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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Packs > CamelBak Highwire 25 Antidote Pack > Test Report by Gail StaisilCamelBak
Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
June 28, 2011
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com
Initial Impressions and Product Description
The CamelBak Highwire 25 Pack is marketed as an ultralight pack for backcountry use that would address the equipment and hydration needs of both hikers and alpine adventurers. The suggested load level is between 10-25 lb (4.54-11.34 kg). According to the manufacturer It is designed to carry extra layers, rain gear, food, head lamp, trail maps, and media. It is equipped with a hydration reservoir that holds 100 oz (3 L) of water.
Needless to say the pack arrived in great condition with great stitching and neatly encased seams. There was only a single tag which indicated that it was a salesman's sample. Being a sample, I also noticed that the belt pockets are gray rather than red as shown on the website. My first thoughts pertained to the lightweight features. I readily noticed the mini ripstop nylon fabric and the mesh features incorporated into it's belt, harness system and back panel. I also keyed in on the plethora of pockets.
Design and Technical Features
The outside surface of the Highwire 25 is fabricated with several different fabrics. They include mini ripstop nylon, taffeta and heavier nylon with DWR coating (bottom of pack). The main body of the pack is top loading and that is accessed by a two-way inverted "U"-shaped zipper. The zipper features corded pulls that are each threaded through a short metal tube. It seems to make them easy to grasp.
The flip-down flap that opens with the above zipper system features both external and internal pockets. The latter is a mesh-faced pocket with an accessory clip located inside of the vertically-zipped pocket. The external pocket features a horizontal zipper across the top edge. The website indicates that this pocket is fleece lined but there isn't a lining on this pocket.
Below the external flap pocket there is a large non-zippered pocket that has an elasticized top and stretchy fabric comprising the majority of it. As stated this pocket is roomy enough so that one could quickly stash a large item such as a jacket.
Also very noticeable are the inclusion of ice axe loops and trekking pole mounts on the pack. The latter feature stretch elastic mounts with hooks and toggle closures.
Both sides of the pack each feature two angled compression straps. This would likely allow carrying smaller loads more comfortably as there would be less shifting of contents. The sides also feature stretch fabric lower pockets with elasticized top edges.
Belt and Shoulder Harness
The pack features a load bearing belt with small load adjustors, one on each side. Mesh fabric covers the belt and inside can be seen the perforated foam padding. This is done for ventilation purposes which I appreciate. The belt also features a top-zippered pocket on each side of the quick-release center buckle. I am very excited about the belt pockets as I have found them to be handy on my larger packs. Each pocket also has the cordage encased in a metal tube just like on the main compartment of the pack.
The shoulder harness system also features mesh material with a perforated foam core. There is a chest strap which can be adjusted by sliding the clips on integrated fabric-covered wires. Very cool! The harness also features a hose holder on each side so that I may chose either side for the hydration tube to be funneled.
The backpanel is the patented LV (lightweight ventilated). The actual plastic-type framesheet panel is visible through the mesh fabric but can also be seen by means of opening a hook and loop closure on the back side of it. This closure is located inside the hydration pocket.
The plastic panel itself is not flat but is corrugated. The panel is covered by open mesh in the center (running vertically) and foam padded areas on each side of it. All of these features promote more ventilation as well as slashing the weight of the pack.
Antidote Reservoir with Quick Link System
The hydration pocket is accessed by a zipper that edges the top and half of the distance vertically on one edge of the backpanel. This insulated pocket is completely separate from the space or contents of the main pack. This differs greatly from many hydration packs that I have owned in the past including the one that I have used up to now. This allows me to access the hydration unit without disturbing everything else.
CamelBak names their hydration unit the Antidote Reservoir. This BPA-free reservoir has a low-profile fit with a central baffle and an Air-light fill port with a wide opening. The blue-colored reservoir has a quick snap cap that tightens with a quarter turn. When the cap is secure the arrow on the cap lines up with a silver dot on the unit.
There are two drying arms on the cap that must be rotated down for drying.The reservoir is secured two ways inside the hydration pocket by both hooking it on a corded loop and also by lowering the bottom clip of the fill port over an integrated rigid band inside the pocket.
Another neat feature on the Antidote Reservoir is the Quick Link System. That essentially allows the tube to be quickly disconnected from the reservoir. It means I won't have to un-thread the hose set-up any time that I want to refill the reservoir.The mouthpiece (the patented Big Bite Valve) of the hydration tube has a simple shut-off feature that I am already familiar with. CamelBak's packs and reservoirs are covered by a lifetime guarantee.
The pack was simple enough to adjust as soon as I put it on. It seems to fit comfortably and the hydration unit was easy to fill. I look forward to the next four months of testing.
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September 6, 2011
USA Locations and Conditions
During the field test period, I have worn the CamelBak Highwire at least two dozen times. Although mostly used for day hiking, it has also been used while mountain biking and a three day backpack trip. I have also worn it while berry picking, during two different all-day outdoor music events plus a couple of art fairs. Locations in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA ranged from and included hilly boreal and deciduous forest communities. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to nearly 2000 ft (610 m).
Performance in the Field
The CamelBak Highwire has been an extremely comfortable pack to wear for day activities. The weather has been hotter than norm this summer which means that I easily overheated during my activities. The ventilated backpanel has helped to keep my back more comfortable than other hydration packs I have owned. The mesh shoulder harness and waist belt have also performed beyond expectation.
