By now, many of us have figured out that it’s pointless to take out a full pack on short rides. They’re too heavy, too big, and too uncomfortable. A few years ago, the MTB fanny pack walked in and blew our minds. They were more comfortable, more minimal, and more appropriate for short rides. Rarely, do I ride with a full pack anymore, unless it’s a backcountry-esque ride, or something lasting more than four hours, with the possibility of bad weather.
What I have never liked about lumbar packs though, is how they interfere with the waist on your shorts. I usually find myself readjusting my shirt and waistline on my shorts several times a ride, because they get all jangled up.
The other pack- and storage-related challenge I faced this summer was figuring out my load for XC races. Obviously, the goal is to be as light and minimal as possible, but that is still never a perfect solution, especially for long or technically challenging rides. There are few things as stressful as looking for your next smooth section of trail to hydrate on because you can sense a cramp down the road, and fiddling with a bottle in your frame’s cage, or trying to squeeze it in the back pocket of your jersey before a rock wall ahead.
The Orange Mud Endurance V2.0 will definitely be on my back the next time I line up for an XC or enduro race, and may take the place of my lumbar packs on short, close-to-home rides.
- Reservoir: 2L Hydrapack
- MSRP: $135 (available from Amazon.com and Moosejaw)
- Pockets: 2 front with velcro closures, one zippered rear
- Elastic strap to attach a lightweight jacket
For the most part, I’d say the comfort itself supersedes that of many lumbar packs, and there is less bounce. Since the back twists at both your lumbar and thoracic spine, it’s difficult for full hydration packs to be ideal, since they cover most of the spine, aside from your cervical spine. The lower back isn’t fighting with the upper back, when rotating with a lumbar pack, or for that matter, a thoracic pack, which is where the Orange Mud sits.
The idea with lumbar packs is to have your weight down low, and in that regard, fanny packs take the cake. However, there is only one strap around the waist with most lumbar packs, and the end result is usually the pack moving a lot vertically, especially on rougher trails.
Bounce is drastically reduced with the Orange Mud Endurance pack, because of its fit, and descending with the pack on is easily forgettable.
Drinking is much easier with the Orange Mud and can be done on the go, unlike most fanny packs that have bottle carriers or a hose that has to make its way from the waist all the way up to your head. On top of that, refueling in general is much more accessible with the Endurance Pack. The large, open pockets on the front of the pack make it easy to store snacks and to stuff trash into after the snacks are gone. I did have one of my energy bars fly out of the pocket on a ride, so they’re not fool proof. Hopefully someone else made use of my favorite cherry pie flavored Larabar. The pockets can be cinched down though, and there are two pockets up high that are secured with velcro.
I’d say there are two areas that most lumbar packs will have the Endurance Pack beat: storage and ventilation. Most mountain bike fanny packs have developed great compartmentalization to keep tools, snacks, tubes, and anything else in one place. The Endurance Pack can fit most of your minimal items, but they may not be as tidy as on your favorite lumbar pack.
The pack’s back and straps are constructed with a ventilated, padded, soft mesh material, but my jersey was more damp than it would have been if I had been wearing a fanny pack.
I have really enjoyed wearing the Orange Mud Endurance Pack as an alternative on lighter rides, and would certainly use it as a pack for racing when ease of hydration and minimalism are priorities. Its placement and security on my back also made me a fan of the pack on rougher trails. When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of preference, but I’m glad this option is out there.
Thanks to Orange Mud for providing the pack for testing.