Over the past several months, I have had the opportunity to test two similarly-priced, but completely different, hydration packs. The folks at Geigerrig were kind enough to send me their Rig 700, and when I approached CamelBak about a comparable pack for a comparison, they provided their Charge 450. Both carry at least two liters of water, have multiple storage compartments (including a waterproof iPod/MP3 player pocket with headphone port) plenty of adjustment options, airflow management, and an MSRP of around $100. Actual pricing varies, so it pays to shop around.
CamelBak has been around in its most basic form since 1988, and has seen quite a bit of innovation since then. While Geigerrig is hardly a household name, they did get the 2011 IN-NEW-VATION Award for best new product at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market this past January, so they’re definitely on to something. Given those credentials, either of the following products is a potential winner.
We’ll start with the CamelBak Charge 450. Described as “A lightweight endurance pack for MTB races and adventures”, it features their new 100 oz (3L) Antidote Reservoir with Quick Link System. The thread pitch on the cap was redesigned to allow quicker sealing, the fillport itself is lighter, and there are some clever touches like a center baffle to give the reservoir a lower profile, fold out arms for easier drying, and a wide mouth opening for easy cleaning. The Pure Flow tube features their patented Big Bite Valve, and Hydroguard technology. Expect it to hold a couple of your favorite energy bars, a tube or two, enough tools for minor trail-side repairs, a phone, wallet, (for beer and Mexican food, post-ride) keys and maybe a CO2 pump and cartridges, if you hate the environment. You should also be able to fit a windbreaker or long sleeve base layer if you pack well.
The Geigerrig Rig 700 Ballistic has a 70 oz (2L) bladder, but roughly the same storage capacity. The bladder/tube interface has a quick release valve, plus it has a second tube which pressurizes the bladder. This game-changing feature is the main selling point for Geigerrig, and the source of their “Never suck again” tag line. After you fill the reservoir, pump up the air bladder. Your water now comes out of their patented spray valve under pressure. Ever tried to share a bite valve with a friend on the trail, or your dog? Eww. Not an issue with Geigerrig though – now you can just spray water into your friend’s mouth (two or four-legged). Someone in your group take a spill and get scraped up? No worries, you can spray their rash clean. Trust me, it’s pretty sweet. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an inline filter available. Just open that huge slide top, dunk your Rig in the nearest water source, and you’re good to go all over again. That slide top also makes for easy refill, cleaning, and drying.
As both feature a host of adjustable straps for various body sizes, it was easy for both a stocky guy like myself and a skinny little roadie friend to get a comfortable fit. While their approach to ventilation may differ, the aim was the same – to keep air flowing between the pack and your back, for maximum cooling. Even fully loaded, that’s not really an issue here in Utah during what passes for spring. I’ll follow up on that when we have sustained temps over 70 degrees. Speaking of fully loaded, the Charge 450 weighs about a pound empty, while the Geigerrig comes in at over 2.5 pounds. That might be of concern for some weight weenies, but when fully and properly loaded, the weight difference was really a non-issue, at least to me. In case you’re wondering where the extra fat comes from, search Youtube for the Geigerrig videos. You’ll see one get thrown out of truck window at irresponsible speeds, and also strapped to a makeshift bomb. And it comes out like new each time. If you’re replacing your hydration pack every season, that might not be a big deal. But if you’re budget-conscious, (and who isn’t these days) take comfort in knowing that your Geigerrig can take more abuse than you’re likely to dish out.
Now, if you’ve never used a hydration pack, the previous three paragraphs are (hopefully) useful. If you have used one, here’s where I cut to the chase. I’ve used CamelBaks for years. If you want a lightweight pack to hold a lot of water and some odds and ends, CamelBak won’t let you down. They make great products, and they constantly innovate and improve their quality. Every once in a while, I’d try a knockoff that ended up leaking into my lap while I ride, or fell apart mid-season. Don’t get a knockoff. Geigerrig is not a knockoff. Everything about their packs, from their innovative hydration engine to their attention to detail speaks quality. Loudly. The Rig 700 just seems to fit better, hydrate better, protect my gear better, and it feels more substantial. I’ve never had any complaints about any CamelBak products, I just like the Geigerrig more. If I was only doing group rides where everyone else had their own spares, and we just rode flat out, I’d probably take one of CamelBak’s products. But if I was doing more casual biking, hiking, or even motorcycle riding, a Geigerrig would be my first choice. If you’re shopping for a new pack this spring, do yourself a favor, check out both.
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