It is a rare that I use hydration pack for training or longer rides, let alone races. I have never been fond of them as I find them awkward and the additional liquid ‘ballast’ can easily be carried in normal water bottles. For tools and emergency supplies I use my jersey pockets or strap them to the frame. But recently I didn’t have any other choice, I would have to use a back pack. I was racing in a Mtb XC stage race – with no external support – for this I would be using the Camelbak Ratchet Hydration Pack.
For the stage race, I saw in the Camelbak Ratchet an ideal partner for this kind of event. It is small and handy enough to deal with hot race days, along with the associated high intensity efforts. Its three litre volume seemed a bit much, but then I thought, I don’t need to fill the reservoir completely, and I can use its generous carrying capacity instead.
High on the priority list was a minimalistic, lightweight design, sans any fussy and complicated handling. Given its light weight, I was surprised by the numerous, usable features. These included a comfortable, breathable air mesh back panel, that fits perfectly from the get-go. It also has a removable stability belt that kept everything in place during rough rides.
Another feature that has helped bust my negative bias toward back packs is the Ratchet’s tube. I can’t stand loose tubes, so the Magnetic Tube Trap™ on the Ratchet was great. It was simple to use and kept the tube from flapping about. The tube was also leak free, thanks to it’s self-sealing Big Bite valve, I didn’t experience any leaks whatsoever.
The three litre Crux reservoir, is 100% BPA, BPS and BPF free and has a leak-proof cap. The tube is designed to deliver 20% more water per sip and has an on/off lever. Hydroguard™ technology inhibits the growth of bacteria, so no unpleasant surprises.
I wasn’t sure if I would ever use the Ratchet’s stretchable storage compartment, as the race stages lasted on average around four to five hours. But I came to appreciate its roomy space, meaning all my tools and gadgets wandered into the backpack. I also made sure that, finally, I filled the three litre reservoir entirely. This way I was good to go for the whole race, without needing to stop for re-fills. The only draw-back was the need to open the main compartment to get to my gels. The Ratchet has reflective accents for low-light visibility, but these weren’t of any use in this particular race; however I have two 24 hour races coming up, where they will be handy.
Overall, I think it was the Ratchet’s weight of 300g that was the top feature for me. Over time, I almost forgot I had it on my back. I even started taking it on longer, non-race rides. Even though I don’t take it for rides lasting less than five hours, it has grown on me.
I am also an addicted long distance hiker, and have found the Camelbak Ratchet to be perfect on long walks as well. Yes, I’m fully aware of Camelbak’s purpose built – for hikers – products in their portfolio, I just really like the Camelbak Ratchet and I have been using it as often as possible!
So, yes, I am a back pack convert from now on. As long as it’s one so purposefully and ingenuously made as the Camelbak Ratchet, I truly appreciate its raison d’être.