CamelBak Octane LR Review

by Brian Mullin on March 8, 2011

The CamelBak Octane LR is an incredibly comfortable and trick hydration pack, which features their lumbar Antidote reservoir, which is situated at the bottom of the pack. The design places the water lower on hips and back for stability and comfort. The pack becomes part of your back, at least figuratively, as it conforms to the shape and oddities of your body, and it doesn’t bounce around, even when bending forward. The Octane LR uses lightweight ripstop fabric with reinforcement at key areas, and has 549 cu in (9 L) of space with a 70 oz (2 L) Antidote Reservoir. It’s an ideal pack for mountain biking, trail running and adventure racing.

Antidote Reservoir
The new lumbar Antidote reservoir (70 oz / 2 liters) is pretty amazing, and CamelBak has done a full redesign of their units, adding many features and functionality, and has caught up to the competition’s innovations. The lumbar version sits horizontal in contrast to the typical vertical layout, and it includes mini baffles (the small cutouts) to keep the water from sloshing around and keep the shape from getting too fat. The bite valve worked quite nicely, and was easy to draw, and didn’t leak (at least not yet). The screw cap for the fill port takes only a quarter turn to open or close, and it does not get stuck and require brute force to open. Just line up the arrow on the cap with the circle icon ‘O’ (with arrows pointing in tightening direction), and turn it a quarter turn clockwise until it lines up with the solid circle icon by the top hanging hook. It only takes a light touch to close the cap, and its water tight and snug. The fill port has a wider diameter hole for easier filling, cleaning and drying, and has a handle which hooks onto the drop slot of the packs zippered pouch, helping to keep it stable and secure, and in addition it makes it handier to hold the cumbersome wide reservoir. They added an auto shutoff quick disconnect, named the Quick Link, which allow you to disconnect the reservoir from the drink hose, which facilitates cleaning, filling and drying.

CamelBak Octane LR
The Octane LR (lumbar reservoir) is light 343 grams, is minimally padded using their Ultra-light 3D mesh, and is constructed with 70D mini ripstop, 230D taffeta, 420D Nylon (with DWR + 1000mm PU Coating) materials. The wraparound body uses their Air channel back panel, and has padded shoulder and waist straps, and a sternum strap. The upper portion of the pack has two main pockets (shaped liked trapezoids), one slightly larger than the other, and two small ones situated on the waist belt, and they combine together to give 9 liters or 549 cubic inches of space. On the lower front is an elastic mesh front pouch, with a bungee closure, and a skinny slot on the left shoulder strap. The Antidote reservoir sits in a dual zippered pouch at the bottom, wrapping backwards around the hips and the lumbar. The pack comes in two colors, Mirage and Frost Gray (as tested) or Lime Punch and Graphite.

Impressions
The space is pretty minimal if you’re used to having a lot of room available, so you can’t carry the kitchen sink with this one. I had to become a weight and size weenie, and only carry small short items, so I changed to a little first aid kit, tire pump, CO2 cartridge, etc. I ended up putting things in Ziploc bags for organizational purposes, which also worked well since sometimes you had to pull most of the pocket contents out to grab an item. The two main pockets measured at roughly 10″ x 6″, so nothing too tall, large or fat works. The hip belt has two cargo ones, which I used for my cell phone and camera, tools or keys on occasion.

The reservoir came with a LR specific hose, and it is seemingly designed to be routed from the bottom (according to CamelBak it can be run bottom or top), and up along the lower section of the shoulder straps.  I found it too short at 29″ for proper functionality, and I didn’t like the routing arrangement, so I borrowed a longer 35″ one from my other CamelBak pack’s, and routed it over the shoulder in the normal fashion, and it has worked just fine. They need to rethink the length and routing, and in addition add a hose loop around the mid back to enhance its placement. Inside the hydration pouch, there are two holes to route the hose through, so you could do either a right or left side set up, although only the right shoulder strap had a hard plastic hose clip. One of the main pocket’s ended up with a small hole that tore through into the hydration pouch near the hose egress (though never got bigger than a pinkie), so the complex stitching in that area seems to be done haphazardly, and they need to do some more QC?

