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CamelBak Octane 18 Review

This pack is best suited for light loads and low-intensity activities due to its sack-like structure
CamelBak Octane 18
Photo: CamelBak
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Price:  $125 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Easy to access bladder, large capacity, easy access storage
Cons:  Sags with weight, not breathable
Manufacturer:   CamelBak
By Tara Reddinger-Adams ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2021
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Ease of Drinking - 20% 8
  • Ease of Filling - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 5
  • Storage - 20% 8
  • Weight - 10% 8
  • Ease of Cleaning - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Camelbak Octane 18 boasts 16 liters of storage with unique mesh pockets that provide quick access to items on the shoulder straps. The pack's main compartment is a large opening like a sack and has little structure. We found that when we loaded up the pack with heavy or bulky items that it sagged making it uncomfortable. Water is provided by the 2-liter Crux™ bladder which has its own compartment and has a comfortable bite valve with a good flow rate to boot. If you're someone who hates hip belts you may love the dual sternum straps that help to secure the pack tightly to your back. Because the pack fits tightly, airflow to the back is poor making this pack a poor choice for hot weather or high-intensity activities.

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CamelBak Octane 18
This Product
CamelBak Octane 18
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$129.95 at Backcountry
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$129.99 at Amazon
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$70 List
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$60.00 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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75
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61
Star Rating
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Pros Easy to access bladder, large capacity, easy access storageBreathability, excellent storage, comfort and supportGood storage, easy to access bladder, hip belt pockets, comfortable bite valve, lightweightBig volume, lightweight, great priceLightweight, sleek, solid performance in a minimalist pack, nice price
Cons Sags with weight, not breathableExpensive, thin hip beltNo rain cover, only comes with 2-liter bladderFewer pockets, lacking breathabilityAlmost 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 structureThis comfortable, breathable, supportive, and full-featured hydration pack earns our highest praiseIt's hard to find many faults with this well thought out pack that has a great blend of storage capacity and comfortA simple bag with a functional design and an excellent volume to weight to price ratioNot 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%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Ease Of Filling (20%)
9.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
8.0
Comfort (20%)
5.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
4.0
Storage (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
2.0
Weight (10%)
8.0
5.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Ease Of Cleaning (10%)
6.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
6.0
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.

Bulky and heavy loads did not work well with this packs design.
Bulky and heavy loads did not work well with this packs design.
Photo: Byron Adams

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.

There are two attachment points on the right shoulder strap for the...
There are two attachment points on the right shoulder strap for the hydration hose.
Photo: Tara Reddinger-Adams

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.

A shoe horn style handle and large diameter makes filling relatively...
A shoe horn style handle and large diameter makes filling relatively easy.
Photo: Tara Reddinger-Adams

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.

The hose quick connect is located at the base of the bladder and is...
The hose quick connect is located at the base of the bladder and is easy to use.
Photo: Tara Reddinger-Adams

Comfort


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 back of the pack was drenched in sweat after a non-technical...
The back of the pack was drenched in sweat after a non-technical mountain bike ride in 45-degree cloudy weather.
Photo: Tara Reddinger-Adams

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.

With lighter loads, we were able to get the pack to sit more...
With lighter loads, we were able to get the pack to sit more comfortably on our back.
Photo: Byron Adams

Storage


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 shoulder strap pockets are great for quick access items and are...
The shoulder strap pockets are great for quick access items and are even large enough to fit an iPhone.
Photo: Tara Reddinger-Adams

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 more than one occasion the zipper got stuck in the body of the...
On more than one occasion the zipper got stuck in the body of the pack.
Photo: Tara Reddinger-Adams

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.

We were able to stuff a lot of gear into the cavernous main...
We were able to stuff a lot of gear into the cavernous main compartment.
Photo: Byron Adams

Weight


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 main compartment can easily be turned inside out or shaken to...
The main compartment can easily be turned inside out or shaken to clean out any dirt or debris.
Photo: Tara Reddinger-Adams

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Here you can see how the base of the pack is sagging down from a...
Here you can see how the base of the pack is sagging down from a heavier load.
Photo: Byron Adams

Tara Reddinger-Adams