If you’re anything like me, you’ll have long relegated a riding backpack to the back of the shed. Swinging whatever’s inside around and carrying cargo higher up on the back, backpacks can have a big negative effect on ride enjoyment and also put weight on shoulders that impact comfort as much as freedom of movement. Fox’s 5L Lumbar Hydration Pack is a hip pack targeting any rider who has come to the same conclusion and offers a solution to carrying bigger loads on rides without putting weight higher up the back.
The biggest in a range of three Fox hip packs, this 5L Lumbar pack comes with a 2L HydraPak reservoir included and uses tough, water-resistant materials and a wicking back panel.
Design and specifications
Fox’s 5L pack has either five or six liters of total storage space, depending on how you interpret Fox’s website. Either way, it’s fair to say there’s plenty of room inside for most riders for a full day out, and well-organized internal storage. The fabric used is really tough and thick so the pack has a stable rather than flappy shape and the material is very good at keeping water out, even if the zips aren’t fully waterproof. The shiny material is easy to hose clean too after the inevitable coating of muck in the wet.
The interior comprises a bigger main pocket (with rear pouch to house the hydration bladder) and an outer zipped flap. This flap folds fully out to display contents like tools for a trail side fix and there are loads of different elastic straps, stashes and pockets of all shapes and sizes for bits and bobs.
The main compartment doesn’t have any intrusive little compartments eating into usable cargo space, so I found you can fit a jacket and even waterproof trousers in if they aren’t too bulky. I really appreciated the mesh stash pocket that sits on the front side of the hip wing too, as it means you can access a MTB multi-tool quickly without having to take the whole pack off.
Fox’s pack is quite tall (approx. 18cm), but still sits nicely in the small of your back fastened by a nylon weave waist band that uses a sturdy plastic clasp and isn’t so thin it digs into your sides.
The bottom and both sides of the pack hide very useful, almost hidden, little elasticated straps that fasten via a hook and ladder system that can be useful to lash on extra layers or whatever you need. What’s also great about these is how on one side, the straps secure a fold-out mesh stash that means you can carry another water bottle, and the whole strap/hook design doesn’t stick out or flap about and risk potential snagging or add extra weight.
Like every Fox hip pack I’ve tested, this largest one stays put where you cinch it tight, whatever the contents. To me, this is the number one priority for any waist pack considering it’s the main reason to opt for one over a backpack.
Fox’s design stays tight and also sits flush to the body, rather than bulging out rearwards and peeling off your back towards the glutes when more loaded. Again, this is critical to performance when you’re essentially carrying luggage low down to avoid any swinging and bouncing that can be off-putting when wearing a backpack and riding the best/hardest fun sections of trail. Another aspect of not flapping around is that there are no excessive pieces of strapping, cinches or bungees here, like on an Osprey hip pack for example.
The Lumbar 5L waist band not only stays stable in terms of not wriggling loose while riding, as many others do, it also has very broad hip wings that are grippy on the inside surface to resist slipping down and spread weight evenly around the body. The reverse side of the waist band/main compartment is padded for comfort and uses a wicking mesh material to loft off the skin and resist too much sweating and heat build-up. It is, however, far less padded than packs from other leading brands like CamelBak, which offer a much more cushioned back panel.
This aspect of the design is a bit of a double-edged sword, as less padding and isolation from the spine means pointy contents can dig in slightly if Fox’s pack is fully loaded; but having less cushioning also means any (heavy) load is kept closer to the rider, which increases stability and reduces any opportunity to bounce or swing around on rougher terrain.
Internally, Fox’s 5L main compartment is roomy, but by being taller rather than deeper, I found you can’t fit that much more in than Fox’s smaller Standard Hip Pack, if you have something that's an awkward shape, like a DSLR camera for example.
I don’t tend to use waist packs with a hydration bladder in place due to the extra weight (preferring a water bottle on the frame), but I had a quick go with the well-proven HydraPak bladder and found it still has a fast-flowing mouthpiece (not quite as fast as CamelBak’s) and an effective low-profile design with a magnetic waist clasp to stop the hose flapping around.
Fox’s 5L Lumbar Hydration Pack is well sorted in almost every department. The ripstop material is tough and very water resistant, and the waist belt design is broad and comfy, and also grippy, so the pack doesn’t creep down while riding. There’s good capacity and internal organisation, but considering the overall volume, the main compartment doesn’t feel as spacious as some rivals, which might be limiting if you have awkward-shaped, uncompressible contents.