Hydro Flask Down Shift Hydration Pack Keeps Price and Water Temps Low [Review]

Photo: Hannah Morvay

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since Hydro Flask came out with the Journey hydration pack, which we reviewed in spring of 2019. Hydro Flask, based out of Bend, Oregon is primarily known for its big, clangy insulated bottles, which I have grown pretty fond of. The hydration brand has made a reputation for keeping cold drinks cold, and took the philosophy into the bike world, because who enjoys drinking hot water from their pack on a summer ride?

The Journey debuted with great aesthetics and hung on to its cold water reputation. I did have a few nitpicks with the Journey though. The material, although durable and easy to keep clean, was very rigid in nature, and the larger 20L pack rode high on my back. The two sizes are also a little on the pricey side, with the 10L Journey selling for $165 and the 20L for $200.

Now, hot on the heels of the Journey is the new Down Shift, and it remedies these nitpicks for the most part. The Down Shift keeps Hydro Flask’s cold water mission front and center while dialing back a few features to make it more accessible.

Specs

  • 14L capacity hydration pack
  • 2L insulated Hydro Flask bladder
  • Organizational pockets
  • Fleece-lined sunglasses pouch
  • Colors: Sapphire, guava, black
  • Available in Spring 2020
  • MSRP: $135 (Available at REI)

Pack performance

The Down Shift performed flawlessly during my phone-tography sessions in Moab. Photo: Corie Spruill

Hydro Flask invited myself and a solid group of other journalists to check out the new pack and put it to the test during a three-day guided tour along the White Rim Trail in Moab, Utah last fall. This provided the ultimate test for the pack, and was a great way to measure its ability to keep cold things cold, as well as its comfort and storage capacity.

Hydro Flask had a few things in mind when they developed the Down Shift and wanted to differentiate it from the Journey beyond just the price. The bladder has been shrunken down in length and placed toward the bottom for a better center of gravity. The Down Shift also uses a different fabric, that is lighter, with a durable rip-stop material to ensure durability, and there is a lighter sense of organization in the pack.

That’s not to say that the Down Shift makes you ride like a frat student lives, but the pack doesn’t have a filing-cabinet-like storage system like the Journey does. The zippered pockets worked well for me though, and there is plenty of room to stuff energy bars and car keys inside.

There is also enough room to stuff extra layers in the pack. I rode the entire White Rim trail with my DSLR camera body and lens in the pack, (check the above picture to see how dang full it looks), although I did need to break the lens and body apart.

While the Down Shift misses out on an external pouch or webbing to tie a rain jacket down, there should still be enough room internally. If you’re someone who needs to pack everything then check out the Journey 20L.

I enjoyed how the Down Shift fit as well, and how it keeps the weight of the water low. The pack is designed with a ventilated back piece that actually sits against your back and is separated from the rear of the pack for a slipstream of air. It feels like the ventilation is above average compared to other packs and I don’t amass as much sweat when wearing it.

Final word

Photo: Hannah Morvay

The Down Shift fills a great spot in the Hydro Flask lineup of packs. It is more affordable than the Journey, but is far from being a “cheap” pack, and still keeps water nice and cold.

⭐️ Find the Hydro Flask Down Shift at REI.com.

Thank to Hydro Flask for providing the Down Shift pack for testing and review.

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