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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > CamelBak Alpine Explorer > Test Report by Brian Hartman

CAMELBAK ALPINE EXPLORER 3L HYDRATION PA
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
October 21, 2014

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid-weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Photo courtesy of Camelbak

Manufacturer: Camelbak
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.camelbak.com/
MSRP: US $115.00
Listed Weight: 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg) with hydration reservoir
Measured Weight: 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg)
Hydration Capacity: 100 oz (3 L)
Total Capacity: 1,648 cu in (27 L) + 3 L Hydration Reservoir
Dimensions: 21.5 x 10.5 x 10.5 in (54 x 26 x 26 cm)

Other details:
Torso Length: 19.5 in (49 cm)
Back Panel: Air Director - Foam Pods with Mesh Covering
Harness: Dynamic Suspension with Slider Sternum Strap
Belt: Removable 1.5 in (38 mm) wide
Fabric: 70D Diamond Clarus and 420 Nylon with DWR + 1000 mm PU
Available Colors: Bamboo/Sprout, Soil/Brick, Dark Navy/Orion Blue

Camelbak describes the Alpine Explorer as "a versatile pack with enough cargo space and hydration for full-day ascents".

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 2

My initial impression of the Alpine Explorer was very positive. I really liked the two tone red color scheme and the pack felt light weight yet rugged enough to handle trail conditions. Upon closer inspection, I found the pack to be well-crafted with tight, precise stitchings and no frayed fabric or uneven seams. The zippers and buckles functioned as expected and it was obvious from all of the features I saw that a lot of thought and attention went into the design and manufacture of this pack.

The Alpine Explorer is made from 70D Diamond Clarus and 420D nylon with a DWR and polyurethane coating. Camelbak designed a number of features into the Alpine Explorer including their Dynamic Suspension System. According to the manufacturer this system allows the shoulder harness to pivot, adjusting automatically for improved comfort while carrying a heavy load. The waist belt provides added stability but can also be removed when it's not needed. In addition, the back panel is designed with ventilation channels to increase air circulation during hot weather hikes. The pack appears to have plenty of storage space with a main compartment and five exterior pockets. The pockets include an organizer pocket, quick-stash pocket, sunglasses/media pocket, and two mesh side pockets. Between these five I'm most interested in the organizer and media pockets as I'm not comfortable carrying important items like my car keys, phone, wallet etc. in my pant pockets while hiking. Compression straps are provided to help secure items in the main compartment so they don't shift around while hiking on uneven terrain. Finally tool attachment points are provided to store trekking poles and an ice axe.

Now on to the hydration reservoir. Admittedly this is my first hydration pack. Till now I've carried my water in Nalgene bottles because I felt they were less prone to developing a leak and easier to clean. Camelbak's hydration reservoir, which they refer to as Antidote, seems to have addressed these issues. It has welded seams and center baffle for added strength and stability, and a wide 3 in (7.6mm) opening that should allow for easy cleaning. Furthermore it is made of BPA-free polyethylene with Camelbak's Hydroguard antimicrobial compound which is an added bonus. The Antidote hydration bladder that comes with the Alpine Explorer can carry up to 100 fluid oz (3 L) of liquid. This is three times what I can carry in one Nalgene bottle and the Antidote weighs only 6.5 oz (184 g) which is the same weight as one 32 oz (0.95 L) Nalgene bottle. Two other features that I really like are the turn easy open/close cap and the folding arms that hold the reservoir open so it can dry out after cleaning. The reservoir, which measures 18 x 8 x 3.5 in (46 x 20 x 9 cm), is held in place by a hydration sleeve that keeps it flat against the back panel of the pack so it doesn't interfere with equipment storage. From my research on Camelbak's web page they designed the Antidote so that it can accept accessory items as part of their Quick Link system. The list of accessories includes water filters, insulated tubes for hot and cold weather hiking, as well as flow meters.





READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

IMAGE 3



The Camelbak Alpine Explorer came with a small hang tag that described the overall capacity, weight and key features of the pack. I found instructions for cleaning the pack on Camelbak's website and they are pretty simple. Simply wipe it with a damp cloth to remove dirt. If the pack is extremely dirty it can be soaked in warm water with a mild soap but afterwards it needs to be rinsed thoroughly with cool water. Camelbak warns not to wash it in a washing machine.

According to the manufacturer, cleaning the hydration reservoir is pretty simple. The instructions for cleaning the reservoir are simply to mix hot water and a Camelbak cleaning tablet or 2 tablespoons of baking soda or bleach inside the reservoir, allow it to flow through the drink tube and bite valve, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Next wash the reservoir with hot water and mild soap and then completely rinse the reservoir and drink tube before using, allowing it to air dry overnight if necessary. I will spend the next two months field testing the cleaning procedure before deciding how easy, straightforward and effective it is.











TRYING IT OUT

After filling the hydration reservoir with water and loading a light jacket, gloves, and some other items into the backpack I tensioned the compression straps to compress everything together and headed outside for a short walk. Since there's no torso adjustment on the Alpine Explorer I simply slipped it on and adjusted the sternum strap and waist belt to fit my needs. The sternum strap and waist belt were easy to adjust and I was on my way within a matter of minutes. Although not padded, the waist belt was comfortable and supportive, and fit well around my torso. The shoulder straps and back panel had plenty of cushion and the mesh side pockets were positioned far enough behind me that when I swung my arms I didn't bump the two empty Nalgene bottles I had packed out of force of habit. The water tube was easy to reach while walking and I had no problems using the bite valve on-the-go. In fact it was a welcome change of pace for me after years of stopping on the trail to retrieve my water bottle for a few sips.

Based on what I read about the waterproof coating on the Alpine Explorer, I'm anxious to test its weather resistance. I'm also looking forward to loading this pack up with more gear over the next few months to see how it handles the additional weight. Finally, I plan to use the hydration reservoir extensively and access how easy it is to clean and maintain. From what I've seen so far, Camelbak has done a good job of designing a lightweight backpack with all the necessary essentials. IMAGE 4IMAGE 5

SUMMARY

The Camelbak Alpine Explorer is a well-designed and feature-rich backpack. In my initial testing, it was comfortable to wear and it seems to have plenty of room for essentials. With 1,648 cu in (27 L) of storage space this pack is sized for day hikes but it has many of the features found on larger multi-day packs. I am looking forward to putting it through its paces on the trail.

I will post a Field Report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. I would like to thank Camelbak and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this backpack.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the past two months I have taken the Alpine Explorer on two family camping trips as well as a solo weekend trip and four day hikes. I have also used it extensively while biking around town.

1. On my first camping trip I used the Alpine Explorer while hiking through the forests and farmlands near Hamburg, IN. The terrain was hilly with lots of open and forested areas to explore. IMAGE 1

Location: Franklin County, Indiana (IN)
Type of Trip: Camping
Distance: 5 mi (8 km)
Length of Trip: 2 nights
CamelBak Pack Weight, Loaded: 16 lb (7.3 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny
Precipitation: None
Temperature Range: 66 F to 75 F (18 C to 23 C)

2. My second camping trip was with my mom, dad and brother. During this two-day outing we spent most of our time lounging around our campsite. My pack was fairly light on this trip as my parents brought the food and tent.

Location: Oldenburg, IN
Type of Trip: Family camping
Distance: 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Length of Trip: 1 night
CamelBak pack weight when loaded: 12 lb (5.4 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Partly sunny with brief but heavy rain storm in evening
Precipitation: 0.4 in (1.0 cm)
Temperature Range: 70 F to 78 F (21 C to 25 C)

3. On this solo trip I used CamelBak's Antidote reservoir in my 55L backpack. IMAGE 2

Location: Oldenburg, IN
Type of Trip: Backpacking
Distance: 18 mi (29 km)
Length of Trip: 2 nights
Reservoir weight with water: 9 lb (4 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Partly sunny with brief but heavy rain storm in evening
Precipitation: 0.4 in (1.0 cm)
Temperature Range: 70 F to 78 F (21 C to 25 C)

4. Day hikes in Central Indiana.

Location: Various
Type of Trip: Day hikes
Distance: 9 - 12 mi (14.5 - 19.3 km) ea.
Camelbak weight when loaded: 12 lb (5.4 kg)
Weather conditions: Partly sunny to sunny
Precipitation: 0 in (0 cm)
Temperature Range: 62 F to 74 F (16.6 C to 23.3 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

So far I've been very pleased with the CamelBak Alpine Explorer. It's comfortable to wear, has great storage capacity for a day pack and the 3L (100 fl oz) Antidote reservoir has performed wonderfully.

