Sunday, February 10, 2008

A review of the Camelbak Havoc

With the inception of Felt Epix, I’ve slowly needed to change the equipment that I use to make sure its more suitable to all day epic rides, rather than the outward ferocity of a race. Reliability is the key to our application, as well as being able to rectify any problems on the trail, as the pits are located somewhere after a long ride and running out of food, rather than the same place every lap.

Our hydration packs are a fundamental part of our rides, as without them, we simply could not do what we do. The ability to carry a large volume of water in a stable state, as well as food and equipment is essential. By choice, I use a Camelbak product called the Havoc. I purchased this product a while back with this use in mind, and decided to review it after around 12 month of use. This review is unbeknown to Camelbak Australia, so you can rest assured it’s unbiased.

The Havoc contains a 3 litre Camelbak bladder, with the snazzy Omega Hydrotanuium tagline to it which has some influence on the antibacterial properties of the bladders. Good thing too, as I’ve downed my share of mouldy drink bottles, so a good clean Camelbak is always a priority. Actually, like many people, I store mine in the freezer which keeps the nasties at bay. 3 litres is a good size for an all day ride, with the weight being noticeable at the start then declining as you go, yet still giving you enough ‘range’ to get the job done. The bite valve is fantastic, just does not leak at all, and the whole bladder comes with a lifetime warranty. The overall storage of the pack is rated at 13 litres and its more than enough for a solid days’ riding in any terrain. Actually you need to pack carefully as it encourages you to take more than you may need.

I’ve a little thing for backpacks actually. I reckon that you need a different pack to do a different job, from snowboarding to riding to commuting to traveling, so I like my packs to be very ‘use specific’. I chose this one for a number of reasons including the bladder size, the pockets and access to them, the harness and the overall build quality.

To start with the harness; Camelbak call it the Air Director and whilst it has a decent ability to move air around, I wouldn’t call it exceptional. If you are a ‘sweater’, its going to come home wet. But you will anyway, so who cares!? You’ll never get sweat to penetrate the actual pack so an annual washing and it’ll be all good. Mine has no odour at all, so unlike helmets, Camelbak is on a good thing. My pet hate with all packs, from ‘back in the day’ is the pack hitting your helmet forward. I HATE that, and any pack that does it to me will get flung as far as possible. This Havoc has never even moved from where I like it, let alone jumped up. The waist strap is spot on, as are the comfortable shoulder straps, and I don’t really use the sternum strap as its already very stable. So thumbs up for the harness.

The pockets are great. A jumbled up pack is no use to anyone, and the Havoc has that sorted! A large padded media pocket protects our camera and radios, as well as GPS when we have one. It has a rudimentary waterproofing over the zip which has started to die sadly, the first thing on the pack to fail. Anything that needs to be truly waterproof would get dry-bagged, as a matter of course. Better safe than sorry! Inside there is a fleece lined ‘goggle’ pocket where I store my bars and gels, and its accessible from the top. Deeper down is a mesh tool pocket with 3 internal dividers as well, so make sure you keep everything easy to find. On the front of a pack is a huge cinch-able panel which is designed for a full face. Seeing as how I don’t use such a thing often, I use it to store clothing. Easy to access, it tightens up well and pulls in line with the pack reducing the bulk of anything in there. Also good for a tripod, the lower compression straps were designed for knee/shin pads and again pull the pack in tight.

Overall the pack is tough as guts. I’ve been very rough with this pack, as I believe it should handle it and its still going strong over 12 months into service. Smashing into low trees, slumming about in heavy rain and getting covered in roost, the YKK heavy duty zips are still as smooth as ever, and all the clips and buckles still work perfectly. No stitching is showing signs of age or UV exposure, the only fault is that crappy waterproofing attempt, or splashguard if you will. About $200 will have you looking at the other options available, but I always believe you get what you pay for, and so do the boys on Farkin. Buy once, buy right. And I’ve no qualms about laying down my hard earned, 12 months into my purchase.