Old Gold: 2015 Camelbak Skyline 10R

Nov 28, 2022 at 11:35
by Travis Engel  

Many many Christmases ago, I made the mistake of gifting my mom a new purse. Given how tattered hers had become, this seemed like it would be my biggest slam dunk since 1986’s macaroni-on-construction-paper family portrait. But even though I was only 9 years old when I picked out that $15 handbag at TJ Maxx, I was keen enough to notice how labored her gratitude was when I presented it. She did give an honest go at making it work, but within a few days, she was back to her old faded blue L.L. Bean. Thankfully, this was also the Christmas I got a Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive to our UK nerds), so I was too busy for it to bother me much.

It wasn’t until decades later in 2018, when Camelbak first redesigned the Skyline LR 10, that I truly understood what I’d put my mother through. The choice of how to carry our stuff is a very personal one, and is especially divisive when put to a group as opinionated as mountain bikers. We all have different priorities, and when I got this Skyline 10 LR in late 2015, it satisfied every one of mine. The gaudy colorway doesn't do a great job of hiding dirt, though, so I should probably wash it more often.


The standout feature is the eponymous Lumbar Reservoir, which relocates and reshapes the bladder to be lower and closer to the hips. And that’s a three-liter bladder, almost half the bag’s seven-liter gross capacity. Few packs this compact and light can accommodate a full-sized bladder. All of this carried over to the updated 2018 Skyline 10 LR, and then carried over again to the sleek-looking third iteration that came out in 2020.

The on-bike experience on any of the Skyline 10 LR’s multiple forms is superb. There are few packs out there with such a unique balance of moderate storage capacity and im-moderate water capacity. If there’s any actually useful information in a story about a seven-year-old pack that you (technically) can’t buy anymore, it’s that the Skyline 10 LR is still unmatched as a comfortable, lightweight option for days when you need a lot of hydration but only a little storage. I’ve spent time in all three versions of this pack, and I’d recommend any one of them.

But on the other hand, if you’ve ever seen one of your favorite pieces of gear get an update that robbed you of something that you liked about it, then please come join my first-world-problems pity party. There were some subtle but impactful quality-of-life perks on the debut Skyline 10 LR that have since been abandoned. As evidenced by the steady disintegration you can see in this tattered old relic, I’ve never been ready to give it up.


The first-gen Skyline 10 LR had a unique way of accessing its reservoir. Camelbak took the novel step of putting a zippered panel on the back (front?) of the pack instead of simply adding a divider in its largest compartment. Neither approach actually adds any storage, because the bladder still has to occupy space, but this method makes it more convenient to pull the bladder out mid-ride for a refill. It also just feels like a “cleaner” way of doing things.

When I’m organizing the items in the main compartment, I’m not contending with a large, heavy, often moist blob in there as well. On small packs like this, though, I do see the benefits of how the newer Skylines do things. It's much simpler. After all, the fewer seams, stitches, and moving parts, the better. This version has some extra weight and extra potential failure points that the new ones don’t. But it feels like a luxury, and I miss it whenever I use other lightweight packs.


Another perk that fewer and fewer bike-specific packs have these days are the external gear straps at the bottom of the first- and second-generation Skyline 10 LR, which are missing from the current model. Again, this is a small pack. It’s easy to overload it, which would ruin its low, form-fitting feel. If I need to be ready for rain or otherwise unpredictable weather where a packable windbreaker won’t cut it, I can roll up whatever extra layers I need and strap them down in a spot where they’re barely noticeable. I happen to have an on-bike solution for carrying knee pads, but it’s also an excellent spot for those as well. I’ve even used those straps to hold trailwork tools, battening down the two arms of a set of loppers or even holstering my sawzall when moving between work zones. Both required me to ride a little more carefully, but having the option is better than not.

Of course, it’s not perfect. The hip pockets are a little small, which was addressed in the newest model. And they’re now both zippered instead of the less-secure elastic closure on my old pack’s right hip pocket. And its helmet clips have never been reliable, so the new version simply puts a couple loops at the shoulders for you to thread your chinstraps through. And there used to be a rather pointless feature that was intended to cinch the bladder down as it emptied, which the new Skyline essentially does automatically thanks to Camelbak’s Dual Wing Belt.

