Camelbak’s “Pit Boss” winter hydration pack review

Review of the Pit Boss pack was performed at Crystal Mountain Resort by Brian Hopper. Photos by Matt Small.  

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PIT BOSS being boss……brian hopper at crystal mountain by matt small

“Yes, I can put that in my pack.”  That seems to be a common phrase I found myself saying last week on my ski trip to Whistler.  Up on the high alpine of Blackcomb glacier’s backcountry I realized quickly that it did not take long for my buddies to see how much I had fit in the new Camelbak Pit Boss pack.  Reaching our destination I took a sip from the bite valve (Big Bite Valve) and was pleased to find I had water still, and that it had not froze!  

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The Reservoir (integrated hydration system)

Camelbak’s Antidote™ Reservoir carries three liters of water (they figure most people will drink about a liter an hour, so three liters ideally should last three hours).  I love Camelbak’s business model of hydration integration in every pack.  We were on a two hour tour, which left me with plenty of water still, also making me think I should drink more of it!

Camelbak has insulated the tube from the bite valve to the reservoir.  My old Camelbak Snowbound pack, also had the insulated tube, but still froze sometimes.  Solution:  Camelbak has now insulated the harness, calling it  Therminator™ harness (just sounds tough doesn’t it)!  In extreme temps, simply sip more frequent, blow air back into the tube after sipping, or even fill with luke warm water are all idea’s to help prevent freezing.   The day’s I used the pack, low’s were only near mid teens.

Upon further exam of the reservoir something I did notice on this pack is the three liter reservoir has a quick disconnect, for easy clean, and reservoir swapping.  My initial concern with this was possible leaking, but I disconnected it, and connected it multiple times with a full reservoir, and only had a drop or two appearing to come residual from the hose.  

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brian hopper wearing the PIT BOSS pack in Crystal Mountain Resort’s backcountry. photo by matt small (www.mattsmall.com)

SAFETY FEATURES:

Some of my favorite features of the pack are the safetly features Camelbak designed into the pack.  You have probably noticed the snows-ports industry trending towards safety awareness in the backcountry, and inbounds for that matter.  Well, Camelbak has made it clear with this pack that they left no stone unturned with intended features to lend speed and efficiency to the user in emergency situations.  Review of the safety features:

1.   The “drop-out Probe Pocket” for instant probe access.  Basically there is a side pouch extending vertically length of the pack that unzips to a seperate pocket designed to carry your probe.  The goal:  for the user to locate survivors without unloading the entire contents of the pack, frantically looking for their probe.   Carries up to a 16″probe.

2.  Love this one:  the “tri-zip quick gear access ” zipper system.  You simply pull on the corner of the top pack compartment, and the zipper both unzip simultaneously, granting access to the top of the pack to quickly get out emergency tools.  Such as a shovel, which has it’s own shovel pouch in side the main pack compartment.  Awesome.  Impress your friends, and be functional.

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The harness pouch, complete with waterproof zipper!

General Pack Features:

Going over the rest of the interior of the pack, you find a nice little spare goggle pouch with it’s own zipper access (protecting this area free of lens’ scratching debris).  And to keep that expensive eyewear even safer, Camelbak has fleece-lined this pouch to create a plush little area for your eyewear to rest secure.  

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goggle pouch

The top zippered pouch features an internal zipper pouch (essential pouch) for valuables you don’t want to leave at the summit, i.e. your car key’s.  This is where I kept my wallet, headphones, and my key’s.  I was surprised with the size of the top zippered pouch.  Perfect for a beacon, tool, or Clif Bars.  

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The internal “essential” pocket shown. Located in the top pouch of the pack. Yes, a pocket in a pocket. Genius.

The  external front pouch is designed to carry your skins/tools.  It is also large in size, and will hop much more than your skins.   Camelbak has made functional features on this pack to be user friendly for the skier, and the snowboarder alike.  The pack has a versatile snowboard/ski carry (diagonal, vertical or horizontal) set up that works great even with larger powder skis!  

The snowboard carrying feature is nicely integrated into a padded section that is released with fasted clips (see photos).  Camelbak calls it the “draw-bridge” back panel.  Just unclip it.  Place board.  Re-clip.  Now hike!

brian hopper and the PIT BOSS  at crystal mountain resort by matt small (www.mattsmall.com)

brian hopper and the PIT BOSS at crystal mountain resort by matt small (www.mattsmall.com)

Camelbak designed this pack to carry: skis/snowboard, shovel, probe, skins, snowshoes, helmet, goggles, extra layers, lunch, tools, camera, phone, wallet, keys.  And with 1617 cu in, plus a 3L reservoir, believe me, it will! Another neat feature is the waist strap has a small zipper pouch on it!  Perfect for a quick snack, or even a beacon would fit!

