There has been a trend in mountain biking of riders ditching backpacks and the hot sweaty backs that come with them in favour of more streamlined and freer methods. While cargo bibs and shorts offer pockets, and a plethora of straps allow items to be lashed to frames, it can get to a point that you may just need a little extra space.
A MTB hip pack offers a solution designed to add a little extra storage for important trail essentials without adding unnecessary coverage and bulk. Hip packs come in a variety of different sizes, from slimline race belts that offer little more than a secure place to store gels to larger packs that carry hydration and have space for tools and a jacket.
Keep reading for Bike Perfect’s pick of the best hip packs or skip to the bottom for our guide on how to choose the right hip pack for your riding.
Best MTB hip packs
Evoc has been making quality hip packs for a while and has established itself as firm favourites out on the trail.
Evoc has put a lot of thought into ventilation, with large vertical channels and perforated EVA pads to help airflow to the lower back. An adjustable Venti Flap system also allows on the fly adjustment while riding. Loosening the adjustment strap opens up a gap to reduce heat build-up when you reach the descent, cinch it up again to keep the pack firmly in place.
The brand's 3-litre bag shares most of the features of its premium Pro model including the pocket layout which has specific compartments for stashing your phone and multitool. The Evoc hip pack can fit a 1.5-litre bladder and has an outside pocket to secure a water bottle.
Dakine’s Hot Laps Lumber pack offers just enough storage for an evening of trail riding. With enough space for a couple of tools, a snack and a packable jacket it should keep you equipped for a couple of hours worth of laps at your favourite local trail.
While the waist belt is simple by design it manages to keep the pack steady when riding. A water bottle holder gives the option for hydration and its non-racer aesthetic will no doubt appeal to those who prioritise a fun time, not a fast time, on a ride.
Camelbak has built a reputation designing tough high-performance bags so it is no surprise that it has applied its knowledge to hip packs as well. The Repack benefits from the years of backpack development and is extremely stable even when fully packed. There is a selection of pockets on the hip and in an integrated tool roll style pocket on the front.
The Repack comes with a Camelbak 1.5L CRUX Reservoir which is one of the best available although the screw-on cap is quite large and eats into overall storage capacity. The hose features a shut-off valve so it doesn’t leak down your shorts and a magnetic clip holds it in place until you need a drink.
For those who seek big days out, the Osprey Seral 7 sports a huge 7-litres of storage space. The slimline Hydraulics Lumbar 1.5L Reservoir is stored in a sleeve and leaves plenty of space for additional clothing. On top of the 1.5-litre bladder, there are also webbing attachments on the sides for an additional two bottles or for securing other tube-shaped items, perhaps a rolled-up jacket.
To manage the Seral’s 7 litres of cargo is the Airscape lumbar pad, which features for airflow and a well-positioned ventilated waist belt.
Most hip packs have bottle storage on the sides of the bag however Bontrager has opted to mount the bottle in the middle. There is a good reason for this: by mounting the bottle in the middle gives it support from both sides.
The two pockets either side offer storage, on the right there's a phone sleeve and key fob, and on the left a mesh pocket for gear. Bontrager says that the pockets are large enough to fit any type of tube including fat bike tubes.
Evoc’s Race Belt is a stripped back hip pack designed for racers looking for a little extra storage. Essentially just a tool belt, it has a selection of elasticated mesh pockets that will hold CO2, a tube, a couple of small tools and a snack. Evoc has included a zipped hip pocket to stop any valuables or easy to lose items from falling out on the trail.
Despite its minimal size, Evoc has still specced the Race Belt with its 3D Air Mesh which can be found on its larger bags. Air Mesh allows airflow and should help keep you cool when redlining for the finish line.
How to choose
1. Storage capacity
The first considerations should be the amount of storage required based on the items. For quick rides or a minimalist race setup, a hip pack with a few slimline pockets to keep little more than a few gels and multitool. For bigger excursions, some hip packs offer up to 7-litres of storage for squeezing in a range of spares, extra layers and even expanding potential water capacity.
While it may be tempting to simply jam all the items from your almost empty backpack into a hip pack its important to not overfill. As there are fewer straps to leverage stability, hip packs can potentially move around a lot if over or poorly packed. Packing smart is the key to avoiding an irritating or distracting bag while riding rough trails.
Before buying its important to consider what you will be needing to take with you. How much food do you usually eat, how much spare clothing do you need and how many tools and spares should you take. For those that like to take a small workshop with them and like to be prepared for a blizzard in the summer a hip pack may not suit, but for many riders, some careful rationalisation of your regular trail kit should allow it to easily pack down to fit.
Quite often companies list the storage capacity without taking into consideration the space that a hydration bladder will take up when full. Remember to factor this in when you are choosing what bag will suit your needs.
2. Pocket layout
MTB hip packs come with a range of pocket layouts to keep equipment and food close to hand. Consider items that you may want quick access to and whether there are pockets to accommodate them.
One of the key considerations when planning your packing is where to put items that are easily damaged. Every rider should ride with a mobile phone for ‘grammin’ or emergencies and some riders like to have a camera or GoPro too. These items don’t play well with scratchy multitools or bumps and scrapes. Many MTB hip packs include a specific pocket to keep a phone safe and we think this should be a priority as it will be a lot more protected than being in your short or jacket pocket.
For very thirsty riders or those that have complicated frame designs that don’t work with bottles, having a hydration option is a must. MTB hip packs come in a couple of different options but what works best is up to your specific setup.
The bottle-holding style will hold one or two bottles that can be easily reached while riding. This setup is recommended for riders who already have a bottle cage option on their bike as, once one bottle is finished, it allows the swapping of full bottles with empty bottles to keep the weight mounted low on the bike. Having multi-bottle setups is advantages for those who want a mix of plain water and sports drink rather than committing to one or the other. Lastly, bottle setups are a lot less hassle if refills are needed mid-ride.
Hydration bladders hold water in a pouch that is drunk through a straw. As they are not a rigid shape so offer much more liquid capacity and can bend and squish as need be for a more stable setup. To avoid the bladder hose from waving around it is usually fixed with a clip to the waist belt.
Some MTB hip packs don’t offer any hydration options, instead opting for a lightweight approach. These are only suitable for riders that have on-bike storage for hydration.