Note: I wrote this review a while back and just forgot to publish it so the comments are really a year and bit old!
I was in search of a lumbar style hydration pack to get the weight of my drink and gear down low on my body. There was a surprisingly limited selection in this category of pack if you want shoulder straps and not a true fanny pack. I got my hands on a Camelbak Skyline 10R, which on paper looks pretty good and received amazing reviews from folks paid to review gear. I’ve been using it for a bit less than a year and I see myself moving on to something different so I thought I would share my thoughts now.
The Skyline is a smaller pack constructed with typical Camelbak features and quality. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good in the sense you get lots of bells and whistles should you want them and materials/sewing is fairly burly for many years of abuse. Bad in the sense that a lot of the features [lots of small pockets, magnetic hose clip, etc…] are low value from a user perspective, but make the pack heavy for what it is. Same goes with the pack materials they are burly, but not in a very efficient way so you end up with any empty pack that weighs 630g [no bladder] for 10L of capacity.
The bladder for this pack is a non-standard wide short 3L unit. It’s got the usual Cambelbak features and materials, which I think are excellent. The fact it’s an oddball shape means you could have some issues getting a replacement on short timelines, but the squat shape does keep the weight down low. The bladder loads from the rear through a zippered compartment. This is a bit annoying for a few reasons: 1) zipper is heavy and one more thing to fail, 2) opening is just a bit smaller than the bladder so getting it in takes some fiddling, 3) you have to take the hose off the bladder to install/remove it from pack, which is hassle and always squirts a bit of fluid on the pack/your car seat/etc…, 4) since the pack is small getting the bladder into a full pack is tedious. None of these things are deal breakers, but for a company that pretty much only makes hydration packs you figure they would do a better job on ease of use.
My normal load for the pack looks something like this:
- 2L in bladder
- tire pump
- shock pump
- spare tube
- multi-tool w/ chain breaker
- tire levers
- patch kit
- tubeless plugs
- spare derailleur hanger
- kevlar emergency spoke
- InReach – SOS device
- 1 or 2 energy bars
- P&S camera
- Small F/A kit
That leaves the pack pretty full. You can squeeze an extra 1L into it or a sandwich, but not much more, which is fine as this ^^^ is all I need for a long day-ride.
On my body the Skyline sits low and feels comfortable when full. Once riding though the pack doesn’t really deliver the stability I expect from a lumbar pack. There are some extra straps that are supposed to stabilize a less than full bladder, but they don’t do anything noticeable if you ride with a fairly full pack like I do. So they just dangle and get in the way. The pack itself moves around a lot while riding…both up and side to side. This is exacerbated by the fact the waist belt’s buckle loosens every run so that even if you tighten it many times each ride it ends up loose annoyingly often. The waist belt is design in such a way that tightening it pulls the belt to your body, but doesn’t compress the body of the pack, which allows it to flop around. I suspect a redesign of the belt material and how the belt integrates with the pack itself could resolve all these issues, but again I expect more from a company that specializes in hydration packs.
There are a few external features I used. A set of buckled straps on the bottom of the pack will hold leg armour or a rolled up bulky jacket. A very small outer flap pocket can hold elbow pads or a smaller jacket. The right side of the belt has a very small hard to access pocket that I’d call almost useless. I typically stuffed my ear warmer band in there, but it was a battle to open the pocket and get it in each time. The left side of the belt has a larger zippered pocket big enough for a P&S camera. There is a medium sized fleece lined pocket on top of the pack for keys or sunglasses. All the buckles and zippers are easy to use and were quality choices.
Looks are not the most important aspect of gear, but if I am going to spend a significant $$ on something and have it on my body for hundreds of hours a year I would prefer to like how it looks. Camelbak scored here. The colours are vibrant without being obnoxious and the styling of the pack is modern and looks nice on the trail. At least to me. They don’t have a basic black option so if you prefer to fly under the radar they have a black with orange accent scheme that might work for you.
There is a ladies’ version of this pack. I haven’t seen it or talked to anyone who has used it so I can’t comment on the practical differences, but female riders might find a better fit with that version.
Although I am identifying quite a few issues I had with this pack it’s not a terrible piece of gear. It’s just disappointing because I think Camelbak should be making better products and they certainly have the ability to do so. I’ll be really interested to see what their next update to this line of packs is and if they can take them to the next level – especially in terms of how they ride on the body. If the Skyline was stable and comfortable while riding I could forgive pretty much everything else.
I pulled this pack out of daily use and tried a Wingnut 3.0 lumbar style pack. So far it carries my gear better, offers fewer, but more useful features and is lighter while offering more carrying capacity. Eventually I moved to riding without a pack most rides and when I needed a little extra storage a small fanny pack. That’s been an even better solution.