Hip pack hydration systems
Since only three of the five bags tested include a hydration bladder, and two of the bladders are from the same company, I’m really just comparing CamelBak’s CRUX bladder with the Hydrapak. The slider seal on the Hydrapak offers a more reliable seal by nature of its design, but as long as the CRUX cap is screwed on correctly, the Repack system is every bit as leakproof. Either way, it’s always a good idea to perform a leak test with any bladder.
The CRUX wouldn’t have been as easy to fill as the Hydrapak’s top-loader style were it not for the added ergonomic handle. Evoc and Camelbak use a 1.5-liter reservoir which I found more than adequate for the types of rides where a hip pack makes sense. That said, there’s no harm in under-filling the larger Dakine Hydrapak (2L) to the desired volume.
Where the hydration delivery story gets a little more interesting is in the tube orientation, its attachment, and variations on each bite valve.
On the Evoc Hip Pack Race, the hose exits the right side, runs stealthily through the hip belt, and attaches magnetically with length-adjusting clips. The bite valve features a twist on/off locking mechanism. Due to the proximity of the magnetic clip to the left hip belt pocket, the Hip Pack Race was prone to sporadic unhinging — not good when getting down and dirty through a turn. What sets the Evoc pack apart in terms of hydration is the inclusion of a water bottle holster for those who choose to purchase the Hip Pack Race without the reservoir.
The CamelBak Repack LR hydration tubing can be routed along either the left or the right side of the pack. The hose runs stealthily through the hip belt and attaches magnetically with length-adjusting clips. The Magnetic Tube Trap™ has an additional locking feature.
The Dakine Hot Laps tube exits the right side of the bag, runs outside the hip belt, and attaches magnetically with length-adjusting clips. While the bite valve is self sealing, there is no external locking mechanism to prevent dribble during transport. Like the Repack, the magnetic locker on the Hot Laps also features an additional lock device to ensure hose stability while riding.
The Weevil Burrowsak hauls a water bottle up to 24 oz. in a holster that sits midline on the back. Two shock cords and a cinch strap secure the bottle. Access to the bottle can be done on-the-fly, but putting the bottle back cannot .While the placement of the water bottle holder in the center serves to help balance the load, the tradeoff is the bottle is more difficult to access than if it were placed closer to one side or the other.
The North St. pack is not designed to carry a hydration bladder or a water bottle.
Winner: CamelBak Repack LR
Aberrant hose unhinging from a sternal strap is one thing, but when it happens at the waist, the hose ends up dangling between the rider’s feet, which is just asking for trouble. Since the CamelBak Repack offers hose routing from either side, good placement underneath the hip belt pocket, and the most secure bite valve attachment, the Repack would be my choice based on hydration delivery alone.
Read on for a final summary of the pros and cons of these mountain bike hip packs.