Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Johan Hjord and Tal Rozow
Source was founded in 1989, and has since built itself into a globally distributed brand specializing in outdoors footwear and hydration systems. Well-known in the general outdoors/adventure market and recognized for its innovative approach to hydration, the company has also recently introduced a line of packs designed specifically for biking. The Paragon 25L is the top of the line option for riders looking for a big pack with all the bells and whistles (there’s actually a whistle!) – we’ve been rocking one for a few months to see how it stacks up in this crucial equipment category.
Source Paragon 25L Highlights
- 20L cargo capacity, 3L hydration capacity
- Wire frame and mesh back system for maximum ventilation
- Insulated hydration compartment
- Music player pocket
- Padded shoulder straps
- Adjustable sternum belt with integrated whistle
- Lightweight buckles
- Elastic helmet holder
- Elastic strap retainers
- Side mesh pockets
- Detachable waist belt
- High visibility reflective stripes
- Reflective LED tab holder
- Essentials compartment with internal Storeganizer™
- Concealed rain cover
- Carrying handle
- Includes Source Widepac 3L hydration bladder with a weave-covered tube for UV protection
- Helix™ bite valve - round design valve with safety shutoff mode
- “Dirt Shield” docking station
- Dimensions: height 50 cm, width 24 cm, weight 963 gr, total volume 25L
- MSRP: $165 USD
When you first pull the Paragon out of its packaging, the light weight is the first stand-out feature. For such a big pack, it is very light. Second aspect of note, this is a wireframe pack. This means that it features a thin steel frame that lifts the pack off the rider’s back, which is meant to help with airflow. In this context, the light weight is even more remarkable.
Close inspection of the pack revealed good attention to detail and a high level of workmanship. The pack is full of neat features like weather-proofed zippers all around, media pocket, reflective strips, removable waistband, and a very nifty elastic band system for keeping excess strap lengths from flapping around.
In terms of storage, the pack offers an insulated hydration bladder compartment, a roomy main cargo hold, a smaller storage area with the “Storeganizer” system for keeping all your tools in check, a flexible general purpose pouch, side pockets on the waistband, mesh pockets on the side of the pack, and a dedicated helmet net which attaches to 4 eyelets and sits on the outside of the pack itself. In other words, if you need any more storage space than this, you should probably consider driving, not riding.
The Paragon is delivered with Source’s own 3L Widepac hydration bladder. With features such as Glass Like™ Film Technology, Grunge-Guard™, QMT compatible hose quick connect system, a spring loaded Helix™ bite valve with included Dirt Shield™ valve cover, and a taste-free system that is both BPA and Phthalate free, our previous review of this hydration system proved it to be excellent.
With these initial observations out of the way, time to hit the trails to see how the pack would fare in the real world.
On The Trail
Loading up the Paragon with our day-to-day selection of tools, parts, food, and beverages hardly scratches the surface of what this thing can carry. This is almost expedition level storage minus the tent and the folding chairs. But thanks to the relatively flat and wide design, most of the weight ends up low and centered, and the 2 compression straps provided help adjust the pack to the actual content.
We were curious and a bit apprehensive of the whole wireframe deal – what would it translate to for riding? First of all, in terms of airflow, it works better than any other solution out there. Unlike packs with “pillows” or “channels” or other similar concepts featured as part of the back panel, the wire frame actually ensures that the pack itself can’t touch your back even when it’s fully loaded. This translates to a lot more air flow than we are used to with any other packs, definitely a welcome feature during warmer days.
The system does take a little bit of getting used to. While the mesh panel helps distribute the load over the back, you can still feel more pressure from the top and the bottom of the pack. It does however remain comfortable and stable in use, and we had no problems rocking the Paragon on epic days out with heavy loads.
The flexible helmet net provided is a bit too small to be useful for anything but a XC helmet. For carrying “trail style” or full-face helmets, we ended up using the compression straps instead. These also come in handy for attaching knee or elbow pads if you like to dress down for the ups.
The fit of the Paragon is excellent. The shape of the shoulder straps is very comfortable, and the waistband rides on the hips in a natural way. The pack never felt like it was moving around, even during more acrobatic manoeuvers. All the straps are easy to adjust and remain in position without slippage. The very clever elastic bands found at the end of each strap are a great solution for rolling up excess strap length and actually keeping it rolled up – they never came loose once secured.
The Widepac hydration system proved to be one of the highlights of our experience with the pack – simply put, Source’s hydration systems are among the best we have ever tested. Innovative both with regards to form and function, these bladders are virtually maintenance free, but more importantly, taste-free too. The Helix bite valve works exactly as a bite valve should, remaining drip-free even when in the open position yet easy and comfortable to drink from. And whether we were using the “Dirt Shield” docking station or the magnetic clip option, the hose was always held securely in a good position both for riding and drinking. For more information, you can catch our full review of the hydration system itself here.
Things That Could Be Improved
The helmet net provided for carrying a helmet on the outside of the pack is too small for most of today’s “trail” helmets. The idea is good but needs to more easily accommodate bigger helmets. We’d also like to see the addition of straps to carry bigger body armor elements on the bottom of the pack. As it stands, you can fit elbow pads into the side mesh pockets, but kneepads have to be attached using the 2 main compression straps (which may also be in use to carry a full-face helmet). For a pack this size, the addition of 2 more straps at the bottom would make great sense anyway, as the Paragon could easily find itself on overnighter expedition duty in addition to just riding.
The hydration compartment is very wide, which means the bladder has some room to move around in there. We'd welcome a compartment of the same width as the bladder to stop it from being able to do so.
The pack includes a built-in rain cover of good quality which also attaches itself very securely to the pack via attachment points both at the top and the bottom. However, due to the shape of the pack at the top, it creates a crease which can leave the media pocket exposed to the elements even with the rain cover on. Some kind of solution to allow the rain cover to really cover the whole of the top of the pack would be welcome. (Note that the rain cover does an excellent job in general of protecting the pack from mud and water, and also stays in place during riding).
Long Term Durability
We’ve been riding with the Paragon for close to 6 months now, and it’s showing no signs of premature wear. All the stitches are holding up, and there are no rips or tears in any of the materials used throughout the pack. The inside of the tool compartment is made of durable nylon, and there are no holes to report even in the pouches holding the pointier tools. There is no reason to suspect you’d get anything less than years of service out of the Paragon.
The excellent Widepac hydration system included with the Paragon is very easy to maintain, and has as previously mentioned proved capable of continuing to provide taste-free water throughout the duration of this test.
What’s The Bottom Line?
The Paragon is a surprisingly agile solution for such a big pack. Innovative in its approach to keeping you cool and packed with useful features, it offers everything you would expect from a premium pack at this price point. If you go on a lot of epic rides or just like to be well-prepared in general, it will allow you to store everything you need and more, and to carry it all comfortably and securely. As for the hydration element, the included Widepac bladder is one of the best we've ever used, almost self-maintaining and completely taste-free.
More information at www.sourceoutdoor.com.
Catch the Paragon in action:
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.