MBA Product Test: Thule Rail 12L Pro Hydration Pack

Thule Rail 12L Pro Hydration Pack

From bike racks to backpacks, Thule specializes in hauling cargo. Among the brand’s range of hydration packs, the Rail 12L Pro is an intriguing option for mountain biking for two reasons: its large 12-liter bladder has the capacity to allow exploring all day without pit stops, and it offers the safety of an integrated back and spine protector.

As modern bikes reach higher speeds and cover greater distances, greater demands are placed on all components, even apparel. Thule’s Rail 12L Pro hydration pack features a removable Koroyd insert to provide central back and spine protection with a 12-liter storage capacity, so you can bring all the essentials for a long day in the saddle. Retail price is $199.95.

Tech features: The Rail 12L Pro excels in cargo organization. Inside the main compartment, there are two internal elastic pockets that allow secure retention of necessary items, such as a multi-tool and tire inflator. The third internal pocket features a zippered closure for safekeeping of your phone and wallet and even includes a key leash to ensure your keys don’t slip out at any point on the ride. There are two sleeves to house a mini pump and a shock pump, preventing jostling of these bulky items.

Additional cargo can be stored externally. There is an exterior compression panel to load a jacket or extra layers, and there are external lash points to attach a helmet, chin bar or body armor. Under the shoulder straps, there are two waist pockets that allow easy access to on-the-fly necessities like nutrition, arm warmers or tools without having to remove the pack.

A 2.5-liter HydraPak bladder with standard features, such as a slide closure for easy cleaning and a locking bite valve to prevent leaks when not in use, gives this all-day pack a competitive 2.5-pound dry weight.

Field test results: While it seemed redundant at first, we grew to appreciate the detailed thumbnail images of a mini pump, multi-tool and CO2 inflator that are sewn directly on three of the internal pockets to help guide the arrangement of cargo. We were able to quickly locate specific items with minimal sifting through the pack, even when other packed items and dirty, foggy eyewear obscured vision.

The ReTrakt hands-free magnetic hose return system works well to keep your hands on the bars, and its neoprene sleeve helps insulate that first sip of fluid that gets held in the hose to ensure it doesn’t heat up in warmer temps or freeze in colder climates—a welcome nicety.

Weight distribution of the Rail 12L Pro felt even and balanced on the trail, regardless of how full or empty the pack was. The shoulder straps were wide enough that they resisted digging into our shoulders, even when the pack was fully loaded. The waist strap kept the pack from rotating left or right. Additionally, the placement of the chest strap was slightly lower than our pectoral muscles, which worked well to not only keep the strap in place but also keep the pack from shifting.

Although the internal back and spine protector are removable, the fact that the insert of Koroyd material weighed very little encouraged us to keep it in place for most of our test. We went for a few rides with it removed, however, and the pack was still able to keep its shape well. Overall, whether packed to capacity or filled with just a minimal amount of water, the Thule Rail 12L Pro is a solid choice for any ride.  www.thule.com

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