CamelBak Octane 18 Review
Cons: Sags with weight, not breathable
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CamelBak Octane 18
$92.93 at REI
|$96.20 at Amazon|
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$47.89 at REI
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|Pros||Easy to access bladder, large capacity, easy access storage||Breathability, excellent storage, comfort and support||Good storage, easy to access bladder, hip belt pockets, comfortable bite valve, lightweight||Big volume, lightweight, great price||Lightweight, sleek, solid performance in a minimalist pack, nice price|
|Cons||Sags with weight, not breathable||Expensive, thin hip belt||No rain cover, only comes with 2-liter bladder||Fewer pockets, lacking breathability||Almost no storage, shoulder straps are snug for users with wide shoulders and lats|
|Bottom Line||This pack is best suited for light loads and low-intensity activities due to its sack-like structure||This comfortable, breathable, supportive, and full-featured hydration pack earns our highest praise||It's hard to find many faults with this well thought out pack that has a great blend of storage capacity and comfort||A simple bag with a functional design and an excellent volume to weight to price ratio||Not just a classic, but THE Classic in minimalist packs and our recommendation for minimalists and those on a tight budget|
|Rating Categories||CamelBak Octane 18||Osprey Syncro 12||Evoc Ride 12L||Gregory Nano 18 H2O||CamelBak Classic|
|Ease of Drinking (20%)|
|Ease of Filling (20%)|
|Ease of Cleaning (10%)|
|Specs||CamelBak Octane 18||Osprey Syncro 12||Evoc Ride 12L||Gregory Nano 18 H2O||CamelBak Classic|
|Pack Size (liters)||16 L||12 L||12 L||18 L||0.5 L|
|Bladder Capacity (liters)||2 L||2.5 L||2 L||3 L||2.5 L|
|Weight (measured)||22.4 oz||34.0 oz||24.0 oz||25.6 oz||11.2 oz|
|Weight (claimed)||14.0 oz||27.5 oz||20.8 oz||18.4 oz||5.0 oz|
|Waist Belt||None||3/4" webbing||1" webbing with light padding at back and 2 pockets||Removable 3/4" webbing||None|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Camelbak Octane 18 is designed as a lightweight multi-sport hydration pack that weighs 22.4 ounces (1.4 pounds) with the included 2-liter bladder. With a double sternum strap design to keep the pack cinched up tightly to your back, there is no need for a hip belt on this pack, and the shoulder straps feature six storage pockets for easy access. The 2-liter Crux™ bladder has a comfortable bite valve with a great flow rate, making drinking comfortable. The pack's main compartment is like a sack, and there is no base support, meaning heavy loads tend to sag. A 3D Vent Mesh Back panel left us with a consistently sweaty back due to poor ventilation and breathability. We found this pack most comfortable to use during non-strenuous activities with lightweight loads.
Ease of Drinking
The Octane 18 features Camelbak's 2-liter Crux™ bladder, whose bite valve is not only comfortable in the mouth but also has a very good flow rate. A flip switch allows you to turn the water on and off to the bite valve to prevent leaking. This feature is especially nice when your pack is in the car and may get other items tossed on top of it, causing the water to flow out.
There is no magnetic bite valve attachment for the Octane 18 instead, the hose is secured to the right shoulder strap with two clips. For hiking, this set-up works fine, but our testers prefer a magnetic bite valve for activities such as mountain biking or trail running because the magnet allows quicker access to and stowing of the bite valve.
Ease of Filling
Accessing the is bladder is easy, just look for the blue zipper pull (water) and open the large compartment. Inside the 2-liter Crux™ bladder with Quicklink™ is held in place by a loop that goes around a double hook hanger on the bladder, which is easy to remove by pulling up on the bladder. The pack comes with only a 2-liter bladder which is on the smaller side for activities lasting all day or those in hot weather.
The 2-liter Crux™ bladder has a screw top opening that is large enough to fill from a lake or stream, and a large ergonomic handle allows you to comfortably hold the bladder with just one hand while filling, making filling a breeze unlike previous generations of Camelbak bladders. The bladders cap threads easily into place and it never leaked during testing. However, we did have to use some force at times to get the cap to unscrew after it had been closed for a few days.
