The Camelbak Charge LR has been one of our favorite hydration packs for shorter rides, with its low-slung fluid placement, comfortable and secure fit, and lightweight construction.
The fluid and storage capacity falls short on all-day jaunts, though, but thankfully Camelbak now offers the new Volt LR, which is everything we love about the Charge but with more capacity, a bigger reservoir, and more compartments.
The basic idea behind the Volt LR is the same as on the Charge LR. By moving the fluid further down around your hips and housing it in a triangular reservoir that wraps around your midsection, the Volt does a fantastic job of staying put even when the trail gets dicey.
The new 3L reservoir (50 percent bigger than in the Charge) is taller and less dramatically triangular than before, but a central baffle still keeps the contents from sloshing around too much. As the fluid level drops, there’s even a pair of cinch straps to lock things down.
The new reservoir is easier to load than on the Charge LR, with a convenient rear-entry panel that provides the side benefit of a full-length main storage compartment on the front side. Storage in general grows substantially, from 7L overall for the Charge to 10 for the Volt. Plus, it’s spread across a greater number of compartments and pockets to help keep things better organized.
The new camelbak ‘delta’ reservoir is less radically triangular than on the charge lr but still does a good job of centering the weight around your lower back. the internal baffle helps keep it flat even when filled to the 3l capacity: James Huang/Future Publishing
The new Camelbak ‘Delta’ reservoir is less radically triangular
We were able to cram in a heavy-duty rain jacket, arm and knee warmers, a hat, and a full complement of basic tools (mini pump, suspension pump, tube, patch kit, tire sealant, and first aid supplies) into the main zippered pocket easily. And all of it’s nicely separated so it’s easy to find.
Meanwhile, the smaller outer zippered pocket – which is still generously sized – proved ideal for an epic day’s worth of energy bars and gels. Plus, there’s a clip for house keys. Adding even more storage is the spacious, open-topped stash pocket that sits between the two zippered compartments – perfect for stuffing a layer into quickly.
Best of all, though, are the two zippered hip pockets, each of which is big enough to swallow a point-and-shoot camera or even a lightweight jacket. You can access both easily without having to remove the pack.
Camelbak has even countered Osprey’s brilliant LidLock helmet storage clip. Camelbak’s solution isn’t quite as elegant – just two clips on the side to secure helmet straps – but it’s functional and works with skate-type helmets that don’t have big vents.
Pack comfort and stability are very good as well, even when the Volt LR is fully loaded. The shoulder straps are virtually unpadded but are wide, to distribute load, and highly ventilated, to keep the underlying skin from getting clammy.
The corrugated foam pads help a little with ventilation but do a very good job of keeping even heavy loads comfortable on your back: James Huang/Future Publishing
Corrugated foam pads keep even heavy loads comfortable on your back
Camelbak omits its more heavily structured NV panel in favor of a much lighter and simpler – yet still effective – pair of airmesh-covered, raised longitudinal foam strips to cushion your back.
That the shoulder straps are so minimally padded doesn’t really matter, though, since the bulk of the weight sits on your hips. Even when cinched down tight, the waist strap is comfortably and surprisingly non-restrictive, with broad side ‘wings’ that spread the load over a larger area and keep the pack from digging into your pelvis.
As if all that weren’t enough, the Volt LR is feathery light, at just 520g without reservoir. All in all, it’s a superb bag for all-day trail rides, and definitely one of our favorites.