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CamelBak H.A.W.G. NV Review

DSC_0433cAlmost every biker owns a hydration pack in one form or another and have encountered issues that many of the packs on the market have– leaky water bladders, pack or items shifting while out riding and the classic case of sweaty back.  But, CamelBak is a company that is out to fix some of those issues with their next generation of hydration packs, and we get to see a couple of those improvments with the CamelBak H.A.W.G. NV.



DSC_0415aIn fact, CamelBak has already resolved some of those issues well enough to be able to offer innovative hydration products for the public and military.  With the introduction of the CamelBak H.A.W.G NV, they have also taken a strong step forward in larger capacity hydration packs for mountain bikers. The CamelBak H.A.W.G NVis a larger sized hydration pack marketed to the mountain bike community.  It’s designed for the individual who needs a little extra room for an epic ride or for the person with the boy scout inside just screaming to carry a bunch of extra gear.  The characteristics that CamelBak would like to bring to your attention when checking the pack out in store or online are:

· 100 oz HydroTanium Reservoir with Lifetime Warranty
· Dynamic Suspension harness and removable waist belt maximizes load stability
· N.V.I.S. back panel offers increased air flow and ventilation
· Easy-to-access MP3 pocket with weather-resistance zipper
· Secure storage for pump, tools, energy bars.

When first handling the H.A.W.G NV, some items come to immediate attention about the bag.  Among these are the D fit straps on the pack and the Next-Generation Ventilated Integrated System (N.V.I.S), pronounced en-vee-uhs, is supposed to offer greater ventilation to help keep your back dryer and make the water bladder seem like it is not even there.  The bag also offers an integrated rain cover.  Durability is very apparent on this pack with the feel of the materials used and the presence of quality stitching on the pack.

DSC_0424aOnce unzipped and inspected, the pack yields an impressive diversity in storage options and little extra surprises stitched inside the pack.  The pack has six, zipped storage compartments, including the hydration bladder pocket and a helmet carry pocket.  The hydration pocket has a well thought out zipper across the top of the pack, including several inches down the left side of the pack.  This makes for extremely easy access to the water bladder; making removal and insertion of it a cakewalk.  This pocket also has a small amount of insulation to help keep beverages cool on a hot day.  The main compartment is like any other pack, allowing for storage of bulkier gear like extra clothes but one nice touch CamelBak added was an extra hydration bladder loop for a second bladder to be added.  There is a built in MP3 player pocket with a weather resistant zipper.  This pocket is a convenient size to allow for the addition of other items.  The very front pocket on the pack offers two mesh pouches with elastic straps on the top for organized storage and a nylon divider to place thinner items toward the back of the pocket, like paperwork, along with a key storage hook in this pocket.  On both sides of the pack are identical pop can size pockets for easy access to item like energy bars or a camera.  All the pockets are well thought out and every detail is taken into consideration, even down to the zipper pulls being string instead of metal to prevent that subtle annoying jingle. In total, the bag offers 1120 cu in (18L) in storage.

The helmet carry pocket is a decent temporary holder of your helmet when not riding but is a little more functional for stashing extra clothing or other gear quickly when on the trail.  The helmet pocket also has two pairs of compression straps to secure pack loads close to the body.  On the front of the pocket are also a couple MOLLE type attachment points for a flashing red light or a Busse Battle Mistress.

DSC_0421aThe D fit strap technology enables the top of the straps to have about a half inch of float, left to right, to provide a snug comfortable fit close to the neck.  The straps are a serpentine cut for greater comfort and fit on the chest.  They are noticeably longer allowing a greater area of pad to help spread the pressure across the chest evenly along with almost eight inches of sternum strap adjustment to ensure a comfortable fit.  Detail is closely watched with two straps on each shoulder strap to securely keep the bladder delivery tube in place as well as Velcro fasteners to keep the excess strap in place and out of the way.  The waist belt is a traditional wide piece of webbing that can be left on the pack or removed depending on preference.

The N.V.I.S. portion is a ridged piece of corrugated plastic built into the bag.  This appears to be CamelBak’s version of the vented internal frame for the pack. The locations of pads and bare space on the pack create channels to allow for great movement across the back to help keep you cool while still spreading the load across the pack.  The corrugated ridges in the pack run horizontal to allow for a small amount of flex across the back for better comfort.  The I.S. part of the pack is newly designed reservoir compartment allowing for easy access to the water bladder a small amount of insulation to help keep fluids cool, while still keeping it close to one’s back for comfort and stability.

