Every year, gear brands update and revise their hydration packs in search of the lightest, most well-venting, and unnoticeably comfortable pack out there. Some products are a hit, while others are heavy, floppy, and hot.
Norrona, a Norwegian gear brand, has been making mountain bike gear since 2008. Right now, Norrona has one concept store in all of the US, and it is of course located in Boulder, Colorado. I got my first crack at trying some of their gear this spring, including the Skibotn 15L hydration pack.
I’m always a little curious to see how a brand works itself into the crowded mountain bike gear space, but if the rest of the gear under Norrona is as good as the Skibotn pack, then my expectations have already been exceeded.
About the Skibotn 15L
- 15L hydration pack (reservoir not included)
- Integrated, removable back protector
- Fleece-lined goggle pocket
- Tool, accessory compartments
- External helmet carry straps
- Made from at least 50% recycled fabric
- Two colors: Black, blue
- MSRP: $170. Available at Backcountry.com
The Skibotn pack is noticeably clean in its exterior design, with simple lines that wrap around the pack’s soft frame. The two available colors are simple, and the embroidered stitching of the logo matches the pack. The Skibotn is pleasantly subtle, and feels like a mini-mountaineering MTB pack, made for multi-hour rides.
I rode with the Skibotn for four days straight when I was down in Sedona for the bike festival, and most of the time was lugging around my DSLR along with water, snacks, and other random things that I needed around the trails and about town. While the pack was heavy by the carrying handle — and probably on the scale as well — the low profile kept the weight low, and centered on my back.
I usually avoid riding with full hydration packs because there are so many smaller options available. But, throughout the weekend, I enjoyed the Skibotn more and more. I dig the aesthetics, how it carries weight, and I really enjoyed the organization and interior layout.
In the main pouch, which also houses a reservoir in a separate sleeve, there’s a lot of room for things like a rain jacket, leftover pizza (which was also in my pack in Sedona), a camera, and anything else one can reasonably expect to fit in a not-small hydration pack.
In the secondary compartment, are pockets, and organization that rivals the home office section at Ikea.
There are multiple stuff pouches, and two zip pouches, and the secondary compartment that zips out to the bottom of the Skibotn can be opened all the way up for easier access. The larger zippered compartment is covered in plastic, just in case a rain storm hits and threatens your camera gear or pizza.
Integrated back protection runs down both sides of the spine, but it errs on the lighter side of protection compared to other packs on the market.
There are two hip pockets on the waist belt. I find that hip pockets are almost essential on hydration packs because they free pocket space in shorts or pants, and still make items like keys or a phone easily accessible.
On top of all of the organization already mentioned, there’s a tucked away helmet carrying system in the bottom of the pack that can easily be deployed on hot climbs and transfers.
As the sun shone through in Sedona and I was sweating bullets, I was also surprised that the pack never felt that hot. The thin and wide shoulder straps let a lot of airflow in and keep wind on your chest and back.
There were a few things I wasn’t psyched about though. First, for $170, I wish the Skibotn came with a reservoir. For nearly two-hundred dollars, we’re getting into expensive territory to have to buy more things to complete the pack. The elastic loops around the hip belt straps did not want to hold onto the straps that well, so I have had to keep rolling the straps up and wrapping the elastic loops back around so they weren’t flapping in the wind. Those are my two main gripes.
While the Skibotn misses on a couple things, overall, I have really enjoyed riding with the pack. It has plenty of organization for big rides, a little bit of protection, and feels light and durable at the same time. The clean lines around the exterior are a bonus and it has the right features to make your riding buddies ask about it on the next ride.
⭐️ Find the Norrona Skibotn hydration pack at Backcountry.com.