Head to Germany, or the Lake Garda Bike Festival, and you’d find it easy to believe that an EVOC pack is some compulsory part of German mountain bike rider attire, the brand really is that popular. It’s like it’s become some part of the teutonic off-road zeitgeist, and I’m guessing the main part of the appeal is the quality of its products.
On top of an already impressive range of hydration packs sits this FR Enduro Blackline, a pack that combines all the best bits of EVOC’s pack design with an integrated back protector for peace of mind when things get getting rowdy in the trail department.
Unlike much of EVOC’s range, the FR Enduro Blackline is decidedly, erm, black; eschewing the neon and contrasting colours for something far more subdued, with a gloss black logo and yellow zip tags being the only highlight to an otherwise stealthy-looking bag. It’s available in three storage sizes, though these are dictated by torso sizing: small has 14 litres of stowage space, medium has 16 litres and large weighs in with a massive 20 litres of storage.
The bag has a lot to offer in terms of features. There’s a very neatly organised tool compartment that’s nice and easily accessible out on the trail. It opens fully to give you a surface to store tools and bits and pieces, while you undertake trailside repairs without having to resort to searching through the undergrowth for wayward parts. Having place for everything and everything in its place, makes fettling a pleasure to undertake when the inevitable emergencies crop up, especially when everything is so quickly to hand, with no need to rummage through the inevitable build up of pack detritus and spare clothing.
The main compartment holds the hydration reservoir ‘sling’; at this point it’s worth pointing out that a bladder isn’t included in the price. This may be an issue for some people but personally I prefer to be able to choose which reservoir I use. Size-wise the main compartment has plenty of space; I managed to pack my usual load of a dry bag with waterproof and beanie, plus first aid kit and blizzard bag, with space to spare. I’d originally wanted to run this pack for my guiding assessment, but struggled to get a group shelter and some spare winter clothing into the medium-sized pack, especially when carrying plenty of water for a big day in the mountains; for normal riding with mates that space restriction never occurred.
As if all that wasn’t enough space, there are still two more zipped storage pockets available. One above the tool compartment offers carrying capacity for goggles/sunnies and a key clip with two mesh pockets, though it’s well worth making sure keys are tucked into one of the mesh pockets to avoid any lens scratching potential. A right-hand waistband pocket has space for a small multi-tool or gels. Finally two elasticated outer pockets provide space for quickly stowing anything. Reflecting its enduro and all mountain focus, the Blackline also has helmet carrying sorted and two hidden straps in the base of the pack for carrying armour.
The main attraction of this pack is obviously the back protector. This is often cropping up as a necessary item for racing now, especially in Europe, and it’s integrated into the design of the Blackline in order to meet the demands of hard alpine and technical riding. The included Liteshield back protector combines adaptive PU foam with a segmented EPS core to create a lightweight (145g) removable panel that meets TUV and CE certification. In use you get all the benefits of back protection without the need for an undersuit, and with little additional weight over a conventional backpack.
In use the main difference to other packs is the almost cummerbund-like wider waistband which, after a bit of getting used to, is pretty comfortable to wear. Expect a bit of time to be spent breaking in the pack; the protector makes it feel incredibly stiff at first, but once moulded to my back I had no further issues.
The low and wide profile of the bag is one I much prefer when riding technical trails too – it feels a lot more stable when moving about on the bike and less likely to wallow like some other packs do. Although there are some contoured foam strips to aid air circulation, the back of the pack definitely holds warm air due to the necessary close fit of the protector. Through the winter this has been a benefit but in summer it’s something to try and plan for, as it’s an inevitable trade off for the back protection.
A great pack for alpine and technical trails, with the addition of peace of mind thanks to the integrated back protection. Nicely thought out features and great fit on the bike add up to a recommended alpine pack.
|Product:||FR Enduro Blackline pack|
|Tested:||by Dave for for nine months|