The Omega Hydrotanium bladder is the current version of the hydration bladder design being used by Camelbak.  Material used in the construction of the bladder is rubberized polyurethane.  This material is stronger and has a higher burst resistance than previous Camelbak water bladders.  The current lines of water bladders incorporate Hydroguard, an anti-microbial coating that is an effective and safe way to greatly reducing common fungus and bacterial.  The Big Bite Valve is a very simple water delivery device made of high grade silicon, just bite and suck and the water flows freely.  Cleaning is also made simple with the large 3.5 inch wide opening as well as filling.

DSC_0420aAfter the initial inspection, it was time to run the H.A.W.G through its paces.  The plan was to use this pack as much as possible in as many types of activity from riding on the trail, commuting to work, and walking around fall festivals.  The performance of the pack will be broken down to overall pack comfort and ease of pack use.

Ride comfort with the H.A.W.G was exceptional.  The D fit strap provided a comfortable fit around the neck and the shoulders.  The padding in the straps was firm but still allowed for decent moisture wicking off the body.  This gives you a very secure feeling when the sternum strap was clasped making any load on the wearer’s back feel secure and in place.  The N.V. also performed very well.  It spread the weight of the pack across the back evenly and the corrugated frame had just the right amount of flex and rigidity to keep the pack in shape.  The ventilation channels are a welcome addition to the pack.  They do not completely alleviate all the sweat that is produced from wearing the pack, but it did greatly reduce the amount produced by this mountain bike rider.  The Velcro closures used to hold the excess shoulder strap webbing in place is a very great feature keeping the strap tails secure and out of the way when riding.  The only real issue with the pack’s straps was the waist belt.  The webbing tails did not have a good way of securing and can become a distraction to some riders.  The waist buckle also left an unsatisfactory feeling in its ability to keep the strap from loosening over the length of a ride.

DSC_0426aStoring items was not an issue with this pack.  Given the number of pockets the pack has to offer, it gives you plenty of options to distribute the weight evenly across the pack.  The numbers of smaller pockets allow for the easy access of any number of small items for which one would need quick access.  The lash-down points on the rear of the pack are a great addition to attach either a rear flashing light or an edge tool to use for cleaning up debris on the trail.  The helmet pocket is a great place to quickly stash gear but one possible modification would be the addition of a buckle on one or both of the upper compression straps to make for easier access of the main compartment.  The one unique plus of the pack are the zipper pulls. Instead of being a traditional metal pull that will make a jingling noise when out riding, they used cord with a small plastic fob on the end.  The only down side is that is the cord pulls are made out of a plastic fob and can be a little difficult to fix when the cord pulls out.  A small bit of advice for repair is to fuse the ends of the ropes before attempting to repair the zipper pull.

DSC_0418aThe stand out use for the H.A.W.G was in commuting to work.  The pack easily fit two 32oz water bottles, light rain coat, long sleeve shirt, and other work related items.  The N.V.I.S. ventilation was a great plus in keeping clothing virtually perspiration free on a humid morning commute.  The rain cover is easily removed from its storage pocket for use.  It is a highly visible yellow with reflective Camelbak advertisement on it for greater visibility.  The cover is also easily stuffed back into its storage pocket and its area evenly and easily spread across the bottom of the pack.

Fairs, festivals and casual hiking are a year round occurrence in the summer months, and can be a more enjoyable and cheaper experience for those willing to haul extra essentials.  The H.A.W.G. was used as a day pack during these events.  The pack was stocked with an assortment of items from snacks, clothing and a camera.  The pack is very usable in these types of activities.  The compression straps work wonderfully for keeping the bag compact and close to the body along with the easy access to water at all times.  The straps provide the wearer plenty of support and comfort over long periods of use.  The size of the bag also provides enough extra room to haul any reasonable sized souvenir of the day in the pack.

Camelbak was once again able to raise the bar with the production of the H.A.W.G. NV.  The pack offers ample room with the feel and comfort of a lighter and smaller bag.  The only minor issue with the bag is the waist belt, but with an individual’s personal preference, this issue may not even be noticed or easily corrected with a little tape and time.  If you’re an avid cyclist or mountain biker who demands the best gear, I’d encourage you to give the CamelBak H.A.W.G. NV a close look.  It is a very sound bag with bombproof construction and it will provide years of reliable service!


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