The CamelBak Highwire 25L is a large capacity hydration pack that’s ideal for long-distance day hikes and peak bagging adventures. Complete with a 100 oz/3L hydration reservoir, it can hold 1526 cubic inches of gear, giving you plenty of capacity to carry food, extra layers, maps, and the 10 essentials.
This hydration pack is loaded with a lot of features that you only find on larger capacity day packs and backpacks, including two ice axe loops, two compression straps on each side of the pack, quart-sized elastic side pockets, a beefy hip belt, two hip belt pockets, hip belt stabilizer straps, an adjustable sternum strap, ventilated wicking back panel, pre-curved shoulder straps, and and a grab loop. Pretty impressive for a smaller capacity pack.
Being me, I was curious to see if one could use the Highwire 25 for ultralight overnights, especially given the capacity of its main compartment and all of those external attachment points. Not so, I’m afraid: it’s a very tight fit, even with a warm-weather sleeping bag and a tarp.
But I do think the Highwire 25 is an excellent pack for springtime day hiking and skiing, when you want to bring a day’s supply of water, technical gear like an ice ax or snowshoes, food, and some extra layers, for a day-long excursion.
One thing I really like about the hydration system on this pack is the ability to disconnect the hose from the reservoir when you want to refill it. I haven’t used a CamelBak hydration system for about a year, so I’m not sure when this feature was introduced. There is a QuickLink connector at the base of the water reservoir, which lets you remove it from the hydration pocket, without having to remove the hydration tube from the back of the backpack. This makes it so much easier to refill.
On top of that, CamelBak has re-engineered the locking cap on the reservoir, so that it is much easier to twist off and on. I own some older CamelBak reservoirs that I literally need pliers to twist open, so this is a really welcome improvement, too.
In addition to the main storage compartment, the Highwire 25 has two smaller zippered pockets, one on the inside, sized for a wallet and keys (with clip), and a small external pocket that you can stow sunglasses or snacks in. There are also two small pockets on the hip belt, large enough for a cell phone, a candy bar, and a compact digital camera.
The only gotcha I found with the Highwire 25 is when the hydration reservoir is full and the main compartment is packed tight. While there is a separate zippered hydration pocket behind the back panel, it bulges out when the reservoir is full, making the pack a little uncomfortable to wear. But this awkwardness goes away quickly as you drink down your water and the volume decreases.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed testing this pack and hiking and snowshoeing with it for the past two weeks. Unfortunately, it’s only available in a 19″ torso length, but the hip belt is surprisingly long and can be worn comfortably by people with up to a 38″ waist. The weight of this pack, including the hydration reservoir, is 2.3 lbs.
Disclosure: CamelBak provided sectionhiker.com with a complementary Highwire 25 for this review.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
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