Not everyone wants to ride with a big ‘n’ heavy backpack, so we’ve been testing a variety of different options for the minimalist mountain bikers out there, including waist packs, frame bags and mini-packs. Here Antony takes us through four different waist packs (aka: bum bags/fanny packs). Over to Antony!
My very first riding bag was a bum bag – in hot pink, natch. Perhaps inevitably, once they were christened as such, bum bags quickly became a comedy punchline, and for a while I thought they’d been banished to the less fashion-conscious reaches of the running world. But it was inevitable that they would return – the lure of riding sans sweaty shoulder blades was just too much.
The new generation of enduro-bustles are much cleverer beasts than the fashion carbuncles of yore. The bags we tested all had improved retention systems, to make them less likely to end up round your ankles, more organisational potential, and at least a bottle’s worth of water carrying capacity.
Waist packs are generally quite sensitive to body shape, and as a more, ahem, ‘apple-shaped’ individual, I found it harder to get them all to stay up. Careful packing and adjustment matters more with these bags, and any attempt to overstuff them can make them want to head south.
If your abdomen is more like an hourglass than a space hopper, you will probably get along with them much better, but be aware that trying before you buy (perhaps via a spot of vigorous jumping up and down) may save some disappointment.
Winner – CamelBak Repack LR
- Price: £69.99
- From: ZyroFisher
The Repack is the successor to CamelBak’s previous Palos waist pack, which was welcomed by some riders, but also notorious for its self-loosening straps. At 2.5L capacity plus 1.5L of water, it’s on the roomy side for a bum bag, which can be a good thing (more room for your stuff) or a bad thing (constantly tries to get acquainted with your knees).
It’s a good-looking bit of kit, with a stealthy outer, and a nice bright interior which makes it easier to find your stuff. The pocket layout is intuitive and managed to accommodate all our test gear in a very logical fashion.
On the front (which is on the back), a flap with a dual zip opens completely to reveal two elasticated organiser pockets (one big enough for a tube, one big enough for a multitool) and a zipped mesh pocket with a key clip. The sideways opening of the pocket does mean that you need to use the internal organisers, as otherwise whatever you put in there will drop out when you open it, but it’s no biggie, especially if you’re the sort of idiot who’s been known to ride off with his bag still open [shamefaced look]. There are two further pockets on the waistband: one with a zip, and one with an elasticated flap, so you can reach into it on the move and grab a snack.
The main compartment is big enough for a small pump and a packable jacket, and also holds the 1.5 litre water reservoir. The hose for this can be routed out of the left or right side of the bag, and is held in place securely by a sliding magnetic catch on the belt. As well as catering to left-or right-handed users, the hose clip can be moved a couple of inches on the bag, by attaching it to different loops.
The bag uses a Crux lumbar reservoir, the latest iteration of CamelBak’s signature bladder. There are some neat details on it – for example, the easy-to flip lever that shuts off the water flow and makes sure you don’t have a humiliating experience when you accidentally sit on your bite valve in the pub. The reservoir is filled via a huge lid, about the size that Wagon Wheels used to be (if you believe viral internet posts). This makes filling and cleaning a doddle, but does eat into the usable space inside the pack.
The exterior details are rounded off with some daisy-chain webbing on the sides of the belt (for the aforementioned hose clip), a small reflective loop for a rear light, and a carrying handle on the top. The rear of the pack goes for a plain mesh finish, rather than trying to do anything clever with air channels or foam blocks.
With a full load and a litre or more of water, the Repack does start to become somewhat spherical, which didn’t bode well for its ability to stay put. Thankfully the bag just seems to hang in there. The straps tighten from bag end rather than the buckle end, which feels odd at first but actually makes them easier to adjust. There’s no elastic in the belt, and the plain back of the bag and large wings gives a big contact patch with the rider’s body, all of which help it stay in place much better than some of the other packs I tested.
Even with the space lost to the reservoir, the Repack has a generous amount of room. The most pleasing thing about it, though, is that even if you overfill it, it’s secure enough for this not to be an issue. And if you take things out of it mid-ride, snugging everything up again is easy, even with chilly numb fingers, thanks to the clever routing of the waist strap. It definitely works best when it isn’t stuffed to the gills, but it’s much less temperamental than some of the alternatives.
Weighing in at just over 300g without its bladder, the Repack is a nicely minimalist option, but it still feels like a proper riding pack, instead of a compromise solution. You won’t need to bungee any bits to your frame if you use it, and you won’t need to keep hitching it up either. Not all of CamelBak’s previous attempts at waist packs have hit the mark, but with the Repack LR they’ve nailed it.
We Also Tested…
Deuter Pulse 4 EXP
- Price: £40.00
- From: Deuter
The Pulse looks like it’s taken its design cues from the running world, and it’s hard to imagine a more methodically organised waist pack, with a pocket specifically designed for everything from your keys to your water bottle. It’s surprisingly capacious, and held a basic riding kit with no issues, including a small pump in the main compartment. It’s also priced to sell, at half the cost of some of the bags in the test.
It feels a bit basic; the buckle can be hard to adjust as you ride and the waist belt is plastic webbing, which feels rather grim next to your skin if your top rides up. However, it does seem to help keep the bag in place, and with a modest payload we didn’t have any issues with it slipping down. The bag is also easy to spin round if you want to get into it without taking it off.
Evoc Hip Pack Race 3L
- Price: £56.95
- From: Silverfish
Evoc bags reek of quality, and with its nice bold colours and watermarked inner lining, the Hip Pack was probably the best looking pack in our grouptest. It’s well organised and easy to get into, and has a wealth of pockets for tools, spares and personal effects. With so much attention to detail, someone has clearly spent a lot of time on the design of this bag.
In use, though, it didn’t live up to its initial promise. No matter how it was packed, or how much we tightened the straps, it frequently slipped down, to the point where any extended period of out-of-the-saddle climbing meant reaching down to hitch it up.
It is extremely comfortable in use, but its unwillingness to stay above waist height means that the Hip Pack can’t really be filled to its full capacity, and isn’t quite as ‘grab and go’ as you might think. If you’re svelte rather than zaftig, you may get on with the Hip Pack, but we’d recommend trying before you buy.
Bontrager Rapid Pack
- Price: £44.99
- From: Trek Bikes
Bontrager’s pack trims the waist pack right back to a minimum. It has zipped left and right-hand pockets, with elasticated internal organisers for tools etc. and a neoprene water bottle sleeve in the middle. And that’s it.
The Rapid Pack has the least capacity in this test, giving rise to issues such as the fact that it won’t take a regular pump in any of the pockets – I had to cram mine down the side of the water bottle, where it poked me in the small of the back like an unwelcome bedmate. Carrying a jacket is also an issue and reaching your water bottle is awkward thanks to the central position
The Rapid Pack is very nicely made, with neat details and reasonably priced for a bike-specific pack. However its lack of capacity and weatherproofing relegate it to being a bag for short, fair-weather rides.
This article was originally featured in Singletrack Magazine. Keen to read more? Then make sure you check out all the stories and reviews in Issue #118 right here!
|Bontrager, Camelbak, EVOC, Deuter
|Rapid, Repack LR, Hip Pack Race, Pulse
|£40 - £69
|by Antony for 2 months