After researching over 25 mountain bike hip packs, we bought the best 7 options to trail test head-to-head. Our bike obsessed test team is unapologetic about building our lives around ridding, and we took these packs along for every weekend grind and sunrise rip. Hip packs are great for those days when you don't need lots of gear and want the freeing feel of letting your back breathe. While riding, wrecking, snacking, and sipping, we tested every aspect of these bags from their comfort to how much they can carry to how easy they make it to stay hydrated. In the end, we found the best all-around option and the best bets for quick laps, long rides, and budget buys.
Best Mountain Bike Hip Pack
Best Overall Mountain Bike Hip Pack
EVOC Hip Pack Pro 3L
The EVOC Hip Pack Pro 3L took home our Editor's Choice award for Best Hip Pack. This waist bag delivers the very best blend of comfort, fit, storage, and hydration. This pack has a hydraulic bladder system with a quick-connect system that makes the filling and cleaning of the bladder a breeze. In addition to the bladder, this pack also has two slots for water bottles. As a result, you can carry a ton of water or choose between a bladder and bottles. The EVOC pack has a fair amount of storage for most rides and can carry the necessary snacks and tools for most sub-4-hour rides. The comfort and fit aspect of the Hip Pack Pro is what really stood out as outstanding. The waist system features two overlapping elasticized bands that conform to your body exceptionally well, and the rear of this pack has a dialed ventilation system where it makes contact with your body.
If this all sounds too good to be true, it should be noted that this pack isn't perfect. For one, it is one of the most expensive hip packs in our review. It's the heaviest model we tested, and this bag only offers moderate amounts of storage. If you need a pack for huge rides and want the ability to carry an extra layer of clothing, we would recommend looking elsewhere. Otherwise, we feel this is the best mountain bike hip pack on the market.
Read review: EVOC Hip Pack Pro 3L
Best for Hot Laps/Best Buy
Bontrager Rapid Pack
When you are going out for a quick ride after work or maybe sneaking in a hot lap between errands, the Bontrager Rapid Pack is a no-brainer. This hip pack offers just enough space for the essentials, including a multi-tool, a tube, an energy bar, and some CO2 cartridges or tiny pumps. This bag does not have a bladder system and only fits one bottle. This pack is impressively lightweight, and the limited storage capacity helps keep it light and very comfortable on the trail. This makes it a perfect option for short and sweet rides. The simplicity of the design is impressive, and the lack of bells-and-whistles is quite refreshing. Oh yeah, this hip pack also won our Best Buy Award for its attractive price point paired with its killer performance.
Since this bag was designed for quick rides carrying just the essentials, it stands to reason that it is not the best choice for bigger rides or hot days. You will struggle to fit enough supplies in this pack to cover you for a half-day ride, even if you have a bottle cage on your bike. This pack is best-suited for duties as a secondary pack for short rides, assuming you have a larger, roomier, hip pack or backpack for those epics.
Read review: Bontrager Rapid Pack
Best for Long Rides
Osprey Seral 1.5L
If you need a waist bag for long days in the saddle, the Osprey Seral 1.5 is a no-brainer. This pack offers a large amount of storage space. While it might be tough to fit a sandwich and a rain shell in most of the packs in our review, its a non-issue with the Seral 1.5. This waist bag delivers stellar levels of comfort and has a well-executed hydration system. Instead of routing the hydraulic hose through a little hole in the side of the bag, Osprey takes a simple approach where you route the hose out of the corner of the main zipper. This makes filling and cleaning the bladder a much simpler process. Testers also found the Seral to offer a high degree of comfort, and it wraps and cradles the hips just right.
Given the size of this pack, it may not be the best option for small riders. Your back only has a limited amount of real estate available for a hip pack. Riders with a proportionally smaller lower back may feel that the Osprey occupies their entire back. Those who are concerned with looks and style may find this fit to be an undesirable look. Given the larger storage capacity, this also might not be the best fit for riders who don't carry a lot with them on rides.
Read review: Osprey Seral 1.5L
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead hip pack tester is Pat Donahue. Pat is a frequent contributor to OutdoorGearLab and is the co-owner of Over The Edge in South Lake Tahoe, CA. He has been involved in the bike industry since his high school days and has been riding for about 16 years. Donahue has been seen on a lot of bikes over the years ranging in style from beefy downhill bikes, hardtails, and even a dirt jumper or two. Pat likes steep and rough trails and is particularly adept at breaking components. Off the bike, he can be found skiing in the mountains of the Sierra and playing hockey.
