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Quick Review: This New Hiking Backpack Takes Cues from Vests… in a Good Way

CamelBak recently released the Octane 25, a hydration pack for hiking that draws inspiration on the features of trail running vests.

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CamelBak’s revolutionary idea to create on-the-go hydration was grounded in access, efficiency and speed. Those same values govern the design of the Octane 25, its new hydration backpack that blends elements of hiking daypacks with those of trail running vests in a design that’ll keep you covering ground… fast.

What We Like

XL Shoulder Straps

Shoulder straps define the form of a backpack, but they’re also frequently underutilized. The Octane’s, however, are not; they come loaded with six pockets, an emergency whistle, two chest straps and a holster for a hydration tube. There’s enough access to keep all the essentials up-front and at hand.

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Comfy Ultralight Mesh

Mesh can be rigid; it can be scratchy. CamelBak used a soft type in the shoulder straps, so your skin can handle speed hiking in a sleeveless shirt.

So. Many. Sleeves.

There are three drop-in, sleeve-style pockets on the outside of the Octane’s main body. There are five on the shoulder straps. There are seven inside the main compartment. These kinds of pockets are great for stashing things quickly — like a layer removed midway up a mountain — and securely. They’re also great for those of us who are OCD about pack organization.

Understated Feature: It Opens Wide

CamelBak could’ve saved a few more grams by shortening the zipper that provides access to the main compartment. The company even could’ve argued that, with a pack this size, you don’t need wide-angle access to everything inside. But having the ability to unzip the compartment for a full view of everything is great, especially if you’ve stuffed your rain jacket at the bottom.

Watch Out For

This Isn’t a City-to-Mountain Backpack

It’s a technical mountain pack, a specialist. Sure, you could throw your laptop into the compartment where the hydration bladder hangs (if it’s a 13-inch or smaller), and you could stash keys, chargers and other daily tools in its many pockets. But the Octane won’t hold and protect these items the way other, everyday-oriented packs will.

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No Structure

The Octane doesn’t come with a rigid back panel and offers little structural support. (This is another reason why if you want to carry a laptop, you should consider other bags.)

High Hipbelt

The hipbelt is more of a gut-belt. The thing is, you don’t really need it, but, unfortunately, it’s not removable. (Without, like, scissors, which seems a bit extreme.)

Is It For Me?

Do you prefer drinking from hydration bladders over water bottles? Do you take your snack breaks while moving? Do you prefer a light pack that will allow you to cover a lot of distance in a shorter amount of time? If you answered yes to any of these questions, CamelBak’s Octane 25 might be your new go-to pack.

Verdict

In the Octane 25, CamelBak continues its legacy of making fuel and gear accessible on the go by keeping the pack lightweight despite a high number of features, including lots of pockets on its oversized shoulder straps. The result isn’t wholly versatile, and it’s not without flaws, but it does create a compelling new option for those who want to carry less and move fast.

Buy Now: $145

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