RRP: £55.00

Purchased from: Unit Cycles

Time tested: 3 months

Stigma (Definition)

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

“the stigma of having gone to prison will always be with me

synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonour;

stain, taint, blot, blot on one’s escutcheon, blemish, brand, mark, slur;

literarysmirch

For about 20 years, bum bags have had a stigma. And rightfully so. Unless you’re a market trader (where they’re pretty useful I can imagine), no one in their right mind should be wearing a ‘fanny pack’ in day to day life. Period.

Buuuuuuut……if you’re a mountain biker then right about now, it’s suddenly become acceptable to wear them on the bike. Just as mountain biking was finally getting away from those 1990’s XC lycra fashion disasters and looking less nerdy…the bum bags have returned!

And yes. I’ve bought one….the Dakine Hotlaps 5l.

The Dakine Hotlaps 5L sits in a range of three packs with the ‘Stealth’ being a minimal under-the-jersey essentials Batman style utility belt, the Hotlaps 2L being a bit bigger for some extras together with a water bottle holder and this one, with 5 litres of storage and a 2 litre hydration bladder.

So overcoming the stigma, how does the latest ‘hip pack’ (marketing friendly term) stack up in the real world?

The pack has two large pockets; the rear one holding the Hydrapak-manufactured 2 litre bladder, and the front one being the main compartment, where there are numerous pockets for stashing gear. In here, there is soft-backed pocket for your phone or glasses, a zipped one (with key fob) for valuables, an open medium-sized pocket and also elasticated loops for your multi-tool, tyre levers, CO2 cartridges etc. There’s room for a mini pump and some extra odds and sods in here too and on the outside, there’s a fold-over mesh pocket on the waist belt and a pair of buckle loops underneath the pack for strapping a jacket, knee/arm pads, or even a frickin’ baguette if that’s how you bread roll.

The rear of the pack consists of a corrugated, mesh covered panel to aid breathability and on the sides there are some additional straps to cinch the pack tight if you’re packing light.

Back to the Hydrapak bladder, it’s a 2 litre jobbie with a basic mouthpiece. The hose doesn’t come with a quick-detach port from the bladder which would make refilling it slightly easier, rather than having to unthread the hose from the side exit hole, however because it’s made by Hydrapak, after market parts are easily available. That said, if you need to replace the bladder itself at some point, it only seems to be available from Dakine. I do prefer hydration packs to come with a mouthpiece cover to stop you from ingesting Shaun the Sheep or Spot the Dog’s finest brown eggs and this doesn’t come with one, but again, an aftermarket one is available. The bladder has a fold over opening with a plastic slider to seal it up and works very well. It also means it’s easy… much easier than Camelbak’s screw hole, to get your hands in and clean it after a day on the energy powder. Speaking of energy powder, I used a fair bit at the hot British National Enduro Champs in June over the course of the weekend and the bladder immediately stained yellow, making it look like a used catheter bag, which looks, errr….pleasant. Still, no effect on the taste though.

Before (top) & after (bottom). And it was red berry flavoured tabs if you’re wondering(!)

So, is the bum bag any use on the trails? Actually, yeah…it’s pretty good I have to say.

The 5L is large enough to carry what you need for a big day out on the trails, provided you’re not doing epic ‘back country’ riding. It’s big enough to carry the essentials but small enough that you don’t overfill it with crap you ‘might’ need. The first time I did the Dyfi Enduro in 2009, I actually carried around a spare folded tyre ‘in case’ I split one on the loose slate there (I never needed it)…you won’t be repeating my madness with one of these.

Hydration bladder fits in easily when full. No faffing.

Absolutely filled to the brim with 2 litres of water and snacks, it’s not completely comfortable I’ve found. Like a large hydration pack or hiking rucksack, heavy weight should be on the hips for support and there is the tendancy sometimes to strap it around your waist without thinking. Consequently, the pack can pull into your stomach making it a bit uncomfortable. Even fixed properly on your hips, it can feel quite a pull. But, drink a few hundred millilitres of fluid or just not load it to the max, and it’s comfortable in use, so much so that it’s pretty much invisible to wear.

Using the hose, which exits the pack from your right, wraps around the waist belt and fixes to the left belt via a magnet, is easy to use and easy to clip back in when you’ve finished. The mouthpiece pokes out rearward out of the way when stored, but might be in the firing line a little of trail shite in the winter slop – I’ll update once we have wet trails again.

Waist belt pocket, ideal for gels or a multi-tool

I also can’t yet comment on the waterproofness of the pack as we’re in the middle of the driest summer in nearly 60 years unbelievably. The zips are not fully waterproof but the main compartment zip has a flap covering to keep the worst out.

On jumps and drops, the pack does jump a little bit off the back but it’s not enough of a problem – if it is, then you need to tighten it up a bit more, but it certainly stays in place and doesn’t swing around the body. This is helped by a tacky-to-the-touch mesh on the rear of the pack and the inside of the straps which grip your clothing. The waist buckle is off-set to the left so in use, you don’t have it digging into your stomach.

So has the stigma gone? For me, it’s a big yes. I’d still prefer to ride packless but without a bottle cage on my bike, it’s not gonna happen so the Dakine Stealth 5L is a happy medium. I still get to carry the essentials plus a decent amount of water but get that nice non-sweaty back feeling and freedom of movement in my shoulders that you don’t get with a pack.

If I’m doing a big ‘out there’ all-day ride, I’ll still go to my Camelback Skyline for the extra fluid and storage capacity and if I’m nipping out for a quick hour raz in the woods, I’ll wear my Pearl Izumi cargo base layer and shove a water bottle in a pocket, but everything else in between, which is most of my riding and racing, the hip pack is now my go to choice.

That said, in normal life…going out or going ‘out out’…. they’re still wrong. Don’t do it.


Strengths

– Frees up your torso for better ventilation and movement;

– Enough room for all the essentials for the majority of rides;

– Full of features, at a decent price.

Weaknesses

– Can be uncomfortable fully loaded;

– Bladder stains easily.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Dakine Hot Laps 5L hip pack

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