Usually I carry rain gear, some snacks, first aid, safety and other incidentals in the pack for these treks. During these hikes the pack wasn't fully loaded although the hydration unit was completely filled at the start. I normally placed sunscreen, lip balm, tissues and the like in the zippered waist belt pockets. I love the convenience of these as I don't have to remove the pack to get to items needed on the go.
Usually I carry a small closed cell seat in one of the side pockets for rest breaks. Most hikes were from 2 hrs to 6 hrs in duration. I have worn the Highwire in light rain with no leakage into the pack. I love the abundance of pockets. The top inside pocket has been handy for my McMurdo Fastfind (emergency beacon) and my cell phone.
As stated earlier I have also worn the Highwire a few times for longer mountain bike rides. It carries well for those endeavors and the baffle inside the hydration reservoir seems to make for less sloshing. Overall it is a bigger pack than I actually need for mountain biking but if I am going to be out many hours I can easily carry bike related items as well as emergency items in it.
Towards the end of the field test period I decided to try using the Highwire for a short backpacking trip of three days to a nearby island. Although the Highwire isn't probably intended for backpacking purposes but instead for general "ultra-light backcountry adventures" I was curious if it would work.
My thoughts are that although it worked for that purpose, it was a bit uncomfortable. That was not because of the weight that I carried (18 lbs/8.16 kg with water which is well under the rated 25 lb/11.34 kg load capacity) but the fact that the pack was stuffed to the brim. This made the pack unit rather rigid or unforgiving. It made the pack sit too rigidly much like carrying a large concrete block and made getting to gear harder than norm. In addition, removing, replacing and filling the hydration bag was impossible without removing a good part of the gear.
It was a good experiment however as I experienced its limits. That said I now know that it can be used in a pinch if I wanted to take someone out into the backcountry that currently didn't own a backpack and could share some equipment.
I have also used the hydration reservoir with another larger backpack during this period. I love the Quick Link or quick release hose system as I didn't have to rethread the hose after every fill. This system is such an improvement over the old style.
I did however take the complete reservoir with drinking tube out of my backpack while at camp so that I could obtain drinking water any time I wanted to without lugging around the whole pack (the picture to the right shows the hydration unit just after being filled with treated water while at camp). I haven't had any issues with water leakage with either the quick release hose or the fill port. The fill port tightens easily every time without problems. So far, I haven't noticed any wear and tear on any of the components of the CamelBak Highwire 25.
With that said the Highwire is a great hydration pack for its intended purpose. During the long term period I will continue to use it mostly for day adventures.
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Long Term Report:
November 21, 2011
USA Locations and Conditions
During the long term test period, I have worn the CamelBak Highwire about 15 more times. It has been mostly used for day hiking and three sessions of cross country skiing. Locations in Michigan and Wisconsin, USA ranged from and included hilly boreal and deciduous forest communities. Trail and off trail travel was primarily rocky and rooty or snow covered. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to nearly 2000 ft (610 m).
Performance in the Field
The CamelBak Highwire has continued to perform well during the long term period. Fall weather was mostly warmer than norm resulting in the fact that I didn't have to wear bulky layers until lately when winter weather arrived. The breathable shoulder harness and waistbelt has worked well with my choice of outerlayers which has been everything from a rain jacket to a light weight down sweater to a hard shell.
The waistbelt pockets are a highlight of this pack for me as I count on them to easily access a snack, sunscreen, compass, etc while I am on the move. I continue to use the top inside pocket for emergency gear (personal locator beacon, cell phone) as it would be easy to get to them without digging through the main body of the pack.
Because most of my outings didn't last more than three hours I rarely filled the hydration unit with my more than 2 L (1.89 qt) of water. For most hikes I also had more capacity than I needed in the main compartment of the pack but this can be cinched nicely with the use of each side compression strap. This also helps in load control so that everything doesn't shift or bounce around but stays firmly in place. The main compartment of the pack is rather large so if I do throw a bunch of things in it I have to remember their placement otherwise I am digging in every corner. Usually I place my first aid kit on the bottom and then add my insulated clothing and more. The outer pockets were used for quickly needed items such as maps, gloves, hat and the like.
Thoroughly drying the Antidote Reservoir takes some time usually at least two days. That is mostly because of the humidity that exists in this part of the country (usually 65 percent or above). I have noticed that in the last month when my furnace is running and my home is more likely at 40 percent or less humidity, it dries out a lot quicker. I normally place a crumpled paper towel in each half of the reservoir to help absorb some of the moisture.
As stated in my field report, I continue to love the Quick Link or quick release hose system as I don't have to re-thread the hose after every fill. This system is such an improvement over the old style. I haven't had any issues with water leakage with either the quick release hose or the fill port. The fill port tightens easily every time without problems. I haven't noticed any degradation on any of the components of the CamelBak Highwire 25. Other than a few soiled marks on the gray portion of the pack it looks like new.
I will happily continue to use the Highwire for many outings, especially those that require more gear.
Thanks to CamelBak and BackpackGearTest for this opportunity to test the Highwire Hydration Pack. This concludes my Long Term Report and the test series.
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