CamelBak's latest Charge LR hydration pack builds upon the success of their excellent Octane LR, adding in a few welcome features and a little extra capacity for what's without doubt one of the best cross-country models we've used from any maker.
Carrying over from the Octane LR is the unique triangular two-liter (70oz) Antidote reservoir and the low-slung form factor that combines to put the bulk of the pack's weight down around your hips. This not only removes most of the load from your shoulders but also makes the mass much more stable than conventional layouts.
The broad 'wings' around the base of the hip straps tighten comfortably snug around your lower torso and very effectively hold the Charge LR in place even on technical trails. Secondary compression straps cleverly tucked inside the wings let you cinch down the load on the fly as the reservoir drains, too.
Major improvements come in the form of a proper, molded foam back panel for better ventilation and comfort – not to mention cushioning from whatever hard bits you might have inside the pack – and far better storage capacity and organization than the Octane LR.
The single open-topped rear pocket is roughly twice the size of before and uses a stretchier material that easily swallows rain jackets and the like. Replacing the Octane LR's occasionally awkward dual-layer, twin-zip main compartment is a new single compartment that's deeper for more capacity, better organized so it's easier to find your stuff, and also less likely to dump its contents when you open it up at the trailside.
Like the Octane LR, the new Charge LR also includes a pair of handy zippered hip pockets that are big enough for multiple gel packs, energy bars or even a medium-sized point-and-shoot camera. The light-yet-durable nylon construction keeps the Charge LR light, too, at just 640g with an empty reservoir. That puts it about 120g heavier than the Octane LR but the improvements are so significant that we don't mind lugging around a few extra grams.
It's hard to find much fault with CamelBak's latest cross-country pack, in fact. We do miss the Octane LR's open-topped pocket on the shoulder strap (it was the perfect place for a gel flask) and something like Osprey's LidLock helmet holder would be handy at times. Aside from that, though, the Charge LR is just about as perfect a hydration pack for general riding as we've come across. Well done, folks.