I guess change is just inevitable. Just like me, the people designing our products have their own unique priorities. So, if there’s any other useful information to be found in reading about discontinued products, it’s this: When your next pack perfectly serves your unique priorities, maybe buy two of them, just in case.


110 Comments

  • 271 0
 At 53, I miss my 2015 bladder too.
  • 20 0
 The enlarged prostate crew is a group @henryquinney forgot to ostracize. New things to hate!
  • 1 0
 Bravo
  • 28 0
 At 56 I'm just happy I've stayed active enough to not grow a Camelfront (beer belly) and can still see my "bladder tube" without requiring a mirror.
  • 5 0
 With you. Is prostate trouble the new cable routing?
  • 48 0
 Laughs while wearing my 2007 mule WITH the original bladder....
  • 38 0
 I’ll raise you with a 2003 version. For some reason it just keeps on trucking.

Haven’t used the bladder since filling it with beer at a festival in 2010 though.
  • 4 0
 I had an old Camelback Mule for the longest time. Finally one of the zippers ripped down the seam. I warrantied this years old hydration pack and they replaced it no questions asked.
  • 7 0
 @Ironchefjon: I'm still rocking a first generation Camelbak H.A.W.G. from 2001 or so. It's only pulled out for bigger backcountry rides at this point, but damn that thing is built well and perfectly sized.
  • 3 0
 Came to post this. I have no idea when I bought my MULE, but that pack has seen some stuff, and it still keeps ticking. Some of the fabric is slightly torn, but then some of me is slightly torn too. I've gotten a couple newer packs, in moments of weakness, but the reality is I always return to my MULE. That said, that rear-zip access to the bladder on Engel's pack is pretty awesome. Getting the bladder out is one thing that bugs me about mine.
  • 6 1
 I wonder the biofilm that collects inside the bladder is probably protective against bad plastic chemicals. Anyway I’ll continue not washing mine.
  • 2 0
 I still use my MULE from 1997 on some days.
  • 2 0
 I'll raise you all with my Original 1996 M.U.L.E on its second bladder granted. Cycled over 30,000 miles with that thing and only replaced it last week with a new Skyline LR.
  • 5 0
 I still have original camelback that had no storage.
  • 2 0
 My "North Face" riding pack not only dates from 2001, it's a counterfeit one to boot. In general I don't like ripping off IP, but after cross shopping all the genuine brands on size, features etc I actually liked the design of this one better. The bag itself doesn't actually match any NF designs, it's only the logo that has been copied.
  • 1 0
 @whiskybiker: that's still the only pack i have. almost bought a lab austere pack this fall but it's winter in the okanagan valley. maybe for christmas
  • 2 0
 I think my Mule is from the early 2000's. It's so old, I can't even remember when I got it! I run Hydrapak reversible bladders in it with great success. Haven't seen any reason to change/upgrade anytime soon.
  • 1 0
 @babathehutt: I'll second your wish, Bro. I haven't gotten sick once from no film.
Of course, my all-time fave is my ancient Blackburn Mississippi, which could hold TWO 3L reservoirs, just in case you are into resistance training that you can drink...
  • 1 0
 YES! Me too...
  • 1 0
 @pixelguru: Some faulty logic there my old sir. You don't remember when it is from because you got old, not because camelback is old.
  • 1 0
 @kingbike2: Man, those were the worst, especially the velcro closure system. I also seem to recall they had some sort of binder clip thing for keeping the hose from flopping around that didn't work at all.
  • 2 0
 @JNZ: I hear you. Mine is a 1996 and has outlived 4 bikes.
  • 1 0
 I found the MULE that I still use today in a ditch covered in mud circa 2005. Looked old then. I've had to replace the zips twice and reattach one shoulder strap, but it still works great after 15 years of being overload and having my bike sitting on it when I carry it up hills without pedal access. I've never found another pack that balances my bike on my back so well. Bladder didn't last long though, I prefer bottles so just put them inside the pack.
  • 1 0
 Still got the original Camelbak from the 90s. Got it from a Schweppes raffle or something
  • 42 3
 we can smell it from here
  • 16 3
 That thing is seriously gross.
  • 8 0
 if he washes it, it will server another decade. Or maybe it is held together by all of that dead skin glued by sweat and solt deposits. In any way there is def some new form of life in that mesh Big Grin
  • 6 0
 I wash my hydration packs periodically in the laundry machine. They look new after.
  • 13 0
 I have this pack and it's my favorite backpack and I plan to keep it till it's dead as well but I don't wear it to much these days. I've been getting by with a water bottle and car key in the pocket whenever I can. Love not having a backpack on whenever it seems reasonable to get back to my car with a bike issue.
  • 4 0
 when it dies Camelbak will send you a new one free of charge.
  • 1 0
 I'd been doing the same for all but the hottest midsummer rides, except with keys, ID, multi-tool, and dog bowl in a slim hip belt. I hate shit in my pockets when riding, and it's got room for a small bottle reserved for the dog for medium-long rides, without being bouncy.

