SIX OF THE BEST HIP PACKS REVIEWED – GET THAT WEIGHT OFF YOUR BACK

Just don't call it a fanny pack

It’s certainly not everyone’s style, and arguments like, “Might as well wear a backpack,” will still be heard. Although the name “fanny pack” will never escape our minds when we see this piece of gear, times have changed, and riders have since labeled these functional accessories “hip packs.” No matter how you choose to classify these packs, the latest versions have been developed to meet the demands of today’s mountain bikers. From hip packs simplified for racing scenarios to the type of rider who packs bulky and needs two of everything while on an adventure, there is an option for you. Our wrecking crew has been putting all five of these packs up to the test of time. No matter if you rock it under or over a shirt, this group test aims to narrow down options and find out which hip pack is the right fit for you.

SIX OF THE BEST HIP PACKS

USWE ZULO 2

Tech features: USWE is a Swedish brand our wrecking crew knows well and has had nothing but good things to say about how their products have performed. As the Zulo 2 name suggests, the pack has a 2-liter total volume. It does lean on the higher-priced side of the options in this group tested, but unlike all of the others, the USWE Zulo 2 includes a 1-liter water reservoir with its price tag. The design of this is intended to be used as a racing hydration pack around your hips. It also features a magnetic tube clip for the reservoir’s tube, two main pockets with organizer sleeves, small reflective points at the front/back and a small loop attachment for an LED light. The Zulo 2’s straps use a mesh compression system connected to the main body that has a breathable back panel.

Field test results: It’s worth noting that there is a larger Zulo 6 pack that can fit a water bottle if that’s your flavor, yet most of our rides had us grabbing the Zulo 2. Although there is more room in the Zulo 6, the 2 offered plenty of space for essential tools, a full water reservoir, an extra tube, and a few food items for quick energy on the trail. A phone can fit, but we typically would drink a bit of water before adding the extra item to the pack. The magnet strap for the hydration tube is crucial. It never failed to stay connected no matter what we threw against it. To maximize comfort, we would use the side straps that are separate from the main buckle to cinch in our fit. We changed this as the water levels dropped, which was a bother to some of our test riders, while others didn’t mind increasing/decreasing the side straps’ tension during rides. When worn properly, the Zulo 2 lives up to the USWE reputation and is bounce-free. As intended, it’s a great pack for quick day rides for a bike that doesn’t have space for a water bottle cage or a race stage where you’ll need a little extra to keep you hydrated, fueled and comfortable for the trail ahead.

BEST FOR:

Enduro racing, traveling lightweight

STAR RATING:

★★★★★

Price: $84.99

Volume: 2L

Weight: 240g (excluding reservoir)

Color: Black, yellow

Contact: www.uswe.com


PNW ROVER

Tech features: PNW’s take on the hip pack is a heavier, yet more durable option aimed at the everyday rider who likes to take a little bit more than the essentials on a ride. The Rover from PNW Components is made with tri-layer sailcloth (100 percent recycled polyester) that is DWR water-resistant, lightweight and defends well against abrasion. To boost its durability further, the Rover also has water-repellent zippers with a YKK PU coating. Unlike any other in this huddle, notably, the Rover also features a detachable water bottle holder. It’s a great way to slim things down if a rider desires. There is also a neoprene-padded area for a smartphone, more protection on the side wings of the hip belt, and some subtle reflective bits to help a rider be seen. Don’t worry, (just like every hip pack in this huddle) the Rover has a key clip sewn into a section of the bag for safekeeping.

