Sunday, October 12, 2008

The CamelBak Blowfish (sans Hootie)

Review originally submitted at REI

Mountain bikers and hikers alike crave the flexibility of Blowfish--it offers a performance fit, expandable cargo space and a voluminous reservoir.

Perfect for Mountain Biking and More

5out of 5

Pros: Stable, Highly Adjustable, Large Capacity, Good Water Flow, Easy To Refill, Comfortable

Best Uses: Mountain biking, Day Trips

I went in to my local REI to buy the MULE based on all its good reviews. Once there, however, I debated between the Blowfish, the MULE, and the HAWG since all three were on sale. I decided on the Blowfish because of my intended purpose (mountain biking) and because of its sleeker styling and more minimalist design.

Even though another customer tried to talk me into the MULE (and almost had me convinced), I'm glad I went with the Blowfish. The Blowfish doesn't have all the various outer pockets like the MULE; instead, it keeps gear inside and away from possible snags. As such, the pack sits on the back in a more streamline fashion than the MULE.

I appreciate the expandable main compartment, which has plenty of room for things like a mini-pump (built-in sleeve is great), an extra tube, a basic first-aid kit, and a camera. With the expansion deployed, there's also room for rain gear and a few other items. The two smaller front compartments offer plenty of space for items like bike tools, wallet, keys, cell phone, etc.

The pack is very adjustable. The sliding sternum strap is a big plus. The bottom waist strap (more like a belly strap) was unnecessary, but I like the fact that it can be easily removed and stored in the pack should you ever need it.

The 3L reservoir holds plenty of water for even longer rides. And it offers CamelBak's well-functioning bite valve and quality guarantee.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mountain Biking is fun. And it hurts.

Call it an early mid-life crisis. If we're going to be really honest, call it a mid-life crisis.

Whatever the case, I find myself returning more and more to the pleasures of my teen-aged years. Thanks to kayaks, I've gotten back onto the river more in the past couple of months than in the last 20 years. I actually knocked some of the rust off my golf clubs and found I could still kick it around the course.

And I bought a bike. Not just any old bike, but a real, live, front-fork-shock-absorber, kick-ass-and-take-names mountain bike.

I blame peer pressure. A softball & kayaking friend started mentioning bikes a few weeks back. In retrospect, the wily bastard was clearly laying the seeds for a full-blown mental assault. About a week later, he started in with subtle mentionings of fall sales at REI. "Hmmmm," I pondered, "where could I store a bike?" Of course, the moment I entertained a spatial reality, I was essentially stepping right up to the cliff's edge.

Then... the coup de grace. He forwarded an e-flyer from Sun&Ski Sports with bargains aplenty on this year's models. Bargains, I tell you! Within three hours, I found myself in front of the bike section looking like a kid at a candy counter with ten dollars, a hole in his pocket, and a sweet tooth.

I've already ridden three trails around these parts--each of which left its impressions on me. And when I say impressions, I mean it literally. A bruise here. Cut there. Scrape. Sore muscle. Carpal tunnel.

But I love the physicality of mountain biking. It's fast, it's hard work, and it's all about the moment. You're concentrating almost entirely on the next root, rock, bend, or obstacle to negotiate/navigate. There's little room for the big worries. When pain is possible at every turn, those things get compartmentalized quite nicely.

Here. Now. Sometimes we have to force ourselves into that frame because it's good for us.