During PressCamp in Park City, Utah, we got a sneak peek at some of the 2018 product range from Northern Californian-based Camelbak. As one of, if not the, best known brand when it comes to wearable hydration, Camelbak is rolling out some key updates to its pack line for 2018 including an all-new KUDU pack complete with its integrated back protector, a new lower-priced version called the Toro, an all-new waist pack that replaces the existing Palos, and a super lightweight pack that’s based on Camelbak’s running vests.
If that wasn’t enough though, the brand is also adding to its line of protection with a sternum protector that uses the same technology as the Impact Protector used in the KUDU pack. More on that below…
First launched at PressCamp in 2014, the original KUDU pack debuted as Camelbak’s first hydration backpack with an integrated back protector. With more enduro races requiring mandatory spine protection, and more trail riders looking for ways of adding useful but comfortable protection for riding high-speed trails, the KUDU offers a neat solution that combines a flexible multi-impact and CE certified back protector place with a functional hydration backpack.
We’ve reviewed the KUDU 18 and more recently, the KUDU 8. With the Impact Protector being quite light and flexible, it’s almost impossible to notice it’s inside your pack, but having the piece of mind knowing that there’s an extra layer between your spine and a rocky trail is well worth it in our opinion.
For 2018, the KUDU pack gets a full redesign. The line also gets simplified to two models, down from three. Replacing the existing KUDU 8, 12 and 18, there is now only a KUDU 10 and KUDU 20. The number stands for the total volume of the pack (reservoir volume + storage volume). Both models are available in a S/M or a M/L size, depending on torso length.
Overall the KUDU has been slimmed down somewhat, with the pack getting a more streamlined shape that sees less bulging away from your body. External compression straps allow the pack to be tightened down to eliminate bounce and wobble while riding.
The waist belt sees a significant redesign, with a full wraparound kidney belt-style in place of the previous conventional strap system. The waist strap overlaps by using velcro strips to keep it in place, along with a nylon buckle that locks down the strap. The large profile waist belt assists with stabilising pack loads, while also ensuring that the pack stays in place in the event of a heavy tumble.
The Impact Protector itself has been fully redesigned too. It’s still a flexible foam-based pad that’s designed to move and conform to the curves of your body, with ventilation holes running through the pad to help vent out hot air away from your skin. The difference lies within the sandwich construction of the pad.
Rather than the three-layer construction on the old KUDU, the new Impact Protector gets a six-layer construction that features softer density EVA foam on the outside, and firmer density foam as you get closer to the centre of the pad. The sandwich construction offers more flexibility, and the foam helps to absorb impact energy when you take a decent whack after somersaulting over the handlebars. The pads are CE Level 2 certified, and they’re also rated as a multi-impact item, so you don’t need to throw it away after every bingle.
One of the neatest features of the new KUDU pack is in its ability to be stripped down to a basic spine protector. With a zip running around the entire circumference of the pack, the whole pod can be removed from the harness, leaving only the harness and the Impact Protector behind. Two mesh pockets sit at the base of the vest, which will fit a tool roll and some basic spares – ideal for shorter rides where you still want the back protection.
One of the biggest surprises for the 2018 Camelbak range is a product that doesn’t have anything to do with drinking water. Instead drawing from the KUDU pack range, the Sternum Protector is an all-new product that employs the same flexible CE Certified Level Two foam pad system and cuts it into a large panel that’s designed to sit on the front of your chest. The reason for such a protective plate? To shield your sternum and ribs from being punctured by a POV camera strapped to your chest. Because nobody want anything to do with that mess.
Although the Sternum Protector can be worn on its own, it can also be worn with a backpack. And in the case of a Camelbak pack like the KUDU, the sternum straps of the pack will actually thread through the Impact Protector plate to help stabilise it. The secondary benefit to this is that it reduces the amount that the camera bounces around, creating steadier footage with less of the Blair Witch effect.
UK pricing is yet to be confirmed, though US pricing will be around $100 USD for the Sternum Protector.
Another brand new product from Camelbak for 2018 is the Toro pack. Coming into the Camelbak line as a cheaper version of the KUDU, the Toro offers the same integrated Impact Protector technology, but in a slightly less-featured pack that’s a little sleeker and narrower overall. There will be two sizes of the Toro; an 8 litre version and a 14 litre version. Unlike the KUDU however, the Toro will only be available in one torso size.