Field test results: Our favorite part of this pack was being able to modify it. Sometimes we had bikes with water bottle cages where additional water was not needed. Although attaching the extra water bottle holder could be used as extra storage rather than hydration, we found there was still plenty of room for essentials without it being utilized. When we did test using a bottle on the removable holder, there was a noticeable shifting of weight on one side. Not our most desired feel, so we mostly stuck without the holder. For fit, this pack has a main buckle with adjustments on each side. Linked but separate are the wing adjustment straps to fine-tune how the pack rest/grabs against the rider. We found this to be among our favorite packs for comfort and fit. The straps held strong to their settings without a budge. The hip pockets are tiny but great for a small tool or quick snack item. To access the main and nicely organized pockets, we would usually stop trailside to rummage around for what we needed. It might not have the intention to carry a hydration reservoir, but overall, the PNW has proven to be durable, spacious for tool/snacks on adventures, great for keeping electronics safe, and has a fit all of our test riders could get along with.

BEST FOR:

Packing medium cargo, modifying for adventures

STAR RATING:

★★★★½

Price: $69

Volume: 2.715 Liters

Weight: 372g

Color: Black, light brown

Contact: www.pnwcomponents.com


CANYON CARGO

Tech features: Just like their bikes, this one can be bought directly online and to your door from Canyon. Although not the first name you might expect to hear in an accessory/gear review, Canyon’s Cargo hip bag is noteworthy for some styles of riding. This pack is compatible to carry a small water-reservoir Velcro strap to run a tube, but like us, most riders will not likely do this. Its overall weight and available space lend itself to appeal more towards the cross-country crowd. Its very simple design has a semi-locking zipper garage, plus stretch mesh pockets, key ring clip, a main lateral pocket with space to hold lightweight jackets or warmers, and a single waist buckle to operate.

Field test results: With one main buckle and side pull straps for adjustments on either side, the fit/setup is simple. To our wrecking crew, this pack without a water reservoir feels like a part of your bike when dialed in. It reminds us of having accessible pockets as you’d see on a road or a tight-fitting cross-country Lycra kit. Essentially, it adds even more storage space with additional support and comfort against a rider’s body. We’d only pack minimal tools, our phone, some cash, keys, and left the rest of the space for food. We liked that the small interior pocket could securely hold our CO2 cartridges and other belongings with little interference or banging around. Canyon hit the mark with a great lightweight minimalistic pack for a value-driven rider that doesn’t need to go overboard with additional space.

BEST FOR:

Feels like a part of you, ultra-lightweight and great value

STAR RATING:

★★★★½

Price: $31.95

Volume: 2L

Weight: 220g

Color: Black

Contact: www.canyon.com


FOX HIP PACK

Tech features: Fox Racing’s pack is not decorated with a fancy name and is naturally just called Hip Pack. Available in either Indigo or black, the Fox Hip Pack is made from a wicking fabric with the intent to stay breathable and cool. It has a very similar layout and pocket structure to the PNW Rover minus the wing pocket and removable water bottle carrier. However, that’s a bonus for some, as the Fox Hip Pack boasts a dual water bottle holster. When combined and utilized to the fullest, these can easily hold 50 ounces (1.5 liter) of hydration. Additionally, there are the usual organizer pockets, three main zippers to operate, reflective details and a key clip. Snapping the pack to your hips is done with one main buckle that has only one strap area to tighten the complete system.

Field test results: Need to carry more than just one bottle on a ride? The Fox Hip Pack had us covered while also securely holding a bottle or can and whatever else we could stuff into these side holsters to keep us pedaling. Although the side pocket items can be removed or used while riding, we found it tough to put the item back into the holster while moving. It is also worth noting that if you run a bottle on one side, you may want to counter the weight and add items to the other side. For us, that just meant storing our action camera on the side instead of the main pocket to help displace the weight evenly. This helped us so the back didn’t sit funny or shift. Our favorite aspect is the simple buckle and strap adjustment. It gets the job done for even multi-day adventures, although others in this huddle have more adjustability. Overall, there are deep pockets to securely hold items, awesome value, simple adjustments and plenty of storage.

