Field test and review
When it comes to hiking there is one piece of equipment that I love. I really can’t explain what it is that has led me to now own over 25 packs of different shapes and sizes but every time I see a new pack on the market I am keen to get it on my back and see how well it performs. I am certainly not the Imedla Marcos of packs, but I do find that every style of hike requires a different approach and as such, a different pack.
Deep down I am somewhat a perfectionist so maybe my fascination is born from an ongoing need to find the ‘perfect pack’ that does everything I need. Through this ongoing search I have developed quite a comprehensive pack selection criterion. Does it have separate hydration compartments, enough storage compartments, expandable pockets for varying loads, adequate ventilation, external gear loops, is it comfortable to wear, it is light weight, is it durable, does it pack down well for transport and storage? The list could go on, but these are the basics that I always assess.
Of late I have been telling myself I will never find the perfect pack, so I will need to be content with the selection I have on hand. That being said, I was somewhat excited when I was asked by CamelBak to field test their new Fourteener 20 day pack. My first thought was, Yay, I don’t think I have a 20-litre pack yet so that will make a nice addition to my collection.
Why the interesting name, Fourteener 20? Before the pack arrived, I wasn’t certain if it was going to be a fourteen-litre pack or a twenty-litre pack or one that was typically smaller but expandable to accommodate twenty litres if required. So, I carried out a bit of research into the name. In mountaineering language, a fourteener is a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. The world is covered in many of these mountains, and CamelBak’s Fourteener range was designed to help you bag them.
When getting this pack ready to hit the trail for the first time I was pleased to find so many storage compartments. The separate reservoir compartment allows you to stow your water supply away from your gear, this is great for ease of access as well as protection for the reservoir. Recently I had one rupture on a hike as the pack I was using did not have a separate hydration space. The brand-new 3 litre Crux Reservoir loads easily into the pack and has a few internal loops for securing the reservoir in place. This helps to prevent the reservoir from ending up in the bottom of your pack as you hydrate. As you would expect, the hose can then be passed through the wall of the pack and secures neatly to clips on either shoulder strap.
I have always been a fan of CamelBaks hydration reservoirs (yes, I own a few of each size) and I was pleased to find that the new model delivers more water per sip, has an ergonomic handle for easier refilling, and a larger on/off lever that makes it easier to access (especially when wearing gloves) as well as prevent leaks.
In addition to the main compartments, I counted a total of 7 internal and external pockets. There seemed to be pocket for everything. The rear face of the pack has a large zippered stretch pocket, perfect for carrying jackets or gear that is bulky and needs to be accessed quickly. Above this is a smaller zippered pocket which is internally lined to carry any valuables such as phone, gps, watch etc. There are pockets on both hip belts too. The left hip has a large zippered pocket while on the right you will find two stretch pockets for carrying water bottles, gloves, sunglasses, hat etc. Inside the main compartment you will find two additional pockets, one mesh, one solid, both with zips. These smaller pockets are great as they allow you to manage your gear for faster access as required. The Fourteener 20 is certainly designed everything you need for a day hike; extra layers, food, head lamp, trail map, hiking poles, ice axe, navigation tools, sunglasses, first-aid kit, lunch, snacks, water etc etc. With all of these pockets you would think that the pack would be bulging on your back when fully loaded but I found that the pockets have been well positioned to place your gear where it counts for a secure and comfortable carry. The pack also has daisy chain straps, hiking pole loops and an ice axe loop so is great for all season hiking.
The load bearing hip belt is wide and sits comfortably, even on my hips (or lack thereof) therefore taking any load off your shoulders and placing it firmly on your hips where it belongs. The shoulder straps have and open mesh inner to maximize breathability and I found the cut of the straps to be especially appealing as they have been cleverly curved to conform to the shape of your body and sit neatly and comfortably over your shoulder. Out of all the packs I have worn, these straps were certainly the most comfortable I have ever experienced. They just felt natural and didn’t shift or rub. The breast strap can be fastened easily (even with gloves) and has a huge adjustment range that will easily accommodate most body shapes and sizes.
Fully loaded and secured to my back I could hardly feel that I was wearing this pack. The back panel features a series of three mesh pods, one that sits on your lumbar, one mid-way through the back and one at shoulder height. The purpose of these ‘Air Support’ pods is for increased comfort, load transfer and improved ventilation and they seemed to perform as expected. One thing I don’t particularly like about many of my packs is the way the back panel is addressed. Some have awesome ventilation/air flow features while others have none and leave you with a horribly wet back even after a few hours on the trail. The CamelBak Fourteener 20 seems to get the balance right and offered the breathability and comfort that I would expect from a pack.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a bit of a perfectionist at heart and one day hope to find (or design) the perfect pack that addresses my needs for every hike. I know that is a big ask as every hike and every hiker is different. So far, I am really impressed with the CamelBak Fourteener 20. I have only hit the trail with it on four occasions so far so cannot comment on durability, but I can comment on all the other features that are on my wish list for the ‘perfect pack’. It ticks all the boxes. There are only a few small things I would suggest for future improvement and they would be to incorporate a rain cover into the pack, add an additional ice axe loop and change the breast strap fastening clip to one that incorporates a whistle as I feel that is a great safety addition to any pack.
All in all, the CamelBak Fourteener 20 is a comfortable, versatile and lightweight pack (weighing in at only 1.1kg) and I look forward to many more adventures with it. If you are looking for a new or replacement pack, I highly recommend checking these out.
Buy direct from CamelBak for $184.95
Quick Stow Chill Flask (pictured) – $49.95
CamelBak Fourteener 20 Pack
- Hydration Capacity: 3 litres
- Total Capacity: 20 litres
- Total Weight: 1.1 Kg (pack only)
- Dimensions: 53 x 27 x 24 cm
Quick Stow Chill Flask (pictured)
- Insulated design keeps water cold 2 times longer
- Big bite valves self-seals after each drink, eliminating annoying drips
- Large mouth opening allows you to fill the flask easily with ice and drink mixes
- Empty flask collapses and folds ultra-compact to fit in most pockets
- All parts top-rack dishwasher safe
- Volume indicators in ounces and milliliters for tracking hydration and adding electrolytes
- Hang flask upside down for easy drainage and drying
- Hydration Capacity: 500 ml
Field Tested by
Darren Edwards > www.trailhiking.com.au