Camelbak is a name that needs no introduction. It’s a name that’s synonymous with hydration and hydration packs for cycling both on and off road, adventure racing, hunting, and military applications. Where there are thirsty people, Camelbak always seems to be around with a solution. In 2010 Camelbak is at it again with fresh styles and new, bold colors to address the wants and needs of mountain bikers everywhere. This spring I’ll be rockin’ The Don ($120 MSRP) with Flow Meter (sold separately, $30 MSRP) and no I was not arrested (just in case you were wondering about the pic).
The Don is a full-featured hydration pack designed especially for AM and FR mountain bikers. This pack sports a lightweight but strong rip-stop material which will stand up to the abrasive nature of all-mountain biking. Another great feature The Don includes is the air director back panel which allows your body to breathe and release heat when you’re pumping the pedals. Along with this intelligent yet simple heat release solution, you also get a wider strapping system (38mm) which will both hold the pack firmly in place and distribute pressure evenly across your body, even when hucking gnarly trails. The wide straps are made of the same mesh material as the vented back panels to encourage moisture wicking.
The Don can carry 3L (100oz) of water and 17.5L (1070 cu in) of cargo split into one main compartment and a few extra elastic pockets to separate your nutrition bars and gels from your tools and any other items for your ride. Splitting up the space into several compartments allows the Don to hold goggles and electronics without fear of scratching them up or bouncing them around too much. I personally love that feature as it allows me to carry camera equipment as well as food and tools without fear of cutting into my sandwich or trashing my camera.
What really makes this a FR / park pack is that it has a convenient means for holding your helmets (full face as well as your open face) by a clever strap and flap combination. There’s even a clear flap on the side of the pack to hold your park pass! The straps that hold the flap for your helmet also double as the straps to tighten up the pack when it’s not full.
Taking the Don on (go figure) the Don Valley trails ups here in Ontario was just like strapping on any familiar piece of equipment. You just put the pack on, adjust the waist strap, and go. Just about the only thing I needed to learn was how to use the flow meter that I added to the Don.
The flow meter is actually a simple device: it uses a small magnetic sensor built into an impeller that rotates as you draw in water through a standard Camelbak hose. As the impeller rotates, it registers in the flow meter’s circuit board and display. Now the hard part is setting up the flow meter and using its advanced functions – I felt like I needed a PhD or something.
The simplest and most effective mode I found on the Flow Meter is called Amount remaining / Total volume mode. Using AR/TV mode for most all my riding I found that it worked great, giving me all I needed to know about my hydration situation. Clearly the most useful thing about the Flow Meter is it gives you an idea about how much water is left in your pack, something that was previously difficult if not impossible to do without removing the bladder from your pack. In terms of the advanced functions, I admit I fumbled around with the buttons a bit but never really found anything nearly as useful as the AR/TV mode.
Using the Don with the Flow Meter was great, though admittedly the color combo I received (Methyl Blue / Racing Red) was a bit loud for my personal tastes (there are 3 other color combos to choose from). Other than that, the Don is a comfortable and very functional hydration pack. On slope-side rides of 3 hours or more, this was more than adequate for my needs and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this pack to anyone.