We’ll start with the summary and skip to the end: the Clik Elite Sport Camera Pack features solid construction, and carries the weight well, but mountain bikers looking for a minimal camera carrying solution may do well to continue their search or wait until a revision with more trail riding specific features. This pack comes close, but unless you’re a casual rider you may miss features that one typically finds in many trail riding packs. Hikers looking for a minimal carrying capacity and the ability to carry an SLR body and lens? You will probably dig this pack.
In fact, I’ll go a step further and call out the other reviews I’ve read online as they are the ones that clinched my decision to invest in this specific piece. Although this pack has lots of great stuff going on, it falls just short of the mark for me. If you’ve already read other reviews and are on the verge of choosing to go with this one, then you may be interested in our take.
I’ll start with the challenges I face anytime I choose or don’t choose to bring my gear with me.
As a photographer riding mountain bikes, I regularly face internal conflict when it comes to carrying my camera gear on the trail. Although are possibly dozens of camera packs on the market (for the record, I own at least four at last count) that do a great job of carrying the gear well in relative safety, but once an enormous amount of weight is placed on one’s back, the riding experience is completely shot. If you’re on the job, you suck it up and do the work- after all, you’re getting paid to take photos, hopefully not to ride your bike. But what about when you’re not collecting a paycheck? Compact cameras and point and shoots are adequate for the general public, but personally my iphone is as good or better than any cheap point and shoot, so for me the choice is an SLR or my phone. (disclosure: I also own a Canon G10 Compact) But what if there is the potential for an incredible photo? I’m going to want to bring my gear. The thing is, I still want to ride my bike. Fast.
The weight of an SLR body and a single lightweight lens isn’t too excessive, and offers the ability to take quality photos on the trail, so on days when I know the scene will be quite epic, or I’m riding with extremely talented riders that don’t mind stopping to be photographed, I want to bring it along. For some time I would pack the camera in a padded insert, and dropped it into my Dakine Apex hydration pack. (for the record, I currently own several hydration packs including models from Dakine, Camelbak) It did the job and held the camera safely, but access was a pain, and unless time was spend aligning the direction of the camera, it was less than comfortable, so I decided it was time to search for a dedicated pack that could do double duty as a hydration pack and a camera bag.
When I heard about the Clik Elite packs, I was ecstatic, and ordered one promptly based on the positive reviews I’ve read online. Unfortunately, and I’ll just head straight to the point here, while this is a solidly made piece, it needs a bit more to replace my regular hydration pack. That said, assuming Clik Elite created a model using the feedback of riders and listened to our specific needs, I’m certain they would make an excellent product that could own the fairly non-existent category. And I hope they do.
Unfortunately, for my personal needs the pack fell a bit shy of the target. Before I go into a further explanation of why I felt aspects of the bag were disappointing, I will first acknowledge that the product was in actuality designed for general hiking use and perhaps casual trail riders— and for this application, as a minimal day pack, I thought the pack performed exceptionally well. For mountain biking use though, the pack fell short. I’ll blame the reviews of the previous posts I’ve read before purchasing mine- I simply don’t think they were very critical of the product, or perhaps didn’t expect much from it.
Features we liked
When I’m heading out on an epic ride of considerable distance, I need to be able to carry some essential survival items. Besides my camera, I’m obviously going to need basic tools to keep bikes functional, a tube, and pump. The amount of space the pack provides is minimal, but packed well, it can hold more than one might initially think. Especially if you forgo packing a sandwich for more compact energy food in order to conserve on space. The accessory compartments are actually quite handy and well placed.
Water is also important— fortunately, the pack does feature a hydration sleeve. Although their site states it can take a 100 oz. reservoir, if you were purchasing a bladder specifically for this pack, a 70 oz. reservoir is a better choice. Although my 100 oz. fit acceptably as long as I didn’t fill it all the way; otherwise it would stick out of the top of its slot. (I do like the drainage at the bottom- this is a great feature and allows you to not worry as much about your gear being damaged by water in the event the bladder fails.) The bag is most secure when there is a minimal amount of water in it though, and I do wish the hose had better routing over the shoulder.
I found the waist and sternum straps acceptable as well. The buckles are different than I’ve come to expect in my packs, but actually work well. Comfort for me was never an issue. The padded back is comfortable, and the pack carries the loaded weight surprisingly very well. Jumping, cornering and generally getting rowdy in a trail context wasn’t a problem for me, as the camera is held securely and close to your body. I didn’t experience any feeling of the pack swinging around, which is usually where my previous setups failed miserably. I’m actually really happy with how the pack rides with gear in it. This is probably the biggest selling point of the Compact Sport.
What we didn’t like: the lame bungies
The problem comes when we’re looking to carry just a bit more, like a jacket, or armor. We are mountain biking with this pack after all.
It’s the bungies that don’t really work for me. While it is a nice concept, in actual use, I didn’t find the bungie solution very trust worthy. Not only am I not a fan of the asymmetric placement, but while I was able to bungie my jacket on the outside of the pack when I got hot, I was paranoid about it staying on the entire time. Forget trying to secure anything heavier, like knee pads.) Using the bungie that is intended for securing a tripod with the other one, I was able to secure my jacket, but a cinch strap solution with buckles would solve this issue, and also allow for carrying larger items when necessary. (like knee pads, or even a bigger tripod) I’d even settle for D-rings, attached in four strategic locations. Then I’d at least have options for customizing my own solutions. In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out how I can modify the pack to make it more useful.
Overall, the pack is well constructed and holds a basic SLR kit well. Although the camera compartment gets filled up fast, I felt it gives my camera gear adequate protection. Crashing on your gear is never good for it, (and repeated events will result in sending gear back to the manufacturer as I found out earlier this year) but I feel confident my camera is likely to survive a jaunt off-trail with a dramatic stop at the end. The tuck away rain fly is also appreciated. I would love to see a revision of the pack that took a good look at what companies like Camelbak or Dakine are doing for trail riding packs and incorporate a few more mountain bike specific features, then they would have a winner. If you can live with few shortcomings and can live without a helmet carry and don’t need to carry pads, take a closer look at the Compact Sport. A few small design changes and a good pack for some could be great for all riders that want to bring an SLR along for the ride.
The Clik Elite Compact Sport lists for $150.
- Solid construction
- Holds camera weight well, rides well
- Great camera features
- Minimal profile and size has minimal impact on your riding experience
- No helmet or pad carry options
- Good luck carrying a full 100 oz. fill of water
- Lame bungies
- Extremely limited options for strapping on additional items in emergencies