Camelbak Volt 13 LR Review

by Brian Mullin on October 24, 2013

CamelBak has been making their LR line of hydration packs for several years now, with the initial iteration being the minimalistic Octane LR. They refined that LR (lumbar) design, and add more storage and features to the Charge 10 LR and the newer Volt 13 LR. They’re all great packs that are light, super comfy and carry the water weight down on the lumbar.

The CamelBak
Volt 13 LR hydration pack is extremely comfortable, light and
conformable, and features their new 100 oz Antidote lumbar reservoir,
which resides at the bottom of the pack. The lumbar (LR) design places
the water low on the hips and back for stability and comfort, and it
conforms to the shape and oddities of your body for a great fit. The Volt 13 LR
weighs 700 grams (pack and reservoir), and has softly padded back, hip,
and shoulders, and is constructed with their Ultra-light materials,
using a combination of ripstop and stretchy nylon. The wraparound body
uses their LV back panel, and Ultra-light 3-D Mesh Independent
Suspension with Slider Sternum Strap. It has a 10 liter storage capacity
with excellent organizational pockets, and comes in two colors, Pirate
Black/Graphite and Brick/Dove, and retails for $125.

Features

The
upper portion of the pack has a long and narrow zippered main
compartment, which opens in clam shell style for easy access. It has
three meshed organizational pockets, one large and two smaller ones, and
the larger one has a Velcro closure tab. On the front is a smaller
zippered compartment, with two meshed pockets and a key clip. Between
the front and main compartments is a storage sleeve with stretchy side
panels that expands to accommodate bulkier items, including apparel and
armor. All the pockets and compartments combine together to give 600 cu
in or 10L of storage space, although the middle sleeve adds quite a bit
of additional volume. It has two upper compression straps for cinching
down the load, and helmet strap hooks located on either side for
attaching your helmet for carrying.

The
padded hip belt uses 1-inch webbing with a front clip, and has zippered
cargo pockets on each side. In addition, the pack is equipped with
lumbar compression straps (orange pull tabs), which draws the bottom of
the pack into the back as the reservoir’s water volume decreases,
keeping things stabilized, with the weight in tight to the body. The 100
oz. or 3L Antidote reservoir with the Quick Link connector, sits in a
zippered pouch at the lower back, slightly wrapping backwards around the
hips.

Antidote Lumbar Reservoir

The
new larger 100 oz/3 liter Antidote lumbar reservoir has a trapezoidal
shape and sits down low on the back instead of the traditional vertical
layout along the spine. The bite valve worked quite nicely, and was easy
to draw, and didn’t leak. 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 makes it
handier to hold onto the reservoir. They added an auto shutoff quick
disconnect, named the Quick Link, which allows you to disconnect the
reservoir from the drink hose, which facilitates cleaning, filling and
drying.

Impressions

The
Volt 13 LR carries over most of its design from the excellent Charge 10
LR, and has added some great new features, yet has still retained the
functional low lumbar weight carrying and stability characteristics of
its brethren. The Volt 13 LR gets the bigger 100 oz reservoir, larger
hip pockets, a front pocket and an overall increased storage capacity.
The lumbar design pulls the weight off the shoulders, and moves it onto
the lumbar and lower back and hips, offering increased stability and
weight carrying characteristics, and draws the center of gravity in
close to the torso.

The LV back panel uses their ‘integrated
ventilated system’, and it’s soft and conformable, and offers good
comfort and ventilation, though with everything squished up against the
lumbar, it can get damp in that particular spot.  The bottom of the pack
rolls around your hips and feels like a favorite comfy pillow. The hip
belt and back panel were nicely padded, and highly flexible, so it
conformed extremely well to the contours of your back, and it carried
the weight in a balanced manner. The shoulder straps were minimally
padded, and I found them decently comfortable as long as you kept the
load to a reasonable weight. The pack itself is light, and I never felt
the weight, even with the full three liters of water and the additional
gear being carried, though when the reservoir is completely full, it
pushes slightly on your back. By having the weight of the water pulled
down into your lumbar and not on your shoulders, along with the rest of
the gear being snuggled tightly into the back; the pack seems to
disappear, while offering excellent stability. The conformability and
stability of the design mean the packs doesn’t flop around on rough
terrain, and mostly stays put. I did notice that it lifted upwards on
occasion and bounced around a bit more on extremely rough terrain and
drop offs, especially in direct comparison to the Charge 10 LR, the
latter having a Velcroed in place characteristic.

