by Justin Schroth
Source produces a wide range of hydration packs, ranging from minimalist running packs to bike-specific hydration packs of various sizes. With the Whistler 20L Hydration Pack, Source aims to provide technical features in a pack that can also hold a larger amount of gear and water without weighing you down. To see how they have achieved this goal, we strapped one on and set out on a mission to find out.
Source Whistler 20L Hydration Backpack Highlights
- Lightweight fabrics: Ripstop 70D nylon
- Loop for helmet attachment
- Padded shoulder straps
- Valve docking station
- Adjustable sternum strap with integrated whistle
- A padded and vented back system with porous foam
- Elastic strap retainers
- Fast access hip pockets for easy reach and more storage
- Lightweight buckles
- External straps for fastening protective gear
- Concealed rain cover
- Reflective LED tab holder
- Essentials compartment with internal Storeganizer™
- Insulated hydration compartment
- Carrying handle
- Dimensions: H 46.5cm W 26.5cm
- Weight: 949-grams
- Cargo volume: 20L
- Bladder capacity: 3L
- MSRP $135.00 USD
Out of the packaging, the Whistler 20L is noticeably larger than your typical day pack and looks to meet the needs of someone that is going out for longer rides and/or needs to bring along additional layers and gear, together with a solid amount of water/liquid.
With the mesh side pockets and extra long straps across the back, it's obvious that this would be also be a great pack for multi-stage Enduro races where riders might want to ditch the knee pads and full face during the long climbs. I tested out this scenario quickly and found that it’s straightforward to strap in a full face helmet and pads securely if needed.
Additional technical features like zip pockets in the hip belt, a docking station for the valve, insulated hydration tube, and included rain cover show that Source have put some thought into the design and features. Source's hydration system itself is among the more advanced in the market, specifically with regards to the features that prevent buildup of slime and other unwanted additions to your drinking water. Previous tests showed this to be more than just marketing talk, and we were eager to find out if the system would again perform in this review as well.
On The Trail
My first weekend out with the pack started with a 20-mile ride, requiring me to pack a good amount of gear such as a rain jacket, an additional long sleeve layer, plenty of Clif Bars, a mini pump, and a multi tool. The Whistler really shines in the volume department, allowing plenty of expandable room when needed but still feeling comfortable on the body. The lightweight pack felt centered and didn’t shift around much, and the porous thick rear padding combined with the vent channels helped to keep airflow moving.
For my shorter rides, simply cinching down the rear straps tight compresses the pack nicely and makes it a usable day pack for those quick jaunts as well. What set the Whistler 20L apart for me are some of the technical features that Source added to it. Much of our riding is done in the pouring rain and mud, so having an included rain cover and a valve that docks into a protective shield so you’re never having to swallow bits of mud and dirt was much appreciated. I also really liked having quick access on the hip belt to items like a cell phone or an energy bar, and I wish more packs would implement this feature. Additionally, the Whistler has extra long straps pretty much all over, so riders of all sizes should have no problem making this pack fit.
When it comes to hydration, at first I wasn’t a huge fan of the Widepac hydration bladder, but its ease of filling quickly had it growing on me. Source also includes a UV-shielding cover on the tube as well as technology in the plastics that prevent bio-film buildup and inhibits bacteria growth. All this means that you can leave water in the pack for a few days and just top it off before your next ride (guilty of this!) and not have to worry about funky tastes and smells getting into your water - pretty cool. Learn more about their hydration reservoir technology HERE.
Things That Could Be Improved
One area that I could see improved on the Whistler 20L pack is some of its internal organization. In the two main compartments, there are only large zippered pockets that don’t really isolate items too well, especially if you toss your phone inside with keys or multi-tools. It’s also a bit of a pain to have to undo all the straps on the rear to access both compartments completely.
Being someone that rides in variable conditions, I’d also like to see the hip pockets be made of a sealed material instead of mesh so as to help keep water & mud off a stored cell phone for example.
Long Term Durability
During testing of the Whistler 20L, I had a pretty serious OTB onto my back landing on a section of roots, rocks and plenty of east coast mud. There were no rips or tears in the Ripstop material, and after a quick run through the washing machine, the pack looked brand new again. A couple of months down the line, all the seams are holding up well and I can see this pack lasting many seasons.
What’s The Bottom Line?
If you’re looking for a lightweight pack with plenty of space to haul some extra gear when needed and appreciate the technical features Source have added to the Whistler, the $135 price tag makes it a competitive option compared to packs of similar capacity. Add to that the performance of Source's hydration systems and you're looking at a short-list-worthy candidate for your next riding pack upgrade.
For more information visit http://sourceoutdoor.com/en/
About The Reviewer
Justin Schroth has been riding mountain bikes for over 15 years, experiencing first hand the evolution of the industry from thumb shifters and MCU cartridge forks to carbon fiber frames and single-ring all mountain bikes. As an East Coast rider, he loves trails with a combination of jumps, technical downhills, and the occasional loose corner for some foot out action. With a Mechanical Engineering degree, Justin's instinct is to always consider how it works over how it looks. After many years of racing the Northeast Norba and Collegiate series, Justin hung up the race plate and his diploma to go behind the camera at Lucent Productions, creating mountain bike video content for several clients such as Highland Mountain Bike Park.