The hip pack vs hydration pack argument is something I pondered before many rides as we were testing during our Hip Pack Shootout. Hip packs are something I’ve been strapping on for the last few years and I’ll continue to use them BUT there are shortcomings. I found that many hip packs required me to resort to alternative methods (usually a safety pin) to secure the waist belt. This can be really annoying while bombing down a section of trail when the pack is shifting around with each bump or weight shift. There are however some great fanny packs that work well for the shorter rides. I do find that hydration packs are still necessary for most long rides due to their ability to more comfortably handle larger loads. Here are some reasons to love either the hip or hydration packs:
Yay hip packs!
- Lighter and smaller footprint on back lessons the schweaty back syndrome
- All the cool kids are doing it
- A fraction of the price of a good hydration pack
- Many color options cool customizations from some – see below
- My favorite two are from High Above and Nittany Mtn Works
- Easier access to the phone for a quick pic or important call
Yay hydration packs!
- Can carry way more water, snacks emergency supplies, beers, etc comfortably
- No stereotypical bro affiliations
- Easier access to pee breaks – hip packs normally need removal
- Don’t loosen up like hip packs. Even the shittest ones don’t seem to suffer from losing straps and belts.
- Camelbak seems to rule the roost but nice options are also available from Osprey and Evoc
- Handles a load better – The hip pack shifts around and aren’t as comfortable if they are loaded down, especially if carrying water.
I have tried a few different hip packs that accommodate water bladders and water bottle holders. The ones with bladders always end up annoying the crap out of me mostly because drinking and resecuring the hose is difficult on the trail. The hip packs that have a bottle pocket are better but I still don’t find most of them comfortable with a bottle on the side since they tend to pull to that side. I prefer carrying a small soft bottle (HydraPak and Camelbak make these) inside the main pack.
Ultimately, I enjoy both packs depending mostly on how long I’m going to be out. If I know I’m going to be out less than 1.5hrs. I’ll most likely strap on a hip pack. When going out on a long or particularly hot/no shade ride or I need to carry some extra gear it’s usually the hydration pack on my back. If I had to choose between hip pack vs hydration pack it would definitely be a hydration pack.