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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Packs > CamelBak H A W G > Owner Review by Gail StaisilOwner Review:
August 27, 2007
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
For the last 18 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I normally take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably, but my base weight is under 18 lb ( 8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages over 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.
The Camelbak H.A.W.G. is one of many hydration packs offered by Camelbak. It is one of their largest fluid-capacity packs with a reservoir for liquid of 100 oz (3 L). Camelbak does make larger volume packs for gear but the H.A.W.G. is still quite roomy at over 800 cu in (13.1 L). Some of its features include a sliding-sternum strap, a waistbelt, two side-compression straps, reflective details, and a mesh outer pocket. The manufacturer has updated the model a bit in the last year or so by including a MP3 pocket and a reduced cargo volume (about 220 cu in (3.6 L less).
I purchased the Camelbak H.A.W.G. several years ago when I was planning to make a trip to Havasu Canyon in Arizona. It was an 8 mi (13 km) trek into the canyon where I was to spend two nights at lodging in the canyon. Although I didn't need to haul a shelter or a sleeping bag, I still needed to carry some clothing, toiletries and food. My hydration needs were significant as the temperatures were hot and dry. I would also do significant day hiking while I was there. The capacity of the H.A.W.G. for both hydration and gear was perfect for that trip and it has been my favorite hydration-based pack since that outing. I've worn it on all my long day hikes especially when I know that I am going to need to carry a significant amount of water. Besides Havasu Canyon, I have worn the H.A.W.G. in many national parks including Arches, Zion, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands. In addition, I have used it for various hikes in Flagstaff, Sedona and the Superstition Mountains all in Arizona, plus for local dayhikes and outings in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I have worn the pack in all types of weather including temperatures up to nearly 100 F (38 cm). I have hiked in sun, rain and even snow in Utah and Michigan while wearing the H.A.W.G. When temperatures hovered around the freezing mark (32 F/0 C), I didn't have any problem with water freezing in the tube. However, during excursions with temps below freezing, I normally instead just use water bottles inside my pack. I don't like having to keep the tube of the hydration bag inside my clothing or using neoprene tube covers to keep the water flowing.
The H.A.W.G. is an extremely well-designed hydration and daypack. The padded-mesh shoulder harness is very comfortable even while carrying over 20 lb (9 kg) of water and gear in it. I normally always use the integrated waistbelt to distribute the load. The belt also helps the pack stabilize and stay close to my body when I'm bouldering or rock hopping. The sternum strap can also be adjusted up or down to find the right fit.
The H.A.W.G. is equipped with a 100 oz/3L (OMEGA wide-mouth) hydration bag with a Big Bite valve mouthpiece. The mouthpiece has a HydroLock valve that shuts off the water flow when needed.
I've never had the hydration system leak either from the screw-on cap of the reservoir, or from neither the end of the drinking tube or from the mouthpiece. I really like the HydroLock valve that shuts off the water flow. I keep the valve shut when I am transporting the pack to or from the trail head in a vehicle. Because I've had previous experience with valves that haven't had this feature, I can relate that many of them will leak if any pressure is put on them by other gear or related items. I have not only lost drinking water with those systems but they've also leaked water on items that were supposed to stay dry.
The hydration reservoir fits into the outside padded back panel of the pack so that it can be accessed without disturbing the cargo's contents. This easy access panel has one continuous zipper all the way around the top and one of the sides. A full reservoir of water is quickly placed into it without having to struggle. There is a top loop inside this panel so that the reservoir can hook into it. This prevents the reservoir from slipping downwards, especially when the water supply is low inside the pack. The drinking tube is then funneled through an opening in the top of the pack and can be drawn through a loop on either side of the front harness.
The front of the pack features a roomy internal pocket for gear. It has additional pockets for smaller items and there's also a clip to fasten my keys. The outside of the pack has a roomy mesh pocket that is quite handy for quickly-needed items. I usually stow my rain jacket, compass and maps there. The cargo volume of the pack can be compressed by using the two handy compression straps that run horizontally across the back and sides of the pack. There's also a handy haul loop located on the top edge of the pack.
The OMEGA wide-mouth reservoir with a circular opening of over 3 in/8 cm wide in diameter is very easy to fill, and more importantly -- dry. When I know that I'm not going to use the pack for several days at a time, I remove excess drops of water from the reservoir by inserting a few paper towels into it to absorb the moisture. I take the mouth piece off of the tube and then let both parts air dry.
Otherwise, I have done little maintenance to care for the pack. Usually surface dirt brushes off quite easily on the exterior and as I've already described, the hydration system is quite easy to care for. The entire hydration system has HydroGuard technology. It is embedded with an FDA-approved silver ion compound to inhibit bacteria growth.
The only demerit to the pack is that it is rather expensive. Although Camelbak does guarantee their packs for the long haul, I think it's still pricey at $100 US. However, the construction and design is superb. Prior to buying the H.A.W.G., I used two other hydration packs by different manufacturers. They weren't nearly as nice and definitely not as comfortable. Their hydration systems often leaked, were hard to fill and were unsatisfactory for my needs. This could definitely be a case of "you get what you pay for" as those packs were not nearly as expensive.
In conclusion, the Camelbak H.A.W.G pack has remained my favorite hydration-based pack through several years of use. The fully-loaded hydration pack is extremely stable while wearing it and I often forget that it's even on me. Since I purchased this pack, I haven't even considered replacing it, as everything has remained in fine shape. That includes the materials that the pack is constructed of plus the reservoir and the mouthpiece.
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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Packs > CamelBak H A W G > Owner Review by Gail Staisil
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