Fit and Comfort: During all of my day hikes and overnight trips, the Alpine Explorer fit great and was comfortable to wear even while carrying heavy loads. The shoulder straps provided enough padding so that I could wear the pack for many hours with no discomfort or pain, while the waist and sternum straps kept the pack snuggly against my back. The foam back panel cushioned the load and also helped provide some ventilation with its channel design. The only issue I noticed when stuffing the pack full was it shifted my center of gravity backwards, making steep climbs or descents a little more perilous.

Storage Space: With approximately 1600 cu in of storage capacity, the Alpine Explorer provided plenty of room for everything I needed on day hikes. I was easily able to carry my car keys, wallet, sunglasses, phone, map, first aid kit, pocket knife and extra clothing/rain gear as well as food and water. The organizer pocket, quick stash pocket and sunglasses/media pocket worked really well to keep my electronics and smaller items organized so I could find them quickly when needed.

IMAGE 3 Although the Alpine Explorer isn't designed for overnight use, it's such a great piece of gear that I decided to push its limits by taking it on two multi-night camping trips. I put my food, clothing, gear and inflatable sleeping mat in the main compartment of the pack, and stuffed my down sleeping bag in the outside stash compartment. That left the tent body and rain fly, which I lashed to the outside of the pack, and my tent poles, which I stood vertically in the outside mesh pockets. Understandably, with all of these bulky items, the pack was awkward and unbalanced to carry. It was also difficult to access the main compartment without first removing my sleeping bag and other items; however, it was nice to know that I could use this pack for an overnight trip if required. My recommendation though, is to use the Alpine Explorer as a day-pack, which is the way the manufacturer intended it to be used.

The Alpine Explorer seems to work best for scrambling when it's 50 - 75% full and cinched down so everything is held tight. Otherwise, when packed to the brim it becomes too rigid and difficult to maneuver, kind of like lugging bags of softener salt down my stairs at home, which I'm all too familiar with. Also, when the pack is stuffed so full, it's nearly impossible to remove or fill the hydration reservoir without removing a bunch of stuff.

In addition to camping, backpacking and day hiking with the Alpine Explorer, I also wore it on several long distance bike rides and it provided plenty of storage room for everything I needed. Since it was usually cool early in the morning when I left, I wore a lightweight jacket and then just stuffed it the main compartment once the temperature warmed up.

Hydration Reservoir: I found the hydration reservoir to be a welcome addition to my list of essential backpacking gear. During the past two months of testing it performed flawlessly and was super easy to maintain. The 3L (100 fl oz) capacity provided plenty of water for day long hikes and bike rides and I didn't experience any sloshing of water thanks to the built-in baffle.

The Antidote reservoir was very easy to fill given its large opening and it was also easy to put in and take out of the pack when necessary thanks to the quick connect hose feature. Having the quick release hose also meant that I didn't have to lug my entire pack around just to fill it up with water. I simply disconnected the hose and then took the reservoir wherever I was going to fill it and then reconnected everything once I returned. The bite valve worked quite well and I was able to drink as fast as I wanted and had no problems with water leakage. Cleaning the reservoir was really easy. I simply scrubbed it with baking soda and water and then rinsed it off and set it out to dry. In a pinch I was even able to get my entire hand in the reservoir so that I could towel dry it.

During this test period I also used the hydration reservoir with another larger backpack and had similarly great results.

