Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Big Review: Camelbak HAWG

Well here's my first Big Review!

I chose the Camelbak HAWG for the first test subject for a couple of reasons:

  • All of my stuff goes in here when I ride
  • I'm a bag junkie. Love bags. My wife on the other hand hates bags because I have too many.
  • I use it every time I ride
So here we go.

First things first. I tend to research the hell out of things before I buy them. In most cases if I bought it I spent hours online researching reviews, descriptions, photos, and user feedback. Along the way I research where the best place (hopefully) to buy something is. That isn't always the place with the lowest price. I go for a combo of lowest price, reliable shipping, reasonably priced shipping, local presence, local price, and great customer service.

I am a BIG fan of buying from a local bike/specialty shop when possible. Don't get me wrong - I'm an avid e-consumer. But isn't going to help me out with an emergency repair when I run into a problem on the trail. Although can if you have internet access.The local brick & mortar shops need our business and (usually) deserve our business. That being said if something is twice the price locally (and they're not flexible on pricing) then the online retailers are a very viable option.

So, back to the review.

Product: Camelbak HAWG (NOTE: Link is to the HAWG NV, the model I purchased is not exactly the linked model - my guess is this was a closeout purchase by the retailer as Camelbak does not have the model I purchased listed).

Purchase Price: $60

Purchase Location: Bass Pro Shops - local store

Rating: *****

Value: *****

Clydeosaur Fit: ****

My Stats for the Fit: Height 6'2"; Shirt Size: 4X; Pant Size: 4X

Pros: Lightweight, durable, good organization, all my stuff fits
Cons: Waist belt didn't fit (big surprise there), some fraying on elastic tube holder, shoulder straps could be longer. But nothing major.

Would I buy it again? Yes
Would I recommend it to people? Yes

Other Products Considered: Camelbak MULE; various other hydration packs


I knew I wanted a hydration pack and I had used small camelbaks previously. I was comfortable with the brand and I knew they made quality products. More importantly I knew they usually fit my shoulders.

After a bunch of research I was pretty sure I wanted a MULE. The HAWG was appealing but I thought I'd go with the lower price of the MULE and it would still hold my stuff. In the clydesdale range it's important to try it on before purchasing or shop with an online store with good customer service. I tried the MULE on at Bass Pro since my local shop didn't have any in stock. It fit, I liked the layout and I was set. Unless research indicated that BPS was way overpriced I'd get it there. I did find some good deals on ebay (half the price) so I was taking my time.

One day the mail came and I was flipping through my local bass pro sales flyer and I spotted the Camelbak HAWG on sale. Advertised price was $60. Wow. That was good for the HAWG. That was about the range used ones were going for on ebay. Unfortunately the sale hadn't started yet.

So I waited. The day the sale started I went to my local BPS and picked one up. Very happy with my purchase!


So how does the HAWG fit a Clydeosaur?

Pretty darn good.

As with most backpacks and my shoulders the straps ride high. The backpacks I use day in and day out are the ones that have long straps in place to accomodate people of my size. There are a few brands that accomplish this: Kelty, Spireusa, Camelbak and a few others are on the shortlist.

The HAWG is close on the shoulder fit and the tube attachment rides a little high. But once it's on and adjusted I find I can even tighten the straps a bit. On a good day I can even attach the sternum strap. :) One feature I thought was nice was the addition of velcro at the bottom of the strap so that those of lesser stature can control excess strap lenght. That way they won't have to complain about the extra clyde-worthy strap material. And camelbak can keep making products that fit. Well done.

The only downside from a fit standpoint is the waist belt. Now I really didn't expect it to fit so from that standpoint it met my expctations. It comes close though. And the waist straps are removable so I don't have to worry about them flapping around. They're currently residing in my drawer for "one day".

Build Quality:

Good build quality. The materials seem durable. I do have some minor concern about the interior organization pocket. The divider seems to be lightly attached but no problems yet. And the elastic on the shoulder strap seems a little stretched out and frayed from the first use. But it's holding up. I'll keep this updated as time goes by.


For a backpack features mean organziation. I like the way the HAWG is laid out. Starting from the back you have a well padded section that rests against your back. This holds the main water bladder compartment. Some will complain that there isn't an external fill for this pack. I haven't found it to be a problem as this compartment is easy to get to and there's a nice little fabric tab to hold the bladder in place so it's easy to tke the bladder out.

Moving forward from the bladder compartment we go to the main cargo compartment. A nice feature here is another tab to hold another bladder for those really long rides. Or use it for storage. I've put my rainjacket in here, a first aid kit, spare tubes, and stuff. And there's room to spare.

On top of/in between these compartments is a pocket for an mp3 player. One very nice feature is that the zipper for this compartment seals so it's waterproof/water resistant. Well done. I find this pocket is perfect for my blackberry bold. I've been taking this on every ride and logging my rides with Sanoodi. A cool, free app that tracks route basics and overlays them on a map.

Next up we have the smaller front compartment with a couple of divided sections for small stuff. This is where my lip balm, keys, small SKA (Swiss Army Knife), mini pump, a couple of tools, and whatever else I have on me goes. It works well. It's a little snug to dig deep with my hands and one of the dividers seems a little flimsy but so far no problems.

In front of that we have the external mesh pouch that clips shut. This is where a bandana (one of the original Dirt Rag magazine bandanas), my trail tag (required for county park mt. bike trails), and stuff goes.

Moving to the sides we have zippered pouches on either side with elastic mesh inside to keep things straight. These pockets hold my trail tools & related items (multi tool, tire lever, zip ties, presta valve adapter, etc).

Wrapping it all up are side compression straps so that you can keep the pack's load from shifting around.

So overall the layout is easy to use and holds everything I need. I actually still have room to spare. Well done camelbak, well done!


This pack is a winner for me. It fits. It holds my stuff and has room to spare. I got it at a good price. It serves it's function very well.

Would I buy it again? Yes. When it wears out I will look for it (or its equivalent).

Would I recommend it? Yes. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to other clydes and to anybody who wants to carry the kitchen sink with them like I do.

I will be monitoring how well the pack wears over time and how does when I get back to doing rougher stuff. But for now it's comfortable and I'm happy with it. 5 stars overall.

1 comment:

  1. I own a Camelbak HAWG. It's a pack, it goes on your back, you can put a waterbag in it.

    I used to hate my HAWG because the straps weren't long enough. The pack rode too high on my back, and after riding for a while my back would hurt a LOT. I'm 6'5" tall with short legs for my height.

    I took my HAWG down to a place that repairs outdoor equipment. They put on extra-long shoulder straps and a nice 2" wide padded waist belt.

    Now the HAWG rides way lower on my back. With the waist belt, more of the weight is on my hips and off my shoulders. The pack doesn't catch on low branches anymore.

    If you've got a really tall torso like me, you would do well to get your HAWG modified.