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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Packs > Camelbak Highwire 25 Antidote Pack > Test Report by Brett Haydin

CAMELBAK HIGHWIRE 25 DAY PACK
TEST SERIES BY BRETT HAYDIN
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - June 21, 2011
FIELD REPORT - September 20, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - November 22, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydin AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 38
LOCATION: Salida, CO, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)
CHEST: 42 in (107 cm)
WAIST: 36 in (91 cm)

I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Highwire Act
Image courtesy of manufacturer
Manufacturer: CamelBak Products
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: www.camelbak.com
MSRP: US$ 115.00
Listed Weight: 1.79 lbs (.81 kg)
Measured Weight: 2 lb 1 oz (0.94 kg)
Measured weight without reservoir: 1 lb 11 oz (0.77 kg)
Volume: 25 L (1,526 cu in)
Hydration Capacity: 100 oz (3 L)
Torso Length: 19 in (48cm)
Color Tested: Cintonelle/Woodbine
Suggested load range: 10-25 lbs

Other details provided by manufacturer:


  • BACK PANEL: LV™ (Lightweight Ventilated)
  • HARNESS: Independent Suspension
  • BELT: Load-bearing with cargo pocket
  • Trekking pole and ice axe mounts
  • Sunglasses pocket
  • Designed to Carry: Extra layers, rain gear, food, head lamp, trail maps, media
  • Includes the new 100 oz (3 L) Antidote™ Reservoir with Quick Link™ System
  • Fabric Specs: 70D Mini Ripstop, 230D Taffeta & 420D Nylon with DWR + 1000mm PU coating
  • CamelBak® Got Your Bak Guarantee™: If we built it, we'll Bak it™ with our lifetime guarantee
  • Includes the new Antidote™ Reservoir with Quick Link™ System—the ultimate cure for dehydration.
    Antidote features: Quick Link™ System, quick-seal cap, lightweight fillport, dryer arms, center baffling and low-profile design, patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, PureFlow™ tube, easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The CamelBak Highwire 25, or just "the pack," is a lightweight day pack intended for most needs on a day hike in the backcountry. As the name implies, it has 25 L (1,526 cu in) of cargo space which is suitable for the typical equipment I take along. The pack comes with a 3 L (100 oz) hydration reservoir, the Antidote which is also great for my planned hikes. The pack comes with a four part hang tag and a plastic cover over the bite valve. Both of these have information about the pack and CamelBak Products.

Mesh Pocket
Inside mesh pocket
The Highwire is a fairly straight forward pack. There is one main compartment that opens with a two-way zipper. The zipper pulls are a loop of cordage that has an aluminum tube strung into it. The color of the aluminum matches the pack too! When I open the pack, there is a zippered mesh pocket (pictured at left) that is approximately 7 x7 in (18 x 18 cm). Inside the pocket there is a clip for keys.

On the front of the pack there is a zippered pocket at the top of the pack. It is directly opposite the mesh pocket, but is a little larger. The website has an icon for a fleece lined sunglasses/mp3 player pocket but I see none. In the front of the pack, there is a pouch made of a stretchy fabric with an elastic band sewn into the top. This will be great for stashing my rain jacket after it rains! There are also two equipment loops for an ice axe and trekking poles. There are four compression straps; two on each side. The upper compression straps have an elastic cord with a quick release and hook to make attaching my ice axe and trekking poles easier. I have other packs with this feature and I really like it.

Reservoir Compartment
Reservoir compartment
The hydration reservoir has its own zippered pocket on the back of the pack. Inside of the pocket, there is a stiff, 2 in (5 cm) wide loop for the reservoir to hang from. The picture to the right shows the loop. This is unlike any other system I have used, since the reservoir is suspended by the plastic handle instead of the attachment loop.

The back panel is a stiff, ruffled (like a potato chip) piece of flexible plastic. There is a mesh fabric holding it in place and padded and ventilated side panels for my comfort. At first glance, this appears to balance comfort and ventilation. Both the shoulder straps and waist belt are constructed of perforated foam. This not only cuts down on weight, but helps promote ventilation in those areas as well. On both sides of the waist belt, there are small zippered pockets that I likely will use for a camera or other items I need quickly. There are also water bottle holders on either side of the pack made of the same stretchy material as the front stash pocket.

The sternum strap is a simple buckle on a 1 in (3 cm) piece of webbing. There is an elastic band on one side to help keep it snug yet forgiving. The sternum strap is adjustable thanks to a tongue and groove attachment on the shoulder straps.

The Antidote reservoir is a newer product by CamelBak. The fill-port opens with a simple quarter turn of the cap. It also has a quick release mechanism to remove the tube. The bite valve has a shut off valve to minimize drips and it is BPA-free.

TRYING IT OUT

I have to admit, I was anxious to play with this pack. My first thought was that this pack is much lighter than other day packs I own or have owned. The pack fits well and ventilates great. I did notice the lack of any load lifting straps, but with such a light pack perhaps I won't miss it after all.

I filled up the reservoir and put it in the back. The hanging mechanism is a little trickier than I thought it would be, but it was simple enough. I like that the reservoir compartment is insulated. I could tell that my water stayed cool for my entire (short) hike.

