November 6, 2011 / Comments (7)

Gear Review: CamelBak Helena

In 2009 I bought the Camelbak Helena for a hiking trip in Israel. Unlike most CamelBak hydration bladder packs, it is large enough to fit all your gear for a day hike. This model is 1300 cubic inches. I’ve owned this pack for a couple of years so I’ve been able to see how it holds up.

The back features a good amount of padding, but was designed with a strip that is recessed which circulates air. The straps are pretty thin and curved out which is comfortable on your shoulders. The top of the straps is connected to the pack by a plastic ring which allows the straps to adjust around your shoulders. The shoulder straps also have loops to secure the drinking tube.

The bite valve is really good. It has a knob that allows you to turn off water flow to the bite valve. The plastic covering of my bite valve fell off once, but you can get replacement pieces at any outdoor recreation store or order them from CamelBak’s site.

The bladder holds three liters and is housed in the back panel which has a perimeter zipper (opens up halfway) and serves as extra protection from leakage and from your other gear puncturing the bladder.

The front compartment is really useful for storing items you need fast access to. It also has a clip to hold keys and a small organizer. I’m not too impressed with this pocket/organizer. I’ve seen other packs like the CamelBak Mule that has mesh pockets which I think would be a nice feature. I also wish the pockets zipped.

The main compartment is large enough to hold a first aid kit, sweatshirt, rain gear, food (for the day), and more. There are so many compartments in this pack which is great since I love to separate my gear.

There is an additional fleece lined pocket for sunglasses and such. I like to put my digital compass/altimeter, trail map, and any other small items that I’ll need to get to quickly.

It does come with an adjustable sternum and a waist belt that is meant to fit a woman’s hips better. The waist belt is also able to be removed as it is just attached by Velcro. The pack won’t be that heavy and you may choose to take the belt off. You may not need to use the belt as it’s not needed to support the weight of the pack.

After about almost two years my sternum clip broke. This is really the only big complaint I have with the pack. Overall, it has been a really sturdy and well-constructed day pack. I use it on every day hike.

I have also found the outside of the pack useful as there are two side pockets (meant for water bottles). I put my digital camera in one and tighten the straps above the other side to hold my trekking pole. It also boasts a single pull compression system when you don’t need all 1300 cu in. The company came out with a 2011 version of the Helena which is worth looking at ($85). The convenience of not having to stop to drink water on the trail is a great reason to purchase a CamelBak pack.

Last modified: February 14, 2015

7 Responses to :
Gear Review: CamelBak Helena

  1. NHhiker says:

    Allison…you omitted one important fact and that is the hose will freeze up during cold weather hiking. My Camel Back hose froze on a hike on 10/28 this year. Agree it is a grat pack but you will need to take the water holder out and switch to insulated water containers.

  2. NHhiker- Great point! I haven’t had that issue yet as I haven’t ventured into full Winter hiking yet (possibly will this year!) and have been lucky during late fall hikes. Hiking up Moosilauke 10/23 it didn’t freeze, but I may have been pushing it hiking without an insulated container!

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  7. Greg says:

    I bought an earlier version of the Helena back in 2007 for climbing, and it endured alot of use & abuse for many years. However, a few days ago the bottom ripped open. It seems the pack suffers a heavy amount of wear on the bottom, at the end closest to a wearer’s back – a the bottom of the hydration bladder pocket. The back of the pack is stiff there, which probably focuses alot of wear into a small region on the bottom. Anyway, the rest of the pack shows wear, but is still quite serviceable. I was going to buy a replacement, but it seems everything on the market now (including the “2012 Helena”) is inferior. For example, the open back pouch is crucial for carrying two pairs of descent shoes – no way that would fit inside the pack – and the newer models don’t have that. So, now I’m instead considering how one might repair my old pack in a way that would be robust and reliable.

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