Rating: 5 / 5
I recently went to the local BassPro to buy a second hydration pack for my 65L Multi-day pack. Looking at the prices I came to a conclusion, I needed a day pack anyway, and it was going to cost me a huge chunk of a Camelbak Day pack for just a bare hydration bladders(locally the bladders run about 35-40$ for a 100oz). So I opted to buy a day pack with a removable 100oz inside thus killing two birds with one stone as opposed to buying each seperately and at a later date end up spending the same or more money.
After much back and forth and lots of indecisiveness I settled on the CamelBak Fourteener. I opted to go for the CamelBak as opposed to the off-brand for the simple reason, that YES it is a name brand and you do pay a bit for the name, but I personally believe this is a situation where they did something first, and did it right, so why spend slightly less money on something that MAY be as good or may not. (we're not talking a name brand like a piece of clothing where the name really is JUST that, a name, the CamelBak still has a function.) There are quite a few different CamelBak models out there for day packs. The end all be all for deciding on this pack was the ergonomics as well as the size. This pack is NOT much larger and only half a pound heavier then its competitor packs such as the MULE. But the capacity is almost double. The MULE has a capacity of almost 900cucm, whereas the Fourteener has 1500cucm of storage.
There are two compression straps on the top of the pack that allow you to tighten the top down so whether only half full or if you need to make sure the bag is nice and tight to assure something (such as my hammock) doesn't fall out of the unzipped open-air middle compartment you can adjust the bag more then just the zipped/unzipped option for many bags. Although I have not tested it in rain yet, some other CamelBak models have a rain tarp that covers from beneath the bag, where as the Fourteener claims a waterproof material along with more water resistant zippers. Finally the overall comfort of the fourteener I found to be better the many of their other packs I tried on in the store. The waist harness is fairly solid which granted makes it a little more difficult to store but it is something that I value because it REALLY allows you to get the weight off your shoulders and I have not previously seen such a solid waste harness on non-multiday pack. Also the buckles for the chest strap on this pack are movable which is not always an option that a lot of packs give. That along with the D-ring style shoulder strap attachment allows an added little bit of customizable comfort which is always nice if you do have the pack weighed down on the heavier side. Lastly, though not the MOST breathable pack I have ever seen this pack did seem to have a fair amount of compromise between comfort of padding as well as breathability of your back, which in humid S.Florida is kinda a necessity.
The ONE thing I don't 100% understand on this pack is the positioning of a loop for an ice pick?! ok, quick question. IF this pack is DESIGNED for alpine/tundra hiking why is it being marketed/sold in South Florida, and IF not then why is there such a specialized loop on the face of this pack(you can not fit a machete, or even hiking pole through this loop effectively)?? That is my one issue with he pack but I don't see removing a whole point from the rating for an unusual over-site by the designer/marketing director.
So far I have taken this pack on a 17 mile day hike through the wet prairies, cypress swamps, and hardwood hammocks of S.Florida in which it proved to EASILY hold all my necessities from food/water, rain jacket, and GPS to a first aid kit, backup liter water jug, machete, headlamp, and thermacell mosquito repellant. As well as a couple extras I wanted to test and use such as my Clark Jungle Hammock Tent. The pack was packed heavy and full. It EASILY bore the load and with the waist harness and impressively didn't hurt my shoulders even being out on the trail for over 12 hours. The pack performed to all my expectations and better on this extensive test hike (Granted I could have used more water but that was not the packs fault. That was poor planning on my part and a stubbornness to listen to the weather. And when I got home after that hike since there is an elastic band on both shoulder straps and I could attach the drinking hose on either one, I decided to figure out how I could attach my 70oz CamelBak Unbottle onto the exterior of the pack so if I wanted I could set out with both hydration packs. This was easily done using the top compression straps as well as the pouch-like pocket on the side of the pack. So without removing anything else I was carrying I now have the ability if need be to carry over 6L with me between the two Hydration packs and a backup liter jug.)
I have also taken this pack on an extended weekend where I was still camping but was not going to need the water. After removing the hydration bag from the pack I was EASILY able to fit everything I would be needing for the 4 day memorial weekend camping trip. (Multiple changes of clothes, hammock tent, first aid kit, thermacell, headlamp, toiletries, etc).
So for a heavy duty day pack to a lightweight weekend travel pack, this pack has definitely earned its stripes thus far. If you are looking for a day pack and still need the hydration bladder to go with it I would definitely suggest this pack. It may cost a bit more then some competitors packs but you know what It hasn't let me down yet and I don't believe it will in the near future.