Outdoor Research Freewheel 5L Hip Pack Review


Words by Travis Reill  |  Photos by Sourpatch

Outdoor Research has long been a staple for outdoor gear. More recently, the Pacific Northwest company – well-known for its mountaineering and ski gear – has branched into mountain biking gear and apparel. Drew recently spent some time at Outdoor Research’s Seattle headquarters to check out their Freewheel MTB lineup and returned with some rad gear for us to try. From my local trails to the red rock slabs of Sedona, I’ve had the Freewheel 5L Hip Pack strapped on. And I’m pleased to announce it has served me well.


• 5L capacity
• Holds 1 water bottle and is bladder-compatible (not included)
• 100% water resistant polyester
• 360 grams
• Several different pocket/stowaway options


  • Ample storage/pockets

  • Easily tightens down

  • Large belt straps

  • Offset buckle

  • Comfortable to Wear

  • Hidden stow net


  • Doesn’t come with a bladder

  • Only 1 water bottle pocket

  • Difficult to discern features

Outdoor Research Freewheel 5L Hip Pack Review


Outdoor Research offers one hip pack in its new Freewheel MTB lineup—and it is a big boy. With a five-liter capacity, the Freewheel 5L Hip Pack is perfect for those long pedal days.

The body of the Freewheel Hip Pack is 100% polyester, which is treated to be water-resistant. The pack’s outside is thick and durable, almost like a polyester version of a thick canvas. Large hip straps come from both sides of the hip pack and wrap around toward the front. In the middle of these straps is a breathable mesh panel that sits on the lower back. Coming off these hip straps are the belt and buckle, offset to the left hip rather than sitting in the middle.

A single zipper across the top of the Freewheel Hip Pack opens the sizable main compartment, separated by a divider to hold an optional water bladder in place. Outdoor Research doesn’t provide a water bladder with the Freewheel Hip Pack, saying that “the hip pack accommodates most bladder sizes.” On the front side of the divider is another large zipper pocket to store items you don’t want bouncing around. Smaller, narrow pockets sit on either side of the main compartment and seem perfect for holding a multitool or snacks.

The Freewheel Hip Pack’s exterior includes pockets and storage, including a front zipper pocket, perhaps for holding sunglasses. Outdoor Research says the pack includes a sunglasses pocket with a “non-scratch lining.” I assume the entire lining in the Freewheel Hip Pack must be non-scratch, as there is only one type of lining and no way to discern a “sunglasses pocket.” On the left hip is your standard mesh pocket for holding a water bottle, and a zipper mesh pocket on the right hip for your phone.

On the underside of the Freewheel Hip Pack, a velcro pocket holds a mesh mini-cargo net for carrying a larger jacket or pads. The net unrolls and hooks to the front of the back with two straps hidden near the main compartment zipper.

Aside from the waist belt that adjusts at the buckle, two additional straps are found on either side of the pack. These adjustment straps allow the rider to tighten the pack even more and help cinch it down on the fly.

Outdoor Research Freewheel 5L Hip Pack Review


First and foremost, the Freewheel 5L Hip Pack is very comfortable. The large hip belts prevent the straps from digging into my side, and the offset buckle keeps the hard plastic away from my gut. I always offset the buckle on all the hip packs I’ve tested and used so it doesn’t sit directly in the middle. Outdoor Research has made the first hip pack I’ve tried with this idea as standard.

The Freewheel Hip Pack is easy to adjust, especially with the additional adjustment straps on either side. I particularly like this feature as I don’t rely only on the main belt for tightening, which I’ve found can be more awkward. Instead, I can get the pack relatively tight, then use the additional adjustment straps on either side to tighten by pulling them forward, which is a much more natural motion. It also makes it easy to access the pack without taking it off by loosening each side strap and twisting it around to my front.

Inside of the pack is ample room for just about anything. There are just enough pockets for storing things I don’t want to dig for—my wallet, cell phone, and snacks—and one main pocket for everything else. Outdoor Research designed the pack with a zippered cell phone pocket on the right hip. However, I used that pocket for my keys and kept my phone inside the main compartment. Yes, it is nice to have quick access to my phone, but my hip is more vulnerable during a crash than the small of my back. Plus, the pocket for the phone is mesh. I used this pack while it poured in Sedona, and everything stayed completely dry. That wouldn’t have been the case if my phone was in the designated cell phone pocket.

Outdoor Research Freewheel 5L Hip Pack Review

It would have been nice if Outdoor Research provided a bladder with the Freewheel Hip Pack. I do like that they made it accommodate most bladders. However, bladders tend to be pretty specific to the pack they come with, which raises fitment issues. Knowing what bladders are compatible would be helpful. A hole in the pack exists for a bladder hose to exit on the right side and pass through the zipper hip pocket. But, it is unclear if there is anything to secure the end of the hose. There is a bungee-type cord that could hold the end of a hose, but it is unclear if that is the intended use. That said, I don’t often use water bladders, and would rather have seen an additional water bottle holder.

The front pocket is the perfect size for holding sunglasses, so I used it as such. I assume this is what the pocket is intended for, as I couldn’t find another pocket with a “non-scratch” lining. There was nothing on the hip pack designating such a pocket, plus I keep my sunglasses in a microfiber case just to be safe.

The last feature was tucked away until I found it near the end of my time testing the Freewheel Hip Pack. Underneath the pack, a velcro pocket houses a mini-net for holding more oversized items, such as knee pads or a waterproof shell. This makes the Freewheel Hip Pack great for those big days, making it a serious competitor with mountain biking backpacks in terms of what you can carry. Even when fully loaded up, it stayed put well through rough terrain and avoided digging in anywhere.

The Wolf’s Last Word

Outdoor Research hit the nail on the head with their Freewheel 5L Hip Pack. The pack is big enough to hold everything you—and probably your buddy—need for big days out, while being comfortable and adjustable enough to use on smaller rides as well.

Price: $85
Website: Outdoorresearch.com


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