3 March 2008
When it comes to big names in hydration systems CamelBak is at the top of the list. Long known for their portable bladder systems that have largely replaced canteens for sport and duty use, CamelBak continues to grow their product line. At SHOT Show I saw their Urban Assault Pack and requested one for Test & Evaluation. I received it within the week and have been using it as my carry-all for about two weeks now. As is common for CamelBak, it’s a well thought out and useful design. Let’s take a look…
Now before I get too far into the specifics of this pack I have to make this obersvation: I’m not entirely sure that “assault” has a place in the name of this pack. “Urban” definitely was the focus of this design – and CamelBak did it well. That’s not to say that his pack couldn’t be used as an assault pack – but when we look at the design details I think you’ll agree that this is well-suited for the “urban jungle” that is the business and campus world today.
Pictured to the right the pack is nicely sized to be used as a carry-on for air travellers. The published material from CamelBak states that, “A single pack can replace the laptop attache, weekend rucksack and other assorted travel bags for electronics, water and necessities.” Based on my use of this pack over the course of the past couple weekends – and throughout the week to carry my laptop as needed – I believe this is a true statement from them.
Although the internal pockets are well designed and compartmentalized (we’ll get into that in a minute) the outermost pocket was the one I found of greatest use. Usually these pockets are zipped shut and very shallow in depth. The CamelBak Urban Assault (CBUA) outer pocket is expandable and held shut in two ways:
- at either top corner there is a fastex buckle that clips to the back panel of the main pack and each buckle has an adjustable strap so you can keep it as snug or loose as you need it to be; and
- there is a wrap-over velcro secured flap to keep anything from popping out the top.
Shown to the right here, the pocket can be as much as five to six inches thick when stuffed with whatever materials you need to get to in a hurry. I’ve thrown gloves, extra batteries, a flashlight, power cords, etc into mine. It’s quick to get into and out of. No messing with zippers and excessive velcro.
The next compartment in from the outmost pouch or “overflow pocket” as CamelBak refers to it, is a space perfect for a book, a magazine or two, etc. It has a small zippered space, a half-pocket inside and pen compartments lined up on that pocket. Inside the zippered pocket of this compartment is a hook for keys, etc. Here’s a hint: if you’re flying, don’t forget about the knife or multi-tool you conveniently clipped on that hook. The Transportation Security folks get a might testy about such things.
Next in is the main compartment. CamelBak’s promotional material says this will hold “two changes of clothes” so that the pack can function as an overnight bag. Understand that “two changes of clothes” is two pair of pants, two t-shirts (or maybe short sleeve polos), two pair of underwear and two pair of socks. At that the packing is tight. Realistically I see it comfortably holding one change of clothes plus toiletries, etc.
The final compartment is designed for double duty:
It can hold your hydration syste if you need one for your mission, or
It can hold your laptop computer as you travel the urban jungle.
The pocket is padded on both sides and comfortably holds my Acer laptop with its 17″ screen. Shown right, the zipper on this compartment is L-shaped so that it opens across the top and most of the way down one side. This makes it very easy to get your ‘puter in and out.
On either side of the pack is a side pocket perfectly sized to hold a nalgene water bottle .75L in size. Keep in mind that putting such bottles in those side pockets cuts into the internal space of the main compartment. That’s why I say that, realistically speaking, the internal main compartment is better suited for a single change of clothes.
All in all this is a very useful and well-designed pack. As an overnight bag it will do (and has done) well. If you’re not carrying your laptop, or if you want to put it inside the main compartment, the shoulder straps and waist strap can be disconnected and tucked into that padded pocket for a more streamlined appearance. (I’m not so worried about that).
As a final note you may expect to get just a few weird looks if you’re using this as a carry on for travel. While plenty of the TSA folks seem to live in neverland while they examine our bags, some do pay attention and notice things that seem out of place. The skull-with-wings CamelBak logo emblazoned on the outside of the pack shouldn’t make anyone worry… but these days you just never know.
For more info about the pack or CamelBak, visit them online.
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