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Camelbak HAWG Review (Word and Pic HEAVY)

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by CheepSteal, Oct 20, 2012.

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How's my review? (first real review)

  1. Too long/boring

    4.9%
  2. Too much irrelevant info

    4.9%
  3. Just right

    100.0%
  4. Needs better layout

    4.9%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    Okay, so I've been saying that I'm going to review my HAWG for a while now, and I think I've finally got enough experience with it to make a good review. I started EDC'ing it at the beginning of August this year, up to and including today. I've taken it on a few hikes and loaded it up with crap and have gotten to know this pack pretty well.

    You guys that are interested probably know all the specs or are able to look it up on Camelbak's website so I won't bother with that. I'll just give you my experiences, how it holds up, pros/cons, design etc..

    This pack is in the military/tactical line up of CB and is advertised that the Navy SEAL's use it, and I'll agree that this is one tough pack.

    I carried this pack every single day for the last few months; I take public transport to university and pretty much everywhere so I walk everywhere with it on my back, all day every day. If you're okay with the 'military' look, it makes for a very comfortable EDC daypack. The organisation is decent and the attachment points in the main compartment allow you to attach various objects to the top for weight distribution or to stop them jostling around. The HAWG in black or foliage green doesn't seem to attract too much attention, at least where I live (Sydney).
    The inbuilt velcro keepers on the straps really helps to keep things tidy and I haven't hung up on anything since I've been using it. It's a very streamlined pack due to it's width and shape.
    In terms of EDC durability, I try to abuse this pack by grabbing the 'scruff' at the top of the HAWG and handling it in a rough fashion, I throw it, I slide it, I drop it, I don't baby it and I haven't found any compromise of the material/stitching.

    HAWG taking the train:
    [​IMG]



    The HAWG can be used for hiking, and it is on par with every other daypack without a load bearing hip belt. The real downside is the lack of capacity and the lack of a decent belt to help take the load off your shoulders. I found that when I loaded it up with a full bladder and other hiking equipment (weighing around 7 - 9 kg), it starts to feel heavy because all the weight is distributed on the shoulders. I wouldn't recommend buying this exclusively as a hiking pack because I think you'll be a bit sore and disappointed at it's performance, especially with heavy loads. Of course, I could just be a pansy and your mileage may vary.
    Another thing to note is that it can get quite hot because there is no mesh on the back panel or straps, it's straight up nylon which contributes to it's durability but limits it's hiking potential.

    Final HAWG hike test on a 14 km coastal trail:
    [​IMG]

    As opposed to hiking, I think this pack is a great trail runner/hydration pack. If you keep the weight and bulk down, the pack rides great and doesn't jostle too much; the straps are comfortable for lighter loads and great for freedom of movement when running and climbing and cycling. Again, the only problem is that it's a tad hot in warmer weather.

    I've used this pack in some strange ways at times. I used it as my dive gear/hiking pack, which involved loading it with over 9 lbs of lead weights, diving gear, normal EDC, water bladder and strapping a big pair of fins to the front. Twice, I hiked/used public transport to get to my destination with this setup, and it's darn heavy with this pack. As previously mentioned, the straps are a little uncomfortable because there's no hip belt to take the weight. The pack itself held up very well though.
    To test it further, I took it into the ocean with me loaded with my phone and essentials in a dry bag (just for kicks). The pack is so buoyant that I had a hard time taking a picture of it in the water.
    I used the pack as my daypack on a marine science camp for 4 days which involved it getting soaked on a speeding boat and carrying all my crap around. It held up great and after all that saltwater abuse, it looks brand new after a good shower. Truly SEAL worthy, eh?

    [​IMG]

    Covered in dried brine/salt:
    [​IMG]

    Used here to carry lead weights, dive gear, fins etc:
    [​IMG]

    In terms of philosophy of use, my favourite use of the HAWG is a hydration-compatible EDC/Go bag. With a full bladder and standard EDC items (MaxP organiser, sunglasses case, gloves, beanie, food, admin, few books), the weight is very doable for long periods and the modularity of this pack enables you to customise a lot of the layout. It's very tough and will survive the beating you give it on the go.


    Materials and construction:
    I think the 500D Cordura fabric is perfect. It's much lighter than my Rush 12 (1000D) and it's still very abrasion resistant and durable. The webbing is noticeably more pliable than the webbing found on the Rush 12 which presents a small problem: the side release buckles on the HAWG aren't as tight as I'd like them to be, what I mean is, the webbing is able to work itself loose because there isn't enough friction to hold it. I have contemplated replacing them with 'added bite' buckles but this seemed too much a hassle. The buckles on the top compression straps loosen, but there isn't enough force to create a problem, however, the buckles on the shoulder straps loosen when you run and every once in a while, you'll need to readjust (I have symmetry OCD, so maybe it's just me). I somewhat rectified this by adding elastic keepers to the shoulder strap webbing that I took from the included waist belt.
    The zipper pulls that came with the HAWG are not 550 cord, but some kind of thinner nylon cord. The zipper pulls were not tied in the usual overhand fashion, but rather in a simplified fisherman's knot; this creates a circular loop rather than a straight pull cord, which is great for gloved hands. Eventually, I replaced the thinner cord with real 550, but I liked the knot so much, I did it the same way and kept the zipper 'loops'.

