Camelbak – 2011 The Don Review

Photos Dan Barham

Camelbak is no stranger to the art of hydration, with over 150 products dedicated to getting you the water you need, they are pretty much the undisputed king. They even produce hydration packs for militaries worldwide (but they don’t sell to Kim Jong Il no matter how much he begs).

A man’s best friend, out for an afternoon ride in the fall weather. Photo ~ Dan Barham

The Pack
The Don is one of Camelbak’s largest hydration packs in their mountain bike specific line and contains their new Antidote Reservoir with Quick Link System. (more on that later)

The Don has a carrying capacity of 21L or 1281 cu in, and the water reservoir is 3L or 100oz. It comes in three colours. (Black, Red and White and Pink)

The pack weighs in at 1.83 lbs or 830 grams empty. Add 3 litres of water and tools and the pack is still quite respectable. Construction of the pack is primarily a heavy gauge rip stop, waterproof material which has been proven over time to be tough (hence the name!).

Photo ~ Dan Barham

The military side of the company shines through on The Don as it is covered with small pockets all over the outside of the pack. The main compartment is accessed via a large zipper along the sides and the top of the pack. Two mesh pockets and 2 elastic pockets allow for separation of equipment within the pack, while holding them all in place. A small zippered hip pocket on the rider’s right of the pack, a goggle pocket, a camera pocket and a passholder round out the outside of The Don. As with all Camelbaks the pack comes with a large pouch on the back of the pack for half lids, which also incorporates the location of the strap down for your full face. At the bottom of the pack you’ll find straps to fasten your leg/arm armour for the long ride up.

The pack is the right size, not too big and not to small for al the all mountain rides. With all the compartments, each item has its place. Photo ~ Dan Barham

The Hydration System
Think back to the older Camelbaks, hell, think back to the 2010 line up. What is the hardest part about owning a Camelbak? If you were like me, it was probably getting the resevoir open after you had thirsty consumed all the water on your ride. There were times, and I am not kidding you that I would want to grab a pair of scissors and cut the damn thing open. I spoke to one of my engineers at work to see if they had any answers and all I got was a blank stare and the quip that company money was better spent elsewhere.

Camelbak took design gues from Starwars with the AT AT Walker theme. Photo ~ Dan Barham

But lucky for you and I, with the new Antidote Reservoir system Camebak has done all the work for us. Some of the claimed benefits of the new system over the older Omega bladders are:

Lower Profile: A baffle down the middle of the bladder keeps the shape of the bladder more streamlined, whether empty of full.

More Stable: The handle around the port in the bladder slips into a pocket in the pack to minimize the bladder from moving around.

Easy to Clean: Plastic drier arms fold down from around the fill port, forcing the bladder to balloon open, allowing for better drying times.

Quick Link System: A link system which attaches the feeder hose to the baldder allowing for easy connection to the various accessories that Camelbak offers – including a filter to remove chlorine and other flavours.

Big Bite: The redesigned locking system stops accidental unlocking… which leads to leaking… all over your gear.

HydroGuard: This is the material that the bladder is made of and it inhibits the growth of bacteria (which discolours the pack and smells terrible).

The Fit
The pack is fastened to the rider with 2 large, padded over the shoulder straps. In addition to the straps there is a chest strap and a large one around the riders waist.

Compared to other hydration packs that I have used in the past it performed very well. The pack was marginally bulky, but not too much that it got in the way. The durable construction ensured that if I caught a branch in passing there was no damage.

Chasing the dog down the trails, The Don was one of the best fitting hydration packs I had ever ridden with. No sloshing of the bladder within the pack and the baffle kept the shape of the pack similar even when the aqua was all gone. Photo ~ Dan Barham

The Antidote Hydration System is where the pack shines. The lid on the fill port was super easy to open, and the baffle down the middle stopped the bladder from pooling at the base of the pack when half the water had been consumed. I haven’t had it long enough to test if mould would grow so we’ll have to wait and see how the antimicrobial properties work.

The straps located at the side of the pack are a bit long for their intended use. They just end up getting in the way. The pass pocket at the bottom of the pack interupts the main zipper for pack access. Photo ~ Dan Barham

The pack was used while riding up for multiple laps of the trails on Fromme and a few winter arctic loam smashing laps of the XC trails in Squamish.

The Goods
The Antidote System – top notch, enough said.

Size – not too big and not too small

Fit – felt better connected to the pack than previous models that I have owned in the past.

The V shaped venting channels on the back of the pack keep the back of the rider decently dry. Photo ~ Dan Barham

The Not so Goods
The main compartment access zipper stops short of the bottom of the pack. This creates a deep pocket at the base of the pack that everything seems to collect in. It left me digging for a few minutes to find the multi-tool that had fallen to the bottom. A zipper that continues to the bottom of the pack would eliminate this.

Dan Gronross is quite the princess, and insisted his wheels match his jacket. Luckily Dan Barham was there with his Norco Range SE.

How strapping!!! There are so many straps on this pack. Which I guess is a good thing, but it is boarder line excessive. They are bound to be left undone, and they also tend to catch on things. One thing to note is the length of the straps. The straps that lash the back pocket/flap to the pack are needlessly long. It just means that they can catch on things as you ride by. (Of course you could cut them and seal the ends with your Bic lighter – Ed.)

Photo ~ Dan Barham

Overall the pack was great and worked as it should. The AT AT Walker theme of the pack was interesting and as can be seen from the pictures was fun to play with. This pack is a worthy addition to anyone’s gear quiver.

US MSRP for The Don is $120. We are waiting on CDN numbers.

Dan Gronross always goes the extra mile. In fact the AT AT was sent from Ontario for this shoot! Toss in your two bits here…

Tags: Camelbak
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