CamelBak pretty much wrote the book on it. After all, it was that company that first introduced the concept of the hydration pack way back in 1989 when founder and cyclist Michael Eidson was searching for ways to easily take on fluids while in the midst of a race. His humble designs have evolved greatly over the years, becoming lighter, more efficient, and more durable too. Today, CamelBak has diversified its catalog in a number of different directions, and yet it still continues to look for new ways to improve the product that first launched the brand more than 25 years ago.
One of its latest creations is the new Franconia LR 24 backpack, which just began shipping this fall. This bag is designed for hikers who want to be able to carry everything they need with them on the trail, and of course need to stay hydrated while they are out there. As such, it has a number of excellent touches that make it an outstanding option for trekkers and day-hikers, as it provides ample amount of storage space and is comfortable to wear, even when it loaded down with a lot of cargo.
The Franconia is the first pack in CamelBak's line-up to use its new Crux LR hydration reservoir. Completely redesigned to make hydration easier than ever, it delivers 20% more water per sip than previous models. This translate to getting more water while staying active, and speaking as someone who has used CamelBak packs for years, I can tell you that it is a noticeable difference when taking a drink. The idea is that over the course of the day, you'll have more water intake in general, keeping you better hydrated as a result.
The Crux also features a wide cap that helps you to fill it much more quickly and easily, as well as a built in handle for carrying it around and getting it slid into place. The Franconia has a special hydration bladder compartment that is designed to hold the Crux nicely, without taking away storage space from the interior of the bag. The bladder also sits lower on your back as well, creating more stability while hiking and making it more comfortable to carry. There are even integrated reservoir compression cinches that reduce the movement of the bladder both when it is full and as you drink from it. Those cinches can be adjusted on the fly as you hike too.
In terms of a hiking pack, the Franconia is very nicely designed. It features 24 liters of internal storage space, as well as a number of organizational pockets and stashes too. This helps to keep all of your important gear well organized easy to find, while providing a lot of cargo space for hauling everything you need with you out on the trail. I've stuffed the pack to the gills with camera equipment, food, extra clothing, a headlamp, and a variety of other necessities, and it swallowed everything up nicely. And that was after I had already filled the Crux LR reservoir with water.
Better yet, the pack's suspension system, ventilated back panel, and well-designed hipbelt all make carrying a full load much easier and more comfortable. There are a variety of load lifters, compression straps, and other fine adjustments that can be made to help the wearer dial in just the right fit. The result is a daypack that not only carries everything you throw at it, but keeps you hydrated and comfortable on the trail too.
Other nice touches include trekking pole and tool loops, a magnetic tube trap to keep the bite valve securely in place, and twin bottle holders for when the Cruz hydration bladder simply isn't enough. All of those pieces add to an already excellent product, and hikers are sure to be happy to see those small details were included.
Over the past few years, CamelBak has focused mainly on other markets rather than hiking. They've added more bottles to their line-up, and have revamped its running and mountain biking lines. The Franconia is a nice return to the general outdoor market however, as it is a bag that can be used in a number of different ways, although it certainly excels at its primary focus – hiking. I am personally impressed with how much care and attention went into making this pack, which is durable and well built. It doesn't seem as if CamelBak has missed any details when creating the Franconia, and it even has some features you might only expect on a larger pack designed for longer hikes or backpacking trips in the backcountry.
That said, this pack is a bit on the hefty side when it comes to weight. It tips the scales at 2 lb. 10 oz. (1.2 kg), which is heavier than most other competing daypacks. The Franconia makes up for this added weight in durability and comfort, but anyone who is looking to travel light will probably want to consider other options, some of which will come in at half the weight of this pack.
On the other hand, if you don't mind a bit of extra bulk, the Franconia is a fine pack that you're likely to love. It does have a comfortable fit and ride, and offers a lot of features as well. The new Crux LR reservoir is included for instance, and its load carrying capabilities for fantastic too. Throw in a nice suspension system with a ventilated back panel, and plenty of options for getting the proper fit, and you end up with a product that delivers nicely on most people's needs. And at $160 is is well priced for everything that it delivers too. Sure, there are less expensive packs out on the market, but not many of them deliver everything that this one does.
Find out more at CamelBak.com. For now, the Franconia LR 24 backpack is only available at REI. That will change in January of 2017 however, when it will be sold in other outlets as well.