Hip packs come in all shapes and sizes and for a complete rundown of the options it’s worth checking our guide of the best MTB hip packs. The Zulo 2 Hydration Hip Pack is slightly different to most in that it comes with an integrated 1 liter (35 fl/oz) reservoir. USWE classes this as a race pack, and I think by that it means for enduro use, but I reckon it’s a little small for the multi-stage discipline.
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You need to be self-sufficient and take quite a bit of gear with you when racing enduro, so with just over a liter of storage the Zulo 2 is a little lacking. However, for trail rides of short duration it’s a great little pack – you could easily have it fully primed and just grab it when you want to fit in a quick ride after work.
Design and specifications
There are two parts to the construction of the Zulo 2 – the waist belt (harness) and the storage pockets. To improve air flow, the NDM 1.0 harness is covered in a heavy-duty nylon mesh but there’s also an X-shaped section of ribbed foam that helps lift the pack away from your body and creates channels for extra cooling. This padding also stops anything sharp, like a multi-tool, digging into your back.
The main body of the pack is rip-stop nylon, which is flexible but also extremely hardwearing. There are two zipped pockets – one for the reservoir, the other for tools, your phone and such like. There’s good organization with two mesh sleeves that allow you to keep your tools safely away from your phone screen, but you can also totally isolate any tools in the two side pockets on the belt. You can use these for anything you need mid ride like gels or energy bars.
Inside the main hold is a handy key fob as well as the Elite 1L hydration bladder. The reservoir is produced by Hydrapak and features the company’s slide-on closure. It’s similar in design to one of those plastic spinebars you get on a presentation pamphlet but does a very good job of sealing the bladder. It’s also attached to a small leash, so you can keep everything together when you’re filling up.
One of the big advantages of the Hydrapak design is you can get a hand inside for easy cleaning – you don’t have to use a brush or muck around with a custom-shaped drier. It also comes with a detachable hose, with a Plug-N-Play coupling. The hose is secured to the belt via quick-release magnetic tag and although there are no specific instructions on where to attach the clip, it seems like the hose routes round your waist.
With its special banana shape I found the Zulo 2 does sit snug on your hips and is stable and secure. You can cinch up the belt using two pull tags on the sides to get it really snug, but even fully loaded there’s very little movement. I could get quite a lot of gear in this small hip pack – and there’s even a little slot for an LED light, if you’re doing any riding at night.
Although the hose routing is not set in stone, I did find it worked best with it routed round my waist. That way I could just unclip the magnetic clasp to take a drink, and there was no risk of the hose coming loose accidentally and tangling in the back wheel. I could also hide the excess under the front of my jersey and when I needed to get something out of the hip pack, I could just spin the whole pack round.
The bite valve comes with a hose lock and it’s worth using this because if you just touch the soft part or even rest it on the floor, it can leak. With its plastic center the Hydrapak valve isn’t as teeth friendly as a Camelbak design, but you can get a good slug of water quickly. For average height riders the hose length was perfect, but I suspect if you’re tall or a Clydesdale size, it might come up a little short.
It's also worth protecting your gear during a wet or muddy ride because the Zulo 2 is right in the firing line and doesn’t have any taped seams, so isn’t waterproof.
This is a great little hip pack for a short shift but it’s a little more expensive than the competition. The Camelbak Repack and Osprey Seral 4 both have more internal storage, bigger reservoirs and are cheaper. I can’t fault the Zulo 2 on the features, build quality or the layout, but you are paying a little extra for that. The USWE Zulo 2 is a sleek and low-profile hip pack but less is definitely more.
Tech Specs: USWE Zulo 2 Hydration Hip Pack
- Price: $84.99 / £70 / €84
- Weight: 585g
- Materials: Rip Stop Nylon, Polyester
- Colors: Black or Neon Yellow
- Rival products: Evoc Hip Pack Pro 3, Dakine Hot Laps 2L, Bontrager Rapid Pack