Until I decided to go full-face helmet almost all the time... It's way easier to grab the hose from a slim USWE pack than it is to either try to shoot water through the chin bar or to lift the helmet enough to get directly in my mouth. Still have my (cleaner than that example) Skyline 10, but it only comes out for late fall rides where I might need a bunch of layers (off as the ride heats up, on again as the temp plummets with the sun).
  • 4 0
 @rickybobby18: I somehow managed to lose the little o-ring that seals the quick disconnect between the hose and bladder. Probably a ten cent part, if you know what size to buy. Camelbak sent me an entire new bladder for free.
  • 1 0
 I have one too and it has served me well. Im considering replacing it with the new model. The zipper is getting pretty bad and I like the idea of larger side pockets.
  • 1 0
 Same, don't use pack often, but when I need one, I always grab the Skyline. Used to ride with Evoc but once I bought Skyline I literally stopped using Evoc the day after. Helmet mounting is shitty on it though, mounting a half shell is a nightmare, mounting a fullface is only possible through the chinbar and then it moves while you ride. But, I always use helmets with detachable chinbars and keep the upper shell on so no problem. Pity they removed the gear straps in newer versions, since they seem to have helmet mounting sorted.
  • 10 0
 I now have the habit of buying 2 of anything that fits me well, or I really like, and will wear out; especially footwear.
  • 6 1
 I always wait until the inevitable sale to buy the backup pair. It’s the worst in shoes. Change for the sake of change is dumb.
  • 3 0
 @Sleeperific: 100% this
Buy the 1st one, realize after a few uses that you need to find a copy so you can always live life with one of these. Pounce on the next sale, feel triumph. You just shot 3 bears in Oregon Trail, and you CAN carry them back to the wagon.
Dealing with Hoka shoe "improvements" rn, the old Clifton 7 was the pinnacle, the 8 is too flimsy. I need to find a pallet of 7's somewhere.
  • 2 0
 @chrod: heh. I always wasted my bullets and was too late fording some river.
  • 7 0
 The Skyline LR10 is the best backpack I've ever had, easy. Situating the weight of the pack on your hips and completely off the back and shoulders really changes how easy it is to carry weight (even 3L of water and a full pack), and I now use it even for short rides over a lumbar pack. I wish more manufacturers would adopt similar designs, it's really a game changer.
  • 2 0
 Surprising no other company has copied their low design considering how long it's been around. Another thing I like about the Skyline is the supportive 1 1/2" belt straps around the waist when every other pack I've seen uses 3/4" straps that dig in and are not comfortable.
  • 4 0
 Got the same vintage Skyline pack…it is damn good. Ride packless most of the time these days but when I’m doing an all dayer and need to carry extras or just need a load of water, I dig this out and nearly forget it’s there as it’s so comfy. (My cross strap is also as badly frayed!)
  • 4 0
 I am also using an old Camelback LR pack and will until it's completely shot. As a reasonably tall person, I don't think I've ever had a relatively small pack that carried as well. I bought it for biking, but I have used it for a lot of hikes just because it keeps weight low better than any of my smaller day packs.
  • 6 0
 Having used both a backpack and a fanny pack. I will go backpack every day.
  • 5 0
 That's what makes this one so good. It is a backpack, but it has the better weight distribution of a fanny pack. Best of both worlds except for a little more sweat on your back than you'd have with a fanny pack.
  • 7 0
 @TucsonDon: and a whole lot less bouncing. So also not the worst of both worlds.
  • 2 0
 @justinfoil: Agreed, the no bouncing is great.
  • 1 0
