Purchasing a new backpack can be an arduous and time consuming task. The market is crowded with a lot of manufacturers providing a variety of styles of pack to meet diverse hiking needs. Camelbak has been in the game a long time developing packs that have internal water reservoirs. Recently, Camelbak has developed a line of ultra light packs that utilize the newly designed water reservoir that resides in the lumbar area of the pack. One such offering in this line is the Octane 22 LR.
Please note that in the photos included with this article the stitching on the bag shows a 20 instead of a 22. The pack used in the review was an early model sent out for review and testing purposes. After a triple check of the product before finalizing the design the Camelbak folks found that actual capacity was even better than the first thought and was actually 22 liters! For more than a decade I have used a Camelbak packs and water reservoirs for hiking. It is with great enthusiasm that I have the opportunity to test out the Octane 22 LR.
The Octane 22 LR is manufactured from Diamond Box Rip, taffeta and nylon and comes only in black, lemon and chrome color combination. There are reflective materials on the rear of the pack as well as backpack straps. The pack has 1160 cubic inches of storage space or 19 liters. Combined with the 3 liter water reservoir once can deduce why it was named the Octane 22 LR. While most of the storage is in the main pack space there is an overflow area on the back of the pack. The very top of the pack has a small area for wallet, keys or electronic device. The Octane’s harness is made of ultra light 3D mesh that includes a pocket, a whistle and an adjustable sternum strap. The waist belt is 1 inch thick and also includes two small zipper pouches at the base of the bag. The entire pack with water reservoir unfilled weighs in at 1.95 pounds. This is significantly less than the other Camelbak packs I have used in the past.
My favorite part of the Octane 22LR is newly designed water reservoir. Typically water reservoirs have been oblong in shape kind of like a two liter bottle and rest along the spine from the bottom of the shoulder to the lower back. Camelbak has a developed a bladder that is more triangular in shape and is designed to sit in the lumbar region of the back. I really like this design especially in terms of how the rest of the pack is built for packing gear. Traditionally most packs that have water reservoirs are loaded in the top of pack into a sleeve that runs along the back of the backpack. The Octane 22 LR loads from the bottom via two small zippers and a Velcro closure. I really like the way the water reservoir fits into the backpack from the bottom. The water tube and bite valve are fed through small openings in the bag that is then secured to a clip on the shoulder strap. In older packs the water bladder takes up a lot of room and protrudes into the main pack storage area. The Octane 22 LR has remedied this by the design of the water reservoir. Access to the packs main storage area is unobstructed.
I had the opportunity to do some field testing with the Octane 22 LR by taking it on several day hikes while on vacation. Each hike was approximately four to six miles on nature trails close to my home and gave me a chance to test the backpacks abilities. On each hike I filled the water reservoir to its three liter capacity. I tried to pack lightly and included a medical kit, a survival kit, a MRE, and a light rain coat. The pack was as comfortable to use as my older Camelbak and I really liked the way the water reservoir sits in the lumbar region of the back. Given the packs light weight design and the way it was packed, the Octane was pleasant to use even without the waist belt.
Normally for longer day hikes I pack more gear and found that I had a lot of unused space in the Octane. Based on this observation I feel that this pack could be used for an overnight trip by including a small tarp, space blanket, extra food and a change of clothes. Picking through all of my gear I packed the Octane 22 LR this way minus the small tarp which I currently do not own. A tarp, light blanket or poncho liner can easily be attached to the outside of the bag. Given the volume of the bag and its water reservoir the Octane 22 LR could potentially be used as a bug out bag depending on how it was packed.
The only issue with the Octane 22 LR as tested is the waist belt. If your pants size is less than 38 inches you will have no difficulty utilizing the waist belt. A buddy of mine who has a svelte 32 inch waist and of average height put the pack on when the belt was fully extended. It fit comfortably around his waist at the navel. Another friend who I asked to try the pack on has a 38 inch waist and of average height was able to secure the belt at his navel. It was a tight fit but he was able to push the belt down to his belt line. In my case I have a long torso, big shoulders and wear pants in a size 40. I was able to secure the waist belt at my navel but it looked terrible and was unpleasant. Due to my long torso and shoulders I was not able to push the waist belt down to my belt line as I have with my older Camelbak pack. When I compared the two together my old pack is a bit longer. If you are above average in height and have a large frame the waist belt may be a no go with this pack. I hope that since this is an early version of the backpack that in its final configuration it has more adjustability in the belt. Just a couple of more inches of material in the belt would allow larger folk to fully utilize all the features of this great pack. As long as your world isn’t framed in XXL this pack is ideal. My own personal sizing issue aside, hiking without the waist belt was not a problem and the pack never felt uncomfortable during use.
Overall, the Camelbak Octane 22LR is great backpack that provides a lot of functionality in an extremely light weight bag. Camelbak’s M.S.R.P is 130 dollars for the Octane 22 LR. A search of the Internet will yield prices close to M.S.R.P as well as a site or two that offer the bag for a little less than 100 dollars. Backpacks vary greatly in price these days and considering what is available in the market the cost of the pack does not seem exorbitant. Based on my past experience with Camelbak’s products from years of hiking I definitely recommend the Octane 22 LR.
For more information: http://www.camelbak.com