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August 22, 2010

Hydrapak Flume Hydration Pack Review

If you’re already familiar with Hydrapak, it’s probably for one of two reasons:

1) You’ve seen their reservoirs on the inside of other manufacturer’s hydration packs, including the Nathan HPL 020, which is rapidly becoming the gold standard for ultrarunners, or

2) You know them as a manufacturer of outstanding cycling and mountain bike packs such as the Big Sur, which is one of the most popular MTB packs on the market, and which I reviewed in the spring for FeedTheHabit.com (the brief version: there’s a reason why it’s so popular.)

Hydrapak Flume

The company’s roots lie primarily in cycling gear, but a couple of their products have some crossover appeal for runners as well; among these is the Flume, which is one of Hydrapak’s most lightweight and low profile products, but still provides the standard 2-liter fluid capacity of most long distance running packs.

Mesh storage overlay; aside from the zip pocket, that's pretty much all you get.

Styling on the Flume is quite basic: the main body consists of a reservoir compartment and a foldover flap with a zippered pocket. A mesh pocket overlays the reservoir sleeve for an all-purpose stash area. As far as storage goes, that’s it. There are no inner or hidden pockets on the main body, and no side or front pockets on the straps; in other words, if you’re someone who likes to keep a camera at hand during your runs (ahem!), you’ll find the cargo capacity a little bit lacking.

Air Flow back paneling

Otherwise, the pack sits and rides very comfortably, weighing in at 16oz, with an air flow back panel to provide ventilation, and an adjustable chest strap to customize the fit in front. There’s minimal bounce or lateral movement on the trail, and the minimalist design makes it fairly easy to take the pack off and replace it again. A somewhat unique feature (for running packs, anyway) is the option to route the hydration tube from the bottom of the pack instead of over the shoulder, which ended up being my preferred method of use for the Flume.

Bottom routing option for hydration tube

Another benefit of the Flume's low profile is one I discovered while mountain biking: it’s very easy to wear this pack on top of a cycling jersey and maintain access to the jersey pockets. With other “crossover” packs I’ve reviewed such as the GoLite Rush or CamelBak Octane XCT, wearing the pack greatly limits access to your shirt pockets.

Without a doubt, though, the portion of this pack that shines most brightly is Hydrapak’s reversible Reservoir II, which I also described in my HPL 020 review. It’s completely reversible and super durable, with a nice wide opening for easy filling and cleaning. The slide seal takes a little getting used to, but it’s ultimately very convenient and completely leakproof.

Slide seal closure

A few years ago there was one clearly superior player – CamelBak – when it came to durable and dependable reservoirs, but from my experience, I’d put Hydrapak’s Reservoir II in that same category. (And if you need more convincing, Hydrapak has a somewhat amusing demonstration video here.) Considering that a good fluid reservoir can retail for $30 or more, the $48 ticket price of the Flume pack seems like a fairly good deal.

So while the Flume isn’t quite ready to become my preferred ultrarunning pack, there are a lot of things to like about it. If Hydrapak could incorporate some front storage on this pack, that would be a huge step in the right direction. In the meantime, the Flume is a nicely affordable option for medium distance running and MTB activities that comes with one of the best fluid reservoirs you’ll find on the market.

The Hydrapak Flume retails for $47.99 from the company website, with some colors discounted at Amazon.com.

*Product provided by Hydrapak
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com.


Josh 8/23/10, 11:20 AM  

very convincing video! plus, i love that they are in Oakland.

Claus 8/23/10, 12:14 PM  

You note that this pack has very little bouncing while on the track. I got myself a Nathan HPL 020 after reading your review of that a while back, and had it shipped aaaaaall the way to Denmark. But one of my major complaints about it is exactly the bouncing.

It seems to be the most annoying with a full pack - once it's down to a liter or so, the bouncing decreases dramatically.

Now, is this just me not handling it right, or does this sound familiar?

I guess this should really be posted as a comment to the Nathan review, but here goes :o)

Donald 8/23/10, 9:54 PM  

Claus: You're not doing anything wrong; the HPL is technically a vest and is designed to ride more loosely, moving somewhat in rhythm with your body as you're running. It's different than traditional packs which strive eliminate bounce. You can do a bit of adjustment with the straps if necessary, but your goal isn't to completely eliminate movement.
Hopefully you'll get accustomed to it after a while, because it really is a great vest! Feel free to contact me offline if you have other questions.

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