The
pack has their nifty helmet hook, which allows you to snag your helmet
straps onto a small clip to carry your helmet when it’s not being worn. I
did find that something the helmet straps would pop up out of the hook
if the helmet got pushed upwards or got bounced hard. The lumbar
compression straps, which are located on each side of the hips, are
hidden inside the wings, and help pull the bottom of the pack into the
back when the extra girth of the used up water reservoir shrinks during
usage. It keeps the pack, load and weight stable and centered on the
back, and can be done on the fly. Although its primary use is for the
reservoir, it can also be used to trim and alter the way the pack sits
on your back, giving one micro tuning customizations.

The main
compartment had a nice long zipper, which opened along most of the
pack’s length, allowing efficient access to everything without having to
dig around for hidden items. The three mesh pockets in the main
compartments are located at the bottom of the pack for stability and to
keep the weight on the hips. They offered effective organizing for
tools, parts, and other sundry items, and the small Velcro closing tab
on the inner one kept things in place. The pump holder sat up higher in
the pack above the pockets, and worked nicely to keep the pump secure
and out of the way. The hip belt’s two cargo pockets are quite roomy,
and I really liked the increased volume compared to the Charge 10 LR,
and I used them for my cell phone, camera, tools, and keys. The middle
sleeve pocket was excellent for overflow storage, and the stretchy
material on its side allowed a jacket or armor to be placed in it.

The
Antidote lumbar reservoir system worked 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. The larger 100 oz capacity was
nice to have, as it made longer rides tolerable without having to resort
to carrying an extra water bottle. To remove the reservoir, unzip the
rear compartment, pull it out and unclip the tube. You can fill the
reservoir back up, clip the tube, push the tails into the hip belt, and
then hook it back on and zip it shut.

Although the pack has been
moderately robust, you need to be careful since its made from
lightweight fabric. I tore a hip pocket to shreds when I snagged a tree
branch when I was dive bombing down a trail, and another hip pocket has
some worn areas from scarping against rocks. Every other section of the
pack hasn’t shown any signs of wear, and I tend to abuse stuff to death,
so I might be an anomaly.

Measured Specs:

  • Pack Weight (no reservoir) –   518 grams / 18.3  oz
  • Antidote Reservoir (with hose) –  182 grams /  6.4 oz
  • Total Weight –   700 grams /  24.7 oz
Bottom Line

The
CamelBak Volt 13 LR is a great pack, and synergy of the lumbar design,
low slung reservoir, conformable back panel and hip belt, and functional
suspension system makes for a very stable and comfortable entity. The
pack adheres to your back, and it carries the weight centered
properly on your hips and lumbar. It seems to all but disappears and
stays in place, although on some drop-offs and rougher terrain, it does
get some lift and bounces around. The lumbar compression straps helped
pull the bottom of the pack into the back when the reservoir started to
shrink in size, and it was useful for doing customized load and fit
trimming. Besides the great load carrying and stability characteristics,
the pack had some other excellent features, including helmet hooks, the
main compartments clam shell opening and mesh pockets, the roomy side
cargo pockets, and the stretchy middle overflow sleeve. Pockets galore!
The new larger 100 oz (3 L) of water can get you through most rides, and
the 10L (600 cu in) of storage space is adequate for most adventures,
especially when adding in the middle sleeve, though it doesn’t carry
heavy loads that well. It’s made from lightweight materials, so you do
need to be careful with its lack of robustness.

The Volt 13 LR’s
innovative design, lightweight materials, soft padding, and its highly
flexible nature, create a plush and comfortable pack, and it becomes one
with the back, and has enough water and storage space for most rides.

Strengths
  • Antidote lumbar reservoir
  • Comfortable,  conformable and nicely padded
  • Weight and pack disappear
  • Main compartment clam shell opening
  • Large hip pockets
  • Lumbar compression straps
  • Middle overflow sleeve
Weaknesses
  • Lightweight material isn’t the most robust (hip cargo pockets take the most abuse)
  • Back can get sweaty
  • Doesn’t carry heavy loads well
  • Pack can bounce around and lift up on drop-offs and rougher terrain

MSRP: $125

Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers 

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