Last month I entered the High Cascades 100 mile mountainbike race, in Bend OR. I don’t frequently race more than two hours, and as my participation in the Gran Fondo Leavenworth so thoroughly demonstrated, I am prone to bad cramping in such long, hot competitions. It’s not really the heat so much as I just don’t think about drinking as soon and as often as I should. If I had suffered heinously in the gran fondo, I would be doubly vulnerable in the actual mountainbike race, due to the longer duration, the more intense climbing, the technical nature of singletrack, and the simple fact that my Giant XTC only has one water bottle cage. Even if I chose the high capacity Zefal Magum bottle (1ltr/33oz), that might not be enough to get me to the next aid station. It was clear in my mind that I would need some sort of hydration pack. And there’s the rub: I don’t really like hydration packs.
Sure, you can get a pack that holds several liters of fluids, but who wants to carry all that weight for twelve-plus-hours of hard riding? To make matters worse, most hydration packs for cycling seem to be heavily biased towards some sort of off-road touring or adventure riding; the packs are rather overbuilt with too many pockets and other features. What I would want is a very minimal pack for racing. It wouldn’t need truly enormous water capacity because there would be five or sixth aid stations on the course, but the reservoir should be easy to refill. And it would have to fit on me securely, so as not to hinder my freedom of movement on technical sections. I looked about for the right pack, but it wasn’t until I was surfing the Osprey webpage that I found something that met my requirements for mountainbike racing, even though it’s marketed towards trail runners.
The slim Rev1.5 pack (size S/M) weighs about a pound with the included hydration bladder and holds just 1 liter of water. The shoulder straps have some convenient but small mesh pockets that can fit gel sachets/flasks or energy bars, but the only other storage is a small zippered pocket atop the bladder compartment. Thin straps and elastic, mesh “webbing” hold the pack tight to your body along the sides of your chest, while two elasticized straps stretch across your chest. Once adjusted, the weight of the pack and water sits high, level with your shoulder blades. It moves with your body yet stays in place, and in hot conditions it doesn’t feel like it’s trapping heat and sweat all across your back.