The Bontrager Rapid Pack is a dialed hip pack that earned our Best Buy award. This compact pack is quite simple and delivers an excellent fit, high levels of comfort, and a beautiful aspect of simplicity. Looks can be deceiving and you can pack a surprising amount of food and essentials into this little pack. The Rapid Pack does not have a hydration bladder but has a functional and well-thought-out water bottle slot on the outside of the pack. The inside of the hip pack is well-designed and it is easy to keep things organized. The Rapid Pack is best suited for quick laps of roughly 2 hours or under. Given the lack of a hydration bladder, we recommend using this pack in conjunction with a bottle cage on longer rides.
Bontrager Rapid Pack Review
Cons: Too small for big days in the saddle, limited water carrying abilities
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rapid Pack earned our Best Buy award for its quality design, comfort levels, smart storage, and low weight. We appreciate the low-profile, simplicity, and comfort of this bag. Those who prefer drinking from water bottles will love it, though others thought the lack of a hydration bladder was controversial. As a result, the Bontrager pack has a different scope of the ease of drinking and ease of filling metrics. Since you are simply working with water bottles, both of these processes are quite simple. We highly recommend the Rapid Pack for after-work hot laps and shorter rides.
Ease of Drinking
The Rapid Pack scored relatively low in the ease of drinking metric compared to the competition. There is one simple explanation for this underwhelming score and that is the lack of a hydration bladder and hose system. The Bontrager was the only pack in our review without a hydration system integrated into it.
Bontrager opted for a simple and easy water bottle carrying sleeve. This slot is located on the rear of the pack in the center between the two pockets. The bottle holder has some elasticity to it and holds your bottle firmly and there is no risk of it falling out. It fits a standard-sized cycling water bottle and the slightly taller ones. A Nalgene style bottle will not fit.
Confident riders will be able to reach around to the rear of the pack and pull the bottle out while in the saddle. This will only really work on doubletrack or very smooth singletrack where you can afford to take a hand off the bars safely, or when you've stopped for a break. It is relatively easy to pull the bottle out of the pouch, you just need to bear in mind that you want to pull up on the bottle and not try and pull it out diagonally. If you stop to have a swig, it is easy as pie.
We feel the systems with a bladder and hose are a little more user-friendly since they are easier to work with on the fly.
Ease of Filling
Ease of filling was a strong point for the Bontrager. Filling up a water bottle is simple and there is no juggling of hydration bladders, caps, hoses, and bags. Uncrew the top, fill it up, put the bottle in your hip pack and your gone.
We found this process to be significantly easier than the bladder systems. Of course, you can't carry quite as much water with the Rapid Pack, but it is definitely an easier design. The inner layers of the bladder can sometimes stick together, it is always a debate whether or not it is easier to remove the whole bladder prior to filling. Regardless, the Rapid Pack is the easiest design in our test and it is not even close.
The Rapid Pack scored high in terms of comfort. The broad waist strap is critical to comfort. We have found that narrower waistbands can have the tendency to dig into your stomach or waist. Additionally, narrower waistbands can kind of interfere and work their way into the bands of your riding shorts. This can be annoying and uncomfortable. If you are wearing the Rapid Pack in the proper position, it stays put and has a soft feel against your back. The pack effectively conforms to the shape of your back and hips. Some packs rely on straps to cinch down any gaps between the inner straps and your hips, the Bontrager has a dialed shape rendering this unnecessary. It is the best-articulated hip pack in our test.
Due to the limited storage capacity of the Rapid Pack and the well-articulated waist band, it tends to stay in place very well. Unlike some other packs, it doesn't want to bounce around or shift, even on the roughest of trails. The backing, or the part of the pack that sits against your back isn't well-ventilated. Other packs in our test have more sophisticated ways of promoting airflow and allowing heat and moisture to escape. That said, the low weight and relatively smaller size of the Rapid Pack help keep you cool on the trails. The bag will be a little sweaty when you wear it on a hot day, but it's far from a deal-breaker for the minimalist rider.
The Rapid Pack is the smallest hip pack in our test. Visually it is a little bit smaller than other options. Given the smaller size, it shouldn't come as a surprise that storage capacity is a bit lower than some of the larger, bulkier packs. That said, it does have a deceptive amount of storage and can fit 1.64L of gear. The external fabric is fairly stretchy and you can pack surprisingly bulky items into the pockets. Big apples, bunched up rain shells, and sandwiches can be stuffed into the pockets. It is very important to note that mid-large-sized hand pumps will not fit. Smaller pumps can be crammed into the pockets, but pumps larger than 8-ish inches, will not fit.
The storage areas are well-thought-out. There are two compartments, one located on each side of the water bottle cradle. The pockets are accessed by zippers which appear substantial. One pocket has two slots where you can slide a multi-tool, tire lever, a couple CO2 cartridges, tire plugs. In addition, there is a little hook/clip to store your keys. In front of the slots, there is an open storage area. On the other side of the bottle cradle is another pocket of the same size. This pocket has one main elastic compartment and the rest is an open pocket. The organizational aspect of the Rapid Pack hits the sweet spot. It isn't over-designed, just simple and effective.
At 216 grams, the Rapid Pack is the lightest option in our test class. With no bladder and no hose, the simplified aspect of the Bontrager helps keep the weight down. In addition, the relatively small size also keeps the weight down.
Ease of Cleaning
The Rapid Pack is exceptionally easy to keep clean. In fact, it topped the charts in the ease of cleaning metric.
Once again, the lack of a hydration bladder and hose is critical here. When you have a bladder system, there are very obvious and very real considerations regarding cleanliness. It can be difficult to keep the bladder clean between rides, especially if you aren't constantly riding. In addition, cleaning any potential funk or mold out of the hose is a pain in the butt. They do sell cleaning kits that include a pipe cleaner and some sort of cleaning tablet. The Rapid Pack requires none of this. Simply wash whatever bottle you have been using and boom you are done. The simplicity really helps here.
This pack is constructed of a blend of nylon and spandex. This should play well in a washing machine.
At $60, the Rapid Pack represents a great value. This hip pack boasts a low weight, comfortable fit, and nice amounts of storage considering how compact it is. It is comfortable, light, and simple. Yes, there are bigger, more complex packs on the market, but the Bontrager pack is a great minimalist option at an impressive price point.
The Bontrager Rapid Pack is a simple and lightweight hip pack that delivers impressive performance. It is beautifully simple in a world of over-engineered products. It does not have a hydration system and that hurt its overall score in our comparative analysis. That said, it is a particularly strong option for riders who frequently bust out shorter rides. It is also a viable option for longer rides for riders who can carry water bottles on their bike. At $60, the Bontrager pack delivers high levels of comfort and a high level of user-friendliness. We love it.
— Pat Donahue