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March 6, 2009 Comments (0) News

CamelBak Raider Pack Review

Two members of the Woods Monkey staff try out CamelBak’s Raider pack made for hunters.

Hydrate or Die.  That’s the motto of CamelBak, and it’s a great philosophy for anyone to follow in the great outdoors–not matter what they are doing.  For the very few un-initiated, CamelBak was the company that originated hands-free hydration packs.  The concept is pretty simple.  Strap a reservoir of water to your back, run a tube from it over your shoulder from which you can drink, and still keep your hands on-task.  The hands-free part was what made it popular in the mountain biking arena.  The rider could drink their fill while keeping both hands on the handlebars for safer passage through tricky terrain.  But, it didn’t stop there.  The CamelBak system soon found huge favor with cross-over markets like hiking, backpacking, snowboarding and skiing.  It wasn’t too long after that when even more areas of use were discovered that quickly propelled CambelBak into the stratosphere.  One of those areas was for military use and that increased the company’s popularity to an even larger degree.

Now, you can find a phenomenal assortment of packs specifically tailored to your particular outdoors sport.  There is no lack of designs to fit just about any need, and each design is fascinating to study and see all of the considerations made for constructing just that particular pack.  CamelBak segregates their packs into four main categories; they are Sports/Recreation, Military, Law Enforcement and Government/Industrial.  Today, we’re going to hone in on a sub-category of the Sports/Recreation section and look at a pack specifically designed with the hunter in mind.  Currently, CamelBak offers five specific packs for hunters with the main difference between four of them being size.  The CamelBak Raider is the smallest of those four and is designed to be a quick-loading pack for short excursions into the woods.

Top view of external storage area and straps.

The Raider has a compact profile and accommodates a 70 ounce water reservoir, which equates roughly to about two liters.  It also has approximately 335 cubic inches of storage space for various pieces of gear, which should always include some sort of small survival kit.  Even though you might intend to be out for just a few short hours, you never know what could happen.  The storage space includes the long, flat area in the main part of the pack, behind the water bladder; this could be used for thinner items such as maps, emergency blanket, ground pad, and so forth.  The second storage space is a small external pocket (see the first picture at top) to carry the smaller pieces of gear that need to be more readily accessible.  And, finally, there’s an outside storage area comlplete with with mesh sides and compression straps to ensure secure stowage.   This area could be used for items not affected by inclement weather such as an extra water bottle, a mess kit, or a Zip-Lock bag with some snacks for the outings.  Because of the size of the water bladder and the storage areas, this isn’t really intended as a full day hiking pack or an overnight pack.  It’s better suited to the shorter adventures more akin to a scouting trip to check trails, stands, and other sites to prepare for the hunting season.  But, it could be used by the hunter during season if he has minimal gear needs and knows the terrain well enough.

Over the years, CamelBak has made some significant design changes that have really enhanced the hands-free concept.  First, their hydration tubes have larger bite-valves than the older models.  This helped to increase the flow of water during your drinking session.  Also, many of the models (not the Raider) have a locking mechanism which shuts down the flow of water.  This was done to prevent leakage from the bite valve in case the pack or something was set down on it inadvertently, starting the water flow.  One of CamelBak’s best enhancements is the re-design of the water bladder’s opening.  They’ve made it larger which makes it easier to fill, and (I do this, I don’t know if others do) it’s easier to put ice in the bladder to have cold water on those hot summer outings. 

CamelBak also added a rigid support device that extends around the entire mouth of the bladder (see picture).  This structure has a substantial gripping area for the user to hold while filling the bladder.  This was an excellent improvement, because it’s much easier to control the bladder while filling with this with additional support ring.  The actual pack is made of water-resistant Quiet Cloth.  This material is well-suited for hunting activities since it makes much less noise than a Cordura shell when brushing against trees, rocks, brush or other objects in the field.  The Quiet Cloth exterior is done in the Mossy Oak Break up camoflauge pattern, and blends in nicely with the rest of the environment. 

The pack straps include loops for the hydration tube on either side depending on which shoulder you wish to come over to drink from the bladder.  The hydration tube also includes the upgraded Thermal Control Kit which is a sleeve (looks like Neoprene) that fits over the tube to help keep the water from freezing.  At the end of the tube is a molded cap that’s attached via a rubber strap to the bite-valve component.  Once done drinking from the tube, the cap can be slipped back over the bite tube to keep our dirt and debris.  Even though this is a minimalist pack, the years of experience CamelBak has put into their designs have resulted in top-drawer components and functional equipment throughout their entire range of products.  This is just as true withe the Raider.  You’ll find that the seams and stress points are constructed nicely, and all of the parts including bluckles, straps, and zippers are made of robust materials.

