Many many Christmases ago, I made the mistake of gifting my mom a new purse. Given how tattered hers had become, this seemed like it would be my biggest slam dunk since 1986’s macaroni-on-construction-paper family portrait. But even though I was only 9 years old when I picked out that $15 handbag at TJ Maxx, I was keen enough to notice how labored her gratitude was when I presented it. She did give an honest go at making it work, but within a few days, she was back to her old faded blue L.L. Bean. Thankfully, this was also the Christmas I got a Sega Genesis, so I was too busy for it to bother me much.
It wasn’t until decades later in 2018, when Camelbak first redesigned the Skyline LR 10, that I truly understood what I’d put my mother through. The choice of how to carry our stuff is a very personal one, and is especially divisive when put to a group as opinionated as mountain bikers. We all have different priorities, and when I got this Skyline 10 LR in late 2015, it satisfied every one of mine.
The standout feature is the eponymous Lumbar Reservoir, which relocates and reshapes the bladder to be lower and closer to the hips. And that’s a three-liter bladder, almost half the bag’s seven-liter gross capacity. Few packs this compact and light can accommodate a full-sized bladder. All of this carried over to the updated 2018 Skyline 10 LR, and then carried over again to the sleek-looking third iteration that came out in 2020. The on-bike experience on any of the Skyline 10 LR’s multiple forms is superb. There are few packs out there with such a unique balance of moderate storage capacity and immoderate water capacity. If there’s any useful information in a story about a seven-year-old pack that you (technically) can’t buy anymore, it’s that the Skyline 10 LR is still unmatched as a comfortable, lightweight option for days when you need a lot of hydration but only a little storage. I’ve spent time in all three versions of this pack, and I’d recommend any one of them.
But on the other hand, if you’ve ever seen one of your favorite pieces of gear get subjected to an update that robbed you of something that you liked about it, then please come join my first-world-problems pity party. There were some subtle but impactful quality-of-life perks on the debut Skyline 10 LR that have since been abandoned. As evidenced by the steady disintegration you can see in this tattered old relic, I’ve never been ready to give it up.
The first-gen Skyline 10 LR had a unique way of accessing its reservoir. Camelbak took the novel step of putting a zippered panel on the back (front?) of the pack instead of simply adding a divider in its largest compartment. Neither approach actually adds any storage, because the bladder still has to occupy space, but this method makes it more convenient to pull the bladder out mid-ride for a refill. It also just feels like a “cleaner” way of doing things. When I’m organizing the items in the main compartment, I’m not contending with a large, heavy, often moist blob in there as well. On small packs like this, though, I do see the benefits of how the newer Skylines do things. After all, the fewer seams, stitches, and moving parts, the better. This version has some extra weight and extra potential failure points that the new ones don’t. But it feels like a luxury, and I miss it whenever I use other lightweight packs.
Another perk that fewer and fewer bike-specific packs have these days are the external gear straps at the bottom of the first- and second-generation Skyline 10 LR, which are missing from the current model. Again, this is a small pack. It’s easy to overload it, which would ruin its low, form-fitting feel. If I need to be ready for rain or otherwise unpredictable weather where a packable windbreaker won’t cut it, I can roll up whatever extra layers I need and strap them down in a spot where they’re barely noticeable. I happen to have an on-bike solution for carrying knee pads, but it’s also an excellent spot for those as well. I’ve even used those straps to hold trailwork tools, battening down the two arms of a set of loppers or even holstering my sawzall when moving between work zones. Both required me to ride a little more carefully, but having the option is better than not.
Of course, it’s not perfect. The hip pockets are a little small, which was addressed in the newest model. And they’re now both zippered instead of the less-secure elastic closure on my old pack’s right hip pocket. And its helmet clips have never been reliable, so the new version simply puts a couple loops at the shoulders for you to thread your chinstraps through. And there used to be a rather pointless feature that was intended to cinch the bladder down as it emptied, which the new Skyline essentially does automatically thanks to Camelbak’s Dual Wing Belt.
I guess change is just inevitable. Just like me, the people designing our products have their own priorities. So, if there’s any other useful information to be found in reading about discontinued products, it’s this: Whenever your priorities line up this perfectly with the priorities of whoever designed your next pack, maybe buy two of them, just in case.
Photos: Travis Engel