 Yeah, hip packs don't work for me. They bounce around on me too much. Rather have the weight on my shoulders.
  • 3 0
 I'm still using the 2012/2013 versions. The Charge LR (2L) and the Volt 13 LR (3L). The lumbar bladder just works so well. No more having the pack hit the back of your helmet going off steep drops.
  • 4 0
 Same here! Had to repair it where a chipmunk chewed thru the side pocket to get to some shot blocks (wish I could have seen that caffinated chimunk!). The no slosh diver in the bladder is split but it doesn't seem to make a difference. For me hip packs bounce too much and don't provide any back protection. Going with no pack means no first-aid kit, or pad storage while climbing (always the first thing here on the front range) or strapping everything to the bike like a overlander wanna-be.
  • 1 0
 @AirAdjuster: I also don't like not having anywhere to put my phone with no pack. I don't mind using water bottles, but having a phone bounce around in a jersey pocket, or feeling all weird in a shorts pocket is definitely sub-optimal, and I like having the phone with me just in case.
  • 2 0
 Camelbak if you are listening most of your packs from this era are better than the "new and improved" versions. I have an Octane LR 2 L and Volt LR 3L which is similar to this one and I have bought newer ones only to return them and hope you come back to your senses and either reissue what worked or truly make something better.
  • 1 0
 I've got the same 2015 model pack. Still serves me well. Mostly relegated to moto riding at this point as I have moved on to a smaller hip pack for all but my longest mtb rides. It's getting a bit dirty, but I expect it will keep doing its jobs for a long time to come.
  • 1 0
 I got the blue one with orange piping and it's been sitting in a closet for the better part of 7 years. Having said that, if I were to start wearing a pack again it would be that one as the hip packs I don't get and something like a Mule looks about as appealing as having bar ends
  • 1 0
 Totally agree! My 1st gen Skyline is still hanging in there and haven't seen a pack I would want to replace it with. Since we are on the topic of Skyline. How about Troy Lee's first version Skyline shorts. Undoubtedly my favorite pair of short ever. Unlike Camelbak, TLD's new Skylines just suck.
  • 1 0
 I've given up on Skyline shorts because the sizing is terrible and the waist adjusters have had several different iterations all terrible. My original 10 LR backpack had a mouse chew through it to get to some food I'd left inside. I don't like the newer versions as they are missing the useful straps to cinch a jacket to etc.
  • 1 0
 Wow they are that old .I still have mine but in the more reserved black and red.Great design still .Sure I saw Mark Weir riding with one on a film and thought the layout of the bladder was on the money.I also have a late 90s early 2000s one my mate lent me when I got back into biking back then(ended up giving me) that still goes out with me on night rides etc
  • 3 0
 Also large enough to hold an entire roll of gorilla tape when Travis needs to tune up his tubeless setup on the trail. Never forget.
  • 1 0
 I also have the first gen and love it. I was going to update to the newer model but realized they took away the separate reservoir zipper so I didn't. Most of my rides are shorter these days with my son and I used just a smaller hip pack but for the other days I still love the skyline.
  • 1 0
 I have got one and its awesome, but it did tend to climb up and swing under my armpits while going down steep stuff. Other than that, its was a great design and the helmet strap hooks worked and didn't pull out of the seams!!
  • 2 0
 Always happy to see a T. Engel post about time-worn gear, wrenching practices, or bicycle industry progress. Travis' talent always brings depth of perspective even around the simplest of subjects.
