CamelBak HAWG Hydration PackThe CamelBak HAWG is the perfect pack for hydration on the go. It comes with a 20 liter capacity, several compartments & pockets, so you can easily organise. It also offers great value for money with lots of included accessories. View Latest Deal
The HAWG backpack is one of CamelBak’s most popular hydration packs. It’s made from premium materials, it features an innovative hydration bladder, and it offers single-handed hydration on the go. Meaning that you’ll never again have to stop riding your bike just to take a sip.
In this review, we’ll take a detailed look at the HAWG backpack, in order to provide you with all the information you need before actually deciding if you want to purchase it. I’ll tell you about all the different features of this backpack, as well as how we rate it, when compared to some other popular hydration packs.
Additionally, since you can find several versions of the HAWG backpack, keep in mind that we will focus on the 20-liter version of the civilian pack, which is a redesign of the old model.
When rating this pack, I considered not just the standalone specs of the HAWG, but also how it compares to its competitors. And, I will discuss the reason for its ratings in detail in each of the section, so be sure to check them out.
So, the HAWG starts off slow, in the weight and comfort aspect. But it excels in all other aspects, which is why it gets such a high final score.
In the rest of this review, we will talk about each of these sections, and you will be able to see exactly why this CamelBak pack got those scores. I’ll tell you about its upsides and its downsides, and hopefully you will have a clear picture of whether or not this is the right fit for you.
The HAWG is a mountaineering/biking hydration pack, and its weight is one of its crucial points. It really needs to be lightweight, since anything heavy is just going to slow you down. Especially when you also consider the fact that you will always be carrying at least 3 liters of water, on top of all your other gear. So, let’s take a look at the basic specs of this CamelBak pack.
So, what can we take away from this? First, the HAWG is a unisex backpack, meaning that it is supposed to fit both men and women. Which is not going to be a problem, considering that the pack is adjustable throughout. But we’ll talk a little bit more about that later.
For now, let’s focus on its size and weight. It’s not a really large backpack, which is great for its intended use. But, I am not too impressed with the weight of the pack – 2.2 lbs is not a lot. But when you add 3 liters of water to that, plus 10-15 lbs of additional gear, it all adds up. And when you also realize that the MULE backpack is 0.7 lbs lighter, you’re left wandering what in the world makes this backpack that much heavier – and I can answer that.
It’s all the pockets and padding. The HAWG features 7 exterior pockets, in addition to the heavily partitioned main compartment. The weight of all that fabric and padding adds up, and makes the backpack slightly heavier than some of its competitors.
If you are looking for a hydration pack that’s also great for organizing all of your other gear, then you will love this CamelBak. But, if you are prioritizing weight, and don’t really intend to carry a lot of other gear in your pack other than the hydration bladder, then I don’t think this is the right fit for you. I suggest you check out Osprey’s Raptor instead – it is primarily a hydration pack, and it would be a much better choice for you in that case.
So, with all of that in mind, the average rating the HAWG got for its weight is justifiable. It’s not a heavy pack by all means, but it just doesn’t live up to the standards that its competitors set. However, when you consider what benefits you get in exchange for the added half a pound, the trade-off doesn’t seem that bad at all.
I am going to talk a bit more about the fit of the pack in the following section, since that is directly related to its adjustability and comfort. For now, just keep in mind that this is a unisex pack, which is designed to fit a wide range of people.
It is important that a backpack feels comfortable and natural on your back, especially if you will be carrying it for longer period of time.
There are several things to look at when determining just how comfortable a backpack is. Ventilation and padding are the two most important ones, especially for longer carry sessions. You want your back to stay dry and comfortable even after 5-6 hours with the HAWG on your back, and not sore and soaking wet. We’ll discuss that in detail in this section, plus a few things about the adjustability and fit of the HAWG.
The HAWG is equipped with Airfoil back panel, which is designed to keep you comfortable even during really long rides.
The back panel features evenly spaced out holes in the padding that allows for superb air circulation. In addition to that, the mesh on top of it allows the back panel to breathe, ensuring that it stays ventilated throughout your rides.
