I have wanted to review the Camelbak Octane LR for some time now but I thought it was only fair to give the test more time. I purchased the hydration pack early last summer and to be brutally honest it has been a bit of a disappointment. I purchased this bag for the storage, bladder size, and for the way the pack seemed to hug my back when I ran. This is the first bag I have purchased with the lumbar bladder that wraps around your waist so naturally I was intrigued by the new technology that the bag offered.
Let’s start with the breakdown of the bag and its physical appearance. The bag has a sleek design and comes in two colors including bright green with white lettering or grey with red lettering (2012 colors include black/lemon chrome, jasmine green and skydiver/egret). The outside of the pack is designed for easy access in several storage sections including two large zipper areas at the top of the pack and the mesh pouch around the lumbar of the pack. The storage of this pack is incredible and you can carry several GU Gels, an extra shirt and a head lamp with no trouble at all. Since the bladder is wrapped around the lumbar they have really opened up the pockets of the backpack to allow for some much needed storage during a long run or hike.
The bladder is unique as it does not sit directly on your back which helps takes the added weight off your back. The pack wraps around your lumbar where you have extra support and the liquid is hardly noticeable even when full. The Camelbak Octane LR comes standard with a 70 oz bladder and there is a 100 oz bladder available for longer outings. Two easy zippers make the bladder very accessible to get to but filling the bladder is another story. The bladder is connected by a little hook on top connecting to the bag to keep it from moving but in order to fill the bladder it really needs to be removed from the backpack. This presents a dilemma while racing when you’re looking to get in and out of aid stations quickly.
Upon removing the bag it does come with an easy to remove quick snap cap. It only needs to be moved a quarter turn to open or close the bag which definitely helps if you have a sticky liquid inside such as Gatorade or EFS. Filling the bag can be a little tricky because of the shape of the bladder. All of the liquid tends to go to one side of the bag and you need to move it around to get it filled evenly. This bladder is almost a two person operation in order to keep it from spilling all over because the opening of the bladder needs to be held upright so the liquid flows evenly to both sides. My biggest issue filling the bag is to try and get it ready, say the night before without a second hand. One person needs to hold the bladder while the other fills it up. You cannot set this bladder down in the sink or hang it upright without it spilling all over the place. Once the bladder has been filled up you must maneuver it back into the pack. Since the pack is wider in the middle and has a small lumbar band to put the bladder into you will find yourself trying to stuff the two sides back into the pack once it is full. This is a bit of a challenge as you can see the small dimensions on the sides of the pack.
In the 8 months since I bought the bag I have gone through 4 bladders that have all burst on a run in the same exact location on the bag. It is not a great feeling when you’re out for a long run and you start to feel the liquid flowing down your back and legs especially, if you’re far from a water source. In speaking with representatives of Camelback I have been told that they have not had any serious issues with the bladder and it may be a defect in my bag that is causing the problem. I give them credit as they have stood behind their product and offered me a new bladder each time it has broken but on the same token I have not been offered a new bag yet if they feel that is the cause.
This is a very light weight backpack that is extremely comfortable to carry even when the bladder is full and they have accomplished this by moving all the water weight off your back and onto your hips.
The shoulder straps are made of a soft fabric that provides no irritation or chafing while running with the bag. To help secure the bag and keep it from moving around they also have a waist harness strap that can easily be adjusted to make the bag feel more comfortable. As an EFS Liquid Shot junkie I was ecstatic that they provide a small pouch on the left shoulder harness that will fit a 5 oz bottle right by the mouth piece of the hydration tube. How great is that as you can easily access a GU or Liquid Shot without having to take the bag off?
Cleaning a hydration pack is always a concern as most people tend to have the unknown growing in their packs after a few uses but cleaning the Octane couldn’t be any easier. There is a quick line hose that releases the hydration tubes for cleaning or exchanging and the bladder can be removed, washed and dried without needing the a hand the size of a small child to get paper towel inside it to get the excess liquid out. The bag itself it completely washing machine safe and even after ten plus washes I have not had a tear or problem with any of the zippers.
This particular bag comes with some amazing features that I am yet to find in any other bag on the market but it also falls short in some of the categories that an ultra runner or trail runner would look for in a hydration pack. I like the idea of the bag but it does need some improvements in order to be functional on race day. While the broken bladders on my pack may be the exception, not the norm I don’t think the lumbar bladder is for me and while I will always trust Camelbak for a great product I think this particular model is not for me.
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