I don’t imagine that, when the first little foam wrapped Camelbak came to market (yeah, I had one),  that anyone could have envisioned the myriad choices of hydration packs we have today.  We have big ones (like the new Osprey Escapist 30 I am testing) and little ones like the Lezyne Firebreak we reviewed on the Cyclist.  One of the interesting trends has been Mtn Bikers using a pack designed for multi-sport use for pure cycling adventures.  For instance, within the Camelbak range there is the Octane 18X, a well received pack that has cross-sport applications…ride with it, fast hike with it, etc.  Then some packs have taken the light fabric approach of the multisport pack and added more bike functionality like on the Camelbak Charge.  I have a 2011 Charge 450 and it is one of my favorite packs…light, expandable, comfy and practical.

So the Camelbak Charge LR is a lightweight fabric type pack with bike functionality like tool sections, pump pouches, etc, but adds one more tweak in that it moves the water reservoir down low across the low back, hence the ‘LR’ as in lumbar reservoir, perhaps?  In any case, the Charge LR is a very interesting hybrid, offering some features and benefits that I have not seen on any other pack.  And, it also has some drawbacks too.  So, let us take a look at the little beast.

Here is a video from Camelbak that looks at the Charge and the Charge LR.

The 16oz/460g pack has 70oz/2L or water capacity and 427 cu in/7L of storage capacity, including tool sections, snack pouches, etc, and a key clip.  The zipped pouch/wing-lets on the waist strap are pretty generous on the LR and are padded on the side facing your hip bones.  This is actually nice as it provides cushion for small cameras or smart phones, etc.  The marsupial stretch pocket on the front of the pack is very deep and quite useful for shedding layers, etc.  You may have a bit of a fishing expedition to get to something on the very bottom, but there is quite a bit of room here.  Very nice.  The internal pocket is not as deep as it runs into the reservoir area, but there is snack room, spare tubes, etc.

I have used the Charge LR quite a bit now and I have some strong impressions on what it is all about.  Here goes.

  • It is a very snug wearing pack.  By that I mean it wears close to the body and is very stable and, due to the way it is designed, it does not balloon and stack away from the body.
  • It is very light weight and comfy-form fitting.  It conforms to you, not the other way around.
  • The big old marsupial pocket is dandy.  Plenty of room for clothing, food, whatever.  Just do not try and stuff heavy or very odd shaped things in there, like a big DSLR.
  • The wing cargo pockets may be the best on any pack I have ever used.  Good size, easy to manage with one hand while riding.  If one crashed with a point and shoot or GPS in there, the padding on the body side would be nice to have.
  • The water does carry low and that seems to appeal to folks with sensitive shoulders or neck issues.
  • The drink tube is longer compared to a previous LR type pack I tried, making the tube routing much easier.

Now, there are things I do not like.

  • It is a very snug wearing pack.  Hmmmm…did I already say that?  So the bad of that was the feeling I had a small octopus on my back and it was a hot wearing pack in summer.  In winter much less so, but for some reason, the combination of a long torso vertical shape and the extra wrap-around at the waist was a bit claustrophobic.  I never got used to it.
  • It is a very fiddly process to get the water into the excellent Antidote reservoir due to the wings.  They do not always want to let water fill it up and I spilled more than I got in there sometimes.
  • You still can get water in the other side of the reservoir from where the tube attaches (if it is low) and get a empty suck of bubbly air for a second till things slosh back around.
  • It is a big wearing pack (in the way it covers so much of the back/hips) that does not carry a lot of cargo or water.

“So what is the deal with you, Grannygear?”  Well, I think I could never get used to the feel of the pack and for me, I guess I am not a fan of the water carried low like that.  A traditional pack design does not bother me, so maybe this is just not a design approach for me.  I do think that, if I was looking for a close wearing, fast approach pack that is good for MTB rides and could do double duty for trail running or fast hiking/rock scrambling, the Charge LR could be a killer app, especially if having the water low on the body has appeal to you.

I am a fan of the light fabric approach (as long as you are not carrying larger, heavier loads) and I know I am a fan of the Charge 450, the predecessor of the more normal Charge.  The Charge LR has a strong personality that I did not favor, but you might.  Both Charge packs are well thought out and built to let you move down the trail and not get in the way.

Camelbak sent out this pack at no charge for test/review. I was not paid, nor bribed for my review, and I strive to give my honest opinion and thoughts throughout any review here. Thanks to Camelbak for letting me check out the Charge LR!