Showing posts with label Hydration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hydration. Show all posts

Gear Closet: CamelBak Franconia LR 24 Backpack

When it comes to staying hydrated on the trail, CamelBak pretty much wrote the book on it. After all, it was that company that first introduced the concept of the hydration pack way back in 1989 when founder and cyclist Michael Eidson was searching for ways to easily take on fluids while in the midst of a race. His humble designs have evolved greatly over the years, becoming lighter, more efficient, and more durable too. Today, CamelBak has diversified its catalog in a number of different directions, and yet it still continues to look for new ways to improve the product that first launched the brand more than 25 years ago.

One of its latest creations is the new Franconia LR 24 backpack, which just began shipping this fall. This bag is designed for hikers who want to be able to carry everything they need with them on the trail, and of course need to stay hydrated while they are out there. As such, it has a number of excellent touches that make it an outstanding option for trekkers and day-hikers, as it provides ample amount of storage space and is comfortable to wear, even when it loaded down with a lot of cargo.

The Franconia is the first pack in CamelBak's line-up to use its new Crux LR hydration reservoir. Completely redesigned to make hydration easier than ever, it delivers 20% more water per sip than previous models. This translate to getting more water while staying active, and speaking as someone who has used CamelBak packs for years, I can tell you that it is a noticeable difference when taking a drink. The idea is that over the course of the day, you'll have more water intake in general, keeping you better hydrated as a result.

The Crux also features a wide cap that helps you to fill it much more quickly and easily, as well as a built in handle for carrying it around and getting it slid into place. The Franconia has a special hydration bladder compartment that is designed to hold the Crux nicely, without taking away storage space from the interior of the bag. The bladder also sits lower on your back as well, creating more stability while hiking and making it more comfortable to carry. There are even integrated reservoir compression cinches that reduce the movement of the bladder both when it is full and as you drink from it. Those cinches can be adjusted on the fly as you hike too.

In terms of a hiking pack, the Franconia is very nicely designed. It features 24 liters of internal storage space, as well as a number of organizational pockets and stashes too. This helps to keep all of your important gear well organized easy to find, while providing a lot of cargo space for hauling everything you need with you out on the trail. I've stuffed the pack to the gills with camera equipment, food, extra clothing, a headlamp, and a variety of other necessities, and it swallowed everything up nicely. And that was after I had already filled the Crux LR reservoir with water.

Better yet, the pack's suspension system, ventilated back panel, and well-designed hipbelt all make carrying a full load much easier and more comfortable. There are a variety of load lifters, compression straps, and other fine adjustments that can be made to help the wearer dial in just the right fit. The result is a daypack that not only carries everything you throw at it, but keeps you hydrated and comfortable on the trail too.

Other nice touches include trekking pole and tool loops, a magnetic tube trap to keep the bite valve securely in place, and twin bottle holders for when the Cruz hydration bladder simply isn't enough. All of those pieces add to an already excellent product, and hikers are sure to be happy to see those small details were included.

Over the past few years, CamelBak has focused mainly on other markets rather than hiking. They've added more bottles to their line-up, and have revamped its running and mountain biking lines. The Franconia is a nice return to the general outdoor market however, as it is a bag that can be used in a number of different ways, although it certainly excels at its primary focus – hiking. I am personally impressed with how much care and attention went into making this pack, which is durable and well built. It doesn't seem as if CamelBak has missed any details when creating the Franconia, and it even has some features you might only expect on a larger pack designed for longer hikes or backpacking trips in the backcountry.

That said, this pack is a bit on the hefty side when it comes to weight. It tips the scales at 2 lb. 10 oz. (1.2 kg), which is heavier than most other competing daypacks. The Franconia makes up for this added weight in durability and comfort, but anyone who is looking to travel light will probably want to consider other options, some of which will come in at half the weight of this pack.

On the other hand, if you don't mind a bit of extra bulk, the Franconia is a fine pack that you're likely to love. It does have a comfortable fit and ride, and offers a lot of features as well. The new Crux LR reservoir is included for instance, and its load carrying capabilities for fantastic too. Throw in a nice suspension system with a ventilated back panel, and plenty of options for getting the proper fit, and you end up with a product that delivers nicely on most people's needs. And at $160 is is well priced for everything that it delivers too. Sure, there are less expensive packs out on the market, but not many of them deliver everything that this one does.

Find out more at For now, the Franconia LR 24 backpack is only available at REI. That will change in January of 2017 however, when it will be sold in other outlets as well.

Gear Closet: A Pair of Packs From Camelbak (Arete 22 and Palos 4LR)

By now, we all know the importance of staying hydrated while on a hike or trail run, something that has become increasingly easier over the years thanks to continued advances in hydration pack design and technology. Of course, Camelbak has always been at the forefront of that movement, introducing the first hydration pack back in 1988, and continuing to evolve that piece of gear ever since. Today, the company has expanded its line-up to include water bottles, filtration systems, travel mugs, and more. But for most of us, Camelbak will always be synonymous with hydration packs.

Back in August, I met with reps from the company at Summer Outdoor Retailer, and I can promise you there are some good things coming from Camelbak in the very near future. But in the interim, they also shared with some of their current products, which continue to be excellent options for those who need hydration on the go. Here are some thoughts on both of those packs.

