Ultimate Direction Grind Hydration Pack Review

Front the website of Ultimate Direction, describing the Grind 12 hydration pack:

Loaded with features such as pump and tool pockets, organization for spare tubes and adequate room for an extra layer, this MTB pack is built for the trail. Sleek in design, this pack enables a full range of motion and a molded back panel offers outstanding stability and ventilation – you’ll be charging the trails without even realizing you’ve got a pack on your back.

Well sure, it’s got a metric shit ton of cargo capacity. But if you’re anything like me dear reader, when you’re gearing up for an epic (eww, that word) adventure you tend to bring two of everything like Noah just in case. Things tend to get heavy quick when you’ve got a shock pump, a bee sting epi pen, 18 Clif bars and a sat phone. So you’re ready for everything AND you’ve got six and a quarter pounds of H2O sloshing around on your back like a monkey made of jello. Where was I?

yo, this bag has everything

I love being prepared. Who among us doesn’t enjoy being the hero on the ride by bringing a 9 speed quick link and a 10 speed quick link? On my trip to Moab to ride the White Rim Trail I saved the day with just such a doodad; 5 minutes and we were all back rolling. The tradeoff to being a boy scout is that you’re lugging lots of gear that will likely not be used on the ride. We all sweat the details of our bike build to get everything as light as humanly (and financially) possible, then we put the weight back on in the form of 6 goo packets when 2 will be plenty. It’s temptations like these that are exacerbated by the bugbear of ample storage capacity. And the Ultimate Direction Grind 12 has that in spades.

What do you want to bring? Mini pump? There are slots for two. Water? 96 ounces brah. Jacket? Base layer? Done. There is ample space for all this plus a limber midget and a Yorkshire terrier, but not at the same time. Side pockets on the waist strap are a great touch too, a favorite place to carry a gel packet or a multi tool for quick access.

WHAT SORCERY IS THIS? It’s an internal stiffening panel that actually works to keep your load centered and allows the venting channels to do their job when the mercury climbs. I always got annoyed by other packs with so-called ventilation features that just squished against your back and did nothing with a full reservoir. I can attest to the fact that this little molded plastic feature does the job and does it well. Of course it also adds weight, but that’s another story. You’re strong like bull, right?

If you’re the type to flip past all the articles to the centerfold: here you go. The crystal clear plastic of the reservoir is pleasing to the eye and lets you know how conscientious a bladder cleaner you are. It’s tough to see but there’s also a rib down the middle to keep this thing from porking out like the Stay Puft marshmallow man. It maintains a good shape even when topped off. My one (giant) beef: no lock on the bite valve. In my young and foolish days I would gear up for a ride, jam all my stuff into the trunk and arrive to find the bite valve got pinched under my helmet and half of my sweet, sweet hydration was soaking the Dynamat. My recent hydration bags (self purchased) have lockouts on the valves and leakage is a thing of the past. I wish this big fella had the same, then I could give out high fives in all categories.

How did it perform on the trail? Stellar. Good adjustability along with waist and sternum straps to stabilize the load are definite pluses. I packed light for this photo shoot and only carried a spare tube, one CO2, an inflator, multi tool, mini pump, camera, and full water load. No flop when shifting my weight in technical sections. All the pockets are easy to get to and the zipper pulls are no problem to grab with gloved fingers; all in all, this bag delivers. The valve that doesn’t lock out is also not my favorite to bite and drink out of–if this were my main hydro sack I’d be grafting on the right hose MacGyver-style. Other than that, the Grind 12 ($110 MSRP) is a fine way to keep dehydration at bay and look good while doing it.

Thanks to the folks at Ultimate Direction for providing the Grind 12 pack for review.