Review: Camelbak H.A.W.G LR 20 Backpack

by
April 25, 2017

camelbak hawk rachel sokal backpack hydration bladder

As one of Camelbak's best known backpacks, how much better is the new H.A.W.G LR 20? Rachel Sokal tells us all about it

Brand:
Camelbak
Product:
H.A.W.G
From:
ZyroFisher, zyrofisher.co.uk
Price:
£139.99
Tested:
by Rachel Sokal for 4 months

This is a review of the latest H.A.W.G backpack from Camelbak. Released to the public late last year after we first got a glimpse of the 2017 H.A.W.G after Chipps caught up with Camelbak at PressCamp in June, we’ve been thrashing one over the past few months to see how the latest design in the long lineage of the H.A.W.G pack stacks up in the real world.

With its new streamlined design, Low Rider profile and the new Crux LR Reservoir, just how good is the H.A.W.G as a hydration pack for all-day riding? Our two-wheeled perpetual riding machine, Rachel Sokal, gives us her thoughts on the new H.A.W.G LR 20.

camelbak hawg backpack bladder hydration
The latest Camelbak H.A.W.G has been given the Low Rider (LR) treatment.

Camelbak HAWG Specifications

  • Designed as a comprehensive all-day riding pack
  • 17 litres of storage space
  • Airfoil™ back panel
  • Ventilated 3D Mesh harness
  • Wide profile waist straps for load stabilisation
  • Storage compression straps
  • 3 litre Camelbak Crux LR bladder (included)
  • Magnetic Tube Trap™
  • Dual reservoir compression straps cinch the reservoir for a tight stable fit
  • Features room for a secondary bladder
  • Hidden waist storage pockets
  • Internal tool roll (included)
  • Includes hidden rain cover
  • Available in three colours: Black/Laser Orange, Racing Red/Pitch Blue
  • Claimed weight: 1kg
  • RRP: £139.99
camelbak hawk rachel sokal backpack hydration bladder
With up to 17 litres of storage space, the H.A.W.G offers loads of clever features for carrying extra gear like outer layers, body armour and a helmet.

The HAWG – “Holds A Lotta Water and Gear” – is Camelbak’s 20 litre mountain biking pack. It has a 3 litre bladder and 17 litres’ worth of storage space, which puts it in the large day-pack category. For most of my rides this is more space than I require, but it’s been great on some filthy rides this winter where I have been able to carry an extra layer, a waterproof outer shell, spare gloves, a beanie, tool kit, first aid kit, lunch, snacks and more snacks. It also can easily swallow a camera and has plenty of padding to protect it.

camelbak hawg hydration backpack
I was able to pack absolutely everything I needed for a big day out in the mountains.

The LR stands for Low Rider, which refers to the rather squat-shaped bladder which sits at the base of the bag. The bladder’s weight is held by the wide waist straps which can be cinched up with additional compression straps. The bladder features some of Camelbak’s newer design features such as a magnetic clip to hold the mouth piece in place and a wider tube for more fluid per gulp.

camelbak hawg hydration backpack
The new Crux LR reservoir is lighter, better shaped, and easier to fill too.

The broader shape of the bladder makes it lots easier to fill than the previous sausage-shaped versions and even though refilling with a full pack is still awkward, it is now possible without repacking your whole bag.

The large profile hip belt offers good load stabilisation, and they have neat pockets too.

The LR design makes the weight of a full pack surprisingly unnoticeable and I can happily carry around a full pack without feeling overladen. The bag also sits really securely on my back. This was evident by the absence of two things: the pack didn’t ride up round the rear of my helmet on mega steep descents nor did it roll side-to-side when bouncing down fast, rocky trails.

camelbak hawg hydration backpack
The H.A.W.G includes a 3 litre reservoir, but there’s room for a secondary bladder if you really need it.

As you would expect from Camelbak, the HAWG is awash with other features. There are several zippered pockets including one with a tool roll and a small fleeced lined one that will fit a phone. There are also handy pockets on the hip straps, which were particularly useful to get to emergency tools and snacks without having to take off the entire pack.

The soft fleece-lined pocket is ideal for glasses and mobile phones.

In the realm of first-world problems, I actually found there were too many larger pockets. It took me until the fifth use to find one of the biggest in amongst the others and I spent time on more than one occasion searching in the wrong one for a layer / sandwich / Allen key. Lots of pockets also mean lots of extra fabric and padding to carry around.

camelbak hawg
Once you work out your own storage procedure, the H.A.W.G offers terrific organisational abilities.

Even when empty the bag has a noticeable weight to it which Camelbak lists at 1kg. You might either think this makes no difference at all if you are carrying around another 8kg of kit on your back all day and provides a good way to protect your expensive camera, or you might see it as an unnecessary extra load. If you’re in the latter category, consider a smaller volume and less-padded pack, such as the excellent Camelbak Skyline LR that Chipps’ tested.

camelbak hawg hydration backpack
The H.A.W.G can be opened right up to access the depths of the main compartment.
camelbak tool roll
Camelbak includes its own tool roll with the H.A.W.G.
camelbak tool roll
It’s lightweight, and the mesh construction gives you quick visual access to the internals.

The rain (and mud) cover has had plenty of use. In comparison to the bag itself it’s bereft of features with just an elasticated loop and strip of Velcro at the top to wrap around the handle of the HAWG. Despite its simplicity it does a perfectly good job: it’s not once come adrift and has always kept the bag clean and dry.

camelbak hawg hydration backpack
Bright rain cover is effective and ideal for commuting too.

On the less positive side, I found the HAWG’s straps and buckles rather uncompliant at times. The straps are awkward to adjust on the fly and where I’d normally just pull firmly on the end of the strap to tighten these needed a bit more coaxing. This wasn’t a major issue but a fair irritation after taking something sizeable out the pack, and therefore requiring readjustment of the harness.

camelbak hawg
The buckles were overly firm to begin with, and didn’t settle in over time.

I also found the plastic buckles fairly difficult to release. I’d expect to be able to simply squeeze both sides and it jump apart but these took a little more persuasion and often a second hand to pull on the strap. At first I put this down to my feebleness in winter weather, it’s not unusual for me to have to be released from my helmet and bag as my hands won’t properly work after a cold ride, but even with warm hands or an appropriate assistant these are stubborn.

camelbak hawg
The H.A.W.G does indeed hold a lotta gear!

The clips on the main external pocket which have additional hooks for helmet straps are particularly challenging as they need squeezing laterally whilst clipping up. Not only is this a pain to do, but if you don’t have the knack they get a bit jammed and need jimmying open which is an even bigger pain.

camelbak hawg
The magnetic drink tube is a brilliant addition.

Despite niggles with the clips this is a really nice piece of kit. But it comes at a price; a whole £140 worth of price. You do get Camelbak’s lifetime warranty though, which is a statement of the quality of the bag. And based on our prior longterm experience with Camelbak backpacks, we’d have no troubles recommending it for those who are tough on their gear.

Overall

Brilliant pack for its stability and weight distribution, the less-than-compliant buckles are its Achilles’ heel. If you need to carry a lotta gear for a single or multi-day riding trip, the H.A.W.G LR 20 is a very comfortable way to do it.

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Categorised as:

Hydration