Camelbak Ratchet — Tested and Reviewed
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Camelbak Ratchet comes with a 3-liter Crux hydration reservoir and 3 liters of storage for the essentials. Other features include breathable air mesh back panel and external helmet hooks. It also comes with a removable stability belt, a feature we would have liked to see on Camelbak Classic. Weighing just around 300 grams, it’s also the lightest hydration pack with 3-liter reservoir from Camelbak.
At first glance
The first thing you are going to notice when picking up the pack is its weight. Camelbak Ratchet is certainly light, weighing just 310 grams without the hydration reservoir, and around 530-grams with the reservoir. Despite the lightweight, it still comes with decent amount of storage. The main compartment at the back of the pack can easily fit all the essential tools and spares you could need on a few hour ride. Compared to the Camelbak Classic, we were glad to see some organization on the main compartment. Rather than just one large pocket, there is one larger and two smaller pouches inside the main compartment.
Underneath the main compartment, there is a stretchy overflow storage compartment. It allows you to stash a rain shell, extra clothing or a small first aid kit. On the cover for hydration reservoir compartment, there is a small pocket for your cell phone, keys, or snacks.
The material feels quite thin, but that’s to be expected for a lightweight pack. Longer term usage will show whether the material will hold up or not, time will tell. Also, I never really figured out how the external helmet hooks are supposed to work. In fact, I’m not even certain where they are located. If you know better feel free to let me know how they work it in the comment section down below!
Camelbak Ratchet comes with a 3-liter Crux reservoir. A nice feature is the quick tube connector which makes removing and installing the reservoir into the pack much easier. When filled up fully the reservoir retains its shape well, but as soon as the water level gets lower the reservoir gets much softer.
I have heard other people having issues with their reservoirs before, and I encountered some issues as well. Sometimes, you’d be unable to suck out any water unless you tipped the top of the reservoir straight up. I wasn’t able to figure out the exact cause of this. However, it might be related to the way you install the reservoir into the pack. If you push it too deep, the bottom of the reservoir might fold over and prevent water from getting in. That’s just my theory.
Fit and comfort
When you first put on the pack and head out you will notice how light it feels on your back. Another thing you will notice is how long and thin the pack is. This was never a problem to me, but for a short person, this might pose an issue. Otherwise, the pack is quite comfortable. The shoulder straps are relatively comfortable and the straps ensure that the pack stays in place. Or do they?
Camelbak Ratchet Tested
For the last couple of weeks, I have been using the Camelbak Ratchet exclusively for both shorter and longer rides.
During testing, it quickly became clear that the harness was struggling to hold the weight of a fully loaded pack in place. After loading all my gear in it, the pack weighed around 1.2 kilograms. Add 3 kilograms of water, and the pack is starting to feel quite heavy. I ended up yanking the straps as tight as I comfortably could and this seemed to solve the problem. However, with the straps so tight the pack definitely starts to restrict your movements. Not by much, and it’s totally tolerable considering the amount of water you can carry.
The standard plastic tube clip is something that doesn’t earn any praise. It works, but it also places the tip of the hydration tube way too low. Often your knees and thighs end up hitting it. Therefore I made my own version of the magnetic tube clip, which solved this issue.
Sweat-free back or not?
Camelbak advertises the Camelbak Ratchet as an ideal pack for hot and sweaty rides. Despite living in a cooler climate, I had issues with my back sweating like crazy when using this pack. Part of the problem is the “breathable air mesh” back panel. It feels great when the pack is empty. However, when you load up the pack and fill it up with water, the mesh just can’t keep the pack off your back. Therefore the pack ends up lying flat on your back with no airflow whatsoever. No wonder most other packs of this size and larger have got some level of fancy back panel technologies to combat this issue.
Camelbak Ratchet is lightweight hydration pack with a large 3-liter reservoir. 3-liters of storage is enough for shorter rides when you don’t need to bring loads of gear with you. The pack is relatively comfortable to wear, although you need to tighten the harness as tight as possible to keep it from bouncing around. Despite the light weight and relatively narrow profile, the pack made my back sweat like crazy. For the price, I think there are better options out there. Maybe with a bit smaller hydration reservoir, but with a more innovative design.
- 3-liter hydration capacity
- Quick connector for the hydration tube
- Enough storage for a short ride
- The harness and straps need to be tightened really tight to hold the pack in place
- No magnetic tube clip
- The plastic tube clips brings the end of the hydration tube too close to your knees and thighs
- Sometimes you need to tip the top of the reservoir straight up in order to get water out
- Despite the lightweight, the pack made my back sweat like crazy.