Camlebak The Don – First Impressions

by Brian Mullin on May 20, 2010

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Camelbak has released two new hydration packs made specifically for the All Mountain and Freeride community. The Don (17.5L) and The Capo (11L) have the usual Camelbak features, along with the ability to carry full face helmets and body armor.

The Don
The Don has a carrying capacity of 17.5L or 1070 cu in, and the water reservoir is 3L or 100oz, and comes in at a light 800 grams or 1.8 lbs. (not verified).

The Don is made with a slightly tougher rip-stop material than most packs, so that it can take the additional abuse and abrasion that the AM/FR rider is going to toss at it. I can attest to the blows the pack can sustain, since I have crashed on it, slammed into trees and bushes. The packs white color combination (Methyl Blue/Racing Red) was a bit garish for my tastes, and it showed the dirt pretty quickly, but it does come in 3 other colors.

The air director back panel has a lot of padding so it is comfortable, even when fully loaded, but it seems to retain a lot of sweat and stays pretty hot, without many ventilation capabilities. When the reservoir is filled near its max, it tends to bow out into the padding, and you feel it softly poke you in the back, which I found a bit annoying and slightly uncomfortable. It was easy to remedy by carrying a tad less water.

Although the waist belt doesn’t have much padding, it does a great job of carrying the load, and pulls the pack nicely into your lower back, helping to keep the weight close. The articulated shoulder strap system is an odd beast. The actual padded shoulder strap is free floating from the main pack (not directly attached on top), and instead is connected with a wide piece of webbing. The system offers a lot of movement, but it sometimes allows the pack to flop around on technical trails when one is hanging all over the bike.

The carrying system for a full face helmet is really sweet. Without instructions, I wasn’t really sure what straps to use, except for the obvious ones under the flap to hold the chin bar. I have yet to find a hydration pack company that gives you any instruction on how to use things, call it a features guide or suggestion FAQ, come on guys, your features can be a bit confusing?

It was an easy task to attach, I just popped open the front flap, snapped the two chin straps onto the helmet’s chin bar.

I then pulled the flap up and over the chin guard, closed its Velcro, snapped flaps 4 straps, and cinched them tight. When the full face helmet is strapped down, it stayed on super stable, with no flopping.

I tend to ride up with a normal helmet, and then switch to the full face for downhilling or when I know I will be riding gnarly terrain. Carrying the normal helmet was also easy since it slips nicely into the flap’s pouch, although I detached the visor to make things easier. There are enough strapping to secure the load, carry armor (nice set of bottom straps), and pretty much anything that is required.

The pack has a plethora of pockets or compartments, besides the main one and the reservoir pocket. The main compartment of the pack is quite cavernous, with the zipper going 2/3 of the way around it. Once opened, with the side compression straps undone, the main compartment sort of flops open. In the main compartment there are two pouches, and two zippered pockets, one is quite large and sits down low, which is nice to segregate items like first aid kit, and larger tools and fix-it gear, while the other pocket is for smaller items.

On the top of the pack is a sealed/water resistant pocket for electronics (I put my camera there), and a padded eyeglass one (usually my keys and wallet).

By your hips, there is a small zippered pocket I used for my cell phone (easy to reach, unzip and the grab phone), and then a lift pass holder with Velcro flash cover.

I am not a big fan of their reservoir system, it’s difficult to open the screw cap, sort of a pain to fill, but it’s redeemed that the skinny shape snakes nicely into the pack. The bite valve system is adequate, but nothing to write home about. I tend to turn it on and off due to its occasional mini drips (not leaking), and I do wish it had a right angle bend for ease of use? I must admit that I have gotten spoiled by the newer systems, like those from Hydrapak and Source.

The Don is a comfortable pack, that is durable (tough material), fairly light, and has a host of features. The wide waist strap was greatly appreciated, and it kept the pack from flopping around, and helped carry the load. The ability to attach a full face helmet easily, and securely with no flopping around was obviously the highlight of the pack. The plethora of straps, allows the carrying of body armor, jackets and about anything else. The pack has plenty of useful pockets, and I really enjoyed the sealed top pocket for my camera, since it was easy to grab it without having to resort to unstrapping anything nor maneuvering in the main compartment to grab it. I am looking forward to more testing of this fine hydration pack.

2010 The Don Specs
Size: 20 ” x 12.25″ x 9.5″
Weight: 1.73 lbs (.79 kg)
Reservoir Capacity: 100 oz (3 L)
Cargo Capacity: 1070 cu in (17.53 L)
Designed to Carry – Full-face Helmet, Body Armor, Goggles, Extra Layers, Lunch, Tools, Pumps, Spare Tubes, Electronics
Back Panel: Air Director
Harness: Independent Suspension Yoke
Belt: 38mm/1.5″ Compression/Stability Belt
4 colors
MSRP (US only): $120.00

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