To say that we are addicted to mountain biking is an understatement. We are always cruising the internet to find the latest and greatest gear. Mountain bike hip packs have been on our radar for years, and we had the pleasure of conducting extensive research on some of the best options on the market. Our test class features seven particularly intriguing models from seven tried and true manufacturers. We did our best to have our selection feature multiple styles of hip packs that have varying amounts of storage and differing hydration systems. We rode with these waist bags as much as humanly possible and scored each on six performance metrics that we feel represent the most critical aspects of a mountain biking hip pack. We rated these seven products on ease of drinking, ease of filling, storage, comfort, weight, and ease of cleaning.
Analysis and Test Results
Our testers spent six weeks riding with these mountain bike hip packs as much as humanly possible. We loaded and unloaded these waist bags an obscene number of times. We consumed gallons upon gallons of water from the hydration systems. Most importantly, we rode with them, a lot… After the dust settled and our notes were compiled, we found the EVOC Hip Pack Pro 3L to be the best of the best, and it took home our Editor's Choice Award. The Bontrager Rapid Pack won our Best Buy award and a Top Pick for Hot Laps. The Osprey Seral 1.5L took home a Top Pick for Long Rides, given its huge amount of storage space. Carry on to find out all of the details and learn about some more honorable mentions.
Related: The Best Running Hydration Packs
We did not score our hip packs on price or value. That said, nobody wants to blow their hard-earned money on a sub-par mountain bike hip pack. Everyone wants to make their purchase count and achieve the very best balance of performance and price.
The EVOC Hip Pack Pro 3L was tied as the most expensive hip pack in our test. While it was a little spendy, we feel that the quality of the design, high levels of comfort, and water-carrying abilities justify the price and still deliver a solid value. As a result, this waist bag won our Editor's Choice Award. The Bontrager Rapid Pack was the least expensive hip pack in our test and delivered excellent performance within its intended application. What does this mean? This pack was designed for hot laps and short rides, and when used in those situations, it delivers exceptional value and tremendous performance. The Osprey Seral 1.5 is a relatively inexpensive pack that holds a ton of gear and has a smart design. We feel it is another great value.
Ease of Drinking
Ease of drinking is a critical metric. When you are a few miles into a challenging climb, you want a hip pack that has easily accessible water. The last thing you need when you're gassed is to be struggling with a finicky hydration system or reaching awkwardly to grab a bottle off your frame or from your pack.
There were a lot of strong performers in this metric. The hip packs that had hydration bladder systems varied a little bit with how easy/difficult it was to access/stow the hose and nozzle before and after each use. A big factor was the attachment system. Many models use a magnet on the tube and one on the waistband to secure the hose when not in use.
The magnetic clip system on the award-winning EVOC Hip Pack Pro had a particularly strong hold. When you drop the hose magnet into place, the hold is secure and reliable. Some of our packs, like the Dakine Hot Laps, and Osprey Seral 1.5 required a little more attention. These packs required you to be fairly precise when dropping the hose magnet into the cradle on the waistband. It can be easy to feel like you got the magnet placed in a flush and strong position, only to realize it is off-kilter. When the magnets aren't flush, the hose can fall out of place easily. This can be sketchy as a hose in your spokes is not ideal. It is important to note that the magnets are prone to attracting metallic particles from the soil, so care should be taken when placing your pack on the ground.
The EVOC Hip Pack Pro scored huge points for the inclusion of a bladder system and slots for water bottles on either side of the main compartment. This cannot be understated. While it can take a bit more effort to reach back and pull a bottle out of the pouch and take a swig, the versatility and option for bladder or bottle is a nice touch. The Bontrager Rapid Pack did not have a hydration system and only had a spot for one bottle. This system requires a bit more finesse to grab and replace the bottle on the go, but drinking out of a bottle is a little simpler than a bladder/hose system.
We did our best to analyze the different nozzles on each of our hydraulic systems. Except for the CamelBak RePack's dialed, high-flow, bite valve, the rest of the test class offered very similar performance.
Ease of Filling
Ease of filling is an important metric for this test. Having a mountain bike hip pack that is simpler and more straight-forward to fill encourages you to use the product more often. It also helps you prevent spilling water all over the inside of your pack or your kitchen in the filling process.
The Bontrager Rapid Pack is unmatched in this metric. Since this pack only uses a water bottle, there is no bladder or hose to fuss with. Simply fill a bottle, stuff it in the bottle-holding sleeve, and you are on your way. The EVOC Hip Pack Pro scores points for the two bottle sleeves as well. If you are concerned with keeping the ease of filling low, the bottles are the better option.
