by Marc Basiliere
October 11, 2013
Hydration specialists unveil best packs yet.
With prototypes first shown at Sea Otter last spring, September’s Interbike trade show presented our first chance to play with production versions of Hydrapak’s new 2-bag Bishop series. Where previous Hydrapak offerings have been lightweight and functional – if fairly simple – offerings, the brand has lagged for some time in providing more technical, more fully-featured options. Still quite light at 1.8lb and 2.0lb, the two Bishops look to be a huge leap forward in the features, support, and ventilation departments.
While the classy tri-tone fabrics on Bishops is classy looking and adds some visual interest, it’s the perforated foam Thru-Vent shoulder and waist straps and corrugated foam back panel (with enclosed aluminum stays) that indicate that the Bishop isn’t last year’s Hydrapak. Zippered waistbelt and pack-side pockets provide ride-accessible storage while large the main compartment sports a number of organizing pockets.
The fleece-lined gadget pocket is watertight (hooray!) and a proper rain cover deploys from the pack’s base- a feature that should be required on any all day-sized bag. At the outside, a stretchy stuff pocket will accept any overflow (or a full-face helmet) and is ringed with a substantial reflective print. A pair of stretch mesh sleeves on the shoulder straps handle hose routing and provide easily accessible gel or trash storage.
As specified by Dakine, Evoc, Salomon, Shimano, and others for their own packs, Hydrapak’s Reversible Reservoir has a detachable baffle running down its centre. The detachment allows the bladder to be turned inside-out for cleaning. Also useful, the baffle can be run detached for maximum 3L capacity or zipped together to reduce “sausaging” with a 2L of water. A new Blaster Valve is said to provide the highest water flow in the industry while providing an easier lockout than previous models.
Within a week of the show, we had a 12L Bishop in our hands- and the first handful of rides have been very promising. The foam back panel is one of the more comfortable going, just the right density with a centre channel keeping pressure off skinny riders’ bumpy spines. The pack’s footprint is on the wide side, but remains breathable while plenty of stability for rough-trail antics. Similarly, the shoulder straps breathe well but seem up to handling the sort of loads that 12L and 15L bags seem to encourage. The printed organising pocket ‘suggestions’ seem optimistic (each pocket is a bit small), but they don’t add much bulk and something can be found to fit in each.
Pricing looks competitive at $140/£TBC (12L) and $150/£TBC (15L). Hydrapak is distributed in the UK by Fisher Outdoor Leisure.