Outdoor Research Freewheel 5L Hip Pack Review

The Outdoor Research Freewheel mountain bike hip pack is packed with well thought-out features and is stable on the trail.
Outdoor Research Freewheel hip pack
Photo: Hannah Morvay

It seems almost every year a mainstream outdoor brand that previously stuck to the hiking, skiing, and camping gear market starts making mountain bike-specific gear. It happened with Patagonia a number of years ago, MSR is making a bikepacking tent now, and there are a handful of other examples too. This spring, Outdoor Research, known for its quality snow sports, hiking and climbing gear has entered the mountain bike market with a line of technical apparel and the Freewheel 5L hip pack.

About the Outdoor Research Freewheel 5L hip pack

Outdoor Research’s hip pack has a five liter capacity with a water bottle holder, though it is also compatible with a hydration reservoir which unfortunately is not included.

Other features include a hip pocket along the side big enough for a phone, a sunglasses pocket with a no-scratch lining, and more pockets and stash spots inside the main compartment. There’s also an extra mesh cargo net on the back.

The pack is made from a tough 600D polyester exterior with a polyester lining on the inside. It comes in three color options, with the khaki and electric blue featured here, as well as a black and gold and a “black cloud scape” which has a black color that looks like bleach has been splashed on it. MSRP is $85.

On the trail

I received a test sample of the Freewheel 5L hip pack a few months ago and have been getting some miles on it. The pack is on the larger size of hip packs and meant to fit just about everything you need for a big ride.

Outdoor Research Freewheel hip pack mesh pocket
Phones sit snugly in the sleeve on the belt.

There is enough room in the internal compartment for a tube, lever, hand pump, tool, snacks, and a light wind or rain layer, but if you’re running out of space, there’s a nice cargo net on the outside that will hold a layer to free up room.

What I like about the Freewheel is that it’s roomy enough to fit more than just the bare necessities without feeling humongous. There are some hip packs that just try to do too much and you’re left wondering why you didn’t just get a backpack.

The Freewheel makes a lot of sense for the rider who only needs two bottles on a ride; one in the pack’s pouch and one on their frame. With ample room for tools and food, I’d happily take this pack out on two- to three-hour rides–maybe longer if I felt like I didn’t need more water, or could pack a small filter.

Photo: Hannah Morvay

With a full water bottle in the one side pouch on the left, the bag is stable on fast and rocky descents. That is not often the case with hip packs. Maybe the asymmetrical belt helps. I’m not sure, but it works.

There is room on the inside for a reservoir and a port to push a hose through to the hips, but as far as I can tell, there’s nowhere on the belt strap to secure the hose. There’s no clip or elastic loop or anything. Since Outdoor Research doesn’t include a reservoir and there’s no clear way to secure the hose, a bottle in the holster seems like the optimal use, and you can easily fit another full bottle on the inside if needed.

Overall, there’s a lot of great organization on the Freewheel and Outdoor Research obviously grasps the concept of making every bit of usable space, from the snack bar sleeves and zippered pockets on the inside, to the mesh net on the back and the phone sleeve underneath the mesh zippered pouch on the right side of the belt.

Photo: Hannah Morvay

Pros and cons of the Outdoor Research Freewheel 5L hip pack


  • Phone and sunglasses storage
  • Great organization and layout
  • Big enough to pack a layer


  • No reservoir included and no clear spot to stabilize a hose

Bottom line

The first mountain bike hip pack from Outdoor Research is a knockout. It’s stable even loaded with goodies on the inside and a full water bottle. And best of all, the amount of usable space on the pack makes it much more capable than just a pack for lunch rides.