When it comes to bags, I will admit I have a problem. A full closet-sized problem. Which creates stress when having to choose which bag to bring on a trip. But thanks to the Camelbak Arete 22L, there’s one less pre-trip bag selection dilemma.
Which is saying a lot because I had high standards for a “day trip” bag that could work on any type of adventure. It had to pack small, be lightweight, and be able to carry a family’s worth of water and snacks plus my own jacket, camera, whatever. Oh, and once in action, it had to remain stable and not flop to pieces when partially loaded. Each one of those aspects is key, so let me explain why, as well as how the Arete 22 lives up to expectations…
First, it has to pack small and be light because I don’t want a bag taking up space in my main bags. I usually travel with a small roller suitcase (carry-on size) and a main backpack with my laptop, camera, mics, wires, action cams, and any other electronics needed for a particular trip. Which is almost always more than what will fit into a small day pack, hence its need to easily slip into one of the other bags without robbing space. And it needs to be light because I don’t want to carry anything heavy…even a few extra ounces adds up over time.
The Camelbak Arete 22L comes in at just 410g (~14oz) without the included 2L reservoir. Which is impressively light for a full featured pack like this. It’s more than a stuff sack with shoulder straps…there’s actual organization and more.
In addition to the main compartment, which has a separate internal sleeve to keep the hydration bladder separate from the other contents, there are two zippered external pockets plus a mesh water bottle pocket on the right side. The whole thing cinches tight with a drawstring, then the cover pulls completely over and overlaps it, then clips shut. The design keeps everything inside even when scrambling through trails, climbing trees like a monkey, and just generally being active.
The shoulder straps have minimal shaping, but they’re lightly padded and well spaced to remain comfortable even with a full load. The bonus is the removable sternum and waist straps, two features not often found on minimalist day packs but critical for keeping the pack stable during activity. Without them, you’d be constantly repositioning the pack as it shifted and swayed.
Despite more than adequate size for a day hike or full day on the town, it lays almost completely flat, so it’s easy to lay on top of the rest of your stuff before zipping up the suitcase. In a pinch, you can even roll it up and cram it into a cycling jersey pocket. Admittedly it’s a little big for that, but it does work, and makes it easy to hit the grocery store at the end of a ride!
Another cool feature? Turn the whole pack inside out and it becomes an insulation sleeve for the reservoir, helping keep your water colder, longer, inside a larger backpack.
The Arete 22 comes in Black (tested), Red and Plum and retails for $80. It comes with a 2L BPA-free Crux reservoir and a removable foam back panel insert. That insert offers a bit of padding and insulation, but, to me, the main benefit of the insert is to give the pack a little structure. I’ve tried others that eschew any such addition and they end up being too floppy if not fully loaded. I’ll take the extra couple grams for the bag to hold its shape.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, extremely versatile and functional day pack that’s easy to take with you on all your adventures, the Camebak Arete 22 comes highly recommended from a highly picky bag guy.