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But there is precious little space on a typical FS MTB frame for a bag like the Tangle.  So when I saw the Camelbak Palos 4LR, it peaked my interest and also took me back in time.  It was not all that long ago that I was cleaning out the garage and found a box of old packs from the late 80s and early 90s.  Pre-Camelbak, I needed a way to carry more gear and water for the long expedition rides that were the norm then, often taking us ‘off the map’.  So I used what we then called fanny packs to carry the load.  They were not perfect, but they worked.

Camelbak Palos 4LR

The Camelbak Palos 4LR took me back to that era of waist centered packs, both for good…and for bad.  But before we get to that, lets take a look at the features:

Key Pack Features:

Integrated tool organizer, lumbar compression, magnetic tube trap, dual waist belt pockets, secured zipper pocket, zippered essentials pocket, air mesh back panel, blinker tab.

Designed to Carry:

Multi-tool, CO2 pump and cartridges, spare tube, energy bar, phone, keys.

Antidote Lumbar Reservoir Features:

1/4 turn – easy open/close cap, lightweight fillport, center baffling and low-profile design, patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, PureFlow™ tube, easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening

  • Total Capacity: 244 cu in / 2.5L + 1.5L reservoir
  • Pack-Only Weight: 1 lb 7 oz / 0.64 kg
  • Torso Length: N/A
  • Back Panel: Air mesh
  • Belt: Fixed 38MM / 1.5″ with cargo pockets
  • Harness: N/A
  • Fabric: 70D / 210D block dobby nylon, 210 HT nylon

Camelbak is, in my opinion, the best in the business for getting the details right regarding organization features in a hydration pack.  And the Camelbak Palos 4LR is no exception to this.  Each waist ‘wing’ has a storage section, one zipped, one just a mesh flap-over.  The outermost zipped pocket on the center of the Camelbak Palos 4LR is good for cell phones, etc, and has a key clip inside and a blinky strap outside. Unbuckle that flap holding strap and you find an inner flap that velcros to the outer flap.  That combo of the two flaps and the velcro and buckle allow for a very good extra storage area for jackets, etc, as they will be held pretty securely under the two flaps.

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Camelbak Palos 4LRCamelbak Palos 4LR

Unfolding the inner flap shows two small mesh pockets and one larger zipped mesh pocket for keeping cash, IDs, etc.  Behind all that is a larger zipped pocket with room for food, a pump (pump not included), etc, and tucked into the back section of that pocket is the 1.5L reservoir.  The drink tube comes out the right wing area and is designed to wrap around the front of the waist where it fastens with a magnetic clip.  The drink tube can run out either side of the pack, although if you run out the left side, it will be shorter as the hose attaches on the right side of the reservoir.  The magnetic clip can be moved from side to side to follow.

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The back is well padded, although the waist belt could be wider, as there are no shoulder straps to take the load off, leaving the waist belt to carry all the support duties.  On each side of the Camelbak Palos 4LR are two ‘pull handles’ that are key to making this work when you are wearing it.  The blue webbing pull loops tension a compression strap, allowing you to snug the pack against your lower back and across the middle of the Camelbak Palos 4LR, and keeping it from pulling away from your body due to gravity.  It works, but with some reservations.

Camelbak Palos 4LRCamelbak Palos 4LRCamelbak Palos 4LR

After using this for some time on trail, both on MTB rides and for gravel ventures, I have found what I like and do not like.  Here goes.

The Good –

  • Organization is top-notch. The ability to stuff a jacket in the overlapping flaps is a big plus.  It seemed to have a pocket for everything as long as I was traveling light-ish.
  • The drink tube is long enough to reach when I am riding, as it should be, and the “1/4 turn – easy open/close cap, lightweight fillport, center baffling and low-profile design, patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, PureFlow™ tube, easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening” is still the best in the business.
  • It sits low on the back…hence the LR, that being Lumbar Region.  There is no strain on the neck or shoulders.
  • It stayed put under fast trail riding and kept out of the way, letting me shuck and jive unabated. With the cinch strap down tight, the pack does sit quite close to the back.
  • The wing pockets are excellent for keeping small items…gels, etc, close at hand without removing the pack to access them.

The Less Than Good –

  • As you fill the pack, it expands horizontally out from your body, and in doing so, wants to fall away from you.  The cinch strap makes this much less of an issue, but it is still what the pack wants to do.  In this sense, you really don’t want the pack to be carrying much weight, although it is small enough to where the size limits this anyway.
  • As the tendency of the Camelbak Palos 4LR is to fall away from your body when loaded, the waist strap is under constant tension, much more so than a normal hydration pack, where the waist strap is more about keeping the pack stable, not carrying the load.  That is to be expected, but what happens is, when you stop and remove the pack, the buckle loses its position on the waist strap too easily so you need to pull it tight again each time. And even when riding, if I lifted the weight off the pack, the belt could de-tension then too.  Annoying.  I wanted the belt to stay put, adjustment wise, until I moved it.
  • I did not think about the fact that wearing a pack like this effectively eliminates the ability to use back jersey pockets.  Now on a lot of MTB jerseys, they have no back pockets at all or maybe a small zipped side pocket.  But if you are in a more road oriented jersey, like a lot of gravel guys wear, then the pack sits right on the three pockets. SO you gain from using the Camelbak Palos 4LR, especially for water capacity, but lose the jersey storage.
  • That magnetic drink tube ‘catch’…99% of the time, if I removed the drink tube and took a drink,  I was unable to reconnect that dealie when riding with one hand.  Nope.  Denied.  Try again later.  And looking down to find it while riding was not what I wanted to do on trail. Maybe it’s just me.  And you don’t want that loose drink tube swinging around unattached.
  • Depending on what your outer layer is, the pack can slide down onto your butt.  If I had a slippery material on, like a windbreaker, the pack would want to migrate downwards.  With an MTB jersey and baggy short, it would be much more ‘put’.

In the end, I found the Camelbak Palos 4LR to do what it claims to. It does take the load off the shoulders and has a minimal feel to it.  If you are sensitive to straps pulling on your upper body, then this eliminates that and offers water, tool, and sundries storage.

If I could tweak it, I would make the waist strap buckle hold its adjustment till I said otherwise. That was maddening, having to mess with that all the times I removed the pack.  I guess I need to work on my ‘pat-head-rub-tummy skills so I can get that drink tube back into its catch after use without stopping. But for general riding, it hung tough, stayed put, and did its job, giving you a nice option for riding without the classic backpack approach.

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Note: Camelbak provided this product at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.