Review by Amanda Wentz // Photos by Lear Miller (Action) and Brandon Turman (Product)
One of the more surprising trends in enduro (aside from enduro itself) is the rebirth of the fanny pack. Stolen from Disneyland tourists and grey-haired slot machine jockeys, the fanny pack has become just as much a part of the enduro uniform as half shells and goggles. Is this just a trend or are the fanny-packers really onto something? Source believes in the design so much that they created the Hipster Hydration Belt and we put it to the test, to find out if the trend has merit.
Hipster Hydration Belt Features
- 1.5L Widepac™ Hydration System Bladder
- 3 layered membrane
- SQC™ (SOURCE Quick Connect)
- Coextruded tube
- UV protection cover
- Valve Helix™
- Dirt Shield™ valve protection
- Magnetic Clip Docking Station™
- Two Mesh Enclosed Zipper Side Pockets
- Velcro Rear Pockets
- MSRP: $90 USD
The Hipster Hydration Belt looks tiny but don’t let its small size fool you. These packs were used during Vital Test Sessions and we were out on the trail for 4-5 hours each day and they were able to hold what was needed in terms of food, water and tools. Two good-sized hip pockets can store food, a tube or multi-tool, but there are two small pouches that can hold an ID or some smaller snacks. We found they were the perfect size to hold a stash of M&M's for trail-side munching. There is also a larger middle pouch that is great for holding a phone, credit cards, cash, or a trail map. Two bungee pull-tabs round out the front of the pack and are handy for holding a small jacket or shirt if rolled up.
This pack can hold 1.5L of water thanks to a specially shaped hydration pouch that fits nicely into a zippered compartment. It has a wide mouth that makes filling the bladder with both water and ice a breeze. We found that there was room in this part of the pack to store another tube and a bar or two if you really cram it in there.
The hip belt is quite wide and nicely padded. It easily cinches down and stays put. The tails of the belt tuck nicely into the hip pocket, which we thought was a nice feature. Even when the belt was almost fully cinched down, there is still room for the magnetic clip that holds the drinking hose in place. One recommendation we would make is that if you are on the smaller side and don’t plan to use the harness, getting a second magnetic clip might be useful. The length of the hose can’t be easily adjusted as it is insulated, so we ended up with a fair amount of excess. The two clips help keep it in place across the belt so it won't come loose when conditions get rough.
The last thing that comes with the pack are these little fluorescent straps. What were these for? Turns out that they weren’t to hold up lederhosen as first guessed, they were to go over the shoulders and keep the pack and hose in place. Would they be useful? Guess we’ll will find out.
On the Trail
Once we found storage for our gear and dialed in the fit, we were off. During our first ride with the Hipster we had to do a bit more fiddling with the hose to keep it in place but eventually figured out what worked best. The pack itself stayed put nicely even without the chest harness. We did notice though, that the pack tended to ride up a bit when we hit larger drops. The use of the harness did not prevent this. That said, we were still pleasantly surprised by the lack of bouncing, and in general, the Hipster is more secure-feeling than a backpack-style hydration system. Plus, we really enjoyed the feeling of freedom provided by not having weight directly on our back. We did try the chest harness in the name of product testing science but it didn’t add too much aside from another option for hose storage. We didn’t personally like riding with the harness but we still urge you to try it out. You might find that the hose placement on the harness is more convenient and secure than on the hip belt, as we did tend to drop the hose occasionally despite running two magnetic clips.
Speaking of the hip belt, the pockets gave us much easier access to snacks without having to remove and dig through a pack. In fact, we could even grab a little food while still pedaling down the trail. This was great news to our riding partners as we now have no reason to ever get hangry again. Despite the mesh pocket’s convenience, we did find them to be a bit bulky. Perhaps a simple change to stretchy material or just making them a bit more flush would remedy this.
One detail that we found particularly thoughtful was the design of the waist belt clip. The clip is meant to be pushed over to one side rather than sitting dead center. When we were leaning forward on a climb we didn’t feel any pressure from the pack itself on our stomach, which was an initial concern. Over the course of the ride we did find that as we drank more water, we had to cinch the pack down but that is easy to do with one hand. By the time we got back home, we actually forgot that we were wearing the pack at all. This is our gold standard of gear, and not thinking about gear usually means that it is doing its job well.
Things That Could Be Improved
As we mentioned earlier, while the Hipster is more secure than a backpack, it does tend to ride up a bit during big drops. Even when we ran the harness for added security, this still occurred. We have noticed this with other fanny-pack-style systems, so perhaps it's just an artifact of the design. Another small gripe we had with the Hipster is the magnetic docking station. Despite using two magnets to secure the hose, we managed to un-dock it at times when things got rowdy. As a solution, we could either tuck the hose end in, which felt weird, or stuff it into the side hip pocket, which made accessing the drinking valve a slower process. While none of these issues were deal breakers, we still felt they were worth mentioning.
Long Term Durability
The Hipster pack isn’t the first Source pack we’ve tested. We were introduced to Source Hydration in 2014 and have been incredibly impressed with their products. So when asked if we think this pack will hold up, we know it will. While we have only ridden with this pack for a few months, we have had previous Source Packs that have taken a fair amount of beating and still look great. Actually, we think they get better with age. The fabrics form to the rider over time and become super comfy. They are minimalist in the best way. Not a ton of bells and whistles to cause problems down the road, just simple, thoughtful construction.
We have also found that it’s easy to be lazy about cleaning out the bladders, but despite our unsanitary habits, it hasn’t caused an issue. Source uses their own GrungeGuard and Glass-Like Film technologies to make their bladders as low-maintenance as possible. GrungeGuard inhibits the growth of bacteria and their Glass-Like technology makes the inside of the tube and bladder smoother than glass so that bacteria really have nowhere to take hold. Even our oldest Source pack doesn’t have the build-up of grossness we have experienced with other hydration systems.
What's The Bottom Line?
We might have to hand it to the enduro crowd with this one. The Hipster Hydration Pack gives you just enough storage for a day on the trail. It can carry enough for a 4-hour ride, plus it distributes the weight nicely over the hips. That said, heavy drinkers may want to carry an extra bottle with them, as the 1.5L capacity may be a bit limiting for them. The side pouches make quick access easy when needing a bar or tool and there is still enough room to store a phone and light jacket. We were already a fan of Source Packs for their minimalist yet thoughtful construction and the Hipster Hydration Belt is no exception. The only suggestion we would have for smaller riders is to consider grabbing a second magnetic clip to help keep that insulated hose as snugly in place as possible if you aren’t going to use the harness. It isn’t a design flaw, Source needs to make the hose long enough to accommodate riders of every size, but it could make your ride a bit more pleasant. The harness seemed unnecessary as the pack stayed in place nicely on its own. However, we suggest keeping it just in case you ever need a costume for Oktoberfest.
For more information, go to sourceoutdoor.com
About The Reviewer
Amanda Wentz fell in love with mountain bikes in 2005 after moving to Colorado and wanting to explore her new home. This love of riding, pushing her limits and exploring has taken her all over the US and even a few places internationally. It has motivated her to become a PMBI certified coach and personal trainer so that she can help people both on and off the bike. She has dabbled in racing downhill and XC and looks forward to more events and racing this coming season. While any day out on the bike is a good one, she is the most happy on anything that it challenging both uphill and down. Amanda recently moved out to Truckee where there is no snow this year but thankfully lots of new riding to explore!