BEST FOR:

Packing it all, deep pocket for bottles

STAR RATING:

★★★★

Price: $59.95

Volume: 3L

Weight: 282g

Color: Indigo, black

Contact: www.foxracing.com


RAPHA TRAIL

Tech features: Known for their minimal and high-performing road cycling gear, Rapha has recently been launching mountain bike-specific products. We’ve tested their clothing (December 2021 issue) and have also been putting their Trail hip pack through our wrecking crew’s close evaluation. It features a cushioned back panel with one main buckle and adjustment strap to secure onto the rider’s waist. Thinking green, the Trail hip pack is also entirely made of recycled material. Sewn/attached to each side of the main compartment are two external pouches intended to carry water bottles or other small items. Unlike the others in our lineup, this hip pack from Rapha has an external draw cord to store an extra layer on top of the saddle when not in use. The main pocket can be used for tools with mesh collars to organize how you see fit. The last front pocket is meant for small valuables, like a phone, keys and a wallet.

Field test results: Coming in an array of colors, the Rapha Trail hip pack blends well with most riding kits. Most of the packs that we tested in this huddle could be run either under or over a shirt just depending on the rider’s preference. For this pack, however, we typically ran it over a shirt. This was partly due to the fit and how the side wings of the pack wrap around. Nonetheless, the pack is comfortable, but wings could be a little longer to properly surround the rider’s waist for added fit. Quick-grab items while riding (like small snacks and multi-tools) were no problem to manage from any pocket. Although the side pockets are intended to hold bottles, most bottles (even the typical ones) could not fit deep enough into the pockets for a secure fit on trails. If large items were stored on the sides, it’s also worth noting that it does take a little available space away from the main zipper packers. Our favorite feature was the draw cord at the top for other layers. We carried jackets, a typical backpacker sleeping mat, and even a beach towel strapped to the top of this pack. While it was mostly used for quick trail lunch rides, we feel the Rapha hip pack is methodically well-constructed with its rip-stop material and sealed zippers. It may not have been the favorite for the “pack everything” type of rider, but they nailed it for the minimalist who wants to pack light.

BEST FOR:

Minimal design, perfect for trail lunch rides

STAR RATING:

★★★½

Price: $80

Volume: 3L

Weight: 350g

Color: Black, gold, green, navy

Contact: www.Rapha.cc


POC LAMINA

Tech features: Protection in packs can often be overlooked and may not even cross the mind of a rider before it’s too late. Thankfully, POC had the forethought and answered the call by designing a hip pack with safety in mind. The Lamina hip pack features their VPD (visco-elastic polymer dough) padding to give riders protection from the contents of the bag in case of a fall. Volume-wise, this option is the slimmest pack that we tested with only 2 liters of space. While it’s not meant for extra hydration, there is compartmentalized storage and space for tools to be organized in the main pocket. Each pocket is sealed with a water-resistant zipper, and the outer pocket is padded in order to house a smartphone safely. At the side of the hips is the last location out of the five zipper pockets on the Lamina. For dialing in fit, the POC Lamina has one main buckle and two sides of adjustment.

Field test results: With minimal space, we were surprised how much we could fit into the Lamina. We mostly stored essential tools, a few small snacks, our phone, a roll of cash just in case of emergencies and a car key on the hip pockets. Unfortunately, not enough space for our packable windbreaker when fully loaded on this one. While we could’ve stuffed a few more small commodities into the pack, going the minimal route made it simple to find and grab items while moving. Not only could the pockets be felt that needed to be opened, but the long string to pull the zippers open could be accomplished with gloves on. At the end of the day, the Lamina pack has safety integrated what you wouldn’t think about until you needed it, is ideal for a rider who likes to keep moving, and wants quick access to belongings. Bottom line, there is a hip pack for all styles of riding, but some options might be suited better for others.

BEST FOR:

Protection against pack contents, easiest to access while riding

STAR RATING:

★★★★

Price: $80

Volume: 2L

Weight: 310g

Color: Brown, black, green

Contact: www.pocsports.com

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