The Charge LR carries over much of its design from the very excellent Octane LR, and has added some great new features, yet has still retained the excellent low lumbar weight carrying and stability characteristics of its brethren. The Charge LR has increased the capacity, added more padding and organizational features, and upgraded the load carrying and stabilization, through the use of the lumbar compression straps and Exoskeleton back panel. The Charge LR is a hybrid of a normal pack and the Octane LR, so you get the best of both worlds.
I have used the pack over the last several months, and it has been crashed, abused and rained on, and has been quite durable for a pack made of lightweight materials. During the test period, it has been very comfortable and stable, and as far as packs go, it has been enjoyable to wear. The lumbar design pulls the weight off the shoulders, and moves it onto the lumbar and lower back, offering increased stability and weight carrying characteristics, and draws the center of gravity in close to the torso. The back panel and the hip wings conform to the body, like it was painted in place, and it sticks like Velcro no matter how ferocious and bumpy the terrain, with the bulky water weight snugged up tightly into the lumbar. The low tight weighting drawn into the lumbar and lower back, meant the shoulders were freer to move, which was advantageous in technical terrain, and reduced back, shoulder and neck strain. I ride in extremely gnarly terrain, with lots of long grunt climbs to get to my terrain, meaning prodigious amounts of steep up and down, and the Charge LR has been a pleasant, useful and functional hydration pack for shorter rides.
The molded Lightweight Exoskeleton back panel is soft and conformable, and offers good comfort and ventilation, though with everything squished up against the lumbar, it can get damp in that particular spot. The hip belt and back panel were nicely padded, and highly flexible, so it conformed extremely well to the contours of your back, and it carried the weight, in a balanced and unnoticeable manner. The shoulder straps were minimally padded, which was fine for the way the system functioned, and the lighter loads the pack would be carrying. The pack itself is feathery light, and I never felt the weight, even with the full 2 liters of water, and the additional carry-on items. Pulling the water weight down low into your lumbar and not on your shoulders, and the rest of the burden snugged in tightly to the back, it does seem to disappear, and offers excellent stability. What I really like about this pack more than anything, is when I get into rough terrain, going of drop offs, ramps, ledges, etc., the pack never flops up towards your head, so I think it’s an ideal gravity pack for that reason, albeit its not the roomiest and lacks helmet carrying capabilities. The LR’s waist belt seems to sit snugger and up higher on the stomach, and didn’t catch on your saddle when making severe sitting on the rear tire moves that happen on uber steep terrain. Between the weight seemingly disappearing, the lack of the pack doing a head flop or bouncing around on your back, and no saddle catching, the LR becomes near invisible when wearing!
The lumbar compression straps, which are located on each side of the hips, are hidden inside the wings, and help pull the bottom of the pack into the back when the extra girth of the used up reservoir shrinks during usage. It keeps the pack, load and weight stable and centered on the back, and can be done on the fly. Although its primary use is for the reservoir, it can also be used to trim and alter the way the pack sits on your back, giving one micro tuning customizations, and I used this feature frequently on every ride.
The zippered main compartment was easy to use, and opening it up clam shell style, allowed efficient access to everything without having to dig around for hidden items. The mesh pockets in the main compartments offered effective organizing for tools, pumps, parts, and other sundry items, and the small Velcro closing tabs are a very nice touch to keep things in place. The hip belt’s two cargo pockets are decently roomy, and I used them for my cell phone, camera, tools, and keys, and I was especially happy that my iPhone easily fit. My favorite compartment was the back sleeve (aka the burrito), which was constructed from very stretchy material. You could shove a decent-sized rain jacket and maybe even some pants into the sleeve, and I was amazed much it expanded. I also found one other useful storage location, which was the V-shaped zipper section just above the reservoir, which worked perfect for an extra set of gloves, socks, or something relatively small.
The Antidote lumbar reservoir system worked extremely well, and the new screw closure only takes a quarter turn to open and close, and the wide mount is easy to pour into and clean, though to fill to capacity you do need to hold it with the handle at a slight angle to facilitate. A minuscule amount of water can get stuck in the nooks of the wings, exacerbated by the prone cycling position. Most of the water gets pulled out of the wings by the partial vacuum produced by drawing water towards the inlet when drinking, and body movement, such as pedaling and hip swivel aid in drawing any lingering remnants back towards the center. Testing showed a worst-case scenario of 4 oz or 1/2 cup of water staying in the reservoir, some in the wings, and the rest where the draw port wasn’t able to extract the residual. Doing the same experiment with a normal reservoir, there were 1-2 oz or 1/8-1/4 cup of water left. The Quick Link is pretty sweet, and facilitated clipping and in a leak-free manner for the bladder removal, though on occasion, the hose would dribble some water, so I would blow the hose clean beforehand. Inserting the reservoir is an easy task, route the hose, and place the reservoir into the pouch, push its tails into the waist belt, clip the hanging hook onto the loop, and then flip the handle out over the flap, and zip it shut.
- Pack Weight (no reservoir) – 467 grams / 16.5 oz
- Antidote Reservoir (with hose) – 178 grams / 6.3 oz
- Total Weight – 645 grams / 22.8 oz
- Pack Size – 20″ tall x 8″ wide, 22″ wide by hip
- Main Compartment Size – 15 ” tall x 8 ” wide x 3 ” thick