Review: Camelbak Volt 13 LR



The Volt 13 LR carries over most of its design from the excellent Charge 10 LR, and has added some great new features, yet has still retained the functional low lumbar weight carrying and stability characteristics of its brethren. The Volt 13 LR gets the bigger 100 oz reservoir, larger hip pockets, a front pocket and an overall increased storage capacity. The lumbar design pulls the weight off the shoulders, and moves it onto the lumbar and lower back and hips, offering increased stability and weight carrying characteristics, and draws the center of gravity in close to the torso.

The LV back panel uses their ‘integrated ventilated system’, and it’s 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 bottom of the pack rolls around your hips and feels like a favorite comfy pillow. 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 manner. The shoulder straps were minimally padded, and I found them decently comfortable as long as you kept the load to a reasonable weight. The pack itself is light, and I never felt the weight, even with the full three liters of water and the additional gear being carried, though when the reservoir is completely full, it pushes slightly on your back. By having the weight of the water pulled down into your lumbar and not on your shoulders, along with the rest of the gear being snuggled tightly into the back; the pack seems to disappear, while offering excellent stability. The conformability and stability of the design mean the packs doesn’t flop around on rough terrain, and mostly stays put. I did notice that it lifted upwards on occasion and bounced around a bit more on extremely rough terrain and drop offs, especially in direct comparison to the Charge 10 LR, the latter having a Velcroed in place characteristic.

The pack has their nifty helmet hook, which allows you to snag your helmet straps onto a small clip to carry your helmet when it’s not being worn. I did find that something the helmet straps would pop up out of the hook if the helmet got pushed upwards or got bounced hard. 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 water 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.

The main compartment had a nice long zipper, which opened along most of the pack’s length, allowing efficient access to everything without having to dig around for hidden items. The three mesh pockets in the main compartments are located at the bottom of the pack for stability and to keep the weight on the hips. They offered effective organizing for tools, parts, and other sundry items, and the small Velcro closing tab on the inner one kept things in place. The pump holder sat up higher in the pack above the pockets, and worked nicely to keep the pump secure and out of the way. The hip belt’s two cargo pockets are quite roomy, and I really liked the increased volume compared to the Charge 10 LR, and I used them for my cell phone, camera, tools, and keys. The middle sleeve pocket was excellent for overflow storage, and the stretchy material on its side allowed a jacket or armor to be placed in it.

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. The larger 100 oz capacity was nice to have, as it made longer rides tolerable without having to resort to carrying an extra water bottle. To remove the reservoir, unzip the rear compartment, pull it out and unclip the tube. You can fill the reservoir back up, clip the tube, push the tails into the hip belt, and then hook it back on and zip it shut.

Although the pack has been moderately robust, you need to be careful since its made from lightweight fabric. I tore a hip pocket to shreds when I snagged a tree branch when I was dive bombing down a trail, and another hip pocket has some worn areas from scarping against rocks. Every other section of the pack hasn’t shown any signs of wear, and I tend to abuse stuff to death, so I might be an anomaly.

Measured Specs:

  • Pack Weight (no reservoir) – 518 grams / 18.3 oz
  • Antidote Reservoir (with hose) – 182 grams / 6.4 oz
  • Total Weight – 700 grams / 24.7 oz

Bottom Line

The CamelBak Volt 13 LR is a great pack, and synergy of the lumbar design, low slung reservoir, conformable back panel and hip belt, and functional suspension system makes for a very stable and comfortable entity. The pack adheres to your back, and it carries the weight centered properly on your hips and lumbar. It seems to all but disappears and stays in place, although on some drop-offs and rougher terrain, it does get some lift and bounces around. The lumbar compression straps helped pull the bottom of the pack into the back when the reservoir started to shrink in size, and it was useful for doing customized load and fit trimming. Besides the great load carrying and stability characteristics, the pack had some other excellent features, including helmet hooks, the main compartments clam shell opening and mesh pockets, the roomy side cargo pockets, and the stretchy middle overflow sleeve. Pockets galore! The new larger 100 oz (3 L) of water can get you through most rides, and the 10L (600 cu in) of storage space is adequate for most adventures, especially when adding in the middle sleeve, though it doesn’t carry heavy loads that well. It’s made from lightweight materials, so you do need to be careful with its lower level of robustness.

The Volt 13 LR’s innovative design, lightweight materials, soft padding, and its highly flexible nature, create a plush and comfortable pack, and it becomes one with the back, and has enough water and storage space for most rides.

  • Antidote lumbar reservoir
  • Comfortable, conformable and nicely padded
  • Weight and pack disappear
  • Main compartment clam shell opening
  • Large hip pockets
  • Lumbar compression straps
  • Middle overflow sleeve
  • Lightweight material isn’t the most robust (hip cargo pockets take the most abuse)
  • Back can get sweaty
  • Doesn’t carry heavy loads well
  • Pack can bounce around and lift up on drop-offs and rougher terrain

MSRP: $125
Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • MacBikePro says:

    I think you answered your own question. No squeezing necessary with this pack.

    I’ve had this pack since Feb. 2013. I bought the pack for an adventure race and it did very well on its maiden voyage. It has never leaked, or caused me any problems and I use it at least once a week. I even slammed the lower clasp in my car door. Cracked it a bit, but it still works!

    It never feels heavy. Straps often disappear and I feel like I’m not even wearing it most of the time. If I evacuate the air in the bladder before installing, it’s easy to drink dry.

    If there was a complaint, it’s getting a full bladder in or out. This is my 1st Camelbak, so I cannot compare, but it’s a little challenging to mount the upper hook, then the main hook. It just takes a few extra seconds to manage it and it has to be done blind because there’s not a lot of room. I LOVE the quick-release hose, though.

    There are larger storage packs, and occasionally I want to clamp on a pair of shoes, or an extra fleece, but this pack is very flexible and I would say that it has ample storage for anything just shy of a 12-hour adventure race.

  • neuregel says:

    past few years camelback is gone overboard with their backpacks. I use an army issue camelbackgreen canves with only two main chambers, two cell phone pockets, two zippers. 100ml. Holds everything. Bam done Im riding. When I see guys or gals riding up with one of these they are usually nooooobs and they look silly.

  • MissedThePoint says:

    How’s it look on the rider, on a bike?

  • wheel-addict says:

    Bought this pack just before a self-supported 300 mile road race this fall. Hardly noticed it on my back at all. I love the pockets on the hip belt–this is where I could access food, lip balm, electrolyte pills, etc while riding. Highly recommended.

  • Mr. Papagiorgio says:

    Do you know if the new lumbar resevoir without the wings will work with a pack that originally came with the 70oz resevoir with the wings?

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