The lumbar series of packs from Camelbak have been somewhat polarizing in how they were received by riders. Riders either loved them, or were not fans at all, with the feel of wearing them often compared to carrying a sweaty amorous koala on your back.
Taking all the feedback into consideration, Camelbak redesigned their lumbar packs for 2016, with an all new “Lowrider” moniker. Like the first iteration of the LR series, the design of the pack maintains a low center of gravity, placing the bulk of the load over the hips.
We happen to be huge fans of that grabby koala. That sucker stayed put, even on sweet jumps and quick turns. For us they were significant improvements on pack design, as our other packs often left us with sore backs after a day of riding. Admittedly, it wasn’t the prettiest pack on your back, so when we heard Camelbak had new and improved models on coming out we had to investigate.
We met up with Camelbak marketing manager Seth Beiden at the Dirt Demo at Interbike, and managed to abscond with preproduction models of the Lowrider Skyline and Solstice packs to sample, and have been hitting the local trails for ride time with them.
The Lowrider series of packs are designed to focus the weight of the load on your waist to aid with stability during descents. Putting the weight of your cargo and water near your hips helps keep your center of gravity lower on the bike. Carrying the weight lower also aids with the prevention of lower back pain.
The design of the packs feels like second generation design with a place for everything, and comes equipped with a laundry list of features including:
- Fleece-lined Sunglass/ media pocket
- Magnetic catch for tube
- Stretch overflow storage (also fits goggles perfectly)
- Helmet holder hooks
- Armor Carry Straps
- Lumbar compression straps (our pre-production test models were non-functional)
- Blinker tab
- Waist belt pockets
- tool roll
Like the previous LR series packs, the Skyline and Solstice put the water weight of the pack on your waist as opposed to along your spine, which, along with lumbar compression straps, help minimize pack swing when cornering.
The new models remove the winged bladder and pouch that focused on dispersing water weight on the side of the hips, minimizing the grabby koala effect. A lot of work was clearly put into the pack to address sweat, and both the pack and straps feature a quick-dry mesh fabric.
Although the packs don’t look that big, they’re wider than a typical pack and you can jam quite a bit of stuff into them with 610 cubic inches of capacity and a full 3 liter reservoir. I’ve yet to fill the entire bladder which can carry more than enough water for an all day adventure. The Skyline and Solstice weigh in at 2 lb 3 oz / 0.98 kg.
On the Trail
First impressions were extremely positive; Inga liked the Solstice so much she immediately put it on and began dancing in a wading pool. (no, seriously) She then headed to the car, unloaded her gear from her previous pack and used the Solstice for the duration of Interbike Trade Show. If you’ve experienced back pain or back issues with other packs, (we initially began to have back issues after a car accident a few years back and the LR series has made a big improvement to back comfort while riding) this pack should be on your radar.
The new design allows more air to your upper back, with all the weight sitting lower and slightly further out from the previous models, with more usable cargo space. My preference is to run the waist straps extremely snug on the hips, while keeping the shoulder straps relaxed until dropping into technical terrain or flow trails. When loaded just right, it feels like a waist pack with shoulder straps stabilizing the whole thing.
Our pre-production samples had non-functional lumbar compression straps that were sewn on incorrectly, so we experienced a bit more pad swing than the smaller Charge/Spark LR packs we’ve been using. It’s probably not noticeable to most people, but we’ve been spending a lot more time riding flow trails filled with jumps and berms and it made us a bit nervous when getting rad. (that said, we tend to stick with waist packs when planning a day full of dirt jumps)
We also weren’t aware of it at the time, but because of the bigger water and pack capacity, we both carried more water than we usually bring. I tend to run the bladder about half full (plus a bottle on my bike with a flavored electrolyte mix) unless its going to be a warm or long day, but I’ve been running the Charge LR, which has a 2 L capacity bladder as opposed to a 3L.
I find that to be the downside of running a bigger pack; a weird urge to carry more stuff and fill it— I’m pretty sure this is some kind of rule or something.
With occasional back issues I’ve been somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to my ride carry, but the larger carrying capacity has been great to have for epic trail rides in the back country. This is especially the case now that temperatures are dropping, necessitating the need for additional layers, food and a vest or jacket.
I’m also able to fit my Fuji EX-1 mirrorless camera with a zoom lens into the pack with plenty of room over for additional cargo. In fact, I even managed to fit my full size Canon 5DIII DSLR camera with a zoom lens on it, which made me extremely happy.
Camelbak will start shipping the new packs soon, and we’re looking forward to receiving the updated production models. Pricing isn’t posted quiet yet, but you can check out the Camelbak Skyline LR on Camelbak.com. There are other colors, but most importantly it comes in black and Bermstyle blue™. (boooooosh)
We’re also anxious to check out the new Palos 4LR waist pack, which looks like a perfect compliment for rides under 2 hours or so, which should fully cover the bases for future adventures.
The Solstice 10LR that Inga is wearing is the women’s specific model, and features an S-shaped harness and a wider range of adjustment on the sternum strap to work better for women. Check it out here.