Platypus Chuckanut Review
Cons: Storage space is tight, SoftBottle that is included occupies much of the limited storage space
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This Platypus hip pack is a respectable product. It posted solid scores across many of our metrics, though not all. While the Chuckanut may get lost in the middle-of-the-pack in our review, it can still be a viable option for the rider seeking a super minimalist option. It is affordable and has everything you need for that 60-minute post-work hot lap.
Ease of Drinking
The Chuckanut does not have a hydration bladder. Instead, it includes a .5-liter SoftBottle. The SoftBottle is a flexible, BPA-free bottle with a screw-on top. This bottle is stored in the main compartment of the hip pack.
Since Platypus bypassed the bladder and hose design, the bag takes a serious hit in this category. In order to have a swig of refreshing H20, riders need to stop, spin the bag to the front, unzip the compartment, fish out the bottle, unscrew the cap, take a swig, and then perform those steps backward prior to continuing the ride. Hip packs that use a bladder and hose design are dramatically easier to use on the fly, without stopping your ride.
The SoftBottle works just fine. It can be a little awkward to handle at times since it takes a bit of an odd shape when filled with water. This isn't like grabbing onto a nice, round, water bottle…it is more of an amorphous, floppy object. The flipside is that there is no hose, hose clips, or magnets to worry about. The bottle is safely tucked away when not in use.
Some riders might consider ditching the SoftBottle and simply using a water bottle cage on their bicycle. This frees up space in the hip pack to carry a snack or a few extra tools.
Ease of Filling
If the last metric was unkind to the Chuckanut, this one is a high point. The simplicity of filling an independent water bottle is a beautiful thing compared to fussing with bladders and routing hoses through a pack. With a separate bottle, the process is exceptionally simple.
Simply remove the SoftBottle from the hip pack, unscrew the cap, fill the bottle, replace the cap and stow it back in the main compartment. It really is as simple as that. Other hip packs with a bladder/hose design are significantly more involved. Some designs require users to disconnect the hose from the bladder prior to filling. Others require you to pull the hose out of the bag while attached to the bladder — which can be an enormous pain to reinstall. Then you need to fuss with weird closure systems that can be difficult to use. The moral of the story? The Chuckanut is extremely easy to fill.
Comfort is a definite strong point with the Chuckanut. While this bag boasts a minimalist design, the portion of the pack that contacts the rider is very well-thought-out. It feels good against the back, breathes well, and conforms to the hip fairly well.
This is one of the smallest hip packs we tested, and it is also one of the lightest. At 226-grams, this thing is very, very light. This low weight paired with the small contact patch against your lower back is very pleasant. The small footprint is roughly half the size of some of the larger hip packs. This means that there is less surface area to generate heat or trap moisture.
The portion that contacts the riders lower back features a screen material laid over some channeled foam. This promotes some airflow when things get hot and clammy. It can be difficult to gauge exactly how well these ventilation channels function. We can say that the Chuckanut was among the cooler options and was significantly more comfortable than some of the bigger bags. The portion of the pack that wraps around the side of the hips is constructed with a dimpled, mesh material that is pleasant.
The one downside of the small footprint and low weight is that this pack can start to flop around on you. This is especially the case if you aren't carrying many supplies, and your water supply is low. The more weight you carry, the more stable it feels. This isn't a big deal, but it is noticeable. Riders may need to cinch down the waistband a little harder than they would like if they're not carrying much.
There is no doubt that the Chuckanut is low on storage space. It clearly isn't designed for big days carrying a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, water, a flask, and an energy bar in addition to the essential tools. Even when loading this pack with the bare essentials, space can be tight.
When looking at the Chuckanut, there is one large, main compartment accessed by a wide zipper. This is the main storage space where the SoftBottle is designed to live. When filled, the bottle occupies a lot of this space, and it can be tricky to fit a tube and a snack in there. Within the main compartment is a zipped space for valuables such as keys and a credit card. Behind the main compartment is a smaller, fleece-lined pocket intended for a cell phone. Most iPhones should fit in this pocket just fine. A large, Samsung Galaxy phone may not, though. Towards the front of the bag is an open pocket with no zipper. It simply has two cinches you can pull or loosen to expand this space. This is intended for a rain shell or extra layer.
This is by no means a spacious hip pack. That said, it should get the job done on a quick hot lap. If you buy this pack, we recommend looking for a way to store your extra tube on your bike to free up some space.
The Chuckanut weighs 229-grams empty and without the SoftBottle. That makes it one of the lightest packs in our review. The weight of a hip pack is of marginal importance. The majority of the real-world weight will depend on what items you are carrying, not the pack itself.
Ease of Cleaning
The Chuckanut scored exceptionally well in this metric. The lack of a hydration bladder and hose makes life a lot easier. While the bladder system allows you to carry a lot of water that is easily accessed, it can be a nightmare to keep clean. The hose can get moldy with just a little neglect.
The Chuckanut has none of the complicated and hard-to-clean aspects found on other bags. You can simply wash the SoftBottle out with some dish soap, shake the soapy water around, and rinse. If you get some peanut butter on your bag or it gets soaked in sweat, simply wash it in the sink. Easy enough.
The Chuckanut represents an average value. While this is the least expensive hip pack in our test, we recommend spending a few extra dollars to get a pack with some more features. Yes, it's totally functional and might be attractive for the minimalist, but the lack of space could be a real issue.
The Platypus Chuckanut is a simple and effective hip pack. It isn't particularly flashy or packed with features, but it is totally functional and comes at an attractive price. We feel the Chuckanut is best suited for the rider who likes to go out on short rides and doesn't feel the need to bring much water or snacks. Comfort and ease of cleaning are definitely high points, while the lack of storage space and hydration system prevents this pack from competing with the rest of the test class.
— Pat Donahue