Staying hydrated is vital if you want to enjoy your time outdoors. Whether you are hiking, camping, hunting, or just taking a walk in the park, hydration packs are easy to pack, comfortable, and versatile.
One of the undisputed leaders in the hydration pack industry is CamelBak. They were one of the first pioneers in hydration pack technology and have been innovating ever since. Their latest offering, the ThermoBak 3L with the Mil Spec Antidote, takes things to a whole new level.
I got the chance to put this new hydration pack to the test. Today, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the CamelBak ThermoBak 3L.
CamelBak was started in 1989 by a very creative EMT who wanted to find a better way to stay hydrated when riding his bike over long distances. Since then, it has become one of the leading vendors of hydration products including hydration packs, water bottles, and portable water purification products.
They have become such an industry leader that the very word “CamelBak” is synonymous with “hydration pack” in many circles. A few years ago, the company was sold to Vista Outdoor for over $412 million. So apparently, they are doing something right.
CamelBak has been providing products to the military since the first Gulf War. I think that right there says a lot about the quality and functionality of the products they provide.
ThermoBak Quick Specs
- Mil-Spec Antidote 100 oz. reservoir with a drain hole on the back panel
- Meets USMC hydration system requirement for tensile strength, puncture resistance, and burst resistance
- Length: 18″, Width: 9.2″, Depth: 5″
- Tube Length: 42”
- Dry Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Big Bite valve with bite valve cover and insulated tube cover
- QL HydroLock Bite Valve Adapter
- D-ring attachments for belts or MOLLE vests
- Quick-release shoulder straps and adjustable sternum strap
Unboxing & First Impressions of the ThermoBak 3L
As soon as I took it out of the packaging, I could tell that the ThermoBak 3L was a high-quality piece of equipment. The bag’s Cordura fabric feels tough and durable. It is advertised as being “resistant to tears, scuffs, and abrasions.” Time will tell on that claim, but I’m inclined to believe them.
I also loved the look – rugged, slim, and functional.
The ThermoBak 3L has two zipper pockets, one on top and one on the side. The top opens up to the fill port (more on that in a minute), while the lower side pocket gives you access to the base of the drinking tube plus a little storage space. There’s plenty of room for a sandwich and chips, a box or two of granola bars, some small tools, or a couple hand grenades (if you are so inclined).
Field Testing the CamelBak ThermoBak
After unboxing, it was time to take the ThermoBak 3L out for a test run and put it through its paces.
First things first, I filled up the Mil Spec Antidote 100 ounce reservoir with water. At first, I had a bit of trouble getting the cap back on, however, that was my own fault really. My previous hydration pack had a normal screw on lid, whereas the ThermoBak 3L has what they call a quarter-turn cap. Instead of actually threading the cap on, you just have to line up the indicator marks, twist ¼ turn and bam! The cap is securely on, no worries about cross threading, under tightening, or over tightening.
Putting the pack on, I found it comfortable and surprisingly lightweight, even with the bladder full. The sternum strap is a really nice touch. It has a built-in elastic on one side that makes it very comfortable.
All the straps are adjustable (obviously) but CamelBak took it a step further providing a solution to the ever annoying “extra strap length” problem. You know what I mean – you tighten up your pack, but then the extra strap length just gets to hang out there, flapping around in the wind and occasionally smacking you in the face.
The tail of each vertical strap has a built-in velcro piece that allows you to get the extra strap length contained and looking very orderly. The vertical straps also have multiple points of adjustment, allowing you to get just the right fit.
The ThermoBak 3L is guaranteed to be a hit for any MOLLE vest or armor vest fans out there. If you want to add the ThermoBak to a vest or a different pack, the quick-release shoulder straps can be unclipped and stored inside the back panel stash pocket. The ThermoBak 3L also has very sturdy D rings in all the right spots to make it fully customizable.
A Note on the Mil Spec Antidote Water Reservoir
What is the worst possible thing to have to drink? I guess this question could have many answers, but high up on that list for me personally would have to be warm plastic-tasting water.
If you have ever gotten a new water bottle or hydration pack, you know it can take some time to get rid of that “new plastic” taste. However, after filling my new CamelBak, I took a swig and was pleasantly surprised to find no discernible taste whatsoever. The water tasted like… water! Which is a good thing.
Another major plus is that the reservoir compartment holding the Mil Spec Antidote is completely insulated using 5mm closed cell foam. This will keep your water cooler longer and help prevent the heat from making your water taste like plastic.
Taking the ThermoBak 3L on the Trail
Now for the real test – taking the ThermoBak 3L into the great outdoors.
After a short two mile hike, the pack was still riding comfortably on my back. Where it rested against my back, I stayed mostly cool, and the straps have enough padding so that there was not any chafing on my shoulders. With the pack cinched down tight, there was a bit of movement up and down when I did a bit of jogging, but overall it stayed pretty close to my body, which I like.
After hiking with the ThermoBak 3L, I have just one complaint. Maybe I’m missing something, but I could not find anywhere to hook or stash the drinking end of the tube. It just flopped merrily along as I walked, thankfully not smacking me in the face, but still being a bit of an annoyance. It seems like CamelBak could just have a little clip of some sort on the shoulder straps…?
Like I said, maybe I’m missing something. However, this is definitely not a dealbreaker! I really enjoyed hiking with this pack and am already looking for excuses to get outside more!
CamelBak ThermoBak 3L with Mil Spec Antidote Review: Summary
Overall, the ThermoBak 3L was comfortable, lightweight, and easy to use. The reservoir was easy to fill, left the water tasting like water, while at the same time keeping it cool. The strap setup is intelligent and functional, providing you with a ton of options. For such a small pack, the extra storage space is generous, making this the perfect fit for a short day hike or an urban excursion.
I love how you can customize it to use as a full-on pack or tuck things in and use it in or with a different pack. Plus, like I said, it just looks freaking rugged and awesome.
CamelBak has spent nearly three decades showing why they are a leader in the industry. If you’re in the market for a hydration pack, check out the ThermoBak 3L. You’ll be glad you did!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
An avid archer, political junkie, and aspiring musician, Brady makes his home on the edge of society, just close enough to get good WiFi, but far enough to not be bothered.