Durability: The Alpine Explorer has held up very well during Field Testing. The ripstop nylon fabric not only feels rugged but has proven itself on the trail. The pack easily survived occasional drops as well as scrapes against rocks and thorn bushes while bushwhacking through overgrown fields and thick forests. In addition, the hydration reservoir, which I was initially concerned might be prone to developing holes or leaks, gave me no problems whatsoever. After two months of hard testing the reservoir has proven to be rock solid, a tribute to its heavy duty polyurethane construction and welded seams.

While camping in Southern Indiana I wore the pack in brief but heavy rain and the DWR coating did a good job of not wetting through, although I did end up with a small amount of water that came in through the zippers since they aren't waterproof.

SUMMARY

I have really enjoying using this pack during the past two months. It's lightweight, has plenty of storage space and holds plenty of water for day hikes and summit attempts, in fact three times more water than my Nalgene bottle. These bonuses, in addition to the fact that the Antidote reservoir is so durable and easy to clean have made me a new convert to hydration packs.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the Long Term Test Period I used the Camelbak Alpine Explorer six more times. My trips were to various local and state parks in Central and Southern Indiana (IN) where I hiked several loop trails and also did some off-trail bushwacking. The areas I hiked were well forested and fairly hilly with elevations ranging from 660 ft (201 m) to 820 ft (250 m). Daytime temperatures during my hikes ranged from 65 F (18 C) to 77 F (25 C) with sunny to partly sunny skies.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1 Well, it's hard to believe that two more months have gone by since my Field Report. The Alpine Explorer has performed wonderfully during this time, as expected, and I have no complaints whatsoever regarding its durability. The zippers remain easy to open and close, the straps continue to adjust easily and stay in place once secured, and the fabric has held up well to snags from oak branches and thorns from locust trees. In addition the Antidote reservoir, bite valve, and quick connect fitting have proven rock solid with not even a drop of water leakage.

The pack, shoulder straps and waist belt have been plenty comfortable for extended day hikes. While on the trail I haven't noticed any pain or rubbing on my shoulders or waist even when wearing a light weight shirt and shorts. I also tested the pack with the waist belt removed while bike riding and the pack performed great and didn't slip or slide around at all. Also in regards to comfort, I've had no issues during the past two months with sweat or dampness on my back where the pack sits. Even when hiking at a good pace for several hours I've found that the foam pods and ventilation channels on the back of the Alpine Explorer allow enough air movement to prevent sweating. Of course cool weather and low humidity levels have helped tremendously but even on the occasional hot, humid day I didn't feel uncomfortable.

During this test period I've gotten much better at loading and unloading the pack and finding my gear, especially when the pack is full. Over time I've learned which compartments work best for stashing compulsory clothing and gear and which ones are best reserved for items not needed till I arrive at camp.
As with most things, being organized is half the battle and a big key to improving efficiency while on the trail. Recently I've experimented with storing my cell phone, watch, GPS, compass, pocket knife, wallet, keys, flashlight etc. (the list seems endless) in the top zippered pocket versus stashing them in various internal pockets throughout the pack. It's nice having everything in one spot but I worry that I might lose one essential item while digging around for another. If anyone's listening (hint, hint) zippered pockets on the waist belt would come in really handy for easy access of essential items like my pocket knife and compass etc. without having to dig through the pack or remove it from my back. One other note is that although the Alpine Explorer is designed for day hiking, a few sturdy attachment points on the exterior of the pack would be great. I tried using the compression straps as lash points, but they didn't work very well since they were serving other purposes at the time.

With cooler weather the past two months and none of my hikes lasting longer than six hours I found the 3L (100 oz) capacity of the Antidote reservoir was plenty for all my needs. Actually, for several of my hikes I had more water than needed, which was fine. I could have drained some water from the pack if I wanted but carrying it around wasn't a big deal. In reality I really like the fact that I can carry this much water in the Alpine Explorer especially during hot summer months and extended trips even if I choose to only fill the reservoir half way full on shorter trips or cool weather outings. The only thing I haven't been able to test at this point is how well the hydration reservoir works in freezing weather. Darn, I guess I'll just have to continue using it this winter.

SUMMARY

This concludes my Long Term Report and this test series for the Alpine Explorer. Thanks to CamelBak and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this Hydration pack.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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