The hip/waist belt, shoulder pads and back panel were minimally padded, though highly flexible, so it conformed extremely well to the contours of your back, and it carried the weight (what little there is), in a balanced and unnoticeable manner. The pack is feathery light, and I never felt the weight, even with the full 2 liters of water. Of course, since you can’t carry many items, it doesn’t weigh much anyway, but with the weight carried low on your lumbar and not on your shoulders, it does seem to disappear, and offers excellent stability. What I really like about this pack more than anything, is when I get into rough terrain, going of drop offs, ramps, ledges, etc., the pack never flops up towards your head, so I think it’s an ideal gravity pack for that reason, though it’s missing some back protection for rolling crashes. The LR’s waist belt seems to sit snugger and up higher on the stomach, and didn’t catch on your saddle when making severe sitting on the rear tire moves that happen on uber steep terrain. Between the weight seemingly disappearing, the lack of the pack doing a head flop nor bouncing around on your back, and no saddle catching, the LR becomes near invisible when wearing! It felt very much like a mountain runner wearable hydration belt instead of a cycling pack.

The Antidote reservoir system works extremely well, and the new screw closure only takes a quarter turn to open and close, and the wide mount is easy to pour into and clean, though to fill to capacity you do need to hold it with the handle at a slight angle to facilitate. When the bladder gets low, sometimes you don’t get the last vestiges of water due to the width of its shape. The Quick Link is pretty sweet, and facilitated clipping and in a leak-free manner for the bladder removal, though on occasion the hose would dribble some water, so I would blow the hose clean beforehand. Inserting the reservoir is an easy task, route the hose through the back hole, and place it into the pouch, push its tails into the waist belt, clip the hanging hook onto the upper yellow loop, and then flip the handle out over the flap, and finally zip it shut.

I would like to see a version with slightly more capacities, since it was a bit small for rides in inclement weather in the Colorado mountains, and you needed to be quite the minimalist to pack the sucker.

Measured Specs:

  • Octane LR pack – 342.5 grams / 12.1 oz
  • Antidote Reservoir (with hose) – 179.2 grams / 6.3 oz
  • Total Weight – 521.7 grams / 18.4 oz
  • Pocket sizes (trapezoid shape) – Right: (8″ x 4″) wide x 10″ tall x (.5″ to 3″) thick, Left (9″ x 7″) wide x 10″ tall x (.5″ to 3″) thick
  • Pack size – 19″ tall x 9″ wide, 22″ wide by hip

Bottom Line
The CamelBak Octane LR is a superb pack, that is comfortable, light and stable, due in a great part to the lumbar design which keeps the Antidote reservoir weight down low. The pack just sits so nicely, and carries the weight well on your hips, back and lumbar that it all but disappears, and during any type of riding, that I put it through, and it never seemed to flop or bounce around, especially on steep terrain (no head slap). The design, materials, and minimal padding create a highly conformable entity, and it becomes one with the back. The 70 oz (2 L) of water is fine if you’re not a guzzler, and the 549 cu in (9 L) of storage space works if you’re careful with what you carry.

The hose is too short for a properly functioning setup, and a small hole tore through the stitching in one pocket, and I would love to see a version with additional capacity.

The excellent Octane LR is a low slung and sleek pack which work extremely well, with just enough space for moderate rides, and is ideal for biking, hiking and running.

Strengths

  • Antidote bladder system
  • Comfortable and conformable
  • Weight and pack disappear
  • No flopping and bouncing around

Weaknesses

  • Hose is too short – additional tube is $9
  • Hole in the upper pocket
  • Need a tad more space (maybe an up sized model)

MSRP: $89

CamelBak Octane LR Company Specs:

  • Visit the website at http://www.camelbak.com
  • Back panel: Air channel
  • Harness: Ultra-light 3D mesh
  • Belt: 1 in / 25 mm 840D lightweight tape with cargo pocket
  • Additional Features: Lumbar Reservoir (LR) provides superb stability, External Fill, Harness pockets, Front and back reflectivity
  • Designed to Carry: Extra layers, ultra-light weather protection, energy bars, head lamp, trail maps, compass
  • Hydration Capacity: 70 oz (2 L) – Quick Link™ System, quick-seal cap, lightweight fillport, dryer arms, patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, PureFlow™ tube, easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening
  • Total Capacity: 549 CU IN (9 L)
  • Pack Weight: 12.6 oz (360 g)
  • Fabric Specs: 70D mini ripstop, 230D taffeta & 420D Nylon with DWR + 1000mm PU Coating
  • Torso Length: 16 in (41 cm)
  • Colors: Mirage and Frost Gray or Lime Punch and Graphite.

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