Editor's Note: This article is part of the Mtbr Guide to hydration packs, featuring the new CamelBak Low Rider line. To see all the articles, head over to the Low Rider hydration pack hub page.

Lowdown: CamelBak Palos 4 LR Waist Pack

Quick history lesson: A few weeks back while sitting in the living room of Dave Wiens for this interview, his wife Susan walked through on her way out the door for a ride. For those who don't know, Mrs. Wiens is Susan DeMattei, former World Cup cross-country racer, mountain bike hall of famer, and bronze medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Around her waist was what most of us would refer to as a fanny pack. DeMattei informed us that the somewhat hippie-looking piece of apparel had been a gift from another former XC great, Jacquie Phelan, and it was one of her favorites pieces of riding gear. Indeed, that's how far back the use of waist packs for mountain biking goes.

But I honestly chuckled a little inside my head. Whether strolling the streets of Paris, or riding Gunnison, Colorado's Hartman Rocks, the fanny pack is not exactly the symbol of contemporary cool. After about a month of testing the CamelBak Palos 4 LR waist pack, though, my mind has been changed. Say what you will about fashion implications, but when it comes to ripping around on mountain bikes they make a lot of sense. Read our full review below to learn more.

Weight with bladder and hose: 490 gramsBack panel: Padded mesh
Weights without bladder and hose: 310 gramsSize: One size fits all
Cargo capacity: 2.5 litersFit: Waist sizes 26" to 44"
Water capacity: 1.5 liters / 50 ozColors: Black/atomic blue, ember/charcoal
Fabric: 70D/210D block dobby nylon, 210 HT nylonPrice: $75
Belt: Fixed 1.5" w/ 2 cargo pocketsRating:
4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
4 out of 5
Stat Box


Pluses

Minuses
  • Keeps weight low around hips
  • Waist pockets could be larger
  • Unique bladder compression mechanism
  • No quick disconnect on hose
  • Integrated tool organizer
  • Crowded tube trap area
  • Zipped essential pocket w/key hook
  • Stomach tug when pack/bladder at capacity
  • No back sweat
  • Some pack bounce when at capacity
  • Multi-directional magnetic tube trap
  • Bright colors (if you don't like that)
  • Dual waist pockets (one with zipper)
  • Blinker tab for safety
  • Ample storage for sub-2-hour rides
  • Easy-open reservoir
  • Easy-to-clean wide mouth opening
  • Strong fluid flow
  • Bright colors (if you like that)

Review: CamelBak Palos 4 LR Waist Pack

The premise of the CamelBak Palos 4 LR waist pack is fairly simple. By moving weight off your back, you'll sweat less and have a lower center of gravity, which will improve the overall ride experience. Additionally, by incorporating a 50oz bladder, it's easier to stay hydrated because you wont have to fumble with pulling a water bottle out of a bottle cage or pack holster.

The pack opens up to reveal smartly organized tool carrying pockets.

The pack opens up to reveal smartly organized tool carrying pockets (click to enlarge).​

Truth is, no matter what you think about the cool factor of riding with a waist pack (or fanny pack, or bum bag), the Palos 4 LR is a sound idea that CamelBak has executed well. The bladder is large enough to meet the thirst requirements of most rides of 2 hours or less, while the 2.5 liters of thoughtfully organized storage provides adequate room for a spare tube, hand pump, multi tool, wind breaker, smartphone, and a bar or a couple of gels.

It's a revelation to climb without the weight (and heat) of a hydration pack on your back or shoulders.

It's a revelation to climb without the weight (and heat) of a hydration pack on your back or shoulders (click to enlarge).​

I've been wearing this pack off and on now for about two months and have really grown to appreciate what it brings to a ride. For short outings when I prefer to eschew the hydration pack, I don't need to stuff jersey pockets (or SWAT pockets) with gear. Instead it's all in one self-contained unit that weighs less than 500 grams sans water. (For comparison sake, the CamelBak Skyline 10 LR hydration pack weighs 850 grams empty.)

Continue to page 2 for more of our CamelBak Palos 4 LR waist pack review »


The Palos 4 LR has earned a regular place in our key ride gear rotation.

The Palos 4 LR has earned a regular place in our key ride gear rotation, especially on bikes with no bottle cages (click to enlarge).​

Filling the reservoir is simple enough thanks to the easy-open big mouth top. Three zipped pockets (one of the waist, one on the back, one inside), provide ample secure storage. There's also a flap pocket on the waist that's great for storing food, and several more interior pockets suitable for a few small tools and a lightweight jacket.

Vented padding on the back panel combined with an easy-to-cinch waist belt nets a comfortable fit, while the hydration tube circles your waist like a belt, making it easy to grab on the fly without looking down. The bite valve delivers a steady flow of water, and there's a unique cinch mechanism that allows you to secure the bladder as you empty it, eliminating water slosh.

The waist belt cinches down easy and stays in place. The hydration hose attaches to a magnetic tube trap.

The waist belt cinches easy and stays in place. The hydration hose attaches to a magnetic tube trap (click to enlarge).​

If I could ask for a few changes, I'd love to see slightly bigger waist pockets. As it is, an iPhone 5 just barely slips into the zipped pocket. It would also be nice if there was a quick disconnect on the bladder hose. And the area around the magnetic tube trap is a little crowded, meaning it can be tough to re-secure the hose without looking down. I'm about 50-50. Fortunately, there's an audible click when you do hit the mark so you know the tube's been secured.

Finally, when the pack is at full capacity, meaning a topped up bladder and crammed pockets, I've experienced a small amount of bounce and stomach tug, especially on more rowdy descents. It's not a deal breaker that interrupts the ride. But perhaps a slightly wider waist belt would help spread out pressure and secure things a little better.

Weight with bladder and hose (but nothing else) is 490 grams.

Weight with bladder and hose (but nothing else) is 490 grams (click to enlarge).​

My solution has been to fill the bladder with just enough water for the planned ride, which for most sub-2-hour affairs is about half way (25oz). This reduces the weight you have to drag uphill, and keeps the pack tighter around your waist thanks to the easy-to-use cinch mechanism.

Bottom line, no matter what anyone thinks about my fashion sense, the Palos 4 LR has worked its way into my regular riding gear rotation. Sorry water bottles.

For more info please visit www.camelbak.com.