer to any hydration system. The use is obviously incorrect but shows how well the company penetrated the market early on. Many of their products are used by military and law enforcement units, but this week we're going to take a look at one of their systems specifically designed for day hikes: the Trail Blazer.
Specifically designed by CamelBak for use on day hikes, the Trail Blazer offers 1,373 cubic inches of storage space in addition to the 70 ounces of fluid it will carry. For those of you as mathematically challenged as I am, that's just over a half gallon of fluid you can carry. Depending on the temperature and your exertion level, that 70 ounces may be stretched pretty thin. But when searching for a cost-effective hydration system, this one is hard to beat.
The padded shoulder straps are (obviously) adjustable and the Trail Blazer is also equipped with a waist belt and a chest compression strap. With modern media in mind, there is a special "custom" front pocket that is ideal for holding your cell phone or your iPod--or if you're a little more performance-focused than that, it'll hold some protein bars.
If you don't fill the pack and don't like things jiggling around as you hike (it really sucks when that happens if you're running or climbing) CamelBak designed in compression straps on either side of the pack to keep things tight. To suit your design or "fashion" sensibilities, you can have the Trail Blazer in any color you want as long as that color is black, cranberry red or tan. (black and tan versions shown right)
I happened to come into possession of my T&E Trail Blazer purely by accident. I ended up wearing it for a couple of short hikes and was happy with the comfort it offered. Bear in mind that the pack itself was designed for, er, cost-effective purchase. In fact, the entire hydration system was designed to be cost-effective--and CamelBak succeeded. The retail price is right about $70 and a quick Internet search found me one on sale for $46 and change. That's a damned good price for a comfortable pack sporting nearly 1,400 cubic inches of storage and 70 ounce hydration system.
All that recognized, and none of the following should be misconstrued as criticism, I'd make a few changes in the pack if this was going to be a pack that I wore regularly. Then again, as you read through these preferences, bear in mind that some other hydration systems do incorporate all of them...
- I'd like a bigger reservoir. 70 ounces is plenty for an afternoon trek, but if you're going to be going on a long day (I'm having not-so-fond memories of a 22 mile hump in military police school) then 100 ounces would be MUCH better...or perhaps two of them. Then again, every bit more water you carry represents more weight too. At about eight pounds for every gallon of fresh water, it adds up quick.
- I'd like an insulated drinking tube. I know. I know. Does it really make a difference? Everyone sucks the first mouthful, swirls and spits, so does it have to be ice cold? If I could manage it, yes.
- I'd like a heftier waist strap. Anything that keeps weight on my hips instead of cutting into my shoulders is good. The more comfortable the weight is on my hips, all the better.
- A couple of D-rings on the front straps for attaching all the miscellaneous crap that I will then promptly bitch about when it's banging around while I hike. Nobody ever said I had to make sense.
All around, a decent hydration system/pack. For a four to six hour hike, I'd consider it great and it's REALLY hard to beat the price. For physical training to keep yourself fit to work the street, it's a good quality hydration system at a decent price. If you're going to train or hike for longer than the 70 ounces will support you, find a bigger system. Just my $0.02 worth.