For a number of months over the winter period I was paddling around using an old CamelBak to take water with me. The recommendation for exercise is that for each hour you work out, you need at least one litre of water. You hardly see any surfers or windsurfers taking water with them, but I could really see the benefit for SUP, especially if you are on a point to point 2 hour paddle, or even a race. The Oxbow European SUP distance race (as part of Brighton Paddle Round the Pier 2008) insisted, quite rightly, that every competitor must take at least a two litre water supply with them.
Back to the Camelbak. It was really built for land based sports like mountain biking and running. I found it a total pain to paddle in as it restricted my paddling and sat low on my back, despite hiking up the straps as much as possible. I had reviewed a product from the guys at Curve last year and saw in their marketing blurb a waterman pack, built for surfers, that looked like it would do an excellent job for SUPers. Curve is an innovative New Zealand based company that looks at design problems such as carrying boards, back packs and changing mats and then reconsiders how best to design them, the designs are well thought out and very well made. Simon from Curve kindly sent one over a waterman and I set about putting it through its paces.
The first impression of this back is that it is bullet proof, the construction is really good and the use of chunky metal d-rings and thick webbing and buckles really works. As soon as I put this pack on I realised that it was built for the water. It sits really high on your back and the securing strap across the front goes across the base of your sternum. This means your arms are free to paddle without constantly banging straps or feeling unbalanced by having the pack too low on your back. The pack is fully adjustable with two pull down straps on the shoulders and you can tighten the sternum strap to get the fit snug.
The pack has a main compartment for the bladder which holds 1.5 litres. The bladder clips into the pack with two fasteners on the inside of the pack so it does not slip down. There is a front pocket on the pack which holds a decent amount of kit. I have fitted my offshore safety kit in there, a GloTorch Marine, a Flare, Mobile Phone in an aquapac, some energy bars and my waterproof camera fits in as well. Not too bad for a small pack.
The pack performs well in the water and I am really pleased with the construction and the design, the only downside is the bladder. The screw cap to fill the bladder up is slightly too small, the camelbak ones have a big opening which allows you not to spill whatever you are pouring in, and you can get your hand in when you need to clean it out. Cleaning the bladders out is really important. The US Army issued Camelbaks to troops in Iraq and the troops started to get stomach bugs and sickness, this was traced back to troops not cleaning out the bladders tubes, you at least need to rinse them out after every session and every four or five sessions run some sterliser such as Miltons through the whole kit to keep the bugs away. I digress. There is no bite valve on the drinks tube, so if you leave the pull valve open, the and the tube is lower than the bladder (which it is bound to be) it will start to empty itself out. Now this is entirely my fault for not closing the valve properly, but I found this out the hard way during the first BSUPA distance race at West Wittering, when I half empited the bladder out accidently by forgetting to close it ! I emailed Curve about these issues and they are getting the bladder redesigned. Now thats service.
The bladder aside the pack is a fantastic bit of kit, comfortable to wear, well designed and bullet proof. If you are going on a distance paddle this allows you to take water and safety extras in one handy pack. Retail price in the UK is around the £55 mark. www.curvesurf.com
Update - May 2009
Thain Leisure is now the appointed distributor for Curve products in the UK.