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Hands-on Gear Review

CamelBak Classic Review

Best Buy Award

Hydration Pack

  • Currently 3.7/5
Overall avg rating 3.7 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: September 6, 2015
Price:   $59 List | Varies from $44 - $59 online
Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Light, good value, easy to use.
Cons:  Not much storage.
Manufacturer:   CamelBak
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ September 6, 2015  
The model that started the hydration pack revolution is still one of our favorites and wins our Best Buy award. The Classic has changed over the years and and is now a little heavier, more convenient, and easier to clean. It is a minimalist pack just room for a bladder, a few bars, and a layer. But for most day hikes of fewer than four hours, that is all you need. It is one of the lightest packs we tested and can often be found for less than $50, which is getting close to the price of just a hydration reservoir alone. If you want more storage, check out the CamelBak M.U.L.E.
Curious how the Classic compared to all of the contenders that we tested? Check out the complete Hydration Pack review.

New Version Update - March 2015
The Classic has been redesigned - see below for additional information and a side-by-side photo comparison.

RELATED: Our complete review of hydration packs

  • Photos
Click to enlarge

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Update - March 2015
The Classic has been aesthetically redesigned and is available in new colors. The pack appears to have remained the same, minus a few minor details, including the addition of a small zip pocket on the front. Check out what CamelBak has to say about the changes:

"Essentially, the one major change to the product since 2012 would be the increased size of the front cargo pocket, where there used to be a small essentials pocket and overflow bungee. The fabrics have been updated, but the reservoir size and other key features remain the same.


Hands-On Review


Just the bare bones here: a chest strap and two lightly padded shoulder straps. We find it plenty comfortable because it is so light but it is in no way cushy. When it is fully loaded, some testers wished for a waist belt to take a little of the weight off the tops of their shoulders.

Ease of Cleaning

The bladder is relatively easy to clean, as is the hose. But, unlike the bladders that fully open at the top, you can't just throw it in the dishwasher and then have it dry easily. You have to buy the CamelBak cleaning kit, ($20, sold separately) or improvise your own cleaning kit.


There is no waist belt and the high sternum strap means this pack is not great for running (it bounces around). Serious mountain bikers may be turned off by the lack of waist strap. For most other applications (hiking, climbing) the Classic is stable enough.

This is the reviewer's favorite hydration pack for one-day El Capitan ascents. Below is an older model of the Classic used on a speed record climb of El Cap. It is light, low profile and has just enough room for the day's water, food, and a wind shirt.
Click to enlarge
Chris McNamara leading high on the Shield
Credit: Corey Rich

Ease of Use

The reservoir is easy to get in and out of the pack and one of the easiest reservoirs to fill. The bite valve is convenient (but not as convenient as the Osprey system).


There is not much. You can shove a couple bars inside the main compartment that holds the reservoir and strap a light rain jacket or wind shell to the outside.


Bomber. This is the pack we have tested over the longest period of time and we have never had an issue with the reservoir leaking. We did lose the bite valve at one point due to it getting hung up on climbing gear. This will not be an issue for most people.


This is heavier than the older classic models due to heavier fabrics and a heavier water bladder. But it is still one of the lightest in our review. The only lighter pack we tested is the Camelbak RaceBak, which has almost zero storage and is a whole different animal.

Other Versions

Click to enlarge
CamelBak M.U.L.E.
  • Editors' Choice Award Winner!
  • MULE = Medium to Ultra Long Endeavours
  • Plenty of storage
  • Lightweight, 29 oz
  • $110

Click to enlarge
  • Designed specifically for women
  • Shorter pack length
  • 1 lb 6 oz
  • Specially lined shoulder and chest straps
  • $109.00

Click to enlarge
CamelBak Marathoner Vest
  • Super lightweight
  • Vest meets backpack design
  • Stays put while running
  • $100


Click to enlarge
CamelBak Antidote Reservoir
  • Best Buy Award Winner for hydration bladders!
  • Easy to fill wide mouth opening
  • Great bite valve design
  • $35 for 2L version

Click to enlarge
CamelBak Antidote Thermal Control Kit
  • Helps to keep the tube from freezing during cold weather events.
  • $20

Click to enlarge
CamelBak Cleaning Brush Kit
  • For cleaning inside both reservoir and hydration hose, especially important if using hydration drink mix inside the reservoir.
  • $10

Also make sure to check out our Best Energy Bar review as well.

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: September 6, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 75%  (3)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 25%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Sep 15, 2014 - 12:36pm
RNFrog · Hiker · San Diego, CA
I've had various iterations of this model since version 1 (yes, quite a few years). The carrying capacity is lacking but it makes up for this in its versatility. Over the years I've cycled, ran and carried them on infantry field duty all over SouthEast Asia as a Marine. Then Gulf War-I came along--and Camelbaks gain quite an official military following.

Currently I have 3 camelbaks hung in my garage, they all serve a particular purpose and do each job well.

As fast getting rid of the plastic taste and keeping the drinking hose clean, I initially clean the whole system with a strong combination of vinegar and water and only carry water. Sports drink and other sugar containing fluids only promote bacterial growth. I've also replaced all the bladders with the removable drinking hoses so I swap out and clean or use various hose configurations (on has a Sawyer water filter for backpacking trips--just swap and go).
  • Luis V. RN
MGySgt USMC Ret.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 25, 2014 - 12:08pm
NJ Camper · Road Biker
I am not sure whether to rate this as 1 or 2 stars. I am very dissatisfied with mine. I purchased this about 4 weeks ago and used it 3 times. No matter what I tried bleach, the Camel Back cleaning tablets or baking soda, water still tasted like plastic. It is not comfortable keeps riding up and the chest strap is always in my throat no matter how I adjust it. It does not nearly hold the amount of liquid it claim. The large fill cap makes cleaning easy, but lots of water spills out trying to close it. And when hanging to dry the cap falls off. The zipper pouch is almost completely useless, way too small. If I could find the receipt I would return it. Many people love them, just is terrible for me.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Jan 22, 2013 - 10:54am
simply_light · Backpacker · Midwest, Indiana
This was a no brainer for me. When going on longer runs, it makes it easy to carry along a sufficient water supply. After a while, you are so used to it, you forget it is there until you need it.

I've also used it from time to time on regular outings (like Disney World), so I wouldn't have to pay the outrageous prices at the theme parks for drinks and always have a drink handy.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Camelbak Classic, Older Version
Credit: Camelbak
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