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The 10L Hydro Flask Journey. Photo: Matt Miller.

Insulation is Hydro Flask’s “thing” and always has been. When they started in 2009, they noticed that the market for insulated drink containers was set on keeping hot drinks hot and there wasn’t a big push to keep cold drinks cold. Basically, there were a lot more insulated coffee mugs than there were insulated water bottles.

In 2011, Hydro Flask hit a million in sales and had set a strong precedent for themselves. After that, they sensibly went after insulated growlers and now have a line complete with soft coolers, updated bottles, tumblers, coffee mugs, food flasks, and now a mountain bike hydration pack. They’ve also sponsored mountain bike athletes Hannah Barnes and Mark Matthews.

So yes, Hydro Flask has gone pretty deep into this mountain bike thing with the new Journey pack. I’ve pedaled some miles in the pack and have a pretty good feel for it now.

Specs

Photo: Matt Miller

  • Available in 10L or 20L volume
  • 3L HydraPak IsoBound insulated reservoir
  • Articulated, molded back panel for fit and ventilation
  • Waterproof, tear and abrasion resistant fabric
  • Removable magnetic hose attachment
  • Easy access pockets
  • Interior and tool organization pockets
  • 2.9-3.6lbs depending on size and volume
  • MSRP: $165 for 10L (REI.com), $200 for 20L (Moosejaw.com)

On the trail

The first thing I noticed about the Journey is that it’s a great looking pack and the aesthetics match the rest of Hydro Flask’s goods. It’s simple looking, the colors are all earth tones, and there aren’t any long, flappy straps to take away from its neatness.

The pack also fits well across my back. It’s snug and the straps offer a lot of adjustment to make the fit even better. The Journey doesn’t dance around when you’re on the trail, staying right where it needs to, even when it’s loaded down.

Speaking of load, the packs look a little bit bigger than they are due to the vented back panel that lifts the Journey pack off of your back and creates a higher profile. There’s a good bit of room between the back panel and the pack. While it seems like it could throw off the weight distribution, I haven’t experienced that. It does lets a lot of air down your back, and the pack vents exceptionally well.

On the interior, there are some envelope-like pockets to organize tools and other accessories. Then there are some smaller compartments on the exterior to shove gels, or bars, or car keys in. As the hydration reservoir pushes everything outward, the exterior pockets are sometimes tough to get a hand into. The material also isn’t very flexy and limits the ease of entry into some of the pockets.

One of the slimmer, exterior compartments.

I’d say the 10L and 20L both have enough room for all-day missions like the Whole Enchilada or Mag-7, but if you really want enough room for everything, go for the 20L. I rode with the 20L on a few multi-hour rides and it offers more than enough room for cargo.

The magnetic clip can be moved from a shoulder to sternum strap, or anywhere else you like. On the shoulder strap, the tube is kind of floppy and disconnected occasionally. It may work better mounted on the sternum strap.

I did find that I needed to ride with the bag, especially the 20L, lower on my back when I rode down steep trails; otherwise, the top of the pack came up and bumped the back of my helmet a little. It limited my ability to keep my head up on steeper trails from time to time. I didn’t have this problem when riding with the 10L.

Photo: Matt Miller.

Of course, what we really want to know about when it comes to the Hydro Flask Journey is the insulation. Considering that the pack has a neoprene sleeve that surrounds the insulated and sweat-proof reservoir, it’s pretty dang good. The Journey does what it says and keeps drinks cool in the pack for a long time. I could see this being nice on hot, summer rides when most packs start to warm up after an hour or two.

Final word

The Hydro Flask Journey is an excellent hydration pack, particularly for the brand’s first foray into mountain bike gear. There are some trade-offs with the material, and sleek look, but it vents well, is great for long rides, and keeps water cold on hot days.

Thanks to Hydro Flask for providing the pack for review.

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