With the sunny season coming upon us, it’s worth thinking about what to pack for yourself on a longer ride or race, and how to do it. There’s a few things to consider and a couple of trade-offs to make depending on how you want to look at things.
Hydration is possibly the most important thing to consider on a longer ride. At best, your performance will be tied to good hydration. At worst, you could potentially do yourself damage by not drinking enough. How much you carry and how you carry it will depend on personal preference and how much you tend to need on a ride. I tend to err on the side of caution and carry more than I’ll need, but some are happy to run closer to the line.
Cheaper hydration packs
These are an entry point to hydration packs while they’ll carry water and gear, they wont last for years like the better ones. There’s going to be a variety of sizes and shapes, but as a whole they’ll be on the smaller side with a cheaper bladder and bite valve, less comfortable straps, no air flow for your back, and no anti movement straps. They’re a good place to start though if you’re not committed to the sport yet but looking to venture out for longer rides. Usually places like anaconda and decathlon will have a variety of budget packs to look at.
Mid range hydration packs
These are a step up in quality and will normally give you years of service if they’re looked after well enough. They’ll come in almost any size you could want, most will have back airflow features and anti movement straps, as well as the nicer bite valves and anti bacterial bladders. There will usually also be spare parts available for wear and tear items like bite valves and bladders to make it easier to keep the packs for longer. They’re generally a sound investment and are definitely worth the upgrade from a cheaper pack once you’re riding frequently.
High end Hydration packs
These are the all singing, all dancing best-of-the-best packs. They don’t necessarily hold more water or gear, but they’ll generally do it more comfortably and have all the bells and whistles. They might not be worth the expense for some people, but the comfort and extra features might sway you so they’re worth looking at while shopping. On top of the mid range features, you might expect to see magnetic valve holders, bladder insulation, excellent anti-movement straps or even different methods of strapping or weight distribution.
The old bottle might have limited storage capacity, but its much lighter and can be stored on the frame where the weight will have less of an impact. Weighing less appeals to some but they may struggle to fit some dual suspension frames and leave you with less options for other storage. Bottles are a relatively simple buy, some are a bit nicer than others though. A basic bottle wont set you back too much and usually do exactly what they’re meant to. You can get bottles with squeeze valves, insulation, dust/mud caps if you want something a bit fancier.
Nutrition/first aid/repair gear
Another thing to consider when choosing a pack is the volume of extra storage depending on what you want to do. We’ll delve into this another time in more depth, but its something to think about. More storage space means you can take more stuff, but also the pack gets bulkier and heavier as a trade off. If you prefer a small pack or bottle, you can always tape or strap things to your frame so there is more than one solution.