Product Review: Camelbak Palos (Waist Pack)

product review

Is it a drink bottle? Is it a waist trainer??

It’s not a complete and total surprise, but I’m crap at packing.
I always think I’ve got it all nailed, even did a sneaky Instagram flat lay for all of the stuff I intended to bring over riding in Crankworx… and forgot that I packed my Nukeproof Mega enduro (bro) bike, complete with 6″ of travel, a wicked head angle – and no bottle cages. Uh oh. Both being mountain bikers, my man and I have more than enough hydration packs at home. I wasn’t keen to add another to the collection just because I had a brain fart while packing, but I also wasn’t keen to die by thirst on the trails.
Happily, Crankworx not only brought the best mountain bikers and free riders in the world to town, they brought the best exhibitors. And when I went past the Camelbak tent and saw what appeared to be a large fanny pack (hey, I was born in the USA), I thought to myself, “could this be the answer to all of my prayers?” Turns out, sort of. I was eager to give the Palos a go, if only for the novelty factor.
As a woman with a pretty bangin’ hip to waist ratio, my first impression when trying the Palos was whether to clip around the hips, or the waist. Turns out I didn’t have very much say in the matter once I started moving as the pack slowly crept up toward my waist, rendering the once-tight straps secured around my size 14 hips to be very much loose around my middle. Hmmm.
I then decided to secure the Palos around my waist which, after feeling a little self-conscious about feeling as though I had boobs above and lunch below the mid-line, ended up a terrific solution. The hose was easy to reach and easy to drink from, and I like the open-close mechanism on the mouth piece. The pack was very easy to swivel around and get bars and $5 notes out of, and the positioning meant by upper back was noticeably cooler than wearing a backpack style hydration setup.
The pack itself is roomy and had more than enough capacity to fit my rain jacket, gloves, phone, wallet and the 1.5L capacity bladder which – as I mentioned before – felt snug once I figured out that girls with some ass need to wear it a little higher. At $120 RRP, the price tag didn’t come cheap, but Camelbak’s brand gives you comfort that it’s not going to leak all over your stuff and force you to buy a new phone. I rode for 3 hours (with girl chat stops, obviously) and think that I actually prefer it over a backpack. We have a convert here, ladies! But will it make a good gift for the man in your life? We commissioned our resident ‘rooster’, Joe Mullan, to give it a crack.

Who wore it best?

Jordie v The Rock. Source Image: The Rock, Instagram.

Thirsty Work

Joe Mullan If it’s not a bro pack but it’s not a bum bag…is it a brum bag? Thanks to Enduro, there’s been a resurgence in what’s old is new again, giving manufacturers the chance have another crack at things they sorta released and then sorta buried. (Re) Enter the cycling waist based reservoir (have a go saying that 5 times fast after a few sherberts) codenamed Palos LR4 by it’s manufacturer, Camelbak. As a bottle rider I was mighty curious, it’s been hardtail land for me the last few years and with a recent switch back to full suspension, bottle spots are on my priority list.
So, any option to avoid a hauling a backpack round the trails was worth investigating. After all, sometimes you just can’t be seen using a jersey with pockets and need to rock the casual cut to ease the transition from trail-to-pub-to club* ( carn mate, lettuce inn, I don’t smell that bad, gotta wear this out as part of me sponno agreement) Test venue was the sweet sweet trails of Rotorua, they got ups, they got downs, they got flow, they got huck..they got it all Bro! 2hrs and 20kms of challenging trails was the day. With a 1.5l capacity, I filled it to the top to fit the ride planned and to get a sense of the feel of the weight on my lower back. Filling – no problem.
Camelback have that nailed. Construction quality and panels/pockets design also up there with the right balance of zippered and stretchy pockets with expandable areas. Snug over each hip is an easy access pocket., decent, but as someone that rocks a non-massif phone, I found it a tight fit, so others packing imax cinemas may struggle and need to use the main, rear pocket – but- (and here’s where the cool kicks it), ya just swizzle it around and voila! access, no unclipping and removing from your back, plus you get that Pro ‘tourist checking currency’ look, right there on the trail. Bonza. With a 4km road/firetrail roll to the trails, it/I had time to settle in. Yes, I could notice it, but I was ‘looking’ for it. At the trail head, I adjusted the tightness of the straps, this would be the first of three adjustments. I don’t feel the need to adjust straps was anything but newness, and will subside.
For anyone that’s ridden through a winter with a pack, you know how webbing soon stays put and won’t be moving again…ever. Into the trails, I’d picked ones I was familiar with. I could notice the pack, it ‘rolled’ a little vertically as I made my way through the trails. I was hypersensitive to it though, I’ll admit. It took until about 50% through the trail ride for me to become unaware of it, but only at the back. The front was a different story. With a large front and centre buckle and pull straps, combined with an east-to-west drinking hose slung across the errrr, lower abdomen, there’s a whole bunch of stuff down there that wasn’t before and it was noticeable. It felt like one of a number of things were going to get snagged mid-flight, on the seat, the stem, whatever.
Of course, nothing happened no matter what I did on or off the ground, but the sense was still there. A better retracting mechanism would do a lot to make the drinking hose less noticeable. On that, the hose unclipped for drinking in one of two ways. The hose itself sits in a Uclip, which you can pull it out of. The Uclip sits on the belt via a magnet, which also unclips and did….50% of the time when trying to lift the drinking hose. The uclip stayed put on the hose but could be lost and if so, that’s it, you no longer have a secure option to stow the hose that sits round your lower abdomen…and that’s going be annoying. A better magnet or a decision on just one or the other method of attachment may be the best way to go on this Camelbak. So to the primary purpose – Drinking? Nice and simple, on the move, on the trail, the hose head was locatable and stashable on the go. Tick. My back is airy and free to do that cooling thing. Tick. The all-important Trail cred? When it comes to comments from other trail users, it’s up there with a lefty fork. But care ye not, as you let you back hair flow freely in the wind. Rock that brumbag. I can’t tell you the good and bad, because it’s just my opinion, but here’s what I did and didn’t like.
  • Well made, light, quality. Range of pockets and ease of access
  • Available in a range of colours – Hot tip ‘Send-it Apricot’ will be THE colour next season.
Didn’t like:
  • Double hose securing method. Can be a lottery
  • Needs an improved hose retraction method
  • Buckle could be offset to left or right, not centred, to limit strapping hangdowns over seat.
For more details click here to visit the Camelbak website.

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