USWE EPIC 8 BACKPACK REVIEW
Review by Robert Johnston | Photos by Adam Lievesley
Born out of the frustration of available backpacks bouncing around when ripping off-road motorcycles through the Swedish backcountry, USWE (pronounced you-swii) has grown to offer a wide range of award-winning packs for a range of outdoor adventure sports. Their focus to produce packs that are worn, not carried, led them to develop a unique harness system they call No Dancing Monkey, that should ensure the pack stays firmly in place whatever the adventure may entail. The Eurowolf was excited to put one to the test and see if their Epic 8 hydration backpack could be the ultimate answer to carrying the essentials for a day on the mountain bike.
The USWE Epic 8 pack is built around their signature No Dancing Monkey 1.2 harness system – check out our Dissected Episode where we dive into this technology in detail. This is a patented 4-point harness system that takes some inspiration from the motorsport world, with a simple buckle in the center to tie it all together. The 4 straps that feed into this buckle are elasticated to allow for expansion when breathing and to limit movement restriction when riding. Each strap is independently adjustable with Velcro closures to allow for the fit to be customized for virtually any body shape and size, and really let you snug them down extra tight to ensure there’s no movement between the pack and the body. The shoulder straps are ventilated to reduce heat buildup, with an ergonomic design that should evenly distribute the pack weight. On the back is an air-vented panel with wave-profile pads to provide optimal comfort and airflow in use.
This Epic 8 pack has an 8L capacity as you may have guessed, with a long and relatively slimline cut that allows the weight to be kept as close to the body as possible and further aid the stability when in use. There’s a large full-length main compartment for storing food and a spare layer, a shorter secondary compartment with subdividers and straps to secure tools and spares, and a bottom pocket that stores the helmet holder. Within the main compartment is a sleeve containing their 3L(100oz) Elite hydration bladder, which is equipped with a sliding lid design to make cleaning and filling as simple as possible as well as a plug-n-play tube coupling to allow the bladder to be easily removed from the bag. The hose can be routed down either side of the NDM harness and secured with a tube clip to keep everyone happy. On the outside of the bag are a further two straps that can be used to secure a jacket or knee pads, adding to the carrying capabilities of the bag without being committed to carrying the extra bulk full time. Reflective paneling adds some extra safety at night without compromising the looks in the daytime. The USWE Epic 8 pack is available in Blue or Red, with a retail of £129.99 /$139.95 /€139.95.
I was really excited to see if the USWE bag could be the ticket to convince me to ditch the fanny pack on those medium-length rides, as I’d grown a little tired of the tendency of fanny packs to shift when heavily loaded, so I wasted no time in getting the Epic 8 bag loaded up and out on the trail. Setting up the No Dancing Monkey system was as simple as can be, with the easy-to-adjust Velcro straps getting things comfortable in a matter of seconds. To test the capacity, I loaded up the hydration bladder with the full 3L of water, a few more tools than normal including a shock pump, a packable rain shell and a couple of PBJ sandwiches. This took the bag up close to full capacity but didn’t quite reach the levels of zipper-stretching. The hydration bladder has an internal sleeve that extends about ¾ of the way up the length of the pocket, however the bladder itself is the full length of this pocket and had a slight tendency to “flop” outwards prior to closing the main pocket zipper. Nothing unmanageable, but a minor annoyance. Otherwise, the pockets and sub-pockets in the tool zone all make sense and work as you’d expect, keeping things divided and avoiding any rattling when in use. I’m an advocate for keeping the helmet on for the duration of a ride, as you just never know when you might sample the dirt, so I didn’t test out the helmet holder in action, but a quick test-fit tells me it would do a fine job at stashing most open face lids. A full-face lid would be too large to fit fully enclosed, but you could run the holder through the chin bar.
With 3L of water plus a host of other items, the weight of the pack was nearing the 5kg mark in total, perfect to really test out how the No Dancing Monkey strap system does at keeping it solid. I came away suitably impressed. Even on the rougher downhills the pack stayed firmly in place, with only the biggest body movements such as a larger bunny hop letting things shift at all. I’m relatively sensitive to pressure on my chest when breathing, so the NDM system did still feel a touch suffocating in this respect when cranked down, but it was better than a conventional chest strap across a pack so didn’t tend to be a major issue. On the most lung busting climbs I’d occasionally undo the buckle and let the straps sit wider or slightly loosen the lower straps, which solved this issue but of course reduced the stability of the pack a touch.
The hydration hose routing was spot on for me, with a good length to loop back up to the mouth and a well-positioned lower hose clip to keep it out the way on the descents. Having 3L of water in a bag is really helpful on the hotter summer months, and crucially there’s not enough change in the fit of the bag between a full and empty (or no) bladder to require more than perhaps one adjustment in the middle of a ride. In the grand scheme of bags, the Epic 8 runs relatively cool on the back, certainly adding to the heat over no bag at all but not a terrible, sweltering amount like some. The shoulder straps ventilation means they’re pretty damn cool too, only becoming noticeably warm on the hotter days. Through a few muddy test sessions, the Epic 8 managed to avoid letting too much of the gloop stick into the fabric and cleaned up quite well with a damp cloth. It’s pretty durable too, showing no signs of damage after many times on the floor and a couple of glances off trees and shrubs on the trailside. The buckle and zippers didn’t miss a beat throughout the test either, staying firmly put when desired yet popping open easily whether gloved or not.
I’d like to see a small pocket or two added to the lower straps to store a small snack or used wrappers, but it’s not a tough task to quickly push the buckle and pop the bag off, especially thanks to the wider-than-average opening that is produced by the style of the harness. At £130/$140 the Epic 8 is no small amount of money, but thankfully packs the quality and performance to justify it.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The USWE Epic 8 provides an efficient storage solution for those mid-length rides, boasting an impressive 3L water capacity within its 8L size without feeling as bulky as you may expect. Their No Dancing Monkey strap system continues to impress with excellent comfort and user friendliness, and the construction is of good quality all round, helping to justify the price tag.
Price: £129.99 /$139.95 /€139.95
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