Accessories

Hydration packs buying guide

Category: Accessories

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Hydration packs enable more water to be carried than with old-style bottles and also provide space for trail essentials including spare tubes, extra clothing layers, tools, food and first aid equipment.

When choosing a hydration pack the most important things to consider are size, features, how long you’re going to be riding for.

Clever design features make hydration packs more suitable for a cyclists’ needs than ordinary backpacks. These may include:

Water reservoirs (bladders) with hands-free drinking hoses (bite valves prevent water leakage)

Internal storage pockets to keep essentials away from the elements, with external mesh or strap pockets to ensure some items remain on hand at all times

Adjustable waist and chest straps for extra stability, with breathable mesh and padded contact points for load-bearing comfort

Channelled rear padding to ensure a flow of cool air to the back and prevent buildup of sweat

Tough technical fabrics – such as Cordura and Ripstop – to withstand the rigours of the trail and ensure long pack life, as well as features such as reinforced stitching and weatherproof zips

Here are the most common types of hydration pack:


Lightweight packs

Small and lightweight ‘short blast’ packs with minimal storage and liquid capacity. Ideal for cross-country riders with just enough room for the essentials without the bulk of a larger, heavier pack.


Camelbak Classic

The quintessential bike hydration pack with the convenience of external fill via the quick-release flap on the front of the pack.

Camelbak Classic

Camelbak Classic


Evoc CC 3L Race Backpack + 2L Bladder 2016

The CC 3L Race is packed with Evoc’s usual, great features, including a 2L hydration bladder. This is a true performance backpack.

Evoc CC 3L Race Backpack + 2L Bladder 2016

Evoc CC 3L Race Backpack + 2L Bladder 2016


Osprey Viper 3

When you’re squeezing in a quick ride after work, Osprey’s Viper 3 is the perfect size.

Osprey Viper 3 Hydration Pack

Osprey Viper 3 Hydration Pack

Camelbak Palos 4L Hydration Pack 2016

Making a comeback for their comfort and ease of use, keeping your cargo low means a more stable ride, and with no shoulder straps, the Palos allows complete, unrestricted upper body movement.

Camelbak Palos 4L Hydration Pack

Camelbak Palos 4L Hydration Pack 2016


Trail packs

Probably the most commonly used pack for their versatility and capacity, these are the perfect balance for longer trail rides. They hold enough water for a few hours of riding, plus they have space for spares and clothing.


Fox Racing Oasis 6L Hydration Pack 2016

Mid-sized carrying volume with a thirst busting hydration baldder gives the Oasis an unbeatable reputation as the ideal, all purpose hydration pack.

Fox Racing Oasis 6L Hydration Pack 2016

Fox Racing Oasis 6L Hydration Pack 2016


Camelbak Lobo Hydration Pack 2016

A sleek hydration pack for 3+ hours of mountain biking with essential gear.

Camelbak Lobo Hydration Pack 2016

Camelbak Lobo Hydration Pack 2016


Epic ride packs

For long days in the saddle, take a look at these high capacity packs which have plenty of room for all the water and kit you’re likely to need for a big trek.


USWE Airborne 9 Hydration Pack 2016

A tough little daypack with 9L of cargo including a premium Shape-Shift 2.5 litre hydration system to keep you hydrated out there.

USWE Airborne 9 Hydration Pack 2016

USWE Airborne 9 Hydration Pack 2016

Camelbak MULE NV Hydration Pack 2016

Light enough to sit comfortably on your back, but large enough to store 3 litres of water and enough gear for a full day on the trail.

Camelbak MULE NV Hydration Pack 2016

Camelbak MULE NV Hydration Pack 2016



How big?

Pack size/capacity will depend on the type of riding and duration of rides:

• Minimalist packs with around 1-1.5l liquid capacity and enough storage space for the bare essentials (keys, mobile, energy bar, multi-tool) are ideal for races and short (1-2 hour) blasts.

• For longer days in the saddle (3+ hours) the typical ‘trail pack’ will allow riders carry up to 3l of water – about the maximum advisable – and around 10l of extra gear. Some such packs also boast extra features – light clips, helmet nets, waterproof covers, reflective graphics or trim – to enable them double up as perfect commuter packs.