  • 1 0
 I just trashed my first generation Skyline LR10 after I turtled on a steep climb and slid down sandstone on Gooseberry Mesa's North Rim Trail. Of course my old pack took the brunt of what is essentially 60 grit sandpaper. It literally saved my ass, but when I stood up, stuff fell out of all the new holes. I knew it was wearing out, so I'd already found a second gen version to replace it instead of the newest gen which has no exterior attachment points, which I like for carrying armor, rain gear, etc. While I like that it fits similar to the original, I miss the first generation's bladder access via the outside. It simply worked great. If I could find another first gen, I buy it.
  • 1 0
 2010 Osprey Raptor 14, Baby!! Mine has seen some hard labor on a regular basis, and is STILL serviceable. But after 12 years of being thrown down the trail with reckless abandon in all conditions - I'm feeling guilty about asking Osprey to honor their warranty yet again - which I'm sure they will. Hey Buddy ! How about sewing me up a new one!! Nah. There are limits, right? So it's time. Think my Hunny Bunny Hoochie Coochie Sweety Pie & favorite trail slayer, has placed a brand new iteration under the ol' Xmas tree. Oh yea!
  • 1 0
 Nice seeing this...I've been using my Dakine Drafter pack since 2015. It's brown though so it hides the dirt a little better. It's pretty tattered but still works perfectly. I like seeing well used gear...keep it going!
  • 2 0
 Still riding with my original camelback hawg.. prolly 25 years old..works great..less consuming of things you don't need and don't buy into all the bullshit lemmings
  • 1 0
 I wish there were more pack options in the low slung lumbar style. So many modern packs are large at the top and taper towards the waist, which doesn't make any sense to me.
  • 1 0
 2013 Camelbak MULE still going strong with the original bladder. Want to upgrade bags but the elastic jacket/bulky storage area with the cinch straps is just too good to give up.
  • 11 2
 Thanks for the gesture but I'd prefer to read it on PB for free. Nice of you to offer us the expensive version though.
  • 3 0
 Is that recycling or upcycling...or just lazy?
  • 3 0
 I hope against all hope that Travis Engel is getting paid for this
  • 2 0
 I have this exact pack in excellent condition if anyone is looking for one of these, I don't use it...
  • 2 0
 The backpack nerds are now the hip pack nerds and in 5 years I guess they will be the thigh hydration pack nerds.
  • 3 0
 I'm holding out for calfbackpacks
  • 2 0
 I have a hip pack that fits nicely under this pack. So I can were two. The hip pack is for my extra batteries!
  • 3 0
 Idk, frame storage is legit. Far less back sweat for me.
  • 3 0
 Tell me you own a Tacoma without telling me.
  • 1 0
 They need a new section for grimy kit reviews. My favorite kit lasts longer 'cause it's cleaned occasionally. Dirt and grit tend to chew up fabric with every flex.
  • 1 0
 I have had two of these packs. It would be my favorite except for the bladder kinks and blocks water from coming out almost every ride.
  • 1 0
 This Camelbak bag is a shitty knockoff of the best mtb pack & water bladder carrier, the Wingnut Gear Enduro. Once you’ve tried it you’ll never want to go without it.
  • 1 0
 My 2010 Camelbak is still in great condition, except for that time I closed the door on the nozzle. Luckily that was easy to replace.
  • 1 0
 Damn PB. You dropped a weeks worth of content in one day. I'm trying to get work done here Smile
  • 1 0
 Once you go Osprey you'll never go back. Especially because of how easy their bladders are to deal with.
  • 1 0
 It's a good pack but I just got rid of mine to replace it with an USWE which is way better.
  • 1 0
 Which one did you replace it with and why do you like it better?
  • 2 0
 @andrewbn42: This one uswe.com/en-us/hydration-pack-mtb-hydro-3-black

