Review: Mazama Designs Tumalo

I have been doing most of my hiking and running along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River because it’s actually snowing this year, and I’m an east coaster that has yet to shred.  So it’s low elevation river trails for me until the thaw in spring.

For my first outing, I took the Mazama Designs Tumalo for a half day trip up stream.  Avi danger was real this particular morning.  As the sun crested the valley walls and started warming the ridge line to the north, slabs just started releasing and the thunder in the valley roared.  It was pretty intense to have my cruising vibes shook by these slides just on the other side of the river.

Alas, my trail vibes were high and I had some critical thinking to do.

Weight: 16 oz/ 450 grams
Material: Nylon
Dimensions: 17” x 10” x 3” with 5L capacity
Reservoir: 70oz/2L capacity

Pockets: 8!
Compression: N/A
Suspension: Ventilated Mesh

What’s good?

The bag is really well thought out.  It’s not the best looking pack, but it does have everything you need and then some including a whopping eight pockets—nine if you include the reservoir sleeve. And while the pack is only five liters in volume, it holds a lot more than you’d expect. I loaded up two liters of water, gloves, a buff, a rain shell, phone, keys, wallet, a Snickers, a Clif Bar, Shot Blocks, and a gel and still had enough internal storage for a light weight fleece. I also strapped a pole to the outside and could have used the shock cord net for another layer if needed.

Insulated everything.
The Tumalo has a pretty rad insulated reservoir compartment and an included insulated tube. I didn’t really need the insulated tube during my testing, as air temps hovered around 35 degrees Fahrenheit, but I imagine for hot weather trips the insulated compartment and tube would be a nice-to-have.

The bladder.
The reservoir itself is a great piece of gear.  I’m for sure going to use it in other packs on backpacking trips. The rigid piece of plastic that runs the length of the reservoir guides the hose up and out of the pack and it also gives you something to grab as you top of your water supply.

This sort of ergonomic carry handle is something that CamelBak has just recently introduced in their Crux Line—so don’t think that Mazama’s lack of name recognition has any relationship to the quality of their products.  They’ve been cranking out innovative hydration designs as private contractors since 1996 and have done business with brands like Nalgene, Osprey, and HydraPak along the way. Trust me when I say that the reservoir is solid.

The feel.
Compared to all my other hydro packs, the Tumalo has a good fit.  I like the wings, I think they fall in the right place anatomically, and the suspension doesn’t detract from anything.  I was worried about the rigid bladder locking mechanism pushing into my shoulders as I moved, but the padding in the back panel did a good job of muffling that.  It’s pretty comfortable.

The value.
I love a good value.  Man, does the Tumalo hit that sweet spot.  You get a 2L reservoir, a solid 5L pack, and an insulated hose for $85.

Clock wise starting at 12: Mazama Designs Tumalo, Ultimate Direction A.K. Mountain Vest 3.0, The North Face Enduro and Enduro Belt, and the CamelBak Octane XCT.

What’s not so good?

I need more friction!
There’s only one real point of contention: either the webbing doesn’t have enough friction or the ladder locks don’t.  As I run, changes in weight distribution (bouncing, arm swing, cornering, etc.) nudge the straps open, causing a looser fit over the miles.  I had to re-tension my shoulder straps, waist strap, and strum strap nearly a dozen times over the course of a 4-hour run. I think the answer is some hardware with more bite—if the nylon webbing has a higher co-efficient of friction, we’ll run the risk of chaffing.

The left side dump pocket could be taller.  I think in terms of access, the design team is on the right track keeping it shorter than the wing it’s sewn on, but I still think you can sneak a little more usable space out of that pocket.

The magnet for the bite valve could be stronger, but isn’t that always the case?  I’m not a fan of magnets in outdoor gear.  They very well could be the future of outdoor product innovation, but I still would rather have some bungee retention or a clip-in of some sort.

As I run, changes in weight distribution (bouncing, arm swing, cornering, etc.) nudge the straps open causing a looser fit over the miles.  I had to re-tension my shoulder straps, waist strap, and strum strap nearly a dozen times…

I had to cannibalize some Velcro straps from another bag to attach a trekking pole to the pack.  That’s a pretty inexpensive add on for Mazama that adds another “feature” line in the product description. It’d be nice to see included in the future.

Final word:
For the price, you get more money for gas and Gu. Mazama put in the time on this and it shows.  Compared to other hydro-packs, the Tumalo is as good a CamelBak and comes with more features.  Check out the Tumalo and Mazama’s other packs and reservoirs—you won’t be disappointed.

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