• Enduro riders, gravity addicts and those on Alpine excursions will appreciate the extra storage capacity (10-15l) of tough, roomy ‘back-country packs’ which often include freeride-friendly features such as straps and pockets where armour, helmets etc can be attached when they are not needed (e.g. for uplifts, climbing etc.).

Features:
Clever design features make hydration packs more suitable for a cyclists’ needs than ordinary backpacks. These may include:

• Water reservoirs of up to 3l capacity with hands-free drinking hoses (bite valves prevent water leakage);

• Internal, compartmentalised storage pockets to keep essentials away from the elements, with external mesh or strap pockets to ensure some items remain on hand at all times;

• Adjustable waist and chest straps for extra stability, with breathable mesh and padded contact points for load-bearing comfort;

• Channelled rear padding to ensure a flow of cool air to the back and prevent buildup of sweat;

• Tough technical fabrics – such as Cordura and Ripstop – to withstand the rigours of the trail and ensure long pack life, as well as features such as reinforced stitching and weatherproof zips.

HYDRATION PACKS: IN-DEPTH

Once you know what size/capacity of hydration pack will best suit your riding, there are some key things to watch out for when you are browsing the available selection.

Bladder – Some packs don’t actually come with one included – check before you buy!

Ideally the bladder should be removable for ease of washing, but it should not be necessary to have to take it out to fill it up again. A large opening cap or roll-top bladder is also a plus point when it comes to cleaning and refilling.

Bladders can become unpleasant when not cleaned after every ride, especially when used to store sugary drinks. Some manufacturers have anti-microbial reservoirs to prevent gunk building up, but the best advice is to wash your bladder thoroughly and regularly. Storing in the fridge or freezer also prevents bacterial growth.

Hose – Look for a lockable bite valve in order to prevent unwanted leakage.

Back – It’s crucial that the pack area intended to come into contact with your back strikes the right balance between cooling (via channels that enable cool air to flow between pack and back and prevent the buildup of sweat) and load carrying (the pack must have a large enough ‘footprint’ to spread the weight of its contents evenly and comfortably).

Packs with a longer, narrower footprint that sit unobtrusively in the middle of the back also tend to snag less on singletrack-skimming branches than bulky, boxy packs. However a new generation of ‘winged’ packs that sit on the hips rather than the back for increased load-bearing comfort is also growing in popularity – in the end, personal preference will play a large part in which style of pack you choose.

Harness – Shoulder, waist and chest straps must be secure and comfortable, and easy to adjust or remove under real riding conditions.

Pockets – At least one full-length internal storage space is useful for items of clothing, while external mesh or strap pockets are handy for energy bars, gel packs, tools, pump and other bits that you wish to have easily accessible. Many packs also have interior pockets specifically designed for cameras, MP3 players or other gadgets, featuring cord ports to connect headphones, batteries or hard drives to media devices and soft internal lining/padding for protection against knocks or scratches.

Many packs also feature external bungee cords that are perfect places to stuff a jacket or gilet when overheating after a long climb; helmet nets to store lids when not needed, or straps for body armour.

Ladies’ packs
As with many other areas of bike equipment and apparel, manufacturers have cottoned on that the differences in female anatomy warrant a different design approach when in comes to hydration packs and backpacks.

‘Womens-specific’ hydration packs therefore typically feature a shorter, narrower ‘footprint’ to fit smaller backs; shoulder straps that are closer together to fit narrower shoulders, with a more pronounced ‘s’ shape to fit female curves; sternum straps designed to sit higher on the chest and waist straps adjustable to fit the wider female pelvis.

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Hydration pack bladders can be prone to buildup of dirt and bacteria, especially when used with energy drinks or tablets and not thoroughly cleaned afterwards, or when not used in a long time (pro tip: storing your clean hydration pack bladder in the freezer when not in use will help keep it in tip-top condition).

If this happens you will need specific tools and brushes to make the job of cleaning easier, as well as cleaning tablets which dissolve in water in your reservoir to help keep it clean and get rid of odours.

A full range of replacement hydration pack bladders and spare parts – drinking tubes, bite valves, rain covers etc. – is also available.

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