Thursday, July 29, 2010

Happiness is a full bladder.

Or, 'Hydration Packs I have known and loved, or just liked a little bit'.

Most everyone has heard of the concept of the 'Quiver', that being a selection of various shapes, sizes, weights, lengths, etc, of whatever it is that helps you do what it is you do.  So, a long board and a short board for surfing; a powder or a down hill ski; an AM bike and a hardtail SS, etc.  The quiver is the idea of having more than one kind of arrow at the ready.

And so it is with hydration packs.   I have a passel of them right now where I used to have one, then two...a regular one and a bigger one.  Now I have a small one, a medium one, a few large ones, a red one, a green one, etc.  So I thought I would talk a bit on what I like about a few of them and encourage you to build a quiver as well.

Go fast, go light:  The Baby Bear pack

The Camelbak XLP

When I first saw this pack I thought, "holy smokes, I can't put anything in this".  I am a consummate over-packer of stuff.  So I saw this as limited use.  But over the year, this has changed.  It may be the perfect summer-after-work-ride pack and I think it would be killer as a race day pack if the race is supported or not too long.  First, it is darn light.  The stretchy pouch can hold a windbreaker OR arm warmers/leg warmers but not much else.  That keeps it into the warmer climate zone for me as it is hard to carry shed layers like jackets, etc.  The tool section is perfect for the basics like a CO2, multi tool, etc and maybe some snacks.  I slip my longish pump into the bladder compartment, a 70OZ version, and I have stuffed extra food or gloves, etc, into there as well.  I took off the waist strap as the pack is so short that it was like having a 'ribcage strap'.  It is easy to remove the strap...velcro.  All summer long, this has been the pack of choice for a 2 hour and under (supplemented with a bottle for 2 hrs) rides from home.  Complaints?  Well, the little loop of string that the bladder clips onto is stupidly hard to get out of the clip on the bladder, especially with gloves on.  That is about it.

Ready for most anything, daily driver:  Momma Bear packs

The Camelbak M.U.L.E. NV.

Perhaps the quintessential all-rounder, the M.U.L.E. was my first decent hydration pack years ago and is still around today, having been refined over the years.  It has enough carrying capacity to bump it into a semi-epic pack for 3-4 hours rides unsupported and holds 100oz of water.  Camebak does a great job of compartmentalizing their packs.  If you can't find a pocket/pouch or stuff spot for something on the M.U.L.E., you may not need need a Poppa Bear pack.

JeffJ (AKA Circus Bear on a Bike) is rocking this pack and he is still happy with it.

Honorable Mention:

Osprey Raptor 10.

Osprey has a very impressive line of packs and they are very well made.  I love the nice touches like the zipper pulls that can easily be used with gloves, the killer Hydraform reservoir set-up, the Lid Lock helmet holder and the sleek overall feel to the pack when worn.  I think some of the organization of tools, etc, needs to be re-thought a bit along with the silly hip belt pouches that allow things to fall out too easily.  But, overall the line of Raptors from the Six (liter) to the Eighteen (liter) offer a wide choice of sizes and all of them are really good packs.  Osprey is making some real inroads into MTB hydration packs and I bet with some refinement they will only get better.

Deuter Race EXP Air:

I have had this pack for quite a while and it has not been used lately with all the new stuff to play with, but it has a LOT to like about it.  The mesh back panel and the support wings at the hips are excellent.  It is expandable with a zipper in the main compartment, the bladder is set up with a nifty clip that opens fully to allow for ice cube entry or cleaning, and it has a stow-a-way rain cover and helmet holder built-in.  The main compartment is kinda one big bag, so a bit more organization would be nice, still and all, I really like this pack and it is killer on hot days with the mesh back panel and a full load.

Bigger Days:  Goin' all Poppa Bear on ya'.

Osprey Raptor 18:

An expanded version of the Raptor 10, I have used this pack on some bigger days and it is super.  My absolute fav part is the Shove-It feature that allows for clothing, cameras, food, small animals, interesting fossil be stuffed in it and then compressed with the straps.  Love it.  Perfect pack for days that require lots of clothing changes.  When you are wearing all the clothing, the pack is pretty tidy, but begin to strip jackets, jerseys, etc, and the Raptor 18 just swallows it all up.  Add in the typical Osprey stuff like the Hydraform 100 oz Reservoir, the high quality of the construction, and the tool and smaller item organization and you have a winner.   What would I add?  A rain fly option built in, but at least I can get one separately.

Honorable mention:  Camelbak H.A.W.G. NV.

If the M.U.L.E. NV is the Prince of pocket storage, the HAWG is the King, the Bwana, the Big Mah-Mu.  It is a pack rat's delight.  the NV back panel carries the load with comfort, the adjustable and pivoting shoulder straps, the killer side pockets that swallow up cameras, GPS, etc...the list goes on.  It is a big pack that has a couple of things against is heavy to begin with. Lots 'o material here.  The main compartment gets 'intruded into' if all the other compartments are stuffed full, so it is not as big in there as you might think.  Still, if you like the MULE and want more of everything in a pack, you will love the HAWG.


Mark Zarro said...

I am as bad as you are, with about nine hydration packs on hand right now. However, I have never used a Deuter before. Have you ever used packs by Hydrapak (which I like) or North Face (which I don't care so much for)?

grannygear said...

No, not a Hydrapack. I think the Deuter has a Hydrapack bladder. Don't they use the sliding clip thingy? Never tried the North Face either.

"Packs are like can't have too many."
- Imelda Marcos

Doug Idaho said...

anyone tried those Wingnut packs that ride down on the lower back. looks like a good idea but they are expensive.

grannygear said...

I almost bought one, but at the time they did not have a bladder source. So why would I buy one, I asked them? No reply.

I am skeptical of having the weight on my low back. that area gets a lot of stress riding a bike. But, maybe I would like them.

Fonk said...

I have a Hydrapak, and whereas I love the "sliding clip thingy" for filling and cleaning, the mouthpiece sucked, leaking copius amounts of water all down my leg. I couldn't find replacements for it anywhere, either. It was a great pack, though(that I got for only $20 at Costco!), as far as pockets, rainfly, etc., so I just replaced the bladder w/ a CamelBak bladder. Was still a bargain and a great pack...

I only have 3 packs in my quiver right now, and my wife already thinks I have too much. She's probably afraid it's goign to go the same way as my bike quiver, which is way over three... :)

slocaus said...

Camelbak, nay, all hydro pack makers are cringing; they prefer it be called a reservoir. Bladders are useful of other liquids..... ;-)

grannygear said...

Yeah, I know. But 'bladder' is funnier. :)