That’s pretty important, and it’s actually a really well-designed back panel. Especially because it is also really soft, and you can be 100% sure that no gear will poke you in the back on your rides.
The harness is built a little bit differently than the backpanel. It doesn’t feature as much padding, so it isn’t as soft as the back panel. But it is completely covered with 3D mesh, so it is as ventilated. Which is a big plus for the CamelBak HAWG.
This includes both the hipbelt and the shoulder straps of the pack. And while we are on the topic of those, let’s talk about their adjustability and fit.
You will know that a backpack fits you well when there is no extra space between the harness and your body. So, you want the shoulder straps to fit you tightly – but not so tight that they are cutting into your skin. The same goes for the hipbelt. And a really cool thing about the HAWG is that its harness is completely adjustable, and it can fit a wide variety of people.
I understand why you might not like using a hipbelt, but with this type of backpack you will have to. Riding around a bumpy road with a backpack on your shoulders can either be a good or a bad thing. For one thing, the hipbelt, in combination with the sternum strap, will ensure the stability of the HAWG on your body. Meaning that even when you stumble upon some bumps, the pack won’t be jumping up and down along with you.
The other, even more important function of the hipbelt, is to transfer the load of the pack to your hips. Because those are the largest muscles in your body, you won’t really feel the entire weight of the pack on your shoulders. Which also means that you won’t struggle with any pain or soreness in your upper torso the next day.
HAWG’s hipbelt is designed exceptionally well. It is fully padded, ventilated and highly adjustable, so that it can fit different body types equally well. And it’s one of the main reasons behind the HAWG’s high score in the comfort aspect.
The HAWG was designed to fit both men and women. But, can you really expect this pack to be equally comfortable for both a 100-lb woman and a 190-lb man? Not exactly.
It’s a given that this depends on a couple of factors – one is the amount of gear you decide to pack inside the HAWG, and the other is the shape and build of your own body. Obviously, petite people are not going to be that comfortable with 15+ lbs of gear on their back. And it will slow them down on their bikes, which isn’t really what you want out of your hydration pack.
On the other hand, people of average built really struggle with the weight of the pack even when they completely fill it. However, I really think that 15 pounds of gear will slow you down on your bike regardless of your own weight and height.
So, the moral of the story is, in order to get the most out of your HAWG, pack it lightly. That is, if you are using it for mountaineering. Since everything about this pack is adjustable, you will be able to make it fit your own body well. But if you go overboard with the gear inside it, you will start to feel uncomfortable after a while.
This is a hydration backpack. So, the actual hydration features are as important as every other aspect of the backpack.
The first thing to note is that the HAWG doesn’t offer hands-free hydration. But it does offer one-hand hydration, which is the next best thing. Plus, everything you need to set it up is included in the purchase of the backpack, which is great. That’s not something you see too often – Osprey’s hands-free hydration system is something you often need to purchase separately, even though they advertise it in all of their hydration packs.
The LR in reservoir’s name stands for Low Rider. And that is because the Crux is actually located in a compartment that is in the small of your back. So, it is going to fit nicely there, and with all the padding in the HAWG’s back panel, you won’t feel it at all.
In addition to that, the “LR” also refers to the design of the hydration bladder. This one is almost a round shape, while most other CamelBak reservoirs are elongated and oval. But this is a good thing – this design of the reservoir fits better in the small of your back, and offers you better stability on the road.
The reservoir has a 3-liter capacity, which is more than enough to get you through the day. And, in comparison to some older CamelBak reservoir designs, this one even deliver 20% more water per sip. Plus there is also an on/off lever, which allows you to shut of your tube with just one hand. And that’s awesome if you want to prevent any leaks from the tube.
You also don’t have to worry about the reservoir itself leaking, since it features a sturdy leak-proof valve. And the entire design of the fill-port was updated, to feature a handle which allows for easier refills. Plus, it’s just more intuitive to use this way.
I bet you’re also worried about bacteria. As you should be – that’s a common issue with these hydration bladders. And the good news is that CamelBak was also worried about this, and so they decided to incorporate Hydroguard technology into the design of the reservoir. It inhibits the growth of bacteria, and keeps your hydration system 100% safe to use.
