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May 5, 2011

CamelBak Skeeter Children's Pack Review

A quick reminder about two contests that will be wrapping up soon: one for a pair of Merrell Pace Glove women's trail shoes, and the other for a copy of Marshall Ulrich’s great new book. No, they’re not prizes of equal value … but they’re both pretty cool. Winners will be announced on Sunday.

Strange as it sounds, one of the main factors in determining whether our kids would be up for hiking in Yosemite was hydration packs. More specifically, we wanted to know if they’d be able to carry their own water.

Prior to this spring, whenever we did family hikes, I would typically carry my own hydration pack as well as a couple of water bottles for everyone to share – but I knew that the prospect of lugging enough fluid for three kids to spend a whole day on the trails and steep hills of Yosemite was more than I wanted to deal with. In other words, Daddy wasn’t playing the family camel anymore; sometimes you just have to draw a line.

CamelBak Skeeter pack above Nevada Fall

For my 12-year-old son, this wasn’t much of a problem, as he’s tall enough to use a standard hydration pack, and was already accustomed to using it for day hikes and bike rides. My younger daughters were more of a problem, however; even the smallest adult packs seemed either too wide through the shoulders or too long through the holsters or trunk to be worn comfortably for an extended period of time. That’s why I was relieved to find the CamelBak Skeeter pack, which is specifically designed for kids, and which my 9-year-old daughter has used extensively, including our Yosemite trip where most of the photos in this post were taken.

On the Mist Trail, with Illouette Fall in background

The Skeeter serves one very simple function: it holds a fluid compartment against your back. It doesn’t have pockets or cargo containers or media cord outlets or anything remotely fancy (except for a reflective stripe, if you consider that fancy). However, it incorporates some of CamelBak’s best innovations, and like all of the company’s products, it comes with a lifetime guarantee for durability. It’s also extremely lightweight and low profile – weighing just 3.8 oz (110g) without fluid, with an 11-inch torso length - so it rides very easily and is perfectly sized for smaller bodies.

Lightweight mesh harness, comfort mesh back panel, Velcro reservoir pocket closure

Comfort is further enhanced by a super-lightweight mesh harness system, and a back panel with the same diamond mesh that CamelBak uses on its adult packs. The drink tube can be routed through a cross-strap on one side, with the bite valve tucked into the opposite side. The shoulder straps have an internal tunnel for the drink tube, and a Velcro fastener to close the reservoir compartment.

The Skeeter comes with CamelBak’s new Antidote reservoir, which is a noticeable improvement over the Omega reservoirs that were already pretty darn awesome. It has a wide mouth opening with a new quarter-turn fastening system that locks the cap in place without any doubt about security. Using two Omega reservoirs and one Antidote on our trip, it was easy to tell a difference in the ease of closing the new version compared to the former. Fluid capacity on this pack is 50oz (1.5L), or roughly three-quarters the capacity of standard adult hydration packs.

At the edge of Vernal Fall

All the other traditional CamelBak reservoir features are here, too: the Big Bite valve with lockout lever, HydroGuard technology to prevent microbial buildup on the interior surfaces, and a PureFlow tube for a steady volume of fluid with each drink. When the pack is filled, it sits very securely against the back, with very minimal bouncing when running or jumping from rock to rock.

Rockhopping on the Yosemite Falls Trail

Both my daughter and I are quite impressed with the Skeeter pack, and after comparing the utility of adult packs and childrens packs over multiple outings, I’d say there’s definitely a benefit to using child-specific gear. Truthfully, the only downside is that your kid will eventually grow out of it, but since the Skeeter pack is very affordably priced, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth if you use it for a reasonable amount of time.

CamelBak’s Skeeter pack retails for $26 from Amazon.com.

Above the Yosemite falls overlook

*Product provided by CamelBak
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Janet,  5/6/11, 8:00 AM  

It looks like camelbak has really improved the skeeter pack. My son had this pack when he was 4, having his own water made him keen to leave the yard to go for a walk which otherwise involved some sort of tantrum. Anyways his had the old style of bladder and was only 0.5L, which meant for days at the beach I would bring extra water to refill his "waterpack". This increased size of this new resevoir really makes it more useful for older kids. I wish I had read this a couple of weeks ago before I ordered a mini-mule for the coming season. Oh well. Thanks for the reviews!

Jason 5/7/11, 4:18 PM  

Is that Amazon link for the 2011 or are those older version of the Skeeter? Seems like what Amazon had were different colors than what is listed on the Camelbak site.

Jen 5/8/11, 6:09 AM  

We have two of these and they are just the perfect size. I love that I don't have to carry water bottle for them anymore!

Donald 5/8/11, 1:29 PM  

Jason: I'm pretty sure those are the current packs on Amazon. My daughter's pack looks pink, but it's called "raspberry" on the CamelBak site as well as the Amazon page.

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