SUMMARY

I am pretty excited to get out for an extended day hike to start putting the Highwire through some hikes. I have a number of trips coming up, including some fairly long days hiking some 14,000 ft (4,267 m) peaks. I really like how light the pack is since that should make a difference. The large reservoir is also a nice touch. My only concern so far is that the side pockets seem a little small.

This concludes my initial report. Please check back in late August for my next installment. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank CamelBak Products for their generosity as well as the keen folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Crestone Peak
Climbing Crestone Peak with the Highwire
It is hard for me to believe that only two months have gone by while testing this pack. Over the past two months I have used the Highwire to summit seven different 14ers; mountains over 14,000 ft (4,267 m). Additionally I have used the pack on 4 other day hikes with my family as well as during a 5 day trip to a trade show in Salt Lake City.

On two occasions, I brought the Highwire on backpacking trips as an additional pack for summiting some of those peaks. Weather conditions were all over the place with highs near 90 F (32 C) and lows at 30 F (-1 C). I have been in rain, sunshine, high winds but no snowy weather (yet). The hikes were between 6 and 15 mi (10 and 24 km) per day with a maximum elevation gain of 6,400 ft (1,950 m) in a single day.

For my backpacking trips, I first took a three-day hike in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness in southern Colorado. I set up a base camp at 11,700 ft (3,570 m) and hiked a couple of peaks from there. My total mileage for the weekend was 25 mi (40 km) along a mix of snow (crampons used), scree, tundra and subalpine terrain. There was a lot of class 3 scrambling as well. Temperatures were between 35 and 75 F (2 and 24 C). It was sunny with small amounts of rain at times.

The other trip was an overnight trip to the Mt Massive Wilderness in Colorado to hike to the top of this 14,421 ft (4,396 m) peak. Conditions were below average for the summer with overnight lows of 40 F (4 C) and highs at about 65 F (18 C). It was quite windy at times, and there was also a slow drizzle for most of my hike down to camp and then out to my car. On both of these trips, and 2 others I used the Antidote reservoir in my Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65 L backpack.

I also used the pack weekly on mountain bike excursions I do during the week to stay in shape. So yeah, when I looked back on the past two months of notes, it almost feels like I should be at my final stage. Two months in and I have 10 days of hiking and roughly 10 mountain bike rides, not counting the trade show.



PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The CamelBak Highwire 25 has become a reliable pack for my day hikes over the past two months. It has become like a second skin for me and I really like the feel of it. For starters, the padding is just enough in all the right places. In addition to the padding, the perforated padding seems to make a real difference for me. I notice that my shoulders and hips are less damp from perspiration than with other packs I have used.

Huron Peak
Chatting with folks on Huron Peak
I tend to fill my pack up and then some on my day hikes. For example, when I hiked Huron Peak, pictured at left, I carried a first aid kit, rain jacket and pants, ice axe, trekking poles, a down jacket, my ten essential ditty bag, hat, gloves, gaiters, camera, keys and food. Food consisted of two packets of gel-filled energy bites, a bag of trail mix, a sandwich and some cheese. I also filled the bladder to 3 L and I brought along a New Belgium Sunshine Wheat to celebrate on the summit. This wasn't a particularly long hike at only 6.5 mi (10.5 km) but I was volunteering with the US Forest Service and the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative so I felt obligated to be extra-prepared. The photo shows my down jacket stuffed in the external pocket, but that layer was on and off throughout the hike.

Even with heavier loads the pack carries quite well. My only complaint is that the shoulder straps had a tendency to slip from time to time, especially on the downhills. The straps have a hook and loop tab that can tie off the slack, but I like to leave a little play in the strap for easy adjustments. The waist strap and sternum strap were always reliably in place.

One thing I really enjoy is the ease of access to the pockets without removing the pack. It goes without saying that the zippered pockets on the waist strap are easy enough to access. I think it is great that the angle of the water bottle stretch pockets makes it easy to reach behind me for other items. With such a generous hydration reservoir, I don't really need a water bottle, but as the weather turns colder I bring along an insulated mug for hot beverages.

The hydration bladder is another one of the high points with this pack. That it is included with the pack is an absolute plus. The Antidote Reservoir is easy to clean, somewhat easy to stow and easy to remove. The quick-release hose means that I don't have to drag the pack around to fill the reservoir and it makes it much easier to hang dry. When the pack is full, putting the reservoir into its sleeve can be a bit of a chore.

The two pockets in the cover (internal and external) are handy. When the pockets are full, closing the pack is more challenging with my gear, but still manageable. So far, the pack is noticeably used. There are small stains, some that have come off and some that haven't. Finally, the gear loops are holding up strong. The elastic straps that hold the items upright do come loose from time to time, but I have never lost an item from this.

SUMMARY

So far I am enjoying this pack. Its light weight makes it an easy choice for a summit pack on some of my backpacking trips; especially when setting up a base camp and doing day hikes from it. The inclusion of the Antidote Reservoir is an absolute bonus. The external pockets are easy to access without having to practice yoga and there is just enough room for the gear I like to carry in the high mountains. These are a few of my favorite things!

