This is really nicely made bag full of great ideas and neat features. It should last a long time too. The harness system is one of the best that I've ever used. I love its comfort and stability especially. The waterproof laptop sleeve and plethora of pockets are really well thought out. Really it comes down to whether you need 30 litres of capacity or whether its smaller sibling (MULE with 22 litres) might suit better. What a choice to make!
Comfortable harness system
Good stability when cycling
Great selection of pockets
Handy strap tidy-aways
Helmet carry was fiddly and didn't suit my helmet strap system
Possibly too big?
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Camelbak has designed the HAWG 30 litre backpack to allow you to accommodate everything that you might need in your daily routine or commute. Regardless of whether you travel by bike, on foot, by train, etc. We take a look whether there is a place for this bag in your life.
If you'd like to check out the best cycling backpacks, we've got you covered there. Alternatively, for advice on choosing the best bike for commuting, you can find our advice over here. Otherwise simply read on for our thoughts and experiences of the Camelbak HAWG.
The HAWG 30L is a well made and sturdy bag constructed from a tough coated Cordura N330D fabric, it has a capacity of 30 litres, weighs 975g (Camelbak states 1,030g) and retails for $160 / £150. If my previous experiences with this Cordura fabric are anything to go by then you should expect a long life from this product.
There is a plethora of pockets and sleeves to aid organisation of the bag, including a weatherproof sleeve to hold a laptop, side pockets for a bottle and/or a U-lock, several reflective zones all around the bag and a light loop. The main compartment is accessed via a clam-shell lid and the harness has two pockets that could hold your phone and keys securely.
There are many similarities with its smaller sibling the MULE 22L, as well as a few differences too. In brief, the similarities are as follows: The harness and its pockets, a removable waist band, the back panel, top carry handle, one flexible side pocket, outer rear sleeve, helmet carry loops, three of the zipped internal pockets and the weatherproof laptop sleeve.
The differences are the zipped side pocket, having two sections inside the bag (instead of one), the clamshell lid to access the main compartment and a couple of extra sleeves inside the compartments. The HAWG is physically bigger, as you'd expect a 33% larger bag to be, with the back being longer as well as it being deeper too.
A small feature that I really like are the strap tidy-aways. Once you set up the harness to fit, the loose ends can be folded away and tucked under an elastic loop. Very neat!
Although a waist strap is provided I've tended to remove it as the 'Command Center' harness is really stable even with a fairly heavy load. I usually just click the chest strap, stow my phone in the left harness pocket, click my keys onto the key loop in the right pocket and go. This harness system is really comfortable too. The 'Air Support' back panel does a good job at directing air over your spine and the pads only touch on the shoulder blade area and on your waist. Even carrying a laden bag in the recent heatwave I didn't get a sodden back. I do find that the longer back (compared to the MULE 22L) causes the lower pad to sit on my belt (as opposed to just above it) and catch occasionally. However, when cycling, as my back is bent over slightly, this wasn't a problem.
The pack is pretty waterproof due to the Cordura's finish, it certainly shrugged off yesterday's shower with ease. Even so, I really like the weatherproof sleeve feature for a laptop. A great idea!
In fact, all the pockets and sleeves allow you to organise your stuff as to whether you'll need it on the fly (lock, phone, train ticket), something to read on the train (in the outer sleeve) or a drink or rain jacket in the outer side pockets, and so on. The rest of your gear can be left alone in the main bag should you wish.
I have found the helmet carry loops to be a bit fiddly to put a chinstrap buckle through them. Also they don't like the Specailized Trifix system, but you may well not have that problem if you use a different helmet brand. I've improvised using a small carabiner in the loop that I then clip the chinstrap to.
My only other issue, if it can be called that, is that I find the bag a little bit big. I know that 30 litres isn't massive, but the other day I used it for a small grocery shop and it took everything fine but it made it a bit heavy and that's the dilemma really. If you need to carry bulky but light things (clothing?) along with a laptop and work things then maybe this bag is for you.
With a heavy hiking bag, the weight is taken on the waist whilst the shoulder straps are for stability. With the HAWG, the waist strap is for stability, really, with the shoulder straps taking the weight - and that means any weight goes through your shoulders. It can be a bit tiring if overladen.
Over the test period, using both this HAWG 30L and the MULE 22L, both my wife and I have found that the MULE 22L is the bag that we've gravitated towards. For us (one with a London commute) the smaller bag is the more versatile and the one more often chosen. That said, when I'm in London, I see a great many people with larger commuting bags so there is a place for the HAWG without a doubt. Whether you would choose the HAWG over the MULE is down to you and your particular requirements though. Sorry!
Value and Conclusion
This is really nicely made bag full of great ideas and neat features. It should last a long time too. It is expensive at $160 / £150 but assuming that it fits your requirements you can expect a decent ratio of money spent / years-owned. Really it comes down to whether you are a light and fast traveller or you like to have that extra capacity 'just in case'.
Within my family, we have found that the smaller sibling MULE bag is the one that we use the most. For commuting, errands on a bike, walking into town, overnight bag, etc., etc., it has been perfect. Many of the same great features are present here, the harness system is one of the best that I've ever used. I love its comfort and stability especially. The waterproof laptop sleeve and plethora of pockets are really well thought out. However, for us, the MULE is the one we choose having lived with both bags for a few months, but as I say, you may need to carry more stuff regularly in which case the HAWG is definitely worth a look.
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