I gotta admit: I gave up on Camelbak years ago. I hated how sweaty and off-balance the packs made me feel on the bike and the high maintenance bladder always gave me fits. So I ditched the hump and started carrying water bottles on my frame, pumps and tubes in my jersey pockets, and keys and cameras in my shorts. That is, until the Camelbak H.O.S.S. jumped on my back.
The H.O.S.S. is easily the largest hydration pack Camelbak makes for mountain biking and I figured I was going to hate it because it was so freakin’ huge. I mean, a more gradual reintroduction to the hydration pack would have been a tiny, sleek Hydrobak – something so small I might not even notice it. But it turns out the H.O.S.S. is exactly what I needed.
Straightaway the H.O.S.S. addressed my concerns about a sweaty back and balanced handling with the Dynamic Ventilated Integrated System (DVIS). DVIS keeps the pack off your back with a mesh air channel that kept me cool even on hot, tough climbs. The H.O.S.S. also makes use of the Camelbak Dynamic Suspension harness to keep the pack stable even under gnarly circumstances. I honestly forgot I was wearing this pack on the trail which is pretty amazing considering all the junk I was hauling (more on that later). The shoulder and waist straps are simple to adjust and even include velcro loops to neaten up danglers once you’ve adjusted everything.
The DVIS keeps the main pack off your back by at least 2 inches.
In terms of storage capacity, the H.O.S.S. is top of the line. The first time I went out I decided to really put this guy to the test. In addition to the full 3L hydration bladder I brought along the following:
- 2 handheld pumps including the Mammoth 2State from Blackburn
- 2 pairs of sunglasses
- A Sony Digital8 camcorder
- A Novara Tech Beanie
- 1 pair of gloves
- A Light and Motion Stella light kit
- 1 Garmin Edge GPS
With all this junk the H.O.S.S. was literally half full. I totally plan on using it to haul my Digital SLR camera on my next ride – something I’ve been afraid to bring along until now for fear of damaging the camera. The H.O.S.S. has plenty of padding for sensitive electronics and get this – the large main pouch is waterproof! Yep, bring on the rain storms – my gear will stay safe and dry. The only drawback to all this capacity is weight – this baby weighs just over 3 pounds empty and with a full water bladder you’re looking to tip the scales at roughly 10 pounds! I just look at it as weight training 😉
How many pockets and pouches can you count? I get to 11 without even trying.
Camelbak has really improved hydration bladders over the past several years and if your pack is less than 2 years old you know what I’m talking about. The wide screw-top mouth lets you pack ice cubes no problem and even makes wiping the inside of your Camelbak dry with a towel possible. The improved bite valve has a convenient on/off switch but curiously the “off” position seems like it should be the “on” to me. No worries – as long as it keeps my shoulder dry and my pack full I won’t complain. The included 3 liter bladder will slake your thirst on all but the longest epic rides.
The H.O.S.S. is clearly a high quality, durable product that should survive years of abuse. Although there are tons of straps and places to hold your junk outside the pack, the H.O.S.S. looks buttoned down and downright slick when you’re on the trail. Reflective accents make this a good choice for late evening / night rides or even as a commuting bag (minus the hydration bladder).
Yep, I guess you could say I’m smitten with the Camelbak H.O.S.S. – hey, I’m as surprised as you are. If you tend to ride for long distances or if you’re a photo gear junkie like me, this is the perfect all-around mountain bike pack. This makes me think H.O.S.S. must stand for: Holds Our S#!t Securely.