by Chris B. for webBikeWorld.com
For many riders “Old Man Winter” is playing an
evil trick by hanging around with freezing temperatures and dangerous riding
conditions. But the days are getting longer, portending the approach of warmer weather.
My favorite temperature for riding is
around 60 to 65 degrees F. At that temperature I’m comfortable,
neither hot nor cold, when wearing full protective gear.
I’m not a big
fan of riding in hot weather because it tends to wear me down faster.
But if it’s going to be hot, I’d at least rather ride in "dry heat" than
the soggy, humid days that are typical here in our Mid-Atlantic summers, because the natural
cooling effect via evaporation is far more effective in low humidity.
I have found that using water as a cooling agent
can have a dramatic effect once I’m moving. Extreme methods like
soaking my shirt or wearing a cooling vest under my gear with all the vents
open are sometimes necessary, but this works much better when the air is dry
enough to evaporate all that moisture (Editor's Note: See the wBW
reviews of the
cooling vest and the
Joe Rocket Sahara
Using water to stay cool on the outside is good planning,
but what about the inside? It's important to take the necessary steps
to keep your body properly hydrated. Do you pause often enough in hot
weather to keep the intake of water greater than the amount that’s being
drawn out of your body by the wind?
This is especially important when
wearing a mesh jacket over a T-shirt. You’d be
amazed at how much water can be drawn out of the body with such a steady
flow of air over exposed skin.
Dehydration can be defined as “an excessive loss
of water from the body”. But what are some of the signs of dehydration?
The most obvious are feeling dizzy or lightheaded, nausea, confusion, dry
or sticky mouth, or at the extremes, producing less or darker urine.
There are more, but
we’ll just note the primary ones here and, by the way, you can start to get
dehydrated long before any of these symptoms appear. You really don't
want to get to the point of feeling dizzy due to dehydration, and things can
go downhill fast, with a hospital stay or worse if not heeded.
As motorcyclists, we can not afford degradation
of any mental or physical processes while riding. Therefore
it’s imperative to ensure a proper intake of water. And remember that
this isn't just
restricted to hot temperatures; the body can also become dehydrated in cold
Keeping properly hydrated will require the
occasional rest stop, but there is a system that allows
motorcyclists to safely consume fluids while riding without diverting attention from the road.
Long-distance motorcycle riders have known about this
for some time
and they usually have hydration systems that allow them to put in 1,000 or
more miles per day for several consecutive days.
I’ve always incorporated
my hydration stops with other
necessary stops when riding two-up (read, “Honey, I’m thirsty, can we stop
NOW?”), but with the opportunity to take a solo ride to Florida, I wanted a system
that would allow me to stay hydrated while on the move.
My requirements were that it had to be simple and
also have the flexibility to
easily move between either of my bikes, so I chose to use one of the
“backpack” style hydration systems commonly used with hikers and mountain
bikers. While exploring hydration systems in a local
sporting goods store, I noticed that the CamelBak hydration backpack system was the most prominent brand
CamelBak claims to be “the originator and world
leader in hands-free hydration systems”. In addition to supplying
outdoors enthusiasts, CamelBak has products designed for use by the
military, law enforcement, government and industry.
I remembered that my daughter used one of their
hydration systems while in the Marine Corps, especially during her grueling
weeks at Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia one hot August. The
Marine Corps must have been convinced of the usefulness of the system, because they supplied CamelBak hydration units to the soldiers
on their deployments.
Visit the CamelBak website and you'll find an
unbelievable array of various hydration backpacks, bottles and other water
storage units for hikers, climbers, bicycle riders, military use and more.
There are four pages just for the "Bike" category alone!
I chose to go with the CamelBak "Classic", a 2.1 liter
(70 ounce) backpack unit designed for bicyclists. In addition to its
liquid holding capabilities, it features an external zip pocket for keys or
other small items and a wraparound bungee cord system to hold a shirt or
sweater on the back. It also has a low profile; mesh shoulder straps
and even a few bits of reflective tape.
I didn't have experience with a CamelBak and I
didn't have my riding jacket with me that
day, so I had to imagine how it might work while wearing protective gear and a full-face
While trying various CamelBak units on for size I noticed
that some of
them had shoulder straps that would probably be much too short to fit around a riding
jacket. But the “Classic” version seemed to have straps that would be
long enough to fit.