For our packs with hydraulic bladder systems, the hose/bladder interface was critical. The bladders that have a quick-connect system universally scored higher. The quick-connect systems have a little port where the hose clicks into the bladder. These can be disconnected very quickly, cleanly, and easily. The enormous benefit of this system is that you can disconnect the hose from the bladder and remove the bladder without pulling the hose out too. When a hose is routed through the pack, it can be a real pain to remove. More importantly, after filling the bladder, you need to re-route the hose through the bag. This is time-consuming and can be surprisingly tricky. Trying to fill the bladder while it is in the bag is a dangerous game that can easily result in spillage and a wet waist pack. We often do it this way to save time, but don't recommend it.
The EVOC Hip Pack Pro, Patagonia Nine Trails, and Deuter Pulse all use a quick-connect system. You can easily remove the bladder from the pack, fill, and reinstall the bladder and connect the hose. Nice and simple.
The Osprey Seral does not have a quick-connect system. Osprey uses an easy hose routing to combat the lack of the quick-connect bladder. Instead of feeding the hose through the side of the pack through a small hole, the hose simply routes out of the top zipper of the hip pack. If you are looking at the top of the pack, the zipper covers about 90% opening to the bladder compartment. The last 10% of the opening does not have zipper and just has a little fabric where the zipper would be. The hose gets routed through this corner of the opening. Some people may think this system doesn't look as clean and seems like a cop-out. Instead, we think it makes for a straightforward bladder-filling experience.
All of the packs except for the CamelBak RePack and Bontrager Rapid Pack use a slider system to seal the bladder. This can take some getting used to for those familiar with a traditional screw-on cap. These slider/fold-over systems have a large opening at the top of the bladder where you fold the top of the bladder over to close it. Once folded, a plastic track is exposed, and you simply push a slider across the top of the fold to seal it. This design works very well, and there is no leakage or spillage in our experience.
Comfort is key. A mountain bike hip pack that is comfortable and pleasant against your body will deliver a pleasant on-trail experience. Conversely, an irritating pack that causes discomfort or chaffing is a big problem. Some packs also have a tendency to bounce around on rough sections of trail, while others stay put where you want them.
Once again, the EVOC Hip Pack Pro delivers far and above the highest level of comfort. This pack feels excellent against the body. First, the waistband is on a different level from the competition. This pack uses wide elasticized straps that overlap with some soft velcro on it. You find the appropriate level of tightness and connect these bands. These are elasticized and very soft. Once the bands are connected, you use a traditional buckle on top of these to secure the pack even further. The broad size of these elasticized bands delivers an excellent fit and feel. Other packs with narrower waistbands are prone to twisting and interfering with the waistline of your shorts. The back panel of the pack where it contacts your body has far and above the best ventilation system, promoting the best airflow of all models tested. The fit is dialed, and there are no quirks.
The Osprey Seral and Bontrager Rapid Pack also deliver high levels of comfort. The Rapid Pack is exceptionally lightweight and soft against the body. The waistband is broad, and the material sits flat against the body. This pack is simple, light, and comfortable. Due to the smaller size and storage capacity, you might forget it's even on. The Seral 1.5 has more of a soft, cushy feel against the body. The ventilation system may not be as refined as the EVOC, but it has more of a pillowy feel. Two straps can fine-tune the fit at the intersection of the hip wings and the main compartment. By pulling these straps down, you can take out any slack in the fit, and the shape of the strap system cradles the top of the pelvis very comfortably and helps keep the pack in place.
Testers found the Deuter Pulse 3 to provide a relatively high degree of comfort. The back panel is well ventilated, and the side panels are big and wide where they wrap around your waist for a secure and comfortable fit. A few of the models we tested have a less refined fit and shape that makes them a little more prone to moving around on your back when they are fully loaded or the trail gets rough. The Dakine Hot Laps is most comfortable with the bladder half full and the storage is loaded to half capacity; otherwise, it seems to bounce around a bit. The Patagonia Nine Trails pack offers a reasonably comfortable fit, though it is relatively large, and the waistband could stand to be a little more contoured to compete with the best packs in this review.
Storage is critical in the world of waist packs. Storage space will play a huge role in determining whether or not a mountain bike hip pack will meet your needs. If you just want a hip pack for hot laps and after-work rides, a minimalist pack with smaller amounts of storage might be plenty. If you want a hip pack to use on all of your rides, go big.
Speaking of big storage, the Osprey Seral 1.5 is unmatched. This pack offers cavernous amounts of space and is the best option for long days in the saddle. The main storage compartment won't blow your mind in terms of sleek and interesting features, but it is plenty sizeable, plus it has a secondary storage compartment with some organization pockets for tools and such, as well as pockets on the waist that can fit a phone or smaller items. This waist bag will have no problem holding enough snacks for a several hour ride, and you can easily roll up a wind/rain shell and jam it inside the main storage compartment. The Patagonia Nine Trails has even slightly more storage capacity than the Seral, and is another good option for those who may frequently carry a jacket in addition to their tools, food, and water. It's a tighter squeeze to fit a jacket into any of the other models, though you can make it work with most of them.
