SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Gear Review: CamelBak Snowblast

“Hydrate or Die!” my CamelBak Snowblast proclaims, complete with embroidered skull and flames shooting out its ears.

A bit dramatic perhaps, but those of you who’ve ever relied on a backpack hydrating system while snowshoeing, skiing or boarding can appreciate taking hydration and insulation seriously. Because chances are you’ve had that experience when, after a significant stretch of winter activity, you’ve paused – panting, sweating, steaming in your layers of clothing – for a refreshing sip of … nothing.

Nobody wants to stand around and defrost their water tube, no matter how creative their personal techniques for doing so.

Enter the Snowblast’s Therminator.

Despite the cheesy name, the Therminator Harness (an insulated pouch built into the right shoulder strap) is a real plus. It allows you to zip the entire tube, already outfitted with its own insulated sleeve, into relative warmth, protecting against freeze-up and keeping the bite valve close by (eliminating that annoying flapping). We all know that hydration is important in improving endurance and reducing muscle recovery time. Add in high elevations or cold conditions, though, and consistent hydration becomes imperative in maintaining good circulation and acclimatizing properly – benefits you won’t get from a tube full of ice.

In addition to its “anti-freeze technology,” my Snowblast sports an expandable main compartment, which is probably my favorite feature. Given the flimsy waist belt – it is, after all, designed to only carry about six pounds – I’ve found the expansion and compression to be invaluable. This is especially true given my habit of continually peeling off layers. The fact that I can cinch the pack in tightly while wearing most of my gear and then expand it to gain an additional 400-plus cubic inches is a huge benefit, as is its unrestrictive design and versatility.

While I’m not tough enough (embroidered skull or no) to use the ski or snowboard attachment while scaling mountains, I enjoy the convenience of strapping in snowshoes or trekking poles and consequently having only one bag of gear to deal with on my way to a trailhead or lodge. Likewise, while I’m not cool enough to own an MP3 player, I can recognize the potential benefit of the Snowblast’s padded outer pocket with headphone-accommodating outlet, especially for those who fly solo during their mountaineering adventures.

I love the mesh pouch and key attachment that lets me remove all potentially injurious baggage from my pockets before hitting the trail while knowing that I won’t have to waste time fishing around for valuables before I can get in my car at the end of the day. The separate zippered section for the reservoir is similarly convenient, as both allow for easy access and compartmentalization.

On top of that, the Snowblast naturally offers the benefits CamelBak customers have come to rely on – mainly superior bladder design (allowing for easy filling and the virtual impossibility of leaks and breaks) and locking bite valve. Given this and the insulation innovations, the three-liter Snowblast (priced at $85.00 retail) should be in high-demand among winter sports enthusiasts.

For more information on CamelBak products, visit http://www.camelbak.com.