A few years ago, on route to a bike event we found ourselves in the midst of a multi-car vehicular collision. Fortunately we got off relatively light, but we both sustained whiplash. After that, wearing packs on rides made us miserable.
Our solution: stop wearing packs. From bottles to waist packs and stuffing additional bottles into pockets for longer rides, we’ve experimented with alternatives to carry gear and hydration while riding. Wearing typical packs resulted in neck and back pain until we discovered Camelbak’s lumbar-based reservoir packs. They’ve since become our go-to solution for carrying gear and hydrating on long rides.
My pack of choice? The Camelbak Charge 10 LR. The LR is short for the Antidote Lumbar Reservoir. Like the rest of the Lumbar series from Camelbak, the Charge focuses the load with the weight on your hips. Wearing it has a similar feel to wearing a waist pack with the shoulder straps adding additional support.
It’s been a great option for hauling water and gear on rides of longer duration, and with a water bottle on the bike I’m able to carry more than enough water to last a full day of riding. The lumbar packs are offered in two sizes, with the Charge being the smaller of the two.
The pack unloaded is light. Though probably not an optimal choice for gravity riding, the light weight construction trades durability for minimal heft. For us it’s a worthy trade off. A riding that hits the ground frequently might want to stick to a more durable cordura pack, (My Camelbak Mayhem is still is great shape) but I’ve laid my bike down in a few high speed turns and I have yet to see any tears. Camelbak also offers a warranty, which should help out in the event of a crash rendering the pack unusable.
After spending a lot of time riding without a pack, coming back to one reminds me of why they’re so useful. The best part of using a pack again is being able to pre-load it with tools, supplies and other essentials so you have them when you need them. You can even strap your helmet on using low profile clips.
The tricky part is restricting the load (and weight) to what’s needed. I used to chronically overpack for rides, a habit that results in a heavy pack.
I really like the way the Charge carries the load. It doesn’t feel much different from carrying the load in a road jersey or waist pack, but it’s nice knowing my gear is safely stowed. (I’ve lost rather expensive pumps using jersey pockets to stow them, but lets face it, road jerseys weren’t designed for mountain biking.) When loaded well, the weight reminds me of a waist pack with the shoulder straps stabilizing everything. The big difference is that the load feels much more secure.
The Charge carries the weight low, is stable when riding and stays in place. It doesn’t swings like other packs I’ve used in the past.
It does a decent job managing heat, and ventilates reasonably well. All packs tend to get sweaty, but the mesh and rear panel provides a bit of relief. I tend to perspire most in the arm pit zone, and for climbs I’ll often loosen the chest straps which helps.
My time with a waist pack has changed my setup as well as perspective on wearing a pack again. I use the waist straps to secure the pack and focus the load on my waist, running the shoulder straps a bit more relaxed. Since I don’t really sweat in the hip area, I find the Charge to be much more comfortable than traditional packs.
Water storage/ Bladder
The bladder is an improvement from the units I’ve used in the past. It’s easy to remove from the pack to fill and the lip on the inside of the pouch holds it in place. The best part is the improved cap. It seals well with the improved threads on the cap and only requires a partial turn to secure. I’ve heard others having issues emptying the pack due to problems with fluid fill but I haven’t had that issue.
I still carry a water bottle on hot days, filled with a juice mix for variety. If the fluid fill became an issue I could always add the last of the water directly to the bottle.
The only issue I’ve had is the bite valve falling off. I’m thinking about getting a spare, but for now I may try securing it with some sort of gaffers tape.
For local rides I prefer to be a minimalist, carrying the essentials and little else. My typical ride carry consists of:
- Tire levers
- Patch Kit
- Assorted Clif Bars, Gels and Gummies
- Zip ties
- Phone, wallet and car keys
- Goggles for the downs
- Chain links
- Spare Cable
- Light nylon vest or windbreaker in stuff sack
The pack has no problem absorbing all that stuff. I’ve also been carrying a compact camera, and even with the additional weight, it hasn’t bothered me, as I’m able to carry the weight low.
The outside pockets offer additional space as well; I’m packing goggles more often these days and they fit perfectly there, or I’ll drop my sunglasses in on warm humid climbs. I’ll sometimes store a layer there as well, when I want quick access to it. I use the compartments on the waist straps for my tube and food.
Check it out: Camelbak Charge 10LR
The Charge lists for $110.00