Gear Guy

Will a hydration pack hold enough gear for an overnighter?

From what I've read, your gear reviews are right-on, so I seek your help finding a hydration pack that can hold ultralight gear for overnighters, as well as up to 100 ounces of water. I hope to use such a pack for mountain biking treks as well, so it'll need to have a tight fit and good suspension system. It's proving difficult to find something to meet all these needs, although I noticed you recommended the Ultimate Direction SpeeDemon to a trail runner in January 2003. Is this pack suitable for mountain biking? What about other possibilities like the Ultimate Direction WarpSpeed or the CelBak Peak Bagger? Todd Alpharetta, Georgia

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Of course my reviews are right-on. This is your One Stop Shop for All Things Wise and Wondrous on the Topic of Gear.

And in your case, I’m not entirely certain you’re heading in the right direction. If I read your question correctly, you’re after a pack to use for overnight hiking trips and biking trips. Right? Well, for one thing, I wouldn’t agonize over whether or not you have a “hydration” pack. Really, any pack can be a hydration pack—just slip a water bladder into it, thread the tube out, and you’re all set.

With that in mind, though, it’s true that the Ultimate Direction SpeeDemon ($120; is a pretty good crossover pack. Its 2,070-cubic-inch capacity (not including bladder) will force you to pack VERY frugally. But these days, with all the good-quality lightweight gear out there, it’s possible to work with this minimalist pack size. And, its low profile will ensure that a light load while mountain biking will not throw you off balance. The same holds true for the CamelBak Peak Bagger ($100), which maybe isn’t quite as nicely designed as the SpeeDemon, mainly due to its lesser suspension.

Really, though, any good-quality compact rucksack will work pretty well. Marmot’s Talus ($139;, for instance, will let you pack a bit more for an overnight trip, while staying sleek enough for biking. Just stick a bladder inside and you have your hydration pack. Same goes for Gregory’s Shakra ($129;, or the Arc’Teryx Bora 30 ($95;—both are great daypacks that have about 2,000 cubic inches of capacity and could be retroffited with a bladder.

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