There’s no denying that Camelbak is the established leader in the hydration pack market. As such, any newcomer gets the benefit of learning from their past mistakes, but they also face the challenge of creating something truly innovative, without stepping on any patents.
While I was waiting for my FuL hydration pack to arrive, I perused their website and found that they tend to cater to the college and hipster demographics with a myriad of messenger bags and “book bag” type backpacks. Based on what I saw, I was genuinely curious to see what their take on an outdoor-oriented hydration pack would look like. When I opened the box, I was immediately impressed by how light the pack is and how well constructed it feels.
Before coming to market, FuL had originally dubbed this pack the “Multisport” and with its feature set, it is easy to see why. It has a multitude of pockets, all with bidirectional zippers with tabs that feel both substantial and durable. Inside there seems to be a dedicated place for everything. It has a crampon patch on the back, as well as side pockets for securing trekking poles. It even features an ice axe loop!
When placed next to my Camelbak Rogue, the FuL Cargo pack doesn’t appear to be much bigger, but when I transferred over all of the items I normally carry on rides, it swallowed everything, and still seemed empty. I stuffed in an extra jacket, and it still had room. Gloves and heart rate monitor strap…no problem. Then I found the expansion zipper that makes the whole cargo area 2 inches bigger….and I was able to stuff my whole Camelbak into it! And just when I thought it wouldn’t hold any more, I found a small zipper near the bottom that releases a large mesh pouch with hooks on it that attaches to eyelets near the top and provides storage for your helmet when it isn’t being worn. Since I also use the pack for commuting to work, convenient helmet storage is a huge bonus!
Like most hydration packs, the 70oz bladder must be removed in order to fill it. Instead of a screw on cap, however, the entire top opens for filling, and then folds over and is secured by a sliding clip that locks into place with two tabs. This setup makes it easy to stuff the bladder full of ice, or fill it in a hurry from just about any type of water source. With the top properly closed, I have experienced no leakage. Inside the pack, the compartment that holds the bladder is insulated to help keep things cool.
When I put the pack on, it took less than a minute to get it adjusted for a perfect fit. The shoulder straps are luxuriously wide and the sternum strap is identical to what you would find on a high-end day pack. It boasts real compression straps and channeled back padding that allows more cooling air flow than I have experienced with any other pack I have ever worn.
On the trail, the the Cargo rides close and does not flop around, even when fully loaded. The side and sternum straps can be easily adjusted while riding, but in actuality, once they are set, there is very little need to mess with them. I have noticed with this pack that the shoulder straps don’t constrict blood flow to my arms. It turns out this is an issue with my Camelbak, and it has been causing numbness in my hands this whole time….go figure. (It only took two pairs of gloves and three sets of grips to figure this out!)
As awesome as this pack is, it’s not perfect and my biggest gripe is the bite valve. The valve requires a push/pull motion to open and close it, and when I first tried it the water flow was pathetic. I emailed customer service at FuL to see about getting a replacement, and they actually directed me to make sure to bite as close to the end of the mouth piece as possible. (There’s actually a visible indentation indicating where to bite it) This did the trick and even though it still doesn’t gush like the patented Camelbak valve, it is acceptable. Honestly though, I’m not accustomed to putting that much though into getting a mouthful of H20, but once you get used to it, it’s okay.
It is clear that FuL has done their homework and pulled from their experience designing packs for a variety of different uses. The Cargo is a well thought out and expertly-constructed hydration pack with options that make it equally useful for biking, hiking, rock climbing, or even ice climbing. After several weeks of using it, I’m still discovering new features (like the Chapstick pouch inside the shoulder strap) and it has become my daily use pack for both commuting and mountain biking.
If you’re on a budget or if you want one hydration pack for several different sports, for $69 MSRP you can’t go wrong with the FuL Cargo.
Thanks to the folks at FuL for providing the Cargo for review.