Hydrapak Big Sur Review

After reviewing the Hydrapak Selva last year, I was very excited to get my hands on the Selva’s big brother, the Big Sur, for testing while I’m out on the road this summer.


Weighing in at 1 lb 4 oz dry, the Big Sur measures18″ x 9.25″ x 4.25″ and features a 100 oz reversible Hydrapak reservoir with Shape Shift technology. The reservoir is isolated in its own zippered pocket and features 360-degree insulation to keep your water nice and cool. The main compartment is pretty roomy with an additional upper velcro pocket and a sleeve for a mini pump. The Sur also provides a dedicated fleece electronics pocket with cord port, small compartmentalized tool pocket, and a small, zippered pocket on the bottom of the pack that I use to throw my munchies in.

Main compartment.

Tool pockets.

Lower pocket.

The new reservoir from Hydrapak features the same reversible bladder, slide top closure, detachable hose, locking mouth piece, and magnetic attachment as the previous version. However, new for this year is the Shape Shift technology. Shape Shift is essentially an internal zipper inside the reservoir that, when zipped up, controls the shape of the water to keep it from feeling like you’re carrying a bag full of water on your back (even though that’s actually what you’re doing).

Shape Shift technology.

Out on the Trail

Riding the Buffalo Creek trail in Colorado with the Big Sur.

The Big Sur really is the big brother of the Selva: it can do everything the Selva can do, only more. With three liters of water capacity and much more storage room, the Big Sur is ready for some big rides!I’ve taken the Big Sur out on numerous 20-30 mile adventures into the backcountry and have been using it as my main hydration pack for several months now, and it has held up admirably!

I initially envisioned this as the perfect pack for backcountry epics, but I soon realized this was not the case. While the Big Sur has plenty of water for long, hot rides, the storage compartments just aren’t equipped for all of the extra gear needed for a true all-day adventure into the high mountains of Colorado or Utah. Sure, it can carry an extra layer and a few tools and tubes, but if you are packing for every single “what if” scenario, this isn’t the pack for you. Instead, check out Hydrapak’s Morroor the Jolla for a true expedition-style pack.

Pack severely overstuffed as I begin The Whole Enchilada.

Since I’ve been known to be a knucklehead at times, on several rides I just shoved as much gear as I thought I needed, knowing full-well that there wasn’t enough room in the pack for all of the extras I wanted to carry. As a reward for my obstinence I received a busted zipper on one part of the reservoir pocket. The other zipper still works, so I can use the pack just fine. However, if you tend to be a little heavy-handed and abusive to your expensive mountain bike gear, just don’t try to overfill this pack!

Busted zipper. Totally my fault for trying to shove too much stuff into too small of an area.

Storage limitations aside, if you are prepping for a ride that isn’t that far “out there” but is likely to require three or more hours of riding in hot conditions, reach for the Big Sur! Personally, I always like to carry as much water as possible, because you never know when you’ll take a wrong turn and end up miles away from the car. For rides such as these, the Big Sur is perfect.

As for the water, the new Shape Shift technology does an excellent job eliminating barreling of the reservoir and sloshing when riding. Once you have it zipped up, just add water and go! Just be aware that when you zip the reservoir up, it reduces the amount of water that you can carry. A few times I didn’t think about the reduced water carrying capacity, and it really came back to bite me when I was riding Kenosha Pass to Georgia Pass. But if you know you’re heading out on an exceptionally long, hot ride, all you have to do is undo the zipper and presto! An instant upgrade to your H2O capacity.

For many riders, the Big Sur ($99 MSRP) may just be the perfect Goldilocks 3-liter hydration pack–not so big that it’s heavy and bulky and not so small that it doesn’t fit any extra gear. Just right.

Many thanks to Hydrapak for sending the Big Sur over for review.