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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > CamelBak Alpine Explorer > Owner Review by Brett Haydin

CAMELBAK ALPINE EXPLORER
BY BRETT HAYDIN
OWNER REVIEW
March 03, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brett Haydin
EMAIL: bhaydinAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 35
LOCATION: Denver, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 195 lb (88.50 kg)

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 to longer trips each year, where I typically carry heavier loads in excess of 45 lb (20 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

IMAGE 1
CamelBak Alpine Explorer
Manufacturer: CamelBak
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.camelbak.com
MSRP: US $100
Measured Weight - Filled Reservoir: 9 lb 8 oz (4.3 kg)
Measured Weight - Drained Reservoir: 3 lb 1 oz (1.4 kg)
Carrying Capacity: 1862 cu in (30.5 L), note that the 2008 model has a larger capacity
Reservoir Capacity: 100 oz (3 L)
Measured Dimensions when filled: 10 in x 20 in x 9.5 in (25.4 cm x 50 cm x 24.13 cm)

Other details:

The CamelBak Alpine Explorer is a versatile day pack suitable for a full day of hiking. With 1862 cu in (30.5 L) of total storage capacity, there is plenty of room for everything I need on the trail. The bladder holds 100 oz (3 L) which is enough to keep me hydrated on most hikes. There are two mesh pouches on both sides of the pack which can also hold additional water bottles.

The Alpine Explorer has two compartments; one large capacity and one smaller located in the front. The main compartment unzips with two zippers opening the pack about halfway either side. The zippers have a cord with a plastic tip to grasp. There is also a small, fleece-lined, zippered pocket at the top of the exterior of the main compartment. This compartment has a picture indicating it is appropriate for sunglasses .

IMAGE 2
Inside of front compartment
The smaller, forward compartment opens the same way as the larger one. Inside, there is a piece of webbing with an attached clip for stowing keys. There is also a multifunctional pouch that has one zippered pouch that measures 9 in x 6.625 in (22.86 cm x 15.96 cm), an unsealed pouch 5.5 in x 6.625 in (14 cm x 16 cm), a hook and loop flap sealed pouch 5 in x 3.75 in (12.7 cm x 9.5 cm) and 3 pencil slots. On the exterior of the pack, there is a piece of synthetic leather stitched to the front running vertically creating 4 loops. On the bottom in the center of the pack is another loop made from webbing to secure more gear.

There are four compression straps, two on each side of the pack, that connect the front compartment to the rear of the main compartment. In addition, there is mesh between the two compartments which can hold additional items.

The bladder is stored in a compartment on the rear of the backpack that is opened using one zipper that opens about one quarter of the compartment. There is a slit at the top of the compartment to allow the hydration tube out. The shoulder straps have a plastic ring to hold the hydration tube close by. The straps themselves are padded, with a mesh lining on the interior facing side and nylon on the outward facing side. The waist straps are similarly padded, but each is shaped like a horseshoe reaching up until the hipbone, with an un-padded piece of webbing extending the rest of the way and secured with a quick-release buckle.

FIELD USE

I have used this pack on approximately 20 day hikes, ranging from just a couple hours to a 13 mile (21 km) hike that took 11 hours. It has also accompanied me on warmer winter hikes as well as snowboarding in below freezing weather. In addition to freezing temperatures, I have used this pack in temperatures over 90 F (32 C), thunderstorms, snow, sleet, and fair weather. The trips have been in the mountains of the Colorado Rocky Mountains at elevations from 6,000 ft (1,829 m) to over 14,000 ft (4,267 m).

I purchased the Alpine Explorer in the early summer of 2007 because my other day pack did not offer enough room for some of the hikes I was taking and the gear I wanted to take. Since I was upgrading gear, I figured a hydration pack was a great option for my needs. I chose the Alpine Explorer because it had a large reservoir, 100 oz (3 L), and because it had a large carrying capacity.
IMAGE 3
Air Director and bladder

One of the first things I noticed about the pack was the number of storage areas that it contained. There seems to be a place for everything: keys, sunglasses, wallet, gear, extra water bottles. The loops on the exterior of the pack even tempted me to clip extra things to the outside as well, such as a thermometer. In between the main and front compartments, there are mesh sidewalls with elastic at the top of each side creating an extra space I found extremely useful for stowing rain gear once it got wet. The pack easily expands to the size I need, and once loaded, I found tightening my load easy with the compression straps.

I find the shoulder straps and waist belt to be easy to adjust, and do not come loose very often. The chest strap that connects the two shoulder straps can be removed and relocated further up or down the main straps for comfort. The excess webbing from most of the straps can be tucked away thanks to hook and loop or elastic straps at the ends. I did find these a little unnecessary, and the elastic bands on the ends of the waist strap are a little bit of a nuisance for me. I don't use an mp3 player when I hike, but if I did, I found an opening from the sunglass pouch on the top of the pack that I could thread headphones through if I wanted.

The bladder system used by the Alpine Explorer is the Omega Reservoir with Hydro Guard and the bite-valve with the shutoff valve to avoid leaks. I found the system to be easy to use. Even though I had never used a bladder system, I was easily able to figure out how to fill up the reservoir and load it back in the back. I even found a little yellow cord that the bladder suspends from in its compartment. Although there was a slightly odd taste at first, either I have grown accustomed to it or it has subsided altogether. Almost a year into using the pack, I have yet to perform any maintenance on it or the reservoir. On the occasions where I have used the pack below freezing temperatures, I have not experienced any problems with icing up. I even took the pack snowboarding one night and used it the whole time.
IMAGE 5
abrasion and hole

The back of the pack has the Air Director system to help deflect hot air away from between the back and the pack. I found this to be a great feature, especially in hotter weather and in canyon hikes. On one particular hike, I encountered 80 F (26.67 C) temperatures, and when the wind blew I could feel the air flow on my back. The backing for the pads around the upside down "Y" Air Director system is a made of stiff material that provides support for the pack.

The Alpine Explorer is constructed of sturdy nylon fabric and is advertised as weather-resistant. Even in the several rainstorms I have been in with this pack, my gear has stayed almost entirely dry. There is a corner of my pack that has worn through as a result of a slip I took scrambling down a particularly steep rocky area. The fall was significantly treacherous, lasting only 15 ft (4.57 m), but the rock was especially rough, not smooth or rounded. Besides this, there is no other noticeable wear. This one spot does tend to allow rain in, but not much despite the clear hole in the fabric.


SUMMARY

The CamelBak Alpine Explorer has proved to be a versatile pack for my needs. I absolutely love this pack, as I can take enough for me, my dogs and just about anything I need for a full day of hiking. In addition to being roomy, it is highly adjustable and fits snug against my body. This pack is great for longer hikes where a lot of water might be needed as well as extra gear.

Despite the tear in the fabric, I enjoy this pack and will certainly continue to use it, although I may decide to have the fabric professionally repaired to extend the longevity of the pack. The padding is supportive in all the right places without adding a lot of extra weight to the pack.

THINGS I LIKE

1. There is plenty of water to keep me going, no matter how long my day is.
2. The abundance of storage is organized into separate compartments and pouches to make things easy to get to.
3. The mesh padding and Air Director technology make this pack extra comfy and reasonably cool, even in the heat of summer.
4. Although the pack is listed as weather-resistant, I noticed no saturation even in rain showers.

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

1. I was somewhat disappointed that the fabric failed after only one small slide down a rocky decline.
2. The elastic loop at the end of each waist strap is a little awkward when pulled all the way to the ends. I would have preferred to have just an elastic, unattached loop to secure the webbing from dangling around.

- Brett Haydin

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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