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 earns our Best Buy award for its quality design, comfort level, smart storage, and low weight. We appreciate the low-profile and simplistic comfort of this bag. Those who prefer drinking from water bottles will love it, though, for others, the lack of a hydration bladder will be controversial. We highly recommend the Rapid Pack for after-work hot laps and shorter rides.
Ease of Drinking
The Rapid Pack scores relatively low here in comparison to the competition. There is one simple explanation for this underwhelming score: the lack of a hydration bladder and hose system. The Rapid is the only pack in our review without an integrated hydration system.
Bontrager opted for a simple and easy water bottle carrying sleeve on the Rapid. 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 a bottle firmly with 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, not 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
This is a strong point for the Rapid Pack. Filling up a water bottle is simple, and there is no juggling of hydration bladders, caps, hoses, and bags. Unscrew the top of your bottle, fill it up, put the bottle in your hip pack, and you're off.
No surprise, this process is significantly easier than a bladder system. Of course, you can't carry quite as much water, but for those that prefer not to deal with the hassles of a hydration bladder, this is the way to go.
The Rapid Pack scores high in terms of comfort due, in large part, to its broad waist strap. We have found that narrower waistbands easily dig into the stomach or waist. Additionally, narrower waistbands can interfere and work their way into the bands of your riding shorts. This can be both annoying and uncomfortable. If you are wearing the Rapid Pack in the proper position, it stays put and has a soft feel against the back, effectively conforming to the shape of your back and hips. Some packs rely on straps to cinch down any gaps on the hips, but the Rapid has a dialed shape rendering this unnecessary. It is the best-articulated hip pack in our test.
Due to the limited storage capacity and the well-articulated waist band on the Rapid Pack, 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, however, 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 help keep you cool on the trails. This bag is 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. 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 for its size 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-to-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, accessed by substantial zippers. One pocket has two slots where you can slide a multi-tool, tire lever, a couple CO2 cartridges, and 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 this small Bontrager helps keep the weight down.
Ease of Cleaning
The Rapid Pack is exceptionally easy to keep clean. In fact, it shares the top of the charts in this 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 a hose is a pain in the butt. They do sell cleaning kits that include a pipe cleaner and cleaning tablet, but 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 over the long haul.
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. Yes, there are bigger, more complex packs on the market, but this one 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, but 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. The Rapid delivers high levels of comfort and a high level of user-friendliness at an attractive price. We love it.
— Pat Donahue