With all the hydration packs on the market today, what helps one pack stand out from another? In my opinion, it all comes down to two things: 1) Comfort and 2) Function. When it comes down to fit and comfort, I’m holding all packs to the Deuter Air Comfort/Air Stripes standard and when it comes to function, I’m comparing against the Dakine Amp 12.
With that high standard in place, the task at hand has been to put The North Face Klamath 8 hydration pack through its paces. While it hasn’t surpassed the reigning individual champs, it has turned out to be one of the most well-rounded hydration packs I’ve tested.
The North Face Klamath 8 Hydration Pack Features:
- Mesh-infused E-VAP™ foam back panel is comfy and breathable
- 70 oz (2-L) Source® Widepak™ reservoir with magnetic valve clip
- 500 cu in storage volume
- Large main compartment with internal organization
- Stout, secure quick-cinch exterior compression
- Removable, anatomically tracking hipbelt
- Outside-in side water bottle pockets
- Burly face fabrics, lightweight side panels
- MSRP: $80
The North Face Klamath 8 Hydration Pack Review
The North Face knows how to make great backpacks and hydration packs, so I was anxious to get the Klamath 8 into my test chamber. When it arrived, the subdued Asphalt Grey/Chili Pepper color scheme was a welcomed sight as the most recent packs I’ve tested were a little more on the outlandish side.
While some of my favorite hydration packs utilize a more complex suspension design, the Klamath simply employs an egg crate-style back panel with a wicking mesh cover. Nothing fancy there, but the pack rides comfortably and breathes very well. Since many other pack designers have really over-engineered their back panels, this one is noteworthy because of its working simplicity.
Add the simple and functional back panel to the ergonomically curved shoulder straps and this pack stays put and wears well for hiking and rigorous mountain biking. I suppose a little more robust waistbelt could improve the overall stability, but the sliding attachment system of the waistbelt yields a comfortable and flexible fit, so it ends up being a non-issue.
Storage capability of the Klamath 8 is pretty solid with only a few minor misses. You get a large main compartment for tubes and such with a few nicely-shaped sleeves to hold a pump, multi-tool and the like. You also get two mesh pockets (one Velcro and one zippered with a key loop), but no lined pocket for the ever-popular iPhone — a sad omission.
The side compression straps are helpful for load containment, but really hinder access to the main compartment. I always seemed to have both zippers underneath the straps and when you unzip without un-buckling the straps, access is difficult.
Two expandable side pockets are acceptable for hiking use as a quick stash location, but I couldn’t think of much use for them other than storing a few gels or bars. The ubiquitous bungee adorns the rear for a quick jacket stash if needed.
I’m a fan of Source bladders and this one worked very well and is easy to clean. A disconnecting hose would be nice, but I’ve got little to complain about. One more kudos there… the tube comes straight down the strap and has a nice magnetic clip that keeps the bite valve in place. While I disliked the magnetic clip on the Osprey Raptor 6, this execution was much simpler and it worked like a charm — re-attaching automatically most of the time.
Good Klamath 8
- Great hydration pack for a variety of disciplines
- Surprisingly comfortable (no serious bells or whistles necessary)
- Carries loads well
- Offers a ton of storage and organization pockets
- Magnetic attachment re-attaches bite valve automatically
- Durability is excellent
Bad Klamath 8
- Compression straps hinder pocket access
- No lined pocket for electronics (iPhone, digital camera, etc.)
Bottom Line: The North Face Klamath 8 Hydration Pack
While it’s not the market-leader in comfort or convenience, the entire package is thoughtful and functional. I really don’t have a ton of complaints about this hydration pack. It wears well and rides comfortably on long mountain bike rides and is an all-arounder that I can easily recommend.