Well, it’s fair to say that Deborah and I have been major fans of Camelbaks for over 12 years. We first started using them in the States when we did a winter season in Colorado, and have got into the habit of using hydration packs ever since. Over the years we have tried other brands either when we got them as prizes or bought them in sales, but have always found the competition was never up to the quality and usability of the bags we could get from Camelbak. Indeed we still have both the original HAWG and MULE bags we bought back in 2001, although both have been relegated to spare packs.
For the last 4 years I have been using a Camelbak HAWG NV as my main pack, which has been used basically on a day-to-day basis to carry all the stuff I need for guiding- a large first aid kit, pump, 3 tubes, tools and cables, snacks, 2L of water and more. The bag is still going strong too, however it is a little heavy, and can be a bit bulky to wear when full.
So it was with interest I got the new(ish) Volt 13lt pack from Camelbak. This is a different design, with the water reservoir placed much lower, on the hips. This makes for a much more comfortable and more stable pack. The reservoir is a little more fiddly to fill up than other versions, but still takes only a short time to open, and the large screw-top opening makes topping the water up a breeze.
There is still plenty of room to fit my first aid kit, a jacket, pump and tools in too, although it is slightly smaller than my old HAWG. The only time this has been a problem was on our Alps trip in July, when it just wasn’t big enough for me to fit lunch, a waterproof, and everything else without squashing my baguette. But for every other use it has been perfect.
The main difference you notice is that the pack is much lighter than other packs- the bag is made of lightweight material, which does look fragile, but has so far managed 6 months or so of hard use, so certainly appears super-durable. It also fits way more securely, and so you really don’t feel the pack moving around on your back. The contrast is very noticeable when you go back to using a more conventional hydration pack, as you notice it moving around a lot more.
The two hip pockets are also great, allowing a phone or camera to be in easy reach should you need them, without taking the pack off- very handy for taking shots or answering calls on the bike!
All up, this one gets a massive thumbs up from us! If 13l of storage is more than you need, the smaller Charge 10l may be worth a look at too.