Backpacks/Hydration Pack Review – Dirt Selecta

From Dirt Issue 119 – January 2012


Words by Sean White. Photos by Mike Rose and Ben Winder.

Throughout the year hitting the trails on a mountainbike can bring a huge variety of riding. Short sharp night rides in December, a day out at a trail centre, a morning of uplifts or a week in the mountains of Europe. One thing in common with all these types of ride is the need to be self–sufficient while out on the trail. Taking everything you need and nothing you don’t.

So most of us will agree that for anything other than a spin into town, a backpack is the way to go to carry your cargo from the start to the finish of the ride. But how much thought have you put into what you are carrying and whether you have the ideal set–up? You may have your bike finely tuned, suspension dialled–in and your cockpit sorted, but is your pack weighing you down and holding you up? If you are starting from scratch and buying a new pack then it is worth spending a few minutes to list just what you need for your type of riding. A quick local loop needs fewer essentials than a full–on day out in the hills in unknown territory.

When testing the selection of packs in this feature were looking to comment on the following areas:


We all need a bag that will take not only what we need but also have a bit spare for anything extra along the way, maybe a wet jacket or some extra food. However, when lightly loaded or full the bag needs well designed straps to cinch everything in. Is access to the main compartments easy? Zips in the right place? Bags that have evolved over the years will have this sorted.


This is an important issue that should high on your list. Consider that the lightest bag on test, loaded with one litre of water and the usual pump/tube/multi–tool weighs around 2kg without anything extra thrown in! Chuck in food, a jacket and a few spares and suddenly you have a heavy old pack bouncing around high up on your back. Time to lighten your load.


Now this is not easy to judge but it goes without saying that the established brands who have honed and refined their range over the years will have packs that are stable and comfortable when the terrain get steep and challenging. Straps should be well shaped and ergonomic. The pack should not sit too high on your back. You should forget that it is there ideally.


Everything should have a place, but let’s not get too fussy and complicated. A few internal organizer pockets and a separate pocket for the water bladder are commonplace, but I like a couple of external ‘quick access’ pockets for food/phone etc. There is nothing worse than a mate faffing around in their bag at every chance of a stop. Let’s keep rolling…

Water bladder

For everything other than a short ride most of you will want to carry some liquid refreshment. You could ditch the bladder and stash a bottle inside the pack but this again will hold progress up. A bladder will let you drink on the move, little and often and carry a larger quantity on hotter days or epic rides. Most bladder tubes can be accessed to the left or right of the rider but check out the straps, attachments and routing. Camelbak, Hydrapak and Nalgene are the market leaders. Oh, and one last thing; keep it washed out and clean!


Whilst trail riders will hang on to the comfort blanket of a hydration pack, a more gravity biased rider will want none of this and will rarely be venturing far from civilization. However, with the rise in Enduro events and trips to high mountain areas, there is now a requirement for more safety protection. A new breed of pack that combines back protection and hydration with cargo space has evolved. The removable back protectors are CE standard approved and are often sized to suit the rider. Ideal as a second bag for those high speed, higher risk rides…just ask my mate Sam!>>


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