I replaced the Camelbak to get weight off my back and have something more secure so I don't have to take my pack off when I want to session jumps. After a few years I realized I rarely used all 3L of water I would carry with me in the Cambelbak. Plus I'd always end up tightening the Camelbak straps as I emptied the water bladder during rides...otherwise it would loosen up and bounce around. I also carried a small shock pump, multi-tool, CO2 canisters, cell phone, and a few other smaller random tools that I've used in the past.

The 2L of water in the USWE is fine during the hottest months as long as I hydrate well enough on the way to the trail. The elastic in the straps stretch as you put it on and keeps it secure once the bladder empties. Their strap system works as well as they say it does. The external pocket is sized perfectly for my phone and keys. I then got a bottle holder and bottle shaped tool container and carry all of my tools on the bike now. The mouthpiece that you drink from seems like a better design too. I've had three Camelbaks since I started riding and eventually the mouthpieces would loose their seal and start dripping on me while riding.

The other bonus is it feels cooler to ride with as it covers less overall area of my body than the Camelbak did.
  • 1 0
 @jonbrady85: I don't understand how the USWE packs get weight off your back. Or do you just mean that they're lighter and you're carrying less water? I've considered an USWE pack to supplement my Camelback LR pack (especially when I every so often convince myself that I'll jog/trail run regularly), but I don't see how these wouldn't necessarily put the weight on your shoulders vs. the lumbar reservoir camelbacks keeping a good portion on your hips.
  • 1 0
 I have been wondering how those USWE packs are. I usually carry 1.5L of water on most rides. couple times on really hot days I did 2L. I have never had 3L of water in my pack. Have not seen anyone post anywhere if they were good or not. Thanks for the info.
  • 1 0
 @MarcusBrody: Snap. I got an USWE after my camel pack and find it puts more load on the middle of back, but at least it doesn't swing round to under my armpits while descending, which was why i got one.
  • 1 0
 @minesatusker: Heh, I didn't mean to ask that in a catty tone; I was genuinely curious. As the person said they replaced their camelback with an USWE to get weight off their back.

I haven't had the experience you describe with Camelbacks with the lumbar reservoir. The only time I really feel it is on jumps. Descending, it stays in place without much problem even over really rough terrain.

What my camelback doesn't do is stay in place if I jog. I get the off rhythm bounce. That's why I was mainly interested in the USWE over the standard backpack, but I'd definitely be up for trying in my bike too.
  • 1 0
 @MarcusBrody: I mean it's not the pack itself getting weight off my back but it's a byproduct of carrying less water and putting the tools on my bike vs. carrying more water and tools in the Camelbak.

I don't have any issues with it putting weight on my shoulders. I actually have a persistent issue with my traps and the muscles in my neck getting tight and cramped between sitting at a desk all day typing for work and lifting weights during the week but the USWE doesn't bother that at all. That could just be due to it being a lighter setup overall but it feels like the weight is pretty evenly distributed. I really don't notice any concentrated weight on my shoulders when riding.
  • 2 0
 @b0bbY: No prob. I definitely recommend trying it. They may have some sales coming up with Christmas. After one ride it became one of my favorite pieces of gear.
  • 2 0
 Dakine Nomad from 2007 still going strong! On my 3rd bladder thou Smile
  • 1 0
 I have the newer version of this pack and I loved it… until I realized it needs gear straps. Thanks
  • 1 0
 I still rock a late '90s MULE, and an early '2000's MULE. Why fix if it aint broke?
  • 1 0
 2015?? Pfff My old Camelbak Hawg (Buy in 1999) still rides!!
www.pinkbike.com/photo/23830802
  • 1 0
 I'm still using mine, I have three packs I rotate through and this has been great.
  • 1 0
 Camelbaks make good spine protection for those OTB crashes in rock gardens FWIW...
  • 1 0
 I still use this erra pack and haven't found one better
  • 1 0
 Can we use gorilla tape to repair rips in old camelbacks?
  • 1 0
 I'm still ripping around with my Camelbak "The Don" pack.
  • 1 1
 My pack is also pristine, because I never wear it
  • 6 7
 This article recycling shit is lame. Fuck Outside.
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