Recently on the podcast I heard @Nate talk about an USWE pack. I was curious what the feedback on that was, or if anyone had any thoughts on hydration packs for mountain biking. I have heard that packs moving around can be uncomfortable and annoying, but I’m not sure how much I should be concerned with that. I don’t want anything that is uncomfortably hot that causes me to sweat more than I should. I prefer to ride without anything on my body, but one bottle will not last me a 35 mile race at the OZ Trail Off Road, even with 2 aid stations. Bonus points if anyone knows which episode of the podcast that was, and thanks in advance!
I have a USWE Airborne 2 and it is much better then any Camelbak product I ever had (and I had alot of them). I use it just for racing MTB, holds 2 liters of water, with a bottle on the bike it is enough to get me through a 35-40 mile race or around 3 hours. The harness system on the USWE packs is much more comfortable and moves around much less than most packs. You have to fiddle with the adjustment to get it right but once you do, the fit is great. You will feel a little warmer where the pack sits on your back, that is unavoidable.
I’ve been thinking about the Airborne 9 or an Osprey Syncro 10. I like the idea of a bigger pack even if I don’t use all of the space, I can carry food and some tools/an extra layer when it gets colder through the winter. But in the summer, it’s incredibly hot and humid, and the suspended mesh back panel on the Syncro is very attractive. Many people say that the suspended panel really makes a difference, but if it’s going to move around and be more annoying than it’s worth I could care less about back sweat.
I’ve had really good luck with a Nathan hydration vest I got at REI. For a vest it had a surprising amount of storage in a small space if I need it (ex. Tube, keys, hand pump, plenty of food, phone).
Had always had Camelback before but thought this pack was just as breathable but sturdier. Just seemed to stay in place better too.
It’s great, the syncro, suspension makes a difference. However, no backpack is at least 3x better for me. You will sweat more. It will bounce around. You may not care though. The utility is huge. Other options are frame bags or feed bags. Feed bags can hold bottles. Frame bags can do bladders.
If you have big bottle you could probably work with 2 aid stations over 35 miles. That’s a bottle every 12 miles if they are spaced. You can also drink and then refill before leaving the station if you aren’t hardcore racing it or if it’s hot.
I fully agree with @craigmanning here. I’m using the Airborne 2 as well and loving it. No bouncing at all. And it’s much more accessible than fiddling around with your water bottle.
I really like the slim profile and the fact that it only covers half of your back – so you’ll still have access to gels, etc. in your jersey pockets. With a full bladder you won’t be able to carry a lot of stuff in the bag but there’s enough room for phone, keys, spare tube and tools.
If you want some more space the Airborne 3 might be another option. It’s essentially the same as the Airborne 2 but features a removable bag. The hydration pack also frees you from your water bottle so you can carry a tool can instead. I’m using one from syncros from time to time: https://www.syncros.com/us/en/product/syncros-tool-can-5-pak?article=2419080010170.
Even though every manufacturer will tell you about just how good their ventilation system is – at the end of the day every backpack will make you sweat more (:
I also agree with @craigmanning. I hate wearing anything on my back while riding and therefore never “liked” hydration packs. Not to say that other packs are not designed well, I just feel, for me, that I am able to taylor fit the USWE to my body and it literally feels as if it does not move nor does it feel cumbersome. Another thing it that it sits high on my back so access to jersey pockets is not hindered.
I actually purchased a second USWE pack and just switch it out along with another bottle when doing longer distance mtb events. It is comfortable, fits snug, and is a minimal pack in that aside from hydration and a few necessities (a phone and wallet and keys, maybe a snack) not much else, if anything, will fit.
Everyone is different and has his/her own likes and dislikes. For me, while other hydration packs I have tried are designed very well, the USWE, for what I like to do (endurance mtb events) fits well, feels light, is a minimalist pack, and seems to not move around on my body at all. Hope this helps and cheers!