Arete 22 Hydration Pack ($65)
The Arete packs have been around for a couple of years now, but they remain a good, lightweight option for day hiking or fast and light mountain ascents. This minimalist pack strips away all of the extras that you'll find on most other Camelbak products in favor of shedding as much weight as possible. The result is a backpack that tips the scales at a mere 16 ounces, while still providing plenty of capacity.

The Arete 22 comes with a built-in hydration sleeve that is easy to fill and can carry up to two liters of water. That's generally enough to get you through the day on most excursions. Its main compartment provides 20L of carrying capacity too, which means you can fill it up with the gear you'll need for the day, and still have room left over.

Because it is so lightweight, the shoulder straps and belt are not nearly as padded as what you'd find on most other Camelbak packs. Those are the kinds of frills that were done away with in favor of shedding ounces. While it remains comfortable to wear, this may not be the pack for everyone, as some will find it to be too minimalistic for their tastes. But if you're the kind of person that counts every ounce, this will be an excellent hydration option. Personally, I found it to be a solid choice not only for light day hikes, but trail running as well, as it stayed firmly in place as I moved along the trail, and because it was so light, it was restrictive in any way.

The Arete pack has another trick up its sleeve that many will appreciate as well. It can also be converted from a pack into a simply hydration sleeve for a larger backpack too. This is the kind of versatility that makes this bag a popular one, as you can use it on short excursions on its own, but then add it to your larger pack on lengthier expeditions too.

Lightweight, versatile, and affordable. Those words sum up the Arete 22 very nicely.

Palos 4 LR ($60)
For a completely different type of hydration option, check out the new Palos 4 LR, a lumbar pack that  is part of Camelbak's Low Rider mountain bike collection. The bag was specifically designed with the needs of riders in mind, and was built to provide plenty of water for those who need more than a water bottle, but don't want to wear a full backpack either.

I have to admit, wearing a lumbar pack was a new experience for me, as I've generally always taken a full sized hydration pack with me when I ride. But the Palos did provide a new sense of freedom, giving me the ability to carry not only my water, but small personal items such as a wallet, smartphone, and toolkit with ease. There is even a built-in key clip as well, which is an organizational option that I always appreciate. Small pockets on the belt are also a great place to store an energy bar or even a small camera too, keeping those items within easy reach.

The Palos is well padded, which makes it very comfortable to wear, even while carrying around up to 1.5 liters of water. The belt features a rugged buckle that when locked into place, prevents the pack from moving, while also allowing you to dial in a perfect fit. This is important while riding, as the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not you'll be able to move well, particularly on tough ascents. That wasn't an issue at all with this pack however, and it wasn't long before I actually forgot that it was there. You really can't ask for much more than that from your water source.

Camelbak is betting big with this "low rider" approach to their lumbar packs, and expects them to be popular with mountain bike riders. Having put this one to the test, I can understand why. It pretty much offers everything you need for a day of riding in a compact, comfortable design. On longer rides, you may still want to carry the full sized pack, but depending on the circumstances, this is a fantastic option to replace it with. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of us will find this to be a better alternative for our needs.

Both the the Arete and the Palos are available now, and will make good Christmas gifts for the outdoor enthusiast on your list. As usual, both feature Camelbak's great build quality and attention to details, which is why they have been so successful in the hydration field for so long.

Gear Closet: Camelbak Forge

Do you have a coffee-loving adventurer on your shopping list this holiday season? If so, you might want to consider picking up a Forge travel mug from CamelBak, the same company that makes hydration packs for just about every activity you can think of.

I first got the opportunity to check out the Forge back at Outdoor Retailer in the summer of 2013, and was immediately impressed with how much thought went into the design of the product. CamelBak could have easily just mass produced any-old travel mug, and people would have bought it based on their brand alone. But the design team actually came up with some unique features for the Forge, and went out of their way to ensure that it stands out in a very crowded market.

What makes the Forge so special? Well, for starters, it comes with a leak-proof, self-sealing cap that ensure your warm beverage goes in your mouth, and not down the front of your shirt. A trigger mechanism is integrated into the cap, making it super easy to open the seal when you're ready for  a sip of your drink. Releasing the trigger seals the lid down tight, keeping the liquid in its place, and preventing accidental splashes. A lock-open button allows you to keep the seal open at all times if you choose, which can come in handy when you're wanting to vent out some heat.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Forge is how easy it is to clean. Removing the lid from the canister  allows the cam-arms on the sealing mechanism to flip open, allowing you to clean every nook and cranny of the lid. Other travel mugs have similar caps, but none are this easy to clean, which means they tend to build up grime over time. The Forge is also dishwasher safe, so you can toss it in with the rest of your dishes, and have the forge ready for use whenever you hit the road.

In addition to the cap, there has been a lot of thought put into the cup that actually holds the coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or other liquids too. The metal canister features double-walled vacuum insulation, which CamelBak says will keep your beverage warm for 4+ hours. That's plenty of time to enjoy a hot drink on your commute, or on that cross-country road trip. The bottom the cup also features a break-proof cap that absorbs impact, and keeps the mug looking brand new.

It is easy to think that all travel mugs are created equal, but when you feel the Forge in your hand, you know it is a quality product. Available in two sizes (16 oz and 12 oz), and a variety of colors, the Forge actually looks great too. The 16 oz version sells for $30, while the 12 oz model is $29. Either makes a great gift for the holiday season, and will be appreciated all winter long.

Check the Forge out online at the CamelBak website, or pick one up at a local retailer.