Camelbak HAWG Commute 30L – full of neat ideas and great touches; maybe more bag than needed, however
Camelbak designed the HAWG 30 liter backpack to allow you to accommodate everything you might need in your daily routine or on the go. Whether you travel by bike, on foot, by train, etc. We examine if there is a place for this bag in your life.
If you want to check out the best bike backpacks, we’ve got you covered. Alternatively, for advice on choosing the best bike for commuting, you can find our advice here. Otherwise, just read our thoughts and experiences on the Camelbak HAWG.
The HAWG 30L is a well-made, sturdy bag constructed from tough coated Cordura N330D fabric, it has a capacity of 30 liters, weighs 975g (Camelbak says 1030g) and sells for $160/£150 . If my previous experiences with this Cordura fabric are anything to go by, you should expect a long life from this product.
There are a plethora of pockets and pouches to help organize the bag, including a waterproof sleeve to hold a laptop, side pockets for a bottle and/or U-lock, multiple reflective zones all around the bag and a slight loop. The main compartment is accessed via a clamshell lid and the harness has two pockets that can hold your phone and keys securely.
There are many similarities with its little brother the MULE 22L, as well as some differences as well. Briefly, the similarities are: the harness and its pockets, a removable belt, the back panel, the top carry handle, a flexible side pocket, the outer back sleeve, the helmet carrying loops, three of the interior pockets zippers and weather protection. laptop sleeve.
The differences are the zippered side pocket, having two sections inside the bag (instead of one), the clamshell lid to access the main compartment, and a few additional pockets inside the compartments. The HAWG is physically larger, as you would expect with a 33% larger pack, with the back being longer and deeper as well.
One small feature that I really like is the strap storage. Once you have configured the harness to fit, the free ends can be folded over and stored under an elastic loop. Very clean!
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Although a belly strap is provided I tended to remove it because the ‘Command Center’ harness is really stable even with a fairly heavy load. Usually I just click the sternum strap, stow my phone in the left harness pocket, click my keys on the key loop in the right pocket and off you go. This harness system is also very comfortable. The “Air Support” back panel does a good job of directing air over your spine and the pads only touch the area of your shoulder blades and your waist. Even carrying a loaded pack during the recent heat wave, I didn’t get a soggy back. I find that the longer back (compared to the MULE 22L) causes the bottom pad to rest on my belt (as opposed to just above it) and occasionally snag. However, on the bike, as my back is slightly curved, this was not a problem.
The bag is quite waterproof thanks to the Cordura finish, it certainly shrugged off yesterday’s shower with ease. Even so, I really like the weatherproof sleeve feature for a laptop. A good idea!
Indeed, all the pockets and pouches allow you to organize your belongings depending on whether you will need them on the fly (padlock, telephone, train ticket), something to read on the train (in the outer pocket) or a glass or rain jacket in the outer side pockets, etc. The rest of your gear can be left alone in the main bag if you wish.
I found the helmet carrying loops to be a little tricky to fit a chinstrap loop through. Also, they don’t like the Specailized Trifix system, but you might not have that problem if you use another brand of helmet. I improvised by using a small carabiner in the loop to which I then clip the chinstrap.
My only other issue, if you can call it that, is that I find the bag a little big. I know 30 liters isn’t huge but the other day I used it for a small grocery store and it took everything well but that made it a little heavy and that’s really the dilemma . If you need to carry bulky but lightweight items (clothes?) along with a laptop and work items, this might be the bag for you.
With a heavy backpacking pack, the weight is taken on the waist while the shoulder straps are for stability. With the HAWG, the waist strap is for stability, really, the straps take the weight off – and that means all the weight goes through your shoulders. It can be a bit tiring if overloaded.
During the testing period, using both this HAWG 30L and the MULE 22L, my wife and I found that the MULE 22L is the bag we have turned to. For us (one with a trip to London), the smaller bag is the most versatile and often chosen. That said, when I’m in London I see a lot of people with bigger carry bags, so there’s definitely a place for the HAWG. Whether you choose the HAWG over the MULE is up to you and your particular requirements. Sorry!
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Value and conclusion
It’s a really well made bag full of great ideas and cool features. It should last a long time too. It’s pricey at $160/£150, but assuming it meets your needs, you can expect a decent ratio of money spent to years of ownership. Really, it depends on whether you’re a light and fast traveler or like having that extra “just in case” capability.
In my family, we have found that the little brother MULE bag is the one we use the most. For commuting, bike errands, city walking, duffel bag, etc., etc., it has been perfect. Many of the same features are present here, the harness system is one of the best I have ever used. I especially like its comfort and stability. The waterproof laptop sleeve and plethora of pockets are really well thought out. However for us the MULE is the one we choose after living with both bags for a few months but as I said you may need to carry more stuff regularly in which case the HAWG is definitely worth it of eye.