Many of the units on display had straight “bite
tubes”, but this particular model had a 90-degree bend that would prove to
be crucial when passing it between my jaw and the chin bar of a full faced
helmet in route to the mouth.
For those of you unfamiliar with hydration
systems with “bite tubes”, the tip that goes into the mouth has a valve that
requires a gentle bite to allow the fluid to flow. This prevents or
minimizes drips or fluid loss from the pack. The owner can either
choose to either keep the end of the bite tube in the mouth or simply let the tube hang until
Since the tube is routed through the CamelBak's right
shoulder strap, it’s always within easy reach. CamelBak doesn't seem
to provide very much
information on the material used in the construction of the hydration pack, but if I had to guess
I’d say it’s some type of rip-stop nylon with padding for the carrier
The stitching is nicely done and the entire unit
appears to be well made. For safety and improved
visibility, CamelBak has incorporated sections of reflective material into
the back area and shoulder straps which are evident in the pictures. This is
a good thing since chances are it’s going to be covering up some of the
reflective material on your jacket.
For ventilation, CamelBak uses an “Air Mesh
Harness” and “Air Director” back panel to “keep air moving across the back
and sweat under control”. There’s also a small strap across the chest
that keeps the shoulder straps in place.
The separate, removable reservoir is made of
“burst resistant” polyurethane and carries a Lifetime Warranty.
Filling the unit is easy via the large opening that’s a whooping 3 ¼”
(82mm) in diameter. This should also make adding ice on those hot days a
simple matter. The top seals with a screw lid. The included
literature claims the reservoir is easy to keep clean because it includes
something called "HydroGuard
Anti-Microbial Technology", whatever that means.
The fact that the fill port is so large should
make it easy to keep the unit clean. When it's filled to capacity with
water, the entire backpack
weights in at 5.40 lbs (2.45 kg).
The small zippered pocket is perfect for keys,
and ID or a wallet should you choose to use the CamelBak unit when
walking or hiking.
I was relieved to find that the 90-degree
bite tube did work as I had hoped, easily passing between my jaw and the
chin-bar on my HJC SyMax modular helmet (wBW
review). Not only did it pass this
requirement with flying colors, but once in the mouth, the bite tube does
not interfere with the chin bar in any manner that makes it uncomfortable. Of
course, this is going to depend on the style helmet or the rider's head or jaw shape.
Obviously, I needed to try this thing out, prior
to my trip, to work out any problems. So I loaded it up and used it
during my 100 mile round trip commutes. By experimenting with leaving
the bite tube in the mouth or letting it hang, I decided leaving it in the
mouth was an annoyance and chose to just let it hang until such time I
wanted a sip.
Passing it up through the helmet with the left
hand is no problem and requires virtually no concentration. I have
some thoughts about wearing the CamelBak unit underneath my jacket and routing the tube outside
somehow. I'll have to work on that.
If the CamelBak is filled with ice and water,
I'm guessing that it will act like a big
“heat sink” against my back on a hot day. Note that some motorcycle
jackets have a provision for a hydration bladder; see the wBW review of the
Cayenne jacket and the
M2R Rally Cross Enduro jacket for more information.
Staying properly hydrated while riding is an absolute
must. To not do so is tempting fate in the form of serious health
issues or injury.
If you prefer to
“keep rolling” when you're riding, or even if you just get thirsty on short
rides, a hydration system can help. CamelBak’s “Classic” is a simple solution.
It's easy to fill, easy to clean and operate and it has the
flexibility to move from bike to bike. It can also be used in other
outdoor activities, such as hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and more. This is a big
plus in my book.
The CamelBak Classic hydration backpack is well constructed and obviously designed by
persons requiring fluids on the move. It also seems to be easily
adaptable to the motorcycle environment. I believe this is
also going to a valuable addition to my riding gear when we head to the
southwest later this year.
Classic Hydration Backpack
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►Your Comments and
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Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
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From "J.F." (5/10): "I just read
Chris B’s review of the CamelBak Hydration Backpack for
motorcycle riding, and wanted to comment.