The Toro pack is a little lighter overall compared to the KUDU, and it doesn’t use the wide profile kidney belt, so it’s likely to be a little more popular with everyday trail riders rather than those alpine sluggers hitting up 2-hour black diamond descents. You also don’t get the tool roll included in the pack, which helps to lower the price.
Price wise, you’re looking at $160 USD and $180 USD for the Toro 8 and 14 respectively. Compared to the KUDU ($200 USD and $230 USD for the KUDU 10 and Kudu 20), the Toro offers a more competitively priced package that still comes with a full CE certified back protector that’s designed to keep your spine in one piece.
Moving onto the more minimalist style, we’ve got the all-new Repack LR. Back in 2015, Camelbak launched its first waist pack called the Palos LR. Using the fanny pack/bum bag style, the Palos used a single waist strap instead of the traditional vertical shape and harness system of a backpack. We recently reviewed the Camelbak Palos LR, and dug both the compact design and low centre of gravity, but found the pack could bounce around quite a lot when loaded up with gear.
It turns out Camelbak was listening, and will be releasing an all-new waist pack to replace the Palos LR.
Part of the Camelbak ‘Low Rider’ range, the Repack LR is all about putting the weight around your waist, and off your shoulders. The Repack LR 4 gets the same volume as the Palos, but puts that volume into a sleeker package that weighs a little less (310g vs 380g), along with an updated adjuster belt that Camelbak claims is better at staying put throughout a ride.
Two horizontal zips open the Repack to reveal an integrated tool roll, which houses several mesh pockets that help with organising small parts, multi-tools and crucial spares for backcountry riding. A blinky light loop sits on the outside of the pack, and it also has a reflective coating to give you a bit more visibility for other road users.
The overall profile of the Repack LR is slightly wider and taller, but shallower so it doesn’t stick out from your body so much. The side pockets are also a little bigger, so you can cram more gear into those to keep the weight stable around your hips, and not bouncing around off the back. The waist pockets feature a zip on the left side, and an elastic easy-open pouch on the right side.
The waist belt gets updated, using a slim nylon quick-release buckle in the middle. But instead of the old waist strap that saw the tension anchor at the buckle, the straps now tighten from the hip, so you can pull the straps forward to bring the pack down snug around your waist.
The Repack LR 4 features 4 litres of volume overall, with 1.5 litres of that being the Camelabk Cruz reservoir that comes included with the pack for $75 USD. Expected arrival of the new Repack LR, along with the rest of the 2018 Camelbak range is at the beginning of 2018 (who would have thought that eh??).
Following on from the minimalist tip is an all-new bike vest called the Chase. Camelbak has an extensive range of hydration packs and vests on its running side, but the Chase is the first bike-specific vest from the brand. Using a superlight construction that weighs just 330 grams for the pack, the Chase gets thin, but wide profile shoulder straps that are made with a 3D mesh for masses of ventilation and breathability on warm summer rides.
Inside the Chase Bike Vest is a 1.5 litre Crux reservoir, with the drink tube attaching via a magnetic buckle on the shoulder harness. Two small sternum buckles hold the Chase onto your torso, and the whole pack sits high on your back to allow you easy access to your jersey pockets beneath.
Additional storage volume is provided on the front of the pack via two large pockets on the shoulder harness. This helps to take weight off your back, and put it on the front of your chest to help balance out the load. The large zippered pouch on the left side is ideal for a phone and some gels, while the other pocket has some organisers for a multi-tool, compact camera, or anything else you want quick access to.
With the Crux reservoir included, the Chase Bike Vest will retail for $100 USD. UK pricing to be confirmed closer to January 2018.
It wasn’t just fancy bladders and impact protectors on show at PressCamp however, as Camelbak had some new mountain bike specific bottles too. The Podium is already one of the best water bottles going thanks to its iconic soft bite valve, but Camelbak has now added a dirt cap to shield the bite valve from dirt and crud from getting anywhere near your mouth – nice for packhorse trails littered with cow and horse shit.
We’ve got a bunch of the new Camelbak products to take back to the UK with us on our return trip from PressCamp, so lookout for upcoming reviews to see how the new gear fares away from the dry and dusty singletrack of Park City. You can get more information on current Camelbak products via the website, though head to zyrofisher.co.uk for local pricing and availability as it comes.