Camelbak H.A.W.G.: Room for water, food and more |

Camelbak H.A.W.G.: Room for water, food and more

Bob Ward

Boy, am I ever glad that the days of nasty plastic water bottles are behind us. Nalgene bottles are a huge improvement over the squirt bottles commonly seen in backpacks and on bicycles into the mid-1990s – remember that foul plastic taste, which would thicken on a warm sunny day? – but the Camelbak “hydration system” is even more convenient.

Camelbaks are everywhere nowadays – on hikers, bikers, skiers and anyone else playing in the outdoors. For those who don’t already know, you wear the Camelbak like a backpack, and it holds a “reservoir” of water (or any other fluid, for that matter). You drink through a tube that extends from the pack, over the shoulder strap and onto the wearer’s front side.

Since you’re wearing the water on your back, there’s no need to reach for a bottle or twist anything open. The water stays fairly cool and, best of all, it doesn’t taste like tire rubber.Camelbaks come in all shapes and sizes, from the “Catalyst,” a fanny pack with a 28-ounce reservoir designed for short hikes ($35), to the Peak Bagger ($100), which carries 100 ounces of water and weighs 9 pounds when full. Every year Camelbak seems to add more zippers, pouches and straps to these things, making them more versatile – now they’re even making packs in camouflage fabric, for the hook-and-bullet crowd.

Personally, I own a H.A.W.G., which carries 100 ounces of fluid and is nearly as roomy as my old Lowe Alpine daypack. My H.A.W.G. has more than enough space for biking tools and on-mountain snacks for a ski day. But it really comes in handy on all-day backcountry adventures and long-haul mountain bike rides.The H.A.W.G. can haul extra layers of clothing or a second pair of shoes. It can handle Clif Bars for the whole family or a bottle of wine and a log of salami; it could probably hold a toaster oven. I’ve never tried to fit my 2-year-old daughter inside, but she could certainly be strapped to the back.Truly, the Camelbak is a quantum leap forward. Try one and you’ll never drink from a skanky plastic water bottle again.

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