The magnetic tube trap is a tiny piece of equipment. Which is also a game-changer.
The trap has the purpose of securing the hydration tube to your shoulder strap. This way, you don’t have to stop to take a sip – you can do it while you are riding your bike.
The tube goes from inside of the backpack and down your shoulder strap, which is why you can’t really set up hands-free hydration. But, you only need one hand to bring it up to your mouth, shut it, and put it back in place. The magnet will ensure that it snaps into its original position, and that it stays there even on really bumpy roads.
This is pretty important because you do not want your hydration tube falling into dirt. Don’t even get me started on how unhygienic that is. Luckily, thanks to the magnetic trap that will keep your tube in place at all times, that’s not something you need to worry about.
So, how exactly is the reservoir supposed to fit into the small of your back? Won’t there be extra space, especially if you don’t fill it completely?
Not if you utilize the compression straps. The HAWG features small compression straps on your hipbelt, that are supposed to tighten the lower part of the backpack. This compresses the hydration reservoir, and ensures that it’s fitting properly into the small of your back.
This is especially going to come in handy if you are wearing the pack for longer periods of time and emptying the hydration bladder as you go. With each sip the reservoir becomes smaller, and doesn’t fit as properly as it that at the beginning of that day. Luckily, the compression straps to tighten it up are easily accessible, and you don’t even have to stop to adjust them.
Maybe 3 liters of water is not enough for you. And that is completely fine – the HAWG is equipped with an additional compartment that can house another hydration bladder, if you really need that.
However, keep in mind that the second bladder is not included in the purchase of the pack. And I honestly don’t recommend you use it, unless you are going on a camping trip where water is scarce. Otherwise, you are riding with 6+ liters of water on your back, and by the time you empty the first bladder, the water in the second one will warm up and taste bad.
But in terms of that survival camping trip, it’s a very useful addition. If you already own a hydration reservoir.
H.A.W.G. is an acronym for Holds A Lotta Water and Gear. And that’s true; with a capacity of 17 liters for your gear alone, this is one of the largest hydration packs you can find. But, can you organize all of that gear neatly, so that you don’t have to rummage through the pack whenever you need to take out something?
See for yourself.
The HAWG features two large compartments for your gear, which is awesome. The main compartment is pretty spacious and equipped with a few dividers and slip pockets. It can hold all of your larger, non-essential stuff, like clothes, food and whatnot.
But it’s up to you to deice – this CamelBak has a lot of different pockets and compartments. Which means that each person is able to use it exactly how they please. You just need to figure out a way that suits you best, and only then can you really utilize all of its organizational capabilities.
The front compartment of the pack is where most of your gear will go. And luckily, there are plenty of different zippered pockets and slip pockets inside it, which allow you to find a dedicated spot for everything. Granted, it’s not really too spacious, but it will definitely fit all of your riding necessities.
The upper part of the main compartment features a zippered mesh pocket with a key attachment clip. There is also a slip pocket in the bottom, where your tool roll is supposed to go.
Plus you can always squeeze anything else you need inside the actual compartment.
On the one hand, I really like that CamelBak decided to put the hydration pack in a separate, insulated compartment. It’s much less messy that way, especially because you don’t have to take out all of your gear just to get to the reservoir. And, if you were to puncture it somehow, the water from Crux isn’t going to leak all over your other gear.
On the other hand, I think that this is somewhat of a waste of space. The reservoir is smaller than the actual compartment, so there will be some extra space on top of it. Which you are not supposed to use for your gear.
But, I don’t mind this too much. And, at least they found a way to extend the tube through this compartment, for maximum convenience of use.
Since this is a biking hydration pack, it’s expected that there will be a dedicated spot for your helmet. And there is one, in the form of the hooks on the outside of the pack. You just attach the helmet to them and that’s it!
The carry hooks for the helmet don’t take away from the internal capacity of the backpack, and I really appreciate that. However, when you actually attach the helmet, you can’t access the front stash pocket as easily. But, you can take out your hoodie or jacket without too much fuss, so it’s not that big a deal.