    The stitching and construction of the HAWG is excellent and all stress areas are reinforced. The PALS holds up extremely well to heavy loads (I sometimes carry shoes on the front carabiner).


    All in all, materials and construction is perfect.

    Reinforced stitching on PALS:
    [​IMG]
    Ergonomics:
    The straps and the way they are attached to the pack is excellent for mobility. The 'independent suspension system' works great and beats the Rush 12's yoke system for high movement activities. The only problem I had with them is that the straps are spaced too close together. I like to cinch my pack as high as possible and the closeness of the straps interferes with my neck. This is a major ergonomic concern for hiking because the pack has no load bearing waist belt, so the only way to get the load closer to your body is to cinch the pack up all the way, which means you have a heavy pack digging into the back of your neck for extended periods. The way these straps are constructed is more suited to shorter ranges and lighter loads. This may differ for you because everybody's shoulders are different. I'm 5' 9" and have an athletic build, but that seems normal for the target demographic of this pack.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The pack does not come with a rigid frame sheet and this is a downside, BUT it can easily be rectified. I made my own frame sheet in half an hour with some thermoplastic, scissors and a heatgun. The bladder tends to bulge outwards into your back when you have a full load and no frame sheet, so having it helps with it's comfort. I moulded my frame sheet to fit my upper back, so now my HAWG is very ergonomic for EDC use; fits me like a glove! I find the frame sheet also aids in keeping loads stable when running and helps the pack stand up without collapsing.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The back panel of the pack has very thick raised foam padding and this far surpasses the Rush 12's padding. It's very comfortable and buffers bulky/uncomfortable items you may be carrying.
    The included waist belt is a miss on the HAWG. It's much too thin and is uncomfortable to use, so I just omit it when hiking. I have my pack high up, so the belt is wrapped around my stomach and when it's tightened, it constricts breathing, which is a major no-no. In the future, I hope to rig something up with some wider webbing or even perhaps the 5.11 Brokos belt...

    For EDC and high speed - low drag use, the HAWG's ergonomics are great for it's pack class. The sternum strap works as well as a sternum strap can, and the shoulder straps help you stay agile. I run for the train and the bus almost daily (because I wake up late) and I run home, and this pack serves that role well. Note: you might need to break in the shoulder straps for a few weeks before they feel 'moulded' to you (the webbing that attaches the strap to the bag stretches and fits you better after a while).

    Bladder/Hydration:
    I've heard about and read a few comparisons between Source and Camelbak. One point that seems to come up often is the perception that Camelbak's have a plastic taste to the water and I don't find this evident in my bladder. I think in the newer generations, they have incorporated a new lining that prevents that plastic taste (I forgot the name of it). The bladder works perfectly for me and I've tested it for durability; I jumped on it, lay on it, etc. I doubt my bladder will burst on me if I fell from the trail and landed straight onto it, which is handy to know. The only thing I'd want is a valve to stop water flow when you take the hose from the bladder. This feature appears on Source, but not on CB bladders (yet).
    The back panel is insulated with foam and I found it kept my water at a decent temperature despite my hot back/hot weather.

    [​IMG]

    Modularity:
    The pack has PALS webbing on the sides but it's quite hard to attach many things because the lower compression strap is in the way. You'll have to undo the velcro keeper to loosen the compression strap almost all the way, then weave your pouch, then tighten the strap and reorganise the webbing. This is a major :censored: when you're in a hurry. The alternative is skipping a weave and passing the MOLLE strip underneath the entire thing, which works in a pinch and holds up well. I wish they would have used a quick release buckle on the lower compression straps as opposed to the slidelock buckles.
    The attachment points at the bottom of the pack are great though, they're reinforced stitched and I've used them to hold jackets on my hikes.


    Other:
    The zippers are very smooth, however, sometimes they can get hung up on the storm flaps, not a big deal though. The water resistance of this bag is very good, however, the abundance of drainage grommets on the bottom means that if you set the bag down in a puddle, you're going to wet whatever's on the bottom, which is a bad thing. The only good thing I can hypothesise is that it makes it fast to drain when you take a nice dunking in the ocean when you're conducting your top secret maritime operations (yeah right). The reason it's impractical is because you only need the drainage for the hydration bladder compartment in case it blows out or leaks. You also have one for the main compartment and the ADMIN compartment. I can't recall the last time somebody's leaking bladder made it all the way to the admin pocket..

    The top quick access pocket (which contains my "di di mau" items) is actually quite large and can accomodate a Maxp EDC organiser or large goggles or a sunglasses case. The main compartment is definitely adequate for EDC items, however, when used with the bladder, the capacity decreases dramatically due to the bulging of the bladder. This is better than it bulging towards your back though, which would make it very uncomfortable. There is no clamshell opening and this is a packing limitation you'll need to grow accustomed to if you've been using something like a Rush 12.

