Tested: Camelbak Repack LR

Carrying a bit of extra weight on your hips isn’t such a bad thing in mountain biking. The new Camelbak Repack is a new-school bum bag, and it’s awesome. Why we all were such haters of this style of pack in the past?

Why bum bags, not just a regular pack?

Enduro-style riding, where you need to carry spares and water aplenty, but really want to retain good manoeuvrability has seen the resurgence of bum bags in mountain biking once again. They put the weight on your hips, for a low centre of gravity, and the pack is less likely to snag on trees, plus your back doesn’t get nearly so sweaty. You also don’t need to remove the pack to access your spares, you can just swing it around to your front. More convenient than online shopping.

Compared to running a backpack, you feel noticeably less top-heavy when using a bum bag.

Any downsides?

What we’ve found, in our limited experience, is that getting the bum bag secure so it doesn’t bounce and shift when things get rough can be difficult, especially if you’ve got a lot in the pack.  The Repack is an evolution of the Palos (which we took a look at here), and while the Palos stored a lot of gear we did find it tended to migrate if things got a bit wild, like it was trying to sit on our hip for a cuddle. We’ve also used the Bontrager Rapid Pack extensively, which is a super minimalist bag, and while it’s very secure when riding it only has limited storage capacity.

We used to Repack for two all-day gravel missions, and it was the perfect choice. Maybe not its intended use, but it was ideal.

How have you used it?

We’ve run the Repack at both ends of the spectrum of riding. It’s been taken out on some properly rough, technical rides (like when we were testing the Cannondale Jekyll, here), and we’ve also used it for some all-day gravel riding adventures too. During the latter, we absolutely crammed the Repack to its gills with food, spares and water, and it was brilliant.

The bladder has a handle, which makes it very easy to fill.

So what’s the Repack like?

This thing is a solid improvement over the Palos. The bladder hold 1.5 litres and we have no hesitation filling that sucker right up – even fully loaded with water it’s stable when you’re riding. Like other Camelbaks, the bladder has a handle that makes it easy to fill, though stuffing the fully-filled bladder back into the Repack is a bit like wrestling an blue jelly fish.

Two hip pockets – one zippered, the other elasticised, are good places to stash snacks.

There is a surprising amount of storage too; the hip pockets can be stuffed with M&Ms for fast access, and the main compartment is big enough for a tube, mini pump and multitool, maybe even a super lightweight jacket. Then you’ve also got a cool front compartment that zips right open, which makes it easier to use than traditional pockets; you can see what’s in there and you’re not having to rifle through from the top down with gloved hands. It’s good for all your spares, your keys, phone and the like.

Unlike a backpack, there’s only one strap to worry about.

When you compare the Repack to the Palos, the way the waist strap works is simpler and makes it much easier to adjust the strap tension on-the-fly (the Palos has a secondary set of straps to compress the bladder… it can be a bit fiddly), and it holds tight too. We didn’t notice the straps slipping or loosening, and you can crank it down tight enough to impede digestion if you like for seriously rough trails.

The front compartment swings open, giving you very easy access.

Unlike a backpack, where you can just let the bladder hose hang loose, you need to clip the hose back into place once you’re done drinking, or it’ll dangle in your spokes. The pack scores a magnetic clip that helps kind of ‘guide’ you when re-docking the hose, but it still requires a little bit of concentration to stash it, so you’ll tend to do most of your drinking on smoother climbs when you’ve got more time.

Clipping the hose back into its little magnetic dock when the trails are rough takes some getting used to.

Better than a backpack?

That depends on how much you need to carry. If 1.5 litres of water, a few snacks and the basic spares are all you need, then yes we think the Repack is probably a better solution. If you need more stuff, run a backpack. Having less weight on your upper body, not having a sternum strap across your chest (which can impede breathing), and getting less sweaty are all good reasons to give the Repack a go. If people can get over the stigma that they’re only for kids, tourists or rollerbladers, we think the trails will be full of bum bags soon.



Tested: Bontrager Rapid Pack

One bottle, two pockets, and a whole lot of  ‘style’.

Why would I use it?

If your frame doesn’t take a water bottle, or has room for just one bottle and you want more water storage, then your options have traditionally been limited to wearing a backpack of some description, which has the downside of being rather heavy and hot, or stuffing a bottle in a pair of SWAT bibs or similar, which looks awful and feels worse.

However, with the re-emergence of the bum bag as a piece of acceptable cycling kit (ok, debatable), you’ve now got a third option, letting you store water a few spares but without the bulk of a full blown pack.

Room for just the delicious essentials, but this bag isn’t designed for long missions obviously.
A simple clasp holds it all in place securely and quickly.

Why do we like it?

Because it’s just big enough to hold the essentials, but small enough to forget you’ve got it on. Unlike other bum bags we’ve used (such as the Camelbak Palos), the Bontrager Rapid Pack doesn’t have a bladder. It’s simply designed to carry a single water bottle, which slips into a nice elasticised little pouch. Realistically, that’s enough water for a blast around the local trails.

Because it’s lightweight, it doesn’t bounce or move around on rough trails either, which have found to be an issue with the Palos when it’s got a full load of water on board. In fact, you barely notice you’re wearing it – it’s not particularly warm, breathing well, and as the weight is on your hips, it doesn’t have a perceptible impact on how you feel on the bike. The pack’s light foam backing is super malleable too, so it hugs close to your hips, helping it really stay in place.

Like other bum bags, it’s also super easy to spin around to your front when you need to get into the pockets to have a feed or grab your phone to tweet about it.

Neat little hook for your car key! Better than having it bounce out of your unzipped pocket somewhere in the shrubbery.

What will it hold? 

In addition to your bottle, there are two zippered stretchy pockets, with enough room for a tube, a CO2, multitool, phone, a bar or two. There’s even a neat little hook for your sweet Toyota Townace key. Obviously there’s not enough storage to embark on a mega mission (there aren’t any external straps for securing a jacket for instance), but if you’re out for a short ride then it’s ideal.

You’ve got three seconds to tell us what year Bontrager was founded in. 3…. 2…. 1…. Well done!

So you’d recommend it?

110%. When a bike doesn’t have room for a water bottle, it can be a real bugger – we really like being able to ride without a full blown pack on shorter rides. But with the Rapid Pack, we feel like we’ve got the perfect solution. It holds just the right amount of water and gear for those quick arvo loops.

We’ve been using the Rapid Pack for a few months now and it’s unscathed. We haven’t had it come loose or move on us once, and it hasn’t launched a bottle either. Our only gripe is the price, which at $99 seems a little steep all things considered, but that’s your choice to make. We like it a lot.