Since the CamelBak Raider is a very light load pack, there is no waist belt to help support its weight.  However, it does have a sternum strap to help stabilize the pack.  I rarely find need to use this feature since the load usually stays in place for the types of activities I do.  In fact, when I took the Raider out for a few hours to shoot some wildlife photos last weekend, it rode very well without the sternum strap fastened.  The pack straps are cushioned  and are very comfortable, and I didn’t feel restricted in my movements in the least.  Overall, it’s as well made and as comfortable to wear as all of the other CamelBak packs I’ve worn over the years.  As a matter of fact, for several years, I wore my original model CamelBak Motherlode for just about everything, even day-hikes.  But, I found that I hated empty space, so I was too tempted to fill it with as much as possible.  That made for a heavier pack and harder day-hikes than was necessary.  Later, to stave off that temptation, I picked up a CamelBak H.A.W.G. MaxGear which is perfect for me for an all day hike and it has enough space for enough gear for an emergency overnight event as well.  Besides the extra storage capacity, those two packs accepted 100 ounce (3 Liter) bladders which was better for me for an all day excursion.  Sometimes, even three liters wasn’t enough during the summer time.

This brings me to my overall opinion about the Raider.  For the true minimalist, or the person that’s going out to scout game for just a few hours, the CamelBak Raider will match your needs perfectly.  It’s a well-appointed pack with durable, quality construction, and it has a lifetime warranty on the water reservoir.  I’d have no qualms at all with relying on this pack out in the field.  From a personal perspective, I believe I would choose another pack from their hunting line like the Ranger XT, or even their Commander XT–which is currently being reviewed, as I write this, by another of our writers out in the Rocky Mountains.  But, that’s just because I’m a gear guy and I drink like a horse.  What’s good for me, might not be the best for another person.  If you’re in the market for a compact hydration system that rides well and has just enough room for the bare essentials, then you won’t go wrong with the Camelbak Raider!

Visit:  www.camelbak.com

As a supplement, we sent the Camelbak Raider cross-country to another one of our writers, Chris Cody, to get his take on it as well.  His comments are below.  Our review on the Camelbak Commander XT will be posted soon, so make sure to check back for the comments from the Rockies.

CamelBAK Raider Observations by Christopher Cody

The Raider had enough room for essential gear for the day.

The CamelBak Raider hydration pack arrived on the scene earlier this year, as one of CamelBak’s new line of Quiet Cloth packs.  My initial impressions are very good for this pack. The Raider pack is an ideal pack for a light day in the woods. The compartments are large enough to carry all the essentials needed.  I was able to fit my small survival kit, a fixed blade knife, and my complete packable rain suit within the storage available.  The pack came with Mossy Oak camouflage, 335 cubic inches of storage, a 70 oz. insulated reservoir, a hydration tube, and a bite valve cover.  I have found from experience that the insulated tube will add about 10 degrees resistance to freezing.  That will keep the water flowing to temperatures around 25 degrees Fahrenheit.  Below that, you need to drink every few minutes to keep the tube free of ice and flowing.  The shoulder straps on the Raider have nicely reinforced attachments and the pack has very good overall construction. The harness adjusts to fit larger guys, or to go over multiple layers.  The water-resistant Quiet Cloth has a soft feel, which is designed to absorb noise while in the brush.

CamelBak rode shotgun for a day in Red Rocks Park

The CamelBak Raider blended right in with the beautiful scenery.

The Raider pack has both a main compartment for your larger items, and a smaller front pocket, designed to hold keys, shells, calls, snacks, or any other small item.  It also has a mesh storage space between the large compartment and the front pocket.  The exit port for the tube is located in the center of the pack, making it available for right or left shoulder placement.  The compression straps on the sides, aid in keeping the pack snug to the body during movement.  The pack is light enough that it does not have, or need a waist belt.

I wanted to try the pack on a hike to see if it was a comfortable pack to carry for distance.  With the sternum strap properly adjusted, I found the pack to fit very nicely.  With the adjustments made I headed into the popular Park of Red Rocks, near Denver Colorado.  I hiked with the pack for 2.5-3 hours and found the pack to ride perfectly.  During the hike I was moving through a large amount of brush, and was surprised to find the Quiet Cloth to be more effective than anticipated.  The cloth did not have the signature scraping sound of nylon.  In addition to going through brush, there was plenty of rock hopping and elevation changes.  The pack rode tightly to my back the entire time, and was comfortable to carry.  Overall, I am very impressed with the Raider from CamelBak, and would have no hesitation recommending it to anyone looking for a light day pack.  Two thumbs up for the CamelBak Raider!
 

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