Review: Hydrapak’s Back Hugging Tamarack
We have reviewed quite a few Hydrapak hydration systems in the past, and with each generation there has been nearly constant improvement. In their line of packs, the Tamarack sits right below its larger sibling, the Laguna, which Marc reviewed back in December. At 2.8L of gear storage smaller, and $10 cheaper ($109.99), the Tamarack looks like a great option for those looking for a smaller pack that still carries a full 3L of water.
The Tamarack is offered in 5 colors, with the red, Black Green, and Tangerine pictured here offering some brighter colors for increased visibility when you’re on the road. There is also a Hypalon light loop, though unlike most of their packs it holds the light horizontal instead of vertical.
Tamarack keeps the pockets to a minimum with just 3 – the main compartment, a round storage pouch with two dividers, and an upper stash pocket for your phone/keys, etc. There is also a stash pocket on the outside that is secured with an interesting hook, instead of a buckle. The sides of the Tamarack feature two compression straps which can also be used to lash things onto the pack – more on this later.
Hydrapak’s website specifies a fleece lining for the electronics pocket, though mine was straight nylon. The construction of the pockets leaves a little to be desired, more specifically, it seems like there isn’t enough organization offered by the Tamarack to make quickly finding things on the side of the trail easier. Perhaps it’s just me wanting everything to have its place inside the pack, so you can jump off the bike, fix or grab what you need and then get back on the trail.
However, from a weight perspective, the fewer pockets and lighter weight material keep things incredibly light. At 1.1 pounds, it is definitely one of the lightest packs in its class which is always welcome.
One area Hydrapak certainly didn’t skimp on, is the padding for the back panel and shoulder straps. The Tamarack is extremely comfy, and feels like it sits nice and low on your back preventing it from bouncing or jostling around while you’re riding. The bag features all of the straps you would expect to find with adjustable waist, shoulder, and Hydrapak’s Silky Slider sternum strap. Fans of Hydrapak’s magnetic bite valve holder may be disappointed as the Tamarack features a standard hose clip.
Not surprisingly, the Tamarack continues the use of Hydrapak’s excellent Shape Shift reservoirs. Reversible, easily washable, a zip baffle system, large mouth opening, a quick disconnect hose, and a great bite valve – the Shape Shift has it all. My only complaint? The plastic wrapping that covers the end of the hose is incredibly difficult to remove. Since there is no perforation to the plastic, and it is heat shrunk as tightly as possible – I had to use a box cutter to remove it. Not only do you risk damaging the hose by removing it, but it would be pretty easy to cut yourself in the process.
As mentioned, the compression straps on the side of the bag can come in quite handy – especially if you need to carry a second bag, like a camera bag. While shooting, I realized I could easily attach my Lowepro camera bag to the Tamarack. At first I was apprehensive about riding with my camera on my back, but it was surprisingly stable and allowed for removal of the camera without removing the bag. The straps could also be used to attach a map pouch, helmet, etc., you just need to be a little creative.
Overall, in spite of the somewhat underwhelming pocket design, the Tamarack proves to be a great pack for shorter days on the bike. It is certainly one of the more comfortable packs I’ve used, and at the end of the ride comfort is more important than a few more pockets.
- Extremely comfortable, and sits low for a stable ride
- Hydrapak’s Shape Shift Reservoir is among the best
- Compression straps make carrying large/awkward things simple
- Not the best internal organization/lacks fleece lined media pocket as claimed