With its minimalist shoulder straps, I had to work a little harder to get the fit just right. But once I found that sweet spot, the Charge was comfortable, even on multi-hour rides, despite having minimalist back padding. Ventilation was pretty good with three channels for air flow and perforated padding.
Construction on the Charge seems top-notch so far. The stitching is excellent throughout, though more time will be needed for a better verdict here. The only thing that might keep you from buying the Charge is that it is constructed of lightweight nylon. That is a selling point for me, but some might wonder if the material is burly enough to last a few seasons. But having ridden my old H.A.W.G. (that still looks brand new) for 13 years, I don’t think it is so much of an issue. The bottom of the Charge is reinforced with slightly heavier nylon, but it is not quite a heavy-duty as some of CamelBakʼs other offerings (like the aforementioned M.U.L.E.). In my time with the pack, it has shown no signs of wear.
Last but not least is the bladder. I personally think CamelBak bladders are the best, and with the new, easier Quick Link™ closure system and quick-snap cap, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. With Quick Link, the hose easily detaches from the bladder, which makes it easy to refill without the hassle of re-routing the hose through your pack. You can also click in other accessories, like different tubes (e.g. insulated, shape directional) or in-line filters. Bladder access on the Charge is superb, with a zipper that opens up 3/4 of the back for easy removal, and the cap opens and closes with a quarter turn. The bite valve works well and locks to keep your stuff dry if you happen to set something on top of the valve on the way to the trail.
The Verdict: If you are looking for a new pack that is super light and very functional for most types of off-road riding, the Charge is your pack. If you are a freerider looking to carry a full-face helmet and pads, you probably want to look elsewhere.
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