Hip Pack Roundup


Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen

Back when we all made fun of Dads for wearing fanny packs out in public, we used to carry our water, tools and riding supplies in backpacks. Since then a segment of riders have evolved into slimmed down enduro race-beasts, with a sense of practicality. They have appropriated the fanny pack as their own, and shun the name, and now insist on calling it a “Hip Pack.” No matter what you call it, the hip pack game has evolved to match the ever-discerning mountain biker to offer all the things they need, and none of the things they don’t. Brands now offer mountain bike hip packs that are streamline and slim, designed to hide the wearer’s sense of practicality, to bulky, “I’ve got that” packs capable of storing anything you’d need to stay alive for a weekend in the woods.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve put on all of these packs and passed them around to various riders for input and saddle time to see how they stack up. Read on to see which pack is the right one for you.

Hip Pack Round Up: Dakine Hot Laps 5L

Nic’s Pick For Do-it-All

Dakine was early to the party in hip and waist bags with designs like the Hot Laps 2L which we have used extensively. For this test they sent the Hot Laps 5L with an integrated bladder in their kick-ass Ashcroft camo. Dakine has loaded the Hot Laps 5 with features like interior mesh pocketing, an airflow back panel to alleviate sweat buildup, lower straps to secure a jacket or knee pads, and side cinch straps to lock the pack down on descents.

The Hot Laps 5L is notably bigger than their 2L pack and was on the bigger side compared to most of our packs in the roundup. While we like the 2L for shorter afternoon laps, in the end we found that extra bit of room the Hot Laps 5L is really nice for extended rides. The extra storage allowed us to carry a rain shell, food and goo packs. Organization and utility were at the top of the test with the internal pocket organization and bottom straps. Water is stored in a 2L bladder, which takes quite a bit of room when full. We also ditched the bladder a few times and a standard bottle fits nicely in the same pocket. Stability was good with the cinch straps fully locked down, but we did find the pack moving a bit due to how large it is when fully loaded with water. We dig the Ashcroft camo, so full points on style.

The Hot Laps 5L is a very functional hip pack that could easily convince any pack wearer to switch to the dark side. Overall, we found it to be one of the best in our test with a great blend of organization, space, and utility but it does move around a bit when fully loaded with water and kit.

Website: Dakine.com

Hip Pack Round Up: Race Face Stash Quick Rip


Designed to be the pack you need for that “Quick Rip” after work or before adulting chores on the weekend, the Race Face Stash packs 1.5L of storage capacity in a stealthy package. The waterproof zippers provide access to two storage pockets for keeping your trail pack in place. There is also a phone pocket for keeping your pocket computer safe.

Like the Bontrager the Race Face Stash employs a split design, but in our opinion is not executed as well. Both side pouches are smaller than the Bontrager pack and do not have any dividers or organizational properties – they are just open dump pockets.

A single sided stretch belt adjuster keeps the pack in place and is comfortable and worked well during our testing. Reflective Race Face logos offer some safety for pedaling home on dark evenings and lower carrying straps are also handy if needed.

Compared to some of the other options in the roundup, the Race Face Stash Quick Rip falls short for the price. For a small-mid size pouch to cost this much without a bladder or organizational compartments is a tough one for us to recommend. Perhaps their larger pack is a better option that we’ll hope to test in the future.

Website: Raceface.com

Hip Pack Round Up: USWE Zulo 6


We have been using USWE packs for years on our motos but have just recently started utilizing their hip pack offerings on the mountain bike. USWE sent over both their minimalist ZULO 2L hip pack and their larger Zulo 6L pack. USWE makes a lot of cool packs but something we find odd is that they don’t all come with bladders. If you choose to put a water bottle in the pack it will easily fit, which we did many times, however most of our rides had us using the 2L water bladder insert that USWE sells separately.

Organization in the ZULO 6 is plentiful as the pack offers multi-organizer pockets to sort and stash tools, snacks and spare parts. There is also a large cargo compression area to cinch up and keep the weight of the pack or an added jacket close to your body. There are a total of four exterior pockets on the Zulo 6, an LED light attachment for getting home in the dark and some reflective hits for safety on the road.

