A water bottle had delivered all my biking hydration needs for as long as I have been riding, but at the start of this summer I decided to upgrade to the CamelBak Rogue bladder hydration pack. This comprehensive Camelbak Rogue review is after a summer of mountain biking holidays in France and Austria plus riding my normal trails in the UK.
I typically ride cross country trails on the South Downs, riding for two to four hours a 750ml bottle has always been sufficient. However during the MTB holidays I would be riding six to eight hours a day so carrying more water was essential. Also I would be riding rental bikes, some of which may not have bottle racks, on bumpy downhill trails there is more chance of loosing your bottle (both literal and metaphorical) so a bladder hydration pack was the only option.
This article was originally published in August 2014, however the product has not changed so this CamelBak Rogue review is just as valid now as it was two years ago.
Why I chose the CamelBak Rogue
I decided to go for the market leader CamelBak. Specialising in hydration packs they have lead the way for many years, introducing a range of innovations such as the patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, Antidote® reservoir and PureFlow™ tube. All CamelBak products have a lifetime guarantee so you know you are buying quality and are covered if anything goes wrong.
I immediately excluded the basic CamelBak Classic because it is too small. I usually ride with a bumbag (fanny-pack for North Americans) to hold my multi-tool, spare tube, puncture repair kit, snack, phone, waterproof and keys. As I wanted to include the bumbag contents in a relatively small backpack the end the decision came down to the CamelBak Rogue, which costs £47.99 form Halfords, or the larger CamelBak Mule which retails at £79.99.
The Rogue has a bladder capacity of two litres vs three litres for the Mule, while the Rogue has pack space of three litres vs eleven litres for the Mule. Although a larger pack is always useful, three litres is plenty for what I normally ride with and I felt that two litres of water would be sufficient, particularly as there would be opportunities to top it up.
At 260g the CamelBak Rogue is ultra-lightweight, weighing just a third of the bigger Mule. As I have a few larger backpacks that are hydration pack compatible I decided that if I need more pack space I can just swap the bladder over. Decision made I went online and purchased the CamelBak Rogue from Halfords, it arrived two days later.
CamelBak Rogue Review
The CamelBak Rogue has two zipped pockets, plus a mesh overflow pocked with compression straps that is ideal for holding extra layers. I found there was plenty of room for everything I would normally take riding, I even squeezed in a camera and a couple of energy gels.
The bladder hydration pack is quick to access and easy to fill. With its wide but lightweight fillport I found you could open and fill it up without taking it out of the pack. After a first attempt (when I didn’t use the fillport handle), I never spilt a drop of water and would be confident topping up on the go.
I found the Big Bite™ Valve works very well, it is certainly a nicer thing to put in your mouth than most bottle tops. It only leaked when I inadvertently stepped on the valve and bladder while getting ready for a ride. Had I remembered to close the valve it would not have leaked, this is a particularly useful function when travelling to a ride – if you remember to use it.
As a backpack it is very light and stays close to your back. Even filled with water and crammed with gear I barely noticed it on my back. On a wet day it was small enough to wear under my waterproof, which is useful as the Rogue is not completely water resistant.
The mesh back with central airflow helps to keep your back cool, although I still ended up with a sweaty back after particularly gruelling climbs. When riding downhill I didn’t feel that it affected my balance and the straps were big enough to fit over the full body armour I wore.
No CamelBak Rogue review would be complete without talking about cleaning the bladder. This is the more difficult part of dealing with a bladder hydration pack. Cleaning it was achieved in normal washing up and thorough rising, followed every now and then with a sterilising tablet to ensure no mould or bacteria built up – I used Milton tablets as we have them for our baby.
Drying the bladder between uses is helped by the folding arms which hold it open, within 24 hours it was dry. At first I struggled to completely dry the tube, but my removing the Big Bite™ valve it allowed air to flow through. I speeded the drying process by holding one end and spinning the tube, watch out for children, pets and the wife – none appreciate being whipped by a tube….
Bottle vs bladder hydration pack
As a dedicated user of cycling water bottles for many years my move to a bladder has been seamless. I am sure you can tell from the CamelBak Rogue review that I like it, in fact I like it a lot. But does it win hands down in a bottle vs bladder battle?
Ease of preparation: Bottle is the winner as the bladder is slightly more effort to fill, plus cleaning and drying the bladder are more hassle.
Capacity: Bladder wins hands down, but then you don’t always need two litres.
Ease of consumption: Bladder wins as it is easier to drink on the go, however on technical trails I would still wait until I stop.
Comfort: Bottle wins. Although the CamelBak Rogue is very comfy I do not get a sweaty back riding with a bumbag and bottle.
Cleanliness: Draw. Being closer to the ground a bottle tops gets caked in more crap, however you need to bite down on the bladder Big Bite™ valve meaning more of it goes in your mouth.
Rental bike compatibility: Bladder wins. Of the four rental bikes I have used this summer only one came with bottle holder. The two downhill bikes didn’t even have room for a bottle cage.
Loss potential: Bladder wins, I have lost a couple of bottles over the years and had them pop out plenty of other times.
Faffage: Bladder wins as by combining bottle with bumbag there is one less thing to carry. This is particularly useful if using chairlifts where your bike is upended, meaning you need to remember to remove the bottle. Doing this while dealing with the bike and sitting yourself down all on a moving target is quite a faff.
Final score: In the bottle vs bladder battle the bladder wins four two. However the two wins for the bottle are ease and comfort, meaning that for short rides at home I would probably still grab my bottle.
CamelBak Rogue review: Conclusions
CamelBak clearly know what they are doing and have created a very good bladder hydration pack. It is comfy, easy to use and is big enough to fit all I need for a typical MTB ride.
I will now use it for all but very short rides or when riding on the road. In particular it is ideal for longer rides where you need more water. It is ideal for mountain biking holidays where you don’t know whether a bike will have a bottle cage, and is very convenient if you will be catching chairlifts.
It is worth pointing out that I have also used it for hiking, and I may well use it in the winter when snowboarding. It is also a versatile bit of gear, without the bladder it is a useful lightweight backpack, plus the bladder can be used in larger backpacks, many of which are hydration pack compatible.
Although it is not an essential bit of kit for every mountain biker, I will conclude this CamelBak Rogue review by saying if your hydration needs have outgrown the bottle then you won’t go wrong purchasing a CamelBak Rogue.
The CamelBak Rogue RRP is £59.99 however I purchase mine online from Halfords for £47.99