    Top quick access pocket:
    [​IMG]

    This is with the bladder half full, still takes up space in the main compartment:
    [​IMG]

    Sorry for the very long review, just thought I'd finally get around to posting all my anecdotal experiences with the HAWG. It's 2 am, so excuse any weird mistakes, I'll proof read this later.

    Here's some more pics:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
     
  2. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    Reserved for more info/changes

    In conclusion: awesome active lifestyle EDC pack w/ hydration compatability, won't let you down

    Oh, and sorry for HAWGing your bandwidth with all the pics ;)
     
  3. yellowhammer

    yellowhammer Loaded Pockets

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    Great review, terrible pun. Nice job!:D
     
    FOOTBALLBOY3 likes this.
  4. Myrddraal

    Myrddraal Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks for a great review. Well done!
     
  5. mole

    mole EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    very nice review. never took a backpack diving ;) but i count this as a bonus point 4 you.
     
  6. TARFU
    • In Omnia Paratus

    TARFU EDC!!!!! Junkie

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    You have to love Aussies and their active life styles. I'm PADI Basic Open Water certified and haven't been fins up in over a decade.

    Cheepsteal, one of the most detailed and balanced reviews I've ever read on the HAWG. Excellent photography also. It was a pleasure to read. Bravo young man, bravo!
     
  7. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks for the great feedback guys! Glad I did it to the standards of almighty bag reviewer TARFU :D
     
  8. ac7ss
    • In Omnia Paratus

    ac7ss Loaded Pockets

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    A long/wordy/pic heavy review is great. A summary would be the only thing to add to it. (If someone doesn't like the long form, they will read the first and last paragraph.)
     
  9. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    Ahh, will do that later tonight. Thanks!
     
  10. powerring
    • In Omnia Paratus

    powerring Loaded Pockets

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    A great review and awesome pics. :D
     
  11. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks, powerring! My camera is a Panasonic Lumix beater that I've had for two years. The thing that closes to protect the lens is broken but it still works a treat I'd say.
     
  12. Lynx
    • In Omnia Paratus

    Lynx Loaded Pockets

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    Very good review, CheepSteal! I can't believe that I missed it until I saw your hint in the other thread today.
     
  13. ambaal

    ambaal Loaded Pockets

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    What coastal trail is this? Royal National Park?
     
  14. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks, Lynx!

    ambaal, yep, it's the coastal trail from Bundeena to Otford in the RNP. I'm planning to do the section from Wattamolla to Otford soon and visit the figure 8 pools.

    To add some pizzazz to this post, here's a pic I took today showing the 'greyness' of CB foliage in urban settings. I think it blends in more than a fully black pack in the city.
    [​IMG]
     
    amdmaxx likes this.
  15. Chiles

    Chiles Loaded Pockets

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    UGH! Your review is making me broke! Now I'm gonna try and pick one up in the next week or two haha.
     
    Katjang1 and CheepSteal like this.
  16. amdmaxx

    amdmaxx Loaded Pockets

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    nice review!
    whats the conclusion/final verdict?
     
  17. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    I think it's one of the best EDC packs on the market if you can handle the look of the webbing and velcro (military look, most people don't care/know though).
    The Cordura 500D material is light and flexible but still really strong; construction and stitching is excellent (superior to my 5.11 packs).
    The foliage green looks somewhat grey as you can see from the pics, which makes it blend in the concrete jungle.
    The shoulder straps get more comfortable the more I use it and as it conforms to my body, however, the pack gets less comfortable at heavy loads (full bladder + if you stuff it with a lot of crap).
    I find it's really good for running and jogging when you cinch it up and use the sternum strap, also has really good arm movement freedom (unlike a yoke system in the Rush packs which I think is more suited to load bearing).
    The organisation is good but might require some adjusting if you're moving from a system like the Rush packs. The Rush have pockets for everything whilst this has pockets + attachment points to lash gear to.

    I don't own a R12 anymore so the HAWG is my permanent lightweight EDC daypack. I use my R24 for EDC on days I need to carry lead weights for diving or bulky jackets etc..
     
    Lynx and amdmaxx like this.
  18. 72hours

    72hours Loaded Pockets

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    I noticed you had the 5.11 sunglasses case. How do you find it? Would it fit a pair of aviators?
     
  19. CheepSteal

    CheepSteal Loaded Pockets

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    I actually bought a pair of 5.11 sunnies, I bought the polarised Soar 'aviators' and they're really awesome.
    I just checked and my huge pair of chrome aviators fits, so I'd say most normal aviators should fit no problem.
    I attach the MOLLE attachment of the sunnies case to one of the lash points of the HAWG's main compartment, so it doesn't sink in the pack (and get crushed) and is easily accessible at all times, and when there's no more room, it can attach to the outside webbing! How's that for modular?
     
  20. Lynx
    • In Omnia Paratus

    Lynx Loaded Pockets

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    I can confirm that from my own experiences with the HAWG. It's perfect for a rather lightweight edc setup and makes a great running pack.