Camelbak Repack

Hip packs used to get more than their share of snide comments for their un-coolness. The EWS enduro racers have helped mitigate that though, with some of the fastest racers in the world using hip packs for their ideal suitability to purpose – which translates across to many trail riders’ needs as well.

The Repack is a development of Camelbak’s first venture into the realm of hip pack designs, the Palos (which I reviewed a couple of years ago). With capacity for a 1.5 litre bladder and 2.5 litres of storage in the main compartment, it’s the same capacity as the older model it replaces. The most significant changes are to the adjustable strapping system keeping the pack snug on your waist.

The main compartment has a separate segment for the hydration bladder, and there is an external zippered and velcroed pocket with a couple of small sleeves in it and another internally zippered pocket with a key retention loop.

Again, as in the Palos model it replaces, there are two more storage areas. On the left hip is a zippered pocket, ideal for a cell phone or multi tool size objects. On the right hip is another pocket, which is not zippered. While not offering a secure zipper, it has an easier-access elastic overlapping flap – fine for holding energy bars in place, but not something I’d trust to putting my car keys or phone in.

Overall, for a modest 2.5 litres of storage space there is enough separation of compartments to keep the most OCD of riders happy that their gear is organized and it’s easy to find what is needed.

One aspect which Camelbak chose not to include is any external strapping to hold bulkier items like a rolled up rain jacket. Depending on the packability of your jacket, having it in the main storage compartment quickly eats into your available space.

Thankfully Camelbak ditched the ineffective compression straps from the original Palos hip pack. The Repack offers simple cinching buckles, which tighten as you pull them forward – effectively tightening against the ‘sag’ of the bag to easily ensure a snug fit. This is the biggest design change to the pack in terms of user experience. The main problem encountered with hip packs, apart from their limited storage capacity, is the dreaded loosening while riding and becoming annoying as they move around. I didn’t encounter this at all with the Repack. Sure, as the hydration bladder is emptied during the course of a ride it helps to cinch up the straps a fraction, but that is only a couple of times during a two hour ride, so not a chore to deal with.

That 2.5 litres of storage space is minimal compared to a hydration backpack, but serves the needs of any of my rides up to 2-3 hours. Most often I carried the bladder filled to its 1.5 litre capacity, two tubes, a puncture and tyre boot kit, mini pump, multitool, phone and car keys, a handful of energy bars and on unpredictable weather days I even jammed a super-small windshell jacket in. That is a maxed out payload, and there were days when I travelled lighter and benefited from a less bulky profile.

The hydration hose once again continues with the Palos’ magnetic connection clip. It does take a little while to get the feel of it, but once mastered it is quick and easy to use the hose. To remove it a gentle slide backwards releases it. To replace it you only need to get the hose clip close enough to the fastening for the magnetic connection to draw it in. It works really well in practice, although any time you take you hand off the bars you want to be on predictable terrain and not hurtling down a rugged trail.

The bladder itself is Camelbak’s usual quality offering, although it does seem overkill with how much hard plastic goes into making the opening and its handle. I’d question whether a handle is even necessary on a hydration bladder, as I have other set ups which perform admirably without an elaborate handle to hold the bladder while refilling.

Overall the Repack offers noticeable improvements over the Palos, which was already a good performer. Any hip pack is only going to be suitable for rides up to 2-3 hours for most people, so it’s not an all-day-exploring option. But that feeling of not having a backpack style hydration pack is so good, both for how much cooler it keeps the rider’s temperature and for the comfort of not having the weight of a pack dragging on your shoulders and neck.

Words: Nick Lambert

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