The Editor's Choice EVOC Hip Pack Pro offers sensible levels of storage. While it lacks the sheer volume of the Osprey, it has plenty of space for most 2-4-hour rides assuming you aren't carrying many extra layers. The EVOC has plenty of space for some bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a tube, and the appropriate tools. This pack, like the Osprey has pockets on the waist wings on either hip. These pockets are nice as they are easy to access on the fly. While you generally need to hop off the bike to access the main storage compartment of hip packs, these hip wing pockets can be used while pedaling. These have ample space for a candy bar or small-medium-sized GPS unit. Some cell phones will fit, but newer, larger, phones will not work in these pockets.
The Dakine Hot Laps 5L and the Deuter Pulse 3 5L both claim five liters of storage space. The Deuter pack's main compartment contains the water bladder and can fit larger items like your spare tube or a shell, an outer compartment features numerous organization pockets for smaller items, and there are two sizeable pockets on the waist belt. The Hot Laps has two compartments, the larger one holds the water bladder, while the outer compartment has organization pockets on both sides and room for larger items in the middle.
The Bontrager Rapid Pack takes a more minimalist approach and offers decent amounts of space for a quick 1-2- hour lap. The pockets are made out of stretchy materials and you can stuff a surprising amount of items in the pockets. This pack has enough space for a tube, multi-tool, a tiny pump or CO2, tire plugs, and some snack bars. You can jam an apple or a sandwich in there too. You cannot carry a rain shell or an extra baselayer unless you stuff into the bottle sleeve instead of a bottle. The Camelbak RePack LR 4 has 2.5L of gear storage capacity, so it also falls on the minimalist end of the spectrum. The outer compartment has handy organization pockets, the main compartment can fit a few larger items, and there are easy to reach pockets on each side of the waistband. The RePack has the least structure of all the models we tested, and it can become an awkward shape when fully loaded reducing its comfort.
Weight is an interesting metric. When wearing a mountain bike hip pack, almost all of the weight is determined by how much water and supplies you are carrying with you. While a weight difference of a couple hundred grams is noteworthy, the cargo you pack into your waist bag is far more important. As a result, weight is worth just 10% of the final score. We weighed all of our packs empty and without the hydration bladders installed.
The lightest bag in our review is the Bontrager Rapid Pack, which weighs a feathery 216 grams. This is about 100 grams lighter than the second lightest pack. We should take this opportunity to remind you, that the Rapid Pack is the smallest pack and it offers the least amount in the way of storage and only carries water in a bottle. As a result, this pack should be the lightest.
The next lightest packs are the CamelBak RePack at 316-grams and the Dakine Hot Laps pack at 330-grams. The heaviest bag in the review was the Editor's Choice EVOC Hip Pack Pro, which weighs 427-grams, a result of the wider waistband and the airy ventilation system.
Ease of Cleaning
Ease of cleaning is an important metric. The easier an item is to clean, the more often it will be cleaned and the more hygienic your hydration system will be.
The Bontrager Rapid Pack scored an easy victory in this metric. Since there is no bladder or hydration system, there is nothing to cleaning this pack. This bag is washer-safe and would do fine getting blasted by a hose or run under the faucet.
For bags with a hydration system, the main factors in the ease of cleaning metric are the opening of the bladder and whether or not it has a quick connect system. A bladder with a quick connect system allows you to pull the bladder out of the bag more easily. There is no need to undo the hose routing to get the bladder out. Since the bladder is easy to remove, you will have a much easier time giving it a deep clean. The bladders with a slider style closure also open up nice and wide and make it easy to reach into the bladder to scrub if necessary. The EVOC Hip Pack Pro, Patagonia Nine Trails, and the Deuter Pulse 3 scored best here. Both the CamelBak RePack and the Dakine Hot Laps were the most difficult to clean due to their lack of quick connect bladders.
We worked our tails off to work through all of the important details and characteristics of these hip packs. Why? So you don't have to. All of the hip packs in this review will serve you well out on the trail; some are just a little better than others. The EVOC Hip Pack Pro 3L was a clear winner of our Editor's Choice award and is far and above the best in our test. The Bontrager Rapid Pack is a tremendous option for short rides and hot laps. When you are embarking on a big ride in the backcountry, the Osprey Seral 1.5 is the best option for carrying all of the necessary gear. The other models in this review are also viable options, and we hope this comparative review helps you find the model that's best for you.
— Pat Donahue