> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Gear: Camelbak Ambush & Hiking Gear



Gear: Camelbak Ambush & Hiking Gear

I've never had a good, solid standalone hydration pack. I do have an old-model Blackhawk Torrent kicking around, but the water comes out with a nasty chemical/plastic taste, no matter what I do. And the straps suck. A few weeks ago, I took it out for a short hike, and the crappy straps left my shoulders sore for the next day or so. It wasn't going to cut it. I have my BOB-pack and a couple messenger style bags, but nothing that would work for what I wanted.

So, I went in search of a small Camelbak. I wanted a 3L pack with enough storage to support a day hike/scout and some extra supplies. I also wanted something from their Mil/LE line--while I am a boring civvy, their Mil stuff is much nicer and more rugged than their civilian products. Better materials, insulated drinking tube, better bite valve, more manly colors. I wanted to spend under $100.

While the larger M.U.L.E. and H.A.W.G. models were enticing, I couldn't find a deal that brought one into my price range. I ended up going with a CamelBak Ambush in Coyote Brown.

The Ambush is a fairly simple pack--it has two surprisingly big compartments, a velcro strip for name tags or patches, and the hydration bladder. The main compartment is covered in MOLLE webbing so you can add compatible pouches onto it if you choose. It's a good looking bag made of sturdy material, yet doesn't look too military or tactical, at least in my opinion. So far, it's passed as a typical looking Camelbak and not elicited any special attention.

According to their marketing materials, the Ambush is Camelbak's largest model that has an exterior access hydration bladder--on the others, you'll need to dig around inside the pack. The exterior access makes the pack easy to fill, empty and clean quickly. You access the bladder by zipping the side zippers up.

In this picture, you can also see the plastic tab around the opening/lid to the bladder--you hold onto this while filling the bladder. This is an ingenious add-on and makes filling the pack much easier. My old Blackhawk doesn't have this tab--it is much clumsier and awkward to fill.

Here's the other side of the pack, showing the straps. The straps can be stowed away in a back sleeve if you choose to attach the pack to a vest or a pack. There is a sternum strap but no waist belt--you won't be carrying a heavy load in this small pack, so there's not really a need for a waist belt. The shoulder straps are comfortable and easy to adjust.
As I mentioned, the Ambush's two compartments can carry a surprising amount of stuff. Below is a pictures of the County Comm pocket organizer that I keep in the top pocket. The pocket organizer fits perfectly in this pocket. I also have a bandanna crammed in here.

The pocket organizer carries various tools and gear. I love this thing--it is endlessly handy for organizing small EDC and BOB contents. County comm, Maxpedition, LA Police Gear and various other merchants sell similar organizers. I've heard that Maxpedition's are the nicest. I only have the County Comm organizer and have been thrilled with it--I need to get about three or four more to stow in my various packs. They're small, but you can cram a good amount of stuff in them. This pouch has some basic outdoor/survival gear. Visible in this picture: drinking straw for my Aquamira Frontier Pro drinking straw, disposable poncho, a Heatsheets survival blanket, medium Sharpie, County Comm screwdriver thing, and a survival tin.

The tin is a Cabela's gift card tin, which is a little bit larger in size than the standard altoids tin. It fits perfectly in the pocket organizer's back pocket. I'm still tinkering around with the contents of the tin--I'm not sure if I want to make it a dedicated fire-starting tin or a pocket survival tin. Right now, it has a full size magnesium firestarter, a full size Bic lighter, 4 extra pre-filters for the Frontier Pro, four petroleum jelly cotton balls (PJCBs) wrapped in tin foil, a few feet of picture wire (for snares and misc.), two ear plugs and a small camping mirror behind it all (not visible). The little baggies that the PJCBs and pre-filters are in were purchased at a craft store and are super handy for keeping small things organized.

Like the top pocket, the Ambush's bottom pocket is nice and roomy given the pack's compact size. It has mesh pockets for organizing gear--I would like a pencil/pen-style panel somewhere in this pocket, but I can live without one. In the left pocket, I have my Aquamira Pro, a hank of paracord, a TacTikka XP Adapt headlamp and an old grocery-store membership card wrapped in Gorilla tape (the uber duct tape). In the right pcoket, I have a pair of cheap Bushnell sunglasses and a spork. These pockets will also each fit two AR-15 style magazines for a trip to the range, bugout or a post-TEOTWAWKI patrol. In the zippered pouch, I have some food stuff--a few packets of MRE peanut butter, two Cliff Bars and some extra batteries for the headlamp. As it's loaded, this pocket has some extra space.

The pack has a few extra nooks where you cram extras--a rolled up GI Poncho or a jacket can fit fairly easily underneath the strap/buckle that leads from the bottom compartment to the top flap. You can also completely unzip the hydration flap, which would give you enough space for decent sized sleeping bag. There's the sleeve in the back panel, meant for storing the straps when stowed--you could fit something thin in here. And, there's the MOLLE panel for extra pouches.

I'm thrilled with this pack--it's about perfect for its intended purpose. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, this would be taken along on any patrol or other foray into the wild world. The lack of a waist belt means that it will not interfere with a gun/war belt, and it can be fairly easily incorporated into a chest rig, vest, or larger pack. Overall, awesome pack.

The CamelBak Ambush >