Although there are newer units for sale now, the
basic premise of the article is still relevant and has
great information for anyone needing to hydrate while
I liked that Chris B. mentioned his daughter in the
article. I was in the Marine Corps for 27 years,
and have tried many different hydration systems, from
the basic metal, then plastic canteens, to the most
exotic CamelBak-type systems available.
I used a full military-style backpack unit from
CamelBak in Afghanistan in 2004, and it performed
flawlessly for the entire deployment. Nothing
needed replacement except for the valve/mouthpiece.
What a difference from wearing many canteens on your
harness! Those days are over, thank God!
BTW, the larger and more insulated the equipment, the
longer one can enjoy the cool liquid you put into it.
Mine had a huge capacity, and kept the liquid cool for a
very long time, if I used ice in it too. The one
thing about CamelBak systems is that they are so
universal now, the parts are interchangeable for the
most part – that makes field repairs very easy!
As a helicopter pilot, you couldn’t wear the unit on
your back. You had to lay it near you and then use
the tube to drink. One trick we learned fast was
to hang the unit on the back of our seat rail, and then
grab the tube. We would put a length of
small-gauge wire in the tube insulation so we could form
a “snake” to get it near our helmets for ease of use.
We are planning a trip to the Grand Canyon on the
bikes this Summer, and the CamelBaks will be a major
piece of equipment to ensure a safe trip.
Thanks for the review Chris, and tell your daughter
“Semper Fidelis” for me."
From "B.": "As a long distance road
bicyclist, I've used my Camelbak to keep hydrated on
many of my trips. The Camelbak brand bite valve is
much better than the cheaper alternatives - the
hydration systems I've tried from Target and BJs leak
all over the place. I haven't tried this, but
Camelbak does make an insulation sleeve for the tube to
help the water in the tube either stay cool or prevent
From "G.": "Enjoyed your Camelbak
review but I'm a minimalist type. Bought the
insulated (designed to avoid freezing in winter)
Camelbak bladder and used carabiners to attach it to
front side of my Oxford tailbag. Nothing to carry.
From "R.T.": "I can testify to
the value of a hydration pack, and have another
suggestion. Several years ago, I rode the North
Cascades Highway in July from Seattle to Spokane for the
national BMW rally. Before I left, I filled my
Camelbak Classic with as much ice as I could, then water
to fill the spaces around the ice.
I wore the
camelback underneath my First Gear mesh jacket.
After crossing the pass coming down into eastern
Washington, it was hot! When I arrived in Omak at
7PM and it was 107 degrees. The Camelback not only
provided cold water hydration, but helped keep me cool
throughout the trip."
From "L.N.": "A versatile
solution is to purchase only the inner bladder, which
will tuck into a fanny pack, top bag, or what have you.
There's even extension tubes and Y [tee] connectors
available to make a double system ! Most
camping/backpacking stores carry these bits to expand
the full kits they sell.
The secret to hot weather is to cover up, open up the
suit vents, keep moving, and definitely keep sipping
from your hydration tube. "Eat before you are
hungry, drink before you are thirsty." - bicycle racer's
From "A.R.": "You might want to
mention this hint; when it is hot out, while drinking,
the first draw on the bite tube is HOT water! Blow
through it FIRST, to get cold water from the bladder not
BTW, I couldn't justify paying that price for the
name (Camelback), found mine at Target for $15 and it is
almost the exact model you have featured. Made by
From "A.": I'd just like to say, I read
your review on the Camelbak and found it very
informative. I have no experience with that brand
pack but own two of the
Sierra versions for sale at Costco for $20 each (I
loved my first so much I HAD to buy a second in a diff
color even though I didn't need to). I'd just like
to say that these units are almost identical from what I
can tell from your article with the exception that the
High Sierra has a little more storage capacity.
In your article you mentioned that you imagined it
becoming a heat sink in the summer, but I had much use
of mine hiking last summer and skiing last winter and if
the Camelbak has the thermal reflective lining than the
water temp will not change by more than a few degrees.
Which honestly is the craziest thing I have ever
seen. Where you will find an annoyance is in the
summer the water in the tube will get VERY hot as the
tube is the only part of the system not insulated.
So you'll have a few sips of hot water before it turns
to very cold water again, which is another thing I found
If the Costco's near you sell the High Serra one, I'd
recommend a review of that unit as well and/or a
comparison test of the two cause I'm kinda curious how
they stack up together."