The quick connect is on the base of the bladder, meaning the bladder must be removed from the pack to disconnect or reconnect the hose. This is not a deal-breaker, but newer designs on the market feature a quick connect located at the top of the bladder, which are easier to use.
Our testers found the comfort of the Octane 18 to be lackluster, especially in regards to breathability. The mesh shoulder straps are comfortable, but the 3D Vent Mesh back panel has poor airflow and breathability. We mountain biked in cool and cloudy 40-degree weather and hiked in 50 and 60-degree cloudy weather and always had a very sweaty back, which was also retained on the pack.
The pack is lightweight, and its main compartment is like a sack with minimal structure and no rigid support. When jogging or hiking with minimal loads, the sternum straps keep the load stable and prevent the pack from moving around too much. But heavier and bulky loads cause the base of the pack to sag which makes it uncomfortable. When hiking with a full bladder, a 16-ounce water bottle, trekking poles, and jacket in the pack, the load sagged down to the bottom of the pack, making it ride low on our back. Based on our testing, we feel Octane 18 provides the most comfort in low exertion activities with minimal loads.
The Octane 18 offers great storage options in its lightweight 16-liter design. We especially liked the shoulder straps, which have six different pockets, five of which are large enough to comfortably hold an iPhone 8 with a thick case. There is even a whistle on the pack's left shoulder strap in case of emergency.
We found these pockets to be great for snacks and phone while hiking. But while mountain biking, we shied away from placing hard objects such as our phone or multitool in them due to their potential to get pushed into your chest in a crash.
The main compartment is accessed by two rubber-coated zipper pulls, which do take some care to close. On more than one occasion we got the zipper caught in the pack's material and had to pull it out. The main compartment sits in front of the bladders sleeve and has no rigidity to it. We found the pack handled light loads best, as heavy items make the base sag. There are three small mesh pockets inside the main compartment to help keep smaller items organized. They are all large enough to hold bi-fold wallet-sized objects and there is even a key fob inside the zippered mesh pouch.
On the exterior of the pack are three mesh stretch pockets, one on each side and one on the front, along with two elastic straps. The elastic straps work great for securing your hiking poles to the pack when not in use, and the mesh side pockets are nice and deep and large enough for a water bottle or to quickly stow items you may want quickly, such as a raincoat or light jacket. For those who bike at night, there is a light clip on the base of the pack. Overall the pack has great storage capacity, especially on the shoulder straps, but does not have enough structure to support heavy loads.
Our measured weight of the Octane 18 on a digital scale is 22.4 ounces (1.4 pounds) with a bladder. Its storage capacity is the best for its weight, but the lack of structure is a consideration.
Ease of Cleaning
The Octane 18 can easily be cleaned inside and out and can even be turned inside out for cleaning. However, cleaning the bladder is more of a challenge and requires either a small hand or brushes. Our female tester could easily fit her hand into the bladders opening to clean it with a sponge, but for anyone with a medium to large-sized hand flexible brushes are required to clean the bladder.
Cleaning the inside of the pack is easy and it can even be turned inside out. If you lie the pack flat you can wipe down the main body, but tiny twigs and things can get caught in the mesh, making it a bit more difficult to clean. Because of this the Octane scores in the middle for this metric.
The Octane 18 falls in line with many of the packs tested in terms of price. However, it did perform the poorest of all the packs in terms of breathability compared to similarly priced packs.
Our testers really wanted to love this pack because the shoulder strap design has great access and storage for small items and the dual sternum straps are comfortable. But, the lack of structure to the main compartment makes bulky loads uncomfortable, and the breathability is poor. For those looking for a minimalistic pack to use during low exertion activities with light loads, the Octane 18 is worth a look. But, if you're looking to carry more than a few pounds, bulky loads, or are a runner, mountain biker, or hiker, you may be better served by other options.
— Tara Reddinger-Adams
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