Camelbak made a name for itself by revolutionizing how we drink water on the go. The first hands-free hydration pack started as an IV bag stuffed into a white tube sock. From those humble beginnings they have gone on to create a diverse product line. Camelbak’s innovation continues with the ChillBak Pack 30 Soft Cooler and Hydration Center.
My excitement for the Chillbak is largely for its capacity and mobility as a cooler. Not to mention that it also includes a built-in hydration station. I am rather enthusiastic when I first take it out of the box. My kids quickly comment on how it looks (which is pretty cool even as an adult). Although the Chillbak is technically a soft cooler, it is form shaped (not a flexible bag cooler). Honestly, it is more like a regular cooler with backpack straps. The dimensions are roughly the proportions of an undersized carry-on (18.5 x 13.4 x 8.7 in.). Which is a good balance of generous capacity, and yet still manageable to transport independently.
Having both a cooler and a hydration station packaged together is fantastic. I am able to carry it as a backpack wherever I go, which is pure gold. This is especially evident on my first beach excursion. Wearing the Chillbak keeps my hands free to carry all the other beach accessories. Or more importantly, to hold the hand of a toddler. Even after a day in the sun, the contents in the Chillbak are still cool. The extra capability of the built-in reservoir pack is perfect for staying hydrated all day. The spigot nozzle is ideal for cleaning up. It also came in handy for rinsing sand off before getting in the car to go home.
Capacity and Hydration:
I begin loading the Chillbak with cans of soda, eager to see just how much it can actually hold. (We’ll save the whole soda vs. pop conversation for another article). I run out of cans, and there is still room. So, I lug the Chillbak to our outside fridge with the top handle strap. I stack in a few more cans. It maxes out with 30 cans and still plenty of room for ice! I’m thoroughly impressed. With two side mesh pockets, I can even add additional water bottles or other essentials. Additionally, the rolltop closure provides 4L dry good storage above the cooler if needed.
Camelbak recommends 24 cans with 15 pounds of ice for maximum cooling of 72 hours. It also holds 6L of water in the Fusion Group Reservoir. The reservoir comes with a Tru Zip waterproof zipper and stows behind the back panel. It has a long tube for accessibility from the exterior of the pack. Additionally, the spigot nozzle allows for quick refills and easy cleanup options. As you can imagine, the weight starts to add up. Something to keep in mind for whomever decides to become the walking human cooler.
Fortunately, it comes with both shoulder straps and a waist strap. I especially appreciate that it has a sturdy handle on the top so I can sling the cooler up to get it on my shoulder. Or so I can simply carry it over short distances at my side. Although it is only a cooler, I would really like to see more robust shoulder straps and waist belt since it weighs so much when fully loaded. Occasionally the shoulder straps would bite and pinch when carrying it. However, this wasn’t a major issue since the Chillbak is designed more for campsites, beaches, and backyards (not hiking expeditions).
The Camelbak Chillbak 30 Soft Cooler and Hydration Center is a durable multi-featured cooler. Perfect for if you are looking for a durable, quality construction that won’t tear or quickly wear out. It has a large storage capacity, with additional dry storage availability. With hydration capabilities of 6L and the mobility to carry as a backpack, the Chillbak is one of the most versatile and functional coolers you can find.
While it doesn’t measure up to Yeti’s cooling capabilities, it is not that far off. Not to mention the Chillbak’s other features are noteworthy and might just tips the scales in its favor. If you prize mobility, capacity, and extra features like hydration and dry good storage – the Camelbak Chillbak 30 is for you!
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