Specialized/Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack review – hipster hip pack that’s also a backpack

Specialized’s Fjällräven hip pack, backpack collab looks like a versatile bikepacking / utility option, but what's it actually like to use?

Specialized/Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

Specialized’s Fjällräven collab is a compact, lightweight hip pack with emergency expansion talents but some of the practical details are frustrating and the price is frightening

Pros

  • +

    Useful lightweight backpack expansion option

  • +

    Backpack doesn’t compromise hip pack

  • +

    The Offset belt is very comfortable

  • +

    Reflective patch

  • +

    Tougher than it looks

Cons

  • -

    Very expensive

  • -

    Bottle pockets are shallow

  • -

    Tool/pointy things pockets are against the back panel

  • -

    No key clip or zipped valuables pocket

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This neat pack isn’t just a collaboration between Specialized and Scandinavian outdoor brand Fjällräven, it’s also a collaboration between the hip pack and backpack worlds. That makes it a potentially super useful option for longer rides, bikepacking, or just surprise shopping trips. It’s very expensive though and some of the practical features are more frustrating than they need to be.

Specialized/Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack

Side pockets will take a standard bottle on each side if you pull them up high, and the rucksack rolls up neatly under the bungee (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and build

The hip pack body is made from Vinylon. It’s a 4.5-liter single compartment with two elasticated mesh pockets at the rear and a two-way zipper. There are two shallow elasticated mesh pockets on each flank with nonstretch webbing straps above each one. The ‘lid’ panel has a captured bungee cord with a hooked knuckle that connects it together in the center to hold the rolled-up rucksack section when it’s not in use. The hip belt is unpadded but fully adjustable and the snap lock buckle sits over the left hip rather than centrally. 

The lightweight recycled 70D polyamide backpack bag gives an extra 7 liters of carrying capacity and is closed top and bottom with a sphincter style drawstring. This is protected with a small extra flap at the top and the whole bag is treated with  FC-free DWR (Durable Water Repellency) spray. To complete the bag transformation a pair of adjustable mesh shoulder straps unroll and then toggle connect into a couple of webbing loops on the waist belt. 

The shoulder straps get reflective hose retaining loops and there’s a loop for a bladder inside the strap yoke. There’s a reflective Specialized/Fjällräven S/Fox logo on the back of the hip pack too and it comes in three colors.

Specialized/Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack with a dog in

I've ended up putting all sorts in the backpack in emergencies. Before anyone rings the RSPCA we've got Fin a proper pupsack now though (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

The whole Specialized/Fjällräven range is clearly designed with bikepacking and gravel adventuring in mind but this bag comes in super handy whenever you might need extra storage. That includes long rides where you need to carry extra layers before/after wearing them. Rides where you’re taking a lot of food/supplies but don’t want your back covered and sweaty once you’ve eaten/used them. Or rides that might end up with you getting camping supplies or just your regular shopping/post-ride beer run at the end of the day. In other words, it’s the wearable equivalent of those fold-out shopping bags that alpha mums or dads who do yoga seemingly pull out of nowhere when needed.

And as long as you don’t carry lumpy, hard, or pointy things that will poke through the thin fabric it works really well for that. The drawstring sphincter between the two sections also means you can separate the bag and hip pack contents or have the upper bag dump straight through into the bottom for bigger objects. I’ve even carried our pug thing in it on tandem adventures and he seemed happy enough for a couple of hours. The straps were comfy enough to carry his chunky dog-bod weight too. I’m also a big fan of side buckle waist straps especially as you can use the stretch pockets on the sides to stuff the loose ends in. While it’s inevitably less stable than a structured backpack or hip pack and there’s less cargo organization than most separates I’m OK that those compromises have been made in pursuit of a lightweight ‘converti-pack’. 

I do have some picky glitches that just seem like bad design though. While the pictures on the Specialized website show the bag with a tall water bottle in each stretch side pocket, they’re too shallow for that not to feel precarious. A standard bottle works OK if you pull the pocket right up though. Having the mesh pockets against the back of the hip pack means keys, multi-tools etc are pressed into your back through the thin padding if you stuff the main compartment too full. Something that wouldn’t happen if the pockets were on the inside front where they’d also be a lot easier to access. Don't expect the DWR coating to keep even light rain off the contents of the bag for long either. Finally, it’s a minor thing but there’s no key security clip or zipped pocket for valuables anywhere in the design, which seems miserly on a bag that costs $150. 

Specialized/Fjallraven bag top detail

The upper drawstring opening gets a top flap and the bag is DWR treated but we wouldn't call it waterproof (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Verdict

If you normally ride with a hip pack to keep your back breezy and free from sweat but occasionally need to carry extra kit for some of the ride then the Specialized/Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack is a great idea. It’s got some nice touches like the double drawstring separation and hydration bladder fixtures. So far it’s proving tougher than its lightweight build would suggest too. The external and internal pocket arrangement is frustrating though and the price will be frightening to anyone who isn’t a devoted follower of the Fjällräven fox.

Tech specs: Specialized/Fjällräven Expandable Hip Pack

  • Price: $150 / £105 / €119.95
  • Sizes: 4.5 - 11.5L
  • Options: Ochre (tested), Green and Black
  • Weight: 332g
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect's since we launched in 2019. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Forbidden Druid V2, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg