I love light weight, durable, multi-functional packs. I want something I can grab to use on an all day hike, distance cycling, an impromptu weekend camping trip or a run to the grocery store. If you know how to pack, then the 2011 CamelBak Highwire 25 may be perfect for you. Let’s take a look at the basic specs on the Highwire and then get into the details of how the pack performs.
Capacity: 100oz (3L)
Cargo: 1526 cu in (25L)
Material: 70D Mini Ripstop, 230D Taffeta, 420D Nylon with DWR+, 1000mm PU Coating
Dimensions: 19”H (48cm.)
Color: 2 Red (Formula One/Mirage Grey) & Green (Citronelle/Woodbine)
CamelBak Products LLC, is a privately held, outdoor equipment company, originator and world leader in hands-free hydration systems. Founded in 1989 and based out of Petaluma, CA, the name CamelBak was playfully derived from the myth that camel’s store water in their humps (camels actually store fat in their humps). Their products include hydration packs, protective gear and BPA-free water bottles. CamelBak is a supplier to the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies around the world. CamelBak Highwire 25 hydration pack is assembled in the U.S. of domestic and imported components.
Highwire Design Features:
The 2011 CamelBak Highwire 25 is an ultra-light, unisex, one size fits most, hydration backpack for an all day hiking adventure or short weekend get-away. Empty, the pack weights less than 2 lbs and is 19” long. Its cargo capacity is 1526 cu in. and designed to carry up to 25 lbs.
Access Points: There is one access point to load cargo and a separate access point for the hydration compartment. The main access point for cargo is at the top of the pack via the standard ‘U” shaped, aluminum, reinforced cord zipper pull. There is no bottom access. Pack wisely so you don’t have to pack and repack throughout the day. There is a SEPERATE access point for the reservoir external fill. An upside down “L” shaped, reinforced, aluminum zipper pull, attached to the back panel, allows you direct access to the hydration compartment.
Back panel: The new LV™ (Lightweight Ventilated) back panel is the lightest made by CamelBak. It is comprised of corrugated polypropylene frame sheet with integrated ultra-light vertical ribs. It is designed to insulate and protect the hydration compartment. The unique molding of the back panel and frame are set to fit the natural curve of the back. Thanks to the combination of the back panel, load bearing hip belt and cushioned, independent suspension harness, weight is transferred off the shoulders and distributed evenly throughout the torso making it very comfortable to wear.
Externally: There are two side pockets, one top load with zipper, great for storing your passport or money. There is one wide mouth pocket on the body for easy access to trail mix, maps, gloves, hat or camera. There are two tool loops on the bottom of the pack for a thin rolled up mat or trekking poles.
Internally: A sandwich sized, zipped mesh pocket is located on the backside of the top front, cargo access point, great for storing ID, cell phone and a Leatherman tool.
Hipbelt: The cushioned, adjustable, load bearing hip belt features zippered pockets on each side. Great for storing a granola bar, small camera, IPod or chapstick.
Harness: Independent Suspension for added stability features Velcro straps to secure water line against the harness.
Chest Strap: An adjustable chest strap rests comfortably across the sternum.
Functionality in the Field:
I was pleasantly surprised at how well protected the CamelBak hydration bladder is from the rest of the pack. The separate, external reservoir fill access on the back panel makes a huge difference. Most top name brand backpacks I’ve used in the past did not have adequate compartmentalization (thin walls) for the hydration bladders. Anytime I overstuffed these packs, the bladder would suffer a puncture wound or leak. I did not have this problem with the CamelBak Highwire 25. I overstuffed the bag, dropped it on rocks, sat on it and the filled bladder stayed intact. An additional benefit to the separate, external reservoir fill access is the cargo compartment retains its full capacity. Even will the hydration bladder filled to 3L, it is tucked away in its own compartment. The main cargo hold is not affected.
I over packed the CamelBak Highwire 25 with food, gear and books to see how it felt up to 35 lbs. I then took it on an all day backpacking adventure. I was again, surprised at how comfortable the pack felt after several hours into my hike. The contour of the pack against my back, in addition to the cushioned, independent suspension shoulder straps and load bearing hip belt, really distributed the weight well. I did not have any of the common problems (chaffing, irritation on my shoulder blades or lower back) one incurs from an overstuffed or ill-fitted pack.
It’s a perfect one-size fits most, day pack. As an athletic female, who happens to be the same size as the average American male (5’9” & 150 lbs), the size fit me perfectly. It is a little big for your typical hydration, trail running pack, but if you are of a bigger frame then me, it might suit you well. A male friend, who is 6’4” and 230 lbs, tried it out and he also felt the CamelBak Highwire 25 was comfortable.
I took the CamelBak Highwire 25 on an overnight camping trip where I knew there was not going to be any additional water source. After filling the 3L CamelBak bladder and securing it in place, I was able to load my +15 sleeping bag, Esbit stove, fuel cells, cup/pot, head lamp, three Mountain House Freeze dried meals, first aid kit and thin fleece jacket inside the cargo compartment. Outside I put a liter bottle in one side pocket and my sleeping pad in the other. I stored trail mix in the wide-mouth body pocket along with a fleece hat and gloves. The pack is not really conducive for strapping on a tent, but if you are using a tarp at night for mild protection against the elements, this pack will work fine.
The Highwire can work for a variety of other roles as well. It is good for an all day adventure cycling with plenty of storage for bike pump, water, food and extra clothing. I used it as a gym bag to carry a towel, toiletries, a change of clothes and shoes. It also works great as a grocery bag when food shopping. It held a gallon of milk, oatmeal, fruit and plenty of other items. The pack also works well for the urban jungle. If you commute into a city, having something hip and rugged to store an IPad, lap-top, along with your lunch, a change of shoes, extra sweater for a cold office or clothes to go out later in, this pack will work. I recommend removing the bladder and using the padded compartment to securely store and protect your IPad and/ or lap top.
Pros: Really light-weight, comfortable fit, top wide access to cargo makes it easy to pack and clean. You can put a lot of stuff in this bag. The bright colors make the pack easy to find.
Cons: Needs more neon/reflector material to aid in nighttime cycling and hiking. Wish it had room to comfortably strap a tent and bottom load access.