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CamelBak Repack LR hip pack review

9 Mar 2017
Verdict:

Radical bum bag that makes surprising sense for thirsty riders of multiple persuasions

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£70
For 
Comfy, ever at hand hydration. Unburden your bike with additional storage
Against 
You might get a knock from the fashion police

We all know that wearing a backpack while riding anything with drop bars is verboten, but what about a bum bag? Already proving a popular way to accessorise a plaid shirt and titanium camping mug with the adventure touring brigade, could the CamelBak Repack LR hip pack provide a practical halfway house between an overstuffed jersey and resorting to panniers or worse?

Along with unpacking your pockets the CamelBak Repack LR’s second trick is to relieve your bike of its water bottles. With an integrated 1.5 litre capacity bladder it could easily replace the two standard 750ml bottles most riders carry, instead providing hydration via a slurpy tube.

But what would be the advantage of this? On the road the answer is not a huge amount. Sometimes swinging the bike about when loaded with bottles feels a bit wobbly.

More likely to be won over are riders taking on off-road or mixed condition routes. With rattling making even the most solid bottle and cage combos somewhat ejection-prone, the Camelbak is a great alternative.

It also removes weight that can make the bike track and handle poorly and places it on the rider, where it’s suspended and won’t negatively affect the ride.

The difference is small but noticeable, we’re talking about a potential 1.5kg afterall. There’s also the possibility of freeing up space that could be used by frame bags, or of adding extra capacity for long, arid trips.

Having your water closer to hand also means you’ll be more likely to drink it and so less likely to get dehydrated. With the bite valve jammed in your gob it’s possible to keep both hands on the bar while doing so there’s a potential safety benefit too.

On the trail versus on the tarmac

In place the Repack is snug. Sitting above the hips it’s disinclined to move, yet stays put without ever feeling restrictive. Full to capacity with water it’s a little bulbous, but once drained down to about a litre it fits very comfortably.

Nestled in the small of your back its aerated padding is both soft and breathable. Buckled around the waist, a quick yank of the strap secures it, and can be easily tightened while riding on the rare occasions this is necessary.

Poking out one side of the main compartment and across the front of the rider is the hose. Its bite-valve is located on the far side via a magnetic clasp.

Instant to release, popping it back into place while rolling takes a little practice. Somewhat ungainly looking, despite any worries that in might flap about in practice it stays solidly in place.

With a stated gear capacity of 2.5l the Repack LR will easily unpack a standard jersey’s worth of pockets. This carry space is then divided between a bafflingly large number of bays.

First the front of the pack opens up like a spiv’s jacket to reveal a range of holsters in which to house your gadgets, tools, and spares.

Negating the need to rummage them out there’s even a snap-on retainer for your keys. Behind this is a separately accessed main pocket capable of accommodating larger items like a packable jacket, tubes, or arm and leg warmers.

The chunky pull tabs on all of these are designed to be easily opened, even when wearing gloves.

On either side of the main compartment are side wings housing further storage. The one to the right is designed for quick access and features an elasticated hood to stop bits bouncing out.

Ideal for keeping things you want easily to hand and aren't valuable enough to need more secure stowing, like energy bars and gels, its opposite partner features a zippered top.

None of these are padded, and given the pack’s curved shape none are particularly suited to storing larger phones, although it’s still possible to do so.

That said they’re still a better bet than an unsecured jersey pocket. Both because there's less risk of anything jumping out, but also because they’re less prone to getting soggy with sweat or rain.

Hydration

Accessed behind the main pocket is the bladder. Tucked against the back of the bag it pops out for filling, and features a neat jug-style handle to make doing so easy.

CamelBak is the most well know hydration pack maker, so unsurprisingly it’s very well constructed. Free from chemical tastes, and disinclined to leak, it does require a little more admin than a regular water bottle.

Less easy to dry out after a ride, some users even chuck them in the freezer to stop them getting icky. I find if you stick to water, make some effort to dry them out post ride, and rinse through occasionally with bleach solution they stay pretty fresh.

Taking water from the reservoir to the rider is a 90cm hose. To get at it you have to bite down on the silicone valve and slurp.

To stop dribbles there’s an on-off switch behind the valve, although this is only a failsafe to stop its contents getting squeezed out.

With the need to unhook the hose each time, the hydration pack element is useful off-road but doesn’t provide any massive benefit over swigging from a conventional bottle on the tarmac.

More pleasing for the average roadie is how comfortable and convenient the bum-bag style storage turns out to be.

As comfy as you could hope for and entirely secure, it’s perfect for both general ambling, and rides in mixed conditions where you want to carry extra clothing and multiple spares.

For adventure style riding it makes perfect sense for anyone wanting to add more carry capacity, or who doesn’t fancy lashing yet more stuff to their bicycle.