CamelBak Classic Review
Cons: Almost no storage, shoulder straps are snug for users with wide shoulders and lats
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you're looking for a high-quality hydration pack with a minimalist design without all the bells and whistles, the Classic from CamelBak is one of the lightest models in our test and on the market. While it doesn't have a ton of storage space, that's likely not the reason you're shopping for a minimalist contender like the Classic. This year we selected the Classic for one of our Best Buy Awards over other similarly sized packs because of its simple design, low weight, and low price. If you're someone who's counting grams and counting pennies, this should be your hydration pack of choice.
Ease of Drinking
As do the other CamelBak products in our test, the Classic comes supplied with the well-regarded Crux hydration bladder and Big Bite valve system. CamelBak claims a 20% increase in "per sip" volumes compared to bite valves of the past. While measuring that quantity exactly isn't really feasible for us, we can attest to the fact that the CamelBak products, including the Classic, delivered fluids with the greatest of ease in our test, and scores near the top of the heap in this rating metric.
Though not in our current testing lineup, we put the Classic up against an older generation CamelBak hydration pack and saw the flow rate "per sip" was indeed noticeably better.
Another handy feature is the practical and easy to use shutoff switch on the Big Bite valve. Flip it forward to stop the flow and stop potential drips, then flip it back to experience easy drinking. If ever in doubt which way is open or closed, CamelBak even put pictures on the valve! So simple!
Ease of Filling
Once we were ready to fill up our Classic, our testers found it was incredibly easy to fill up the pack's 2.5-liter hydration bladder. While several of the models in our testing lineup have convenient quick-release drinking hoses, the Classic doesn't have this feature.
Initially, we wondered if this may hinder our ability to quickly and easily fill the pack up, but after opening the quick-release flap on the outer portion of the backpack, we found the entire wide-mouthed bladder opening staring us in the face, eliminating the need to unhook the drinking hose at all for a simple refill.
Another convenient feature for filling is the ergonomic handle on the Crux hydration bladder. At first glance, we were skeptical of how functional this is, but we were pleasantly surprised to see the handle does make filling up easier. When holding the bladder's opening under the faucet, the shoehorn-shaped handle keeps the wide opening horizontal and allows for complete filling without much spillage.
The Classic is comfortable when used for its intended purpose: carrying 2.5 liters of water and a couple of small items like a little snack, some bike tools, or a wallet and keys. Go beyond that type of simple load and well…actually, you can't go beyond that, because the pack is simply a lightly padded/insulated water carrying bag with one extra pocket.
As is the case with the other lightweight packs in our test, the Classic also experiences the rounded, cylindrical fit when filled, but this is alleviated after drinking 0.5 liters of the 2.5-liter liquid capacity.
The simple mesh shoulder straps are more than adequate to support this minimalist pack and provide decent ventilation in order to keep our shoulders and back dry. In keeping with the sleek, lightweight, and straightforward design, CamelBak does not include a hip belt with the Classic. Our testers gave mixed reviews on the lack of hip belt, with some preferring even a simple belt while others felt that when used in its intended element, road cycling or light day hiking, a belt would just be in the way. Trail runners were also undecided between the belt versus no belt question.
We also put the Classic through the Tahoe trail wringer and had similar results. For light, non-technical mountain bike riding, the Classic could be your ultralight pack of choice, but for anything technical, we would recommend something a little more secure.
With a light and fast storage capacity of 0.5 liters, this is one of the packs in our test with the least amount of gear storage, with only one small pocket for just the essentials.
This competitor's primary use is to carry water, a couple of food bars, an inner tube, and CO2 cartridges, or maybe even a superlight nylon wind jacket. If you're looking for a larger gear carrying ability, this is not your pack, and you should check out the similarly designed CamelBak Rogue for 2-liters of additional storage volume and a small jump in price.
This model is extremely light and at 11.2 oz, the CamelBak Classic is one of the lightest packs we've ever tested and one of the lightest hydration packs on the market. Obviously, you'll be trading extra storage volume and higher-end features for such a minimalist design, but for its intended purpose, it's tough to beat the scant weight of the Classic.
The nearest competitors in regards to pack weight (we measured them ourselves!) are a couple of ounces heavier than the Classic. Are we splitting hairs? Perhaps. But if you think saving every ounce counts, the Classic is the one for you!
Ease of Cleaning
The Classic is an easy-maintenance pack that cleans up nicely. The Crux hydration bladder comes with a wide mouth opening that allows easy access, even for those of us with larger meathooks. Our testers were able to clean and wipe down the inside of the bladder without too much trouble, although not as easy as the other models with folding wide-mouth openings.
With the lack of a quick-release button on the drinking hose, thoroughly cleaning the hose can be a bit more difficult. To gain the hydration bladder end of the drinking hose, we found you'll need to completely remove the bladder and pop the hose off the bladder fitting. When it's cleaning time, it's easy to pull the bladder from the outer bag through an elasticized opening at the top of the pack.
The Classic is a great buy for minimalist hydration pack users who are seeking a quality pack and earns one of our Best Buy Awards with its small price tag. Adding to the value is the quality guarantee (for a lifetime!) that CamelBak offers.
Are you a no-frills cyclist looking for a simple and sleek pack? Are you a casual hiker looking for an easy way to carry water on your next outing? Does the thought of carrying even an extra ounce make you cringe and keep you up at night? If you think any of that describes you, the CamelBak Classic is worth a look!
— Jason Cronk