Better safe than sorry, right? Which is why you should always have some tools handy – in case you ever need to repair your bike on the spot. And if you do often carry those with you, then you are going to love the tool roll that’s included in this backpack.
It allows you to organize all of your necessary tools, and then roll them up and put them in their own pocket. And when you need to use them, not only can you access the tool roll easily, but you will also have a good overview of where exactly all your tools are. And I think that’s a lot better than rummaging through your pack just to find a hex key.
The HAWG features two waist pockets, one on each side of the hipbelt. They are pretty small, and they are great for any stuff you want to have handy at all times.
They won’t fit a larger smartphone, but they can fit a snack, GPS or some spare cash. Pretty much anything you would regularly carry in your pants’ pockets.
The front most compartment of the pack, which is attached to its body with compression straps, acts like a quick-stash compartment. It’s great for holding spare layers of clothing, especially because the compression straps allow to you to tighten or loosen it as much as you need.
However, if you want to put anything inside it, do it before you attach the helmet.
Since it goes over this compartment, getting anything inside after you’ve already attached the helmet will be awkward and probably frustrating.
I’ve mentioned them here and there, but let’s go over them one more time. The HAWG features 4 thick compression straps that allows you to cinch in the body of the pack.
The two top ones also hold the front stash compartment in place, and ensure that nothing can fall out of it. They will really come in handy when you only fill half of your backpack. The bottom compression straps will tighten the lower portion of the backpack, and ensure that your gear doesn’t get jumbled around.
And there are also two smaller compression straps right on the hipbelt pockets, which allow you to cinch in your reservoir compartment. This will prevent it from slushing around and destabilizing you when you start to empty it.
They are extremely easy to access and use, since you don’t even have to get up from your bike to tighten them.
The HAWG is not really a cheap hydration pack. With a price tag well over $100, you have to question whether it really is worth it. So, let’s talk a little bit about everything you get for your money, versus how other, similar packs are prices.
The HAWG is among the more expensive CamelBak hydration packs. However, it is also the one with the largest capacity out of the bunch, so it has the most to offer. And, I’m guessing that you are looking at this pack because you need something that can hold your gear and tools, in addition to the hydration reservoir.
When we compare it to the prices of Ospreys, the difference is not really that noticeable. It’s only about $20 more expensive than the Raptor 14, which actually has a much smaller capacity than the HAWG. So, if you need the extra capacity of this CamelBak, you shouldn’t hesitate getting it. But if you think you’ll be fine with just 10 or 15 liters of capacity, then you should also look into CamelBak MULE and even Osprey Raptor.
You don’t just get backpack when you get the HAWG. You also get a rain cover, a hydration bladder plus all of its accessories, as well as lifetime warranty for your backpack.
The reservoir itself will set you back about $40, and that’s without the magnetic tube trap. That little piece of equipment alone will set you back another $10. Oh and the rain cover is another $15, and the tool roll will set you back at least an additional $45.
That’s at least $110 of value in accessories alone, not to mention the materials and everything else that you get with this backpack. So, if you ask me, I’d say that the HAWG gives you excellent value for money.
I’ve told you absolutely everything there is to know about this backpack. Including all of the good and the bad things about it. So, by now, you should have figured out whether or not the HAWG is the right fit for you and your needs.
If you tend to carry a lot of gear when you go mountain biking, then the HAWG is just the right hydration pack for you. It has an overall capacity of 20 liters, divided among several compartments and numerous pockets, which will allow you to organize everything you decide to pack inside it. And the hydration aspect of this pack does not disappoint at all – it comes with a large, 3-liter bladder, which has its own dedicated compartment.
The HAWG backpack also offers great value for money, since with comes with a bunch of different accessories. And not to mention that CamelBak issues lifetime warranty for this pack, meaning that whatever happens to it they will truly have your bak.
But, if you are primarily looking for a hydration pack, and won’t really use it for carrying other gear, then you don’t need the large capacity of the HAWG. In that case, you are better off getting something more minimalistic and lightweight, like the Osprey Viper or CamelBak Rogue.