At a time when equipment brands are making their hydration bags, or lumbar packs, as small and slim as possible, it’s a little different to see a bag like the Evoc Neo 16L on the market. It’s not a first aid pack, or a photographer’s bag, it’s just a hefty hydration pack, although there’s much more to it than its ability to hold some water.
Released earlier this year, the Neo is one of the most robust hydration packs on the market, and it’s ready for big ol’ backcountry days, enduro races, or even for hauling around other random sorts of equipment.
- Airshield shock-absorbing back protector
- Two hip belt pouches
- Integrated rain cover and whistle
- Suglasses/goggle pouch
- Organized gear carrying
- Hydration pack sold separately
- Weight: 3.8lbs w/ bladder
- MSRP: $280 (available at Amazon, Backcountry, and Competitive Cyclist)
The first thing I noticed about the Neo was the bag’s heft when I pulled it out of the box. At almost four pounds empty, it is heavy for any kind of hydration pack. But, the Neo isn’t your average pack and there are countless other options that are a third of the price and a third of the weight.
From top to bottom, the Neo gets Evoc’s high-quality touches that make for an uber-durable and functional bag.
The Airshield Back Protector likely makes up the majority of the weight in the Neo, and for good reason. It’s made to be flexy, airy and ventilated, and to protect a rider’s spine. The Airshield is comfortable and ventilates rather well considering that it covers your entire back. The light blue material has a much softer touch, and the black cube-shaped material is stiffer, with a said 95% shock absorption quality.
With something like the Airshield, it will obviously favor protection over comfort, but Evoc has found a pretty nice way to keep riders backs from being completely drenched in sweat, or itchy from the protector.
Enduro racers who prefer the big and pedally courses over lift-served trails might also prefer a pack like the Neo. A convertible helmet jaw piece can easily be clipped to the outside of the pack, or even stuffed inside it. On top of the protection and pad or helmet storage capabilities of the Neo, the pack also has ample room for other equipment. Whether you want to pack a camera body and a lens or two, or you are a wine and charcuterie aficionado who wants to impress your bike friends on the next ride, the Neo has enough room for almost anything in it, and it’s easily accessible since it unzips its full length.
I have used the Neo stuffed with heavy camera gear as well, which turns it into a very heavy pack. The Neo comes in two different sizes, and buyers will want to make sure to find the correct one. It is aided by extra wide and secure hip belts that balance the weight nicely and make it centered and nearly forgettable. I, like many others, can’t stand when a full pack feel like a monkey jumping on my back, and the Neo was far away from that feeling.
Overall, the functionality of the Neo is hard to beat, and it’s nice to have a pack around that can handle any day-long mountain bike mission out there. The downside is of course the price. At $280, it is a damn expensive hydration pack and buyers will really need to value the protection, storage, and function that comes with the Neo to pull the trigger. A few other brands have similarly-minded packs. The Thule Rail, which costs $200, comes with a removable Koroyd back protecter and will surely take on an enduro race, but can’t compete with the Neo when it comes to storage space. It is also a bummer that the Neo doesn’t include a hydration bladder.
Although expensive and heavy, the Neo offers up a lot to those who need a really hard-charging pack for serious mountain bike adventures. It looks great, feels solid and durable, and offers enough storage and protection for big ride go-getters.