I was looking for a well-designed, light weight, large-capacity hydration pack to use while mountain biking and to complete my Bike-Packing system. I decided to go with Camelbak's new Charge pack because it is one of the packs using the company's new Ultra-Light fabric. But would it hold up to the abuse?
Like I said the Charge is one of the new generations of. It uses the company's new 70D ripstop and 210D nylon fabric which they coat with Polyurethane to help keep everything nice and dry. What does this mean for you and me? It's lighter! Compare this to the more traditional pack fabric and you'll notice that it feels “slippery”, it's more like tent fabric than what you would traditionally find on a backpack. Some have said that it is less durable – and when you're shaving grams that can be the case – but after using it over the summer and more importantly CRASHING several times while wearing it I can tell you that it is holding up just fine.
That along with Camelbak's awesome Lightweight Exoskeleton (LE) and you've got a pack that not only saves you weight off your back but is comfortable enough to wear on an all-day ride. I got to do a couple 60 mile mountain bike rides while wearing this and even with its 100oz bladder topped off and a day's worth of energy bars and food inside it was comfortable. This has a lot to do with the sternum strap and waist belt, though; I find the waist belt only necessary when going over terrain with a lot of drops and jumps. The sternum strap by itself keeps everything together nicely.
The Charge has 6 pockets in all, two hip pouches (great for gels), front pocket, a helmet/windbreaker pouch, the main compartment as well as the padded phone/media pocket on top. The front pocket helps keep everything organized with its key loop and a few pouches with elastic – I liked to keep a multi tool, tube, energy bars and anything I might need quickly. The pack's top compression strap acts to hold your helmet or windbreaker/rain jacket in and the cavernous main body pocket holds all the rest. It's pretty surprising how much you can fit in this thing. Of course the fleece-lined phone pocket has a hole so your earphone cord can come out.
Camelbak redesigned their reservoirs, now they feature the Quick link system, making it less of a mess to connect the tube to the bladder. They also designed a baffle going down the center of the reservoir. This helps keep your weight stable with less of that “sloshing” affect as you move around.
The 100oz (3L) Antidote Reservoir is kept in a separate pocket. This makes it easier to remove and put back in the pack for refills on the go. Also, the Charge is designed to be able to accept the larger 128OZ bladder OR two bladders, with one hydration tube going over each shoulder. For most climates this isn't necessary but I know a few places where this will be ideal. Once again, when carrying this much water weight it's nice to start with a lighter pack. Those grams add up!
This pack is great. It's not the smallest nor the largest but seems JUST right. I have packed it full to the brim and have taken it out with only the reservoir inside. And it always seems perfect. Sure, there are those times when I'd like a larger pack but this fills my needs 90% of the time. I have become a huge fan of the material this pack is made of and can really notice the difference, not only is it lighter but it seems to move with your body a little better than the traditional fabric. Also, the new Antidote reservoir with the Quick Link system is great. A major upgrade!