I am slightly concerned that the shoulder straps and elastic gear attachment loops continue to slip. It is an inconvenience more than anything else. Also, I think I would favor a loop attachment for the reservoir over the sleeve-style included in this pack.

This is now my favorite time of the year to hike, with fall colors creeping into the mountains and crisp, cool air in the morning. This concludes my field report but please check back in a couple months to see the conclusion of this test series. I would like to thank CamelBak for their generosity and the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Another two months have gone by and I really feel like the CamelBak Highwire 25 has carried me to the top of the world, not the other way around. Since my field report, I have logged another four day hikes as well as two backpacking trips. On the backpacking trips, the Highwire was packed in and used as a summit pack.

First, I took a trip to Mt. Columbia in the San Isabel National Forest. I camped at about 10,500 ft (3,200 m) near an alpine lake. Morning temperatures dipped to 20 F (-7 C) and the daytime high was about 50 F (10 C). There were some strong winds at times with a mix of clear and cloudy skies. There was a small amount of snow where I camped, but the trails had slightly more accumulation.

I also took the Highwire on an overnight to La Plata Peak. I camped near the trailhead, which I had to hike into due to the snow, at 10,000 ft (3,000 m). Overnight temperatures dropped to 25 F (-4 C) but pleasantly warmer during the day; 50 F (10 C). My hiking was with snowshoes due to the accumulation. My round trip length was roughly 6 mi (9.7 km).

My dayhikes were all in high alpine environments and three of them involved snow (although only one with snowshoes). My total usage for the testing period included 17 days of hiking, 12 mountain bike trips as well as hikes around town.

collage
The Highwire in action!

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Well, I certainly hiked a few miles with this pack. A big motivation for me this summer was summiting Colorado's 14ers; mountains over 14,000 ft (4,267 m). While it takes more than a quality daypack to hike thirteen of them in one summer, the Highwire made it much more enjoyable. Because several of my routes involved a sometimes lengthy hike in to a base camp, I came to really appreciate the light weight of the pack. It was weight well spent in order to put together a summit bid over somewhat technical terrain at times. Because the pack is essentially frameless, it was easy to stow. The addition on the Antidote reservoir is just icing on the cake.

The pack has held all of my essentials on long day hikes as I outlined in the field report. However, over the past two months I have added my crampons and a snow shovel to the mix because of the snow. There wasn't much room left over, but the gear all fits! One thing I noticed more of the past two months is that the shoulder straps slipped more frequently. This could be because the weight of my pack was notably heavier than before. The waist belt slips from time to time, but nowhere near as often as the shoulder straps did. Over the course of a hike the elastic cord holding my ice axe in place also becomes loose causing it to "clank" as I hike. None of these were critical failures, rather issues I had to deal with.

The two side pockets on the waist belt are fantastic. They are the perfect size for my camera on one side and my pocket tripod on the other. I have also stored small snacks, headphones or other tools I wanted to have quick access to. Many other daypacks I own have only one, so this is a great feature in my opinion.

I found myself missing any kind of reliable attachment points on the exterior of the pack. While the stretch pocket is nice, if I needed a place to lash on snowshoes, I found it a little awkward. I used the compression straps as lash points, but if I had to go in my pack or the stretch pocket, I found it was a little difficult to get everything back just the way I wanted it. This is a minor complaint since I also appreciated the simplicity and lightweight of the pack. I'll chalk this one up in the "I can live without" category.

I have used the Antidote reservoir in two different backpacks and it fits well with both. I suspected that it would be universal, but putting it to the test was great. I have come to really appreciate the quick release connection to the hose. It saves me the hassle of threading the bite valve through the invariably small openings in the packs.

I would say that this pack does a good job with moisture management on my back. Not the best of all the packs I have owned, but definitely near the top. I admit I am not always the best at shedding layers so I own much of the blame here.

I think the durability of the pack is just fine. There is a small tear in one part of the fabric, on the front. This occurred while I was hiking on Mt Columbia. The slope was steep where I was descending and I took a slip on the talus slope, landing (rather sliding) on a small boulder. I'm not certain that was the culprit, but it was the only fall of note that I recall from that hike. I patched it with some fabric tape I keep handy and it has held ever since; three more hikes. The zippers, pulls and pockets are all in great shape, albeit a little stained here and there. As I mentioned, this pack has quite a few miles already!

SUMMARY

I enjoyed testing the CamelBak Highwire 25 these past four months. It is a very functional pack and the Antidote reservoir is a great upgrade.

Things I like


  • Lightweight
  • Two pockets on waist belt
  • Plenty of room for all my gear
  • Antidote reservoir is awesome. Seriously awesome.
  • Great pack for multisport use (mountain biking and hiking)


Things I didn't

  • Shoulder straps, waist belt and elastic gear loops all slipped at various points
  • Doesn't have attachment points for extra gear on the outside

CONTINUED USE

I like this pack and will consider keeping it for next summer. Other packs that I have with this size are heavier than this one and are not as easy to bring along as a summit pack. Regardless of the pack, the Antidote has become my "go to" hydration reservoir.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank CamelBak for their generosity as well as BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this series. It really was an honor!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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