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Made of nylon and special coated with top secret UV resistant coating! Makes your pack last long, long time!

Construction:

The pack is made of nylon with a special UV coating intended to keep your pack looking fresh and new after years of use in direct sunlight (also keeps the nylon from braking down from exposure to UV light).   Over all feel of the pack is one of quality, and durability.  The zippers all felt like they would take some aggressive tugs, and pulled nicely with the glove friendly zipper tags.  The fastex clips all felt very snug and tight, and had a contemporary feel to them compared older packs.  

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“Tri-Zip” system allotting for quick access of the pack’s contents. Simply pull back on the corner and the entire top pouch opens up. You just have to try it.

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Interior shovel compartment.

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Be Boss. Act boss. Wear the Boss. The Camelbak Pit Boss.

The best part:

Their return policy:  “CamelBak® Got Your Bak™ Guarantee: If we built it, we’ll Back it™ with our lifetime guarantee”.  Can’t beat that!  So after skiing down an epic Blackcomb run off Disease Ridge, I was very impressed with how secure the pack felt on my back!  And using it for a couple day’s back home at Crystal Mountain Resort, it is the ultimate backcountry pack.  In my opinion, the Pit Boss is the perfectly thought out, and designed to be the go-to backcountry day pack for backcountry enthusists, and will exceed your expectations!

Cons:  

I did feel the webbing was a bit lengthy for the waist strap, but is was easily able to be tucked into the built in elastic loops on the was it belt to keep it from flapping in the wind.   I do wish it came with a bit valve cover (to protect it further from debris/elements).  

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PITBOSS

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View of the pack on skier Brian Hopper at Crystal Mountain Resort.
The pack is conspicuous, and does not overtake the users ensemble. Because it is all about how you look….right?

Video of the pack in use, click here.
Click on any photo of a product seen in this review.

pit boss

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Click on any photo of a product seen in this review for more info and pricing:

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Camelbak’s “Gambler” pack review

Review of the Gambler pack by Camelbak was performed at Crystal Mountain Resort by Brian Hopper. Photos by Matt Small. (jan 2013)

BUY now:  BACKCOUNTRY.COM Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 7.36.45 AM $94.00

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200 cu”

The Gambler pack is your perfect little “chute pack”. What I mean by that is it is ideal for the “minimalist skier”. Transceiver…..check. Probe……check. Clif bar…..check.
Shovel……check. And that is about all it will hold. Yup… Oh, of course besides the 3 liters of water to get you through most any ski day. Really…do you need more for your average day? Not me.
This is the back that you will forget about. There is not a problem riding the chair with this one on. Case and point: While loading High Cambell chair at Crystal Mountain Resort last week, I took the pack off prior to loading (to get an item). The friendly lifty jested, “really didn’t need to take that pack off did ya!” He was right. I rode the rest of the day with out taking it off and did not eve realize it was on. Summary: This pack is small. Some may say too small. But don’t forget Camelbaks intent (which is genius) is to keep you from being that guy who carries every little thing possible while skiing in bounds all day!
The Gambler (perhaps names after the Tahoe legend) gets my vote as my preferred daily-driver-essentials-only pack!

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Gambler pack in action! Location: Crystal Mountain | Photo: Matt Small

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Pack with shovel…. this shovel is a little older, with the longer handle, which sticks out a bit more. I did not have shorter handled shovel, but I am confident it would not stick out as far. Skiing with it like this all day, it was not even noticeable however.

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Not shown: An inside pocket which held my BCA DTS very nicely.
Also, the side of the pack is perfect for a probe.

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The nozzle. Despite the exposed plastic, the nozzle did not freeze up on me in the 23 deg temps….

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The pack stayed snug and tight even through a double ejection!

The pack stayed snug and tight even through a double ejection!

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The fit was very nice. Excellent padding, in all the right places.

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Outer pocket had enough room for keys, wallet, and a couple clif bars/shots.

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To see this review on Camelbak’s FACEBOOK page, click here:  www.facebook.com/camelbak