by Tom Hill
May 8, 2013
Purpose-built biking hydration packs are all well and good but if it's minimalism you're after, look to the fell runners for inspiration
The inov-8 Elite is not specifically designed as a biking pack, although there is nothing stopping you using it as such, and I have happily done so for the last few months. inov-8 comes from a fell-running back ground, and turned the fell-shoe market upside down a few years ago, bringing a fresh design philosophy to a pocket of sport that sometimes seems to wilfully ignore wider trends. The fact that it achieved this, hints at how good its products are.
There are a number of things about the inov-8 pack design that I really like. It is extremely light, and fits well. There are handy hip pockets (Percy Pigs now replaced in favour of hard-to-get almond M+Ms). The full length zip allows access to the nether reaches of the bag relatively easily, and a draw cord system compresses unneeded space to prevent too much rattling. This 20l size is plenty big enough for a winter day out, or a summer bivvy trip.
Now, as a running pack it is close to flawless. As a riding pack, then there are some compromises. To keep weight low, there is no back padding. Fine if you are carrying clothing, less comfortable if you have a pump digging into your back. This is less of a problem if you have a hydration bladder (not included) slotted in place. The sleeve is difficult to access though, and you have to completely empty the bag to sensibly remove the bladder for refilling. There are no internal pockets, and the light material doesn’t feel particularly robust (although is holding up just fine).
As a bike-specific item, there are better options out there. If you prize weight over everything, or want a pack that will cope with a variety of sports, then the inov-8 is well worth considering.