We like the banana-style shape of both the USWE Zulo 2L and 6L. Depending on the load you carry and the length of your rides, either of these packs are solid options. The neatly organized pouches of the Zulo 6 make it a standout and we like the compression straps and side pouches too. It’s a bummer that the bladder is sold separately but it also keeps the price down for riders who’d rather stuff a bottle and don’t need the bladder. A solid option overall.

Website: USWE.com

Hip Pack Round Up: Pinch Flat


Pinch Flat designs and produces packs right in our backyard here in Bend, Oregon. They are customizable and hand made from XPAC material which is both wear resistant and waterproof. It has no official size listing, but it is somewhere between 2L and 3L. They come in several colors or you can custom order coloring of your choice. The zippers are all weather resistant and the top has a large shock cord for a jacket or extra bottle. The back of the pack can accommodate a map or SAM splint and the zipper pull has a whistle on it. It is more of a simplistic pack that doesn’t sport tons of nifty flip down pouches or compartments, but it does the job of holding the essentials well.

Small details like internal elastic loops and a large open pack design score the Dropper points in both organization and utility. We especially liked the option to carry a bottle in the main pocket or on top under the shock cord for those bottles that went through the dishwasher a few too many times and leak now. While the Dropper does not have cinch straps, it does have a large, dual adjust waist band that we found to be quite secure once we had the fit dialed in. Looks are what you make it, which is a great touch, but it is also the only pack we could find offered in XPAC black multicam, bonus points there.

We always like to support local, hand made goods and the Dropper is worth every dollar. It is made of ultra-high-quality material and you can call them up and talk right to Ben, who made the bag for you. While it doesn’t have a huge main pocket for tons of storage, we found it to be a nice small-medium size for everyday use on your local to shorter loops. It’s an expensive pack for what it is compared to others here in the mix, but you know that your money is being spent to support a small rider owned business and a guy who’s making products right here in Oregon.

Website: Pinchflatdesigns.net

Hip Pack Round Up: Bontrager

Drew’s Top Pick

Bontrager has a unique split pack design with space for one bottle in the middle and a total capacity of 1.6L. They designed the pack for short trips “less than 2 hours” and to carry the essentials. Each side panel has a zippered pocket with internal mesh pockets for organization. The bottle pocket is large to accommodate even your biggest bottles and sits right in the middle of the pack, allowing it to wrap around your waist in an unobtrusive manner. If you’ve got a bottle cage on your bike, we’ve even used the pack’s bottle holder to keep our rain shell secure after warming up.

Due to the double pocket design and stretch materials, organization is great. Each pocket can hold a small handful of gear but not much more. Utility may be limited for some due to the design but the Rapid Pack makes up for that in comfort while riding. We really liked the way the pack fit, with the bottle square on your spine and the side pockets wrapping around your waist. Depending on what you need to carry with you, this pack could be a great option as we were able to stuff a super thin shell into one of the side pouches and still keep a spare tube and all our tools on the opposite side with a bottle in the middle.

We like the Bontrager Rapid Pack a lot. It blends the size of a minimalist pack with some extra storage capabilities. It certainly doesn’t have the room of the large 5L packs, but certainly offers a bit more and better storage options than some of the smaller packs without being overly bulky if you don’t fill it out.

Website: Trekbikes.com


This pack was a real sleeper in the group. We never really thought about Platypus packs and our first experience with them is pretty stellar. The Chuckanut 3L hip pack is affordable, comes with a .5L flexible SoftBottle and offers some solid storage options. Like the Bontrager, the Platypus Chuckanut is low profile and can be packed minimally or stuff to the gills.

Highlights include a fleece-lined device pocket with easy access, internal organization via a zippered mesh pocket with key clip and stretch loop straps to stow CO2, levers, or plug kits. Platypus also builds the Chuckanut with a carry handle, an external pocket for stuffing a jacket or thin knee sleeves and waist belt storage pouches that hold trash or gel packs.

Overall, the Platypus Chuckanut is one of our favorite packs in the roundup. It looks a bit basic in terms of material color and if we had to pick something to complain about it would be that it doesn’t stay in place quite as well as other packs if you don’t have much of a rear end. Some of our flatter butted test riders noted this pack had a tendency to slide down a bit more than others. Other than that, props to Platypus for a nice pack.

Website: Platy.com