At A Glance
Depending on what part of the planet you're from, you'll call these things by various names: bumbags, fanny packs, hip packs... Call them what you will, but they have made a surprising and confident return to the mountain bike world. The enduro scene is probably to blame/thank, but there is something to be said for shrinking your luggage and minimising the load.Buy Hydration Packs/Bags on
Keep the weight low and nearer your centre of mass, and things should feel more stable, at least that is the idea. Limit what you take and before you know it you're spinning along with a cooling breeze on your back rather than a sweat-laden jersey. Styles are plentiful, but thankfully most don't look like you've just walked out of an 80's disco. These are functional pieces of high tech mountain bike kit, not fanny packs.
The Hot Laps 5L from Dakine aims to provide the ultimate in 'waist bag', (yep, apparently it's a waist bag!). With five litre capacity, it bridges the gap between a full backpack or just filling your pockets with sweets. The 2-litre bladder is low slung in the pack and the hose is clipped back to the belt so the functionality of a hydration pack is retained.
Storage is available via plenty of pockets zips and clips. There is enough for spares, clothes and even straps on the bottom for pads if you need it. Further straps compress the pack if required and pull the sides round to keep it close to your back.
On The Trail
I've been experimenting with slimming down my kit for short, local loops, as I have a tendency to over prepare. The smaller size of the Hot Laps forces decisions to be made on how important certain kit is, and by default, you end up with a lighter pack simply by taking less.
Filling the 2-litre bladder is easy via the slide top, and also has a divider in the middle to prevent the water sloshing around from side to side. Other kit fits nicely into the various pockets, and I found a tube, CO2 and tools easily found a home alongside a small windproof jacket. A micropump would fit, but any decent sized inflator needs to be left out.
Once strapped onto your waist, it feels secure, and the wide waistband is comfortable with the side straps pulling forward to keep the load as close to your back as possible. On the bike, the waist position needs to be adjusted again to keep it comfy, and I found I would drop it lower on my hips for spinning, and the then tighten it up for descents.
The first issue for me was attempting to fill the pack to capacity. With two litres of water, a full complement of tools and a spare wardrobe, it feels heavy - unsurprisingly. The weight hanging off just a waistband was not a wonderful experience and not hugely comfortable. Fortunately, if you drink plenty, the weight drops fast and things improve rapidly.
The weight issue was purely one of my own making, as overfilling the bag just makes it a bit cumbersome and heavy. Although it has the capability of stuffing 5 litres of storage in there, it doesn't mean you have to fill it. The sweet spot I found was to not fill the pack, adding just enough to get you through. About 750ml or 1 litre maximum of water worked best coupled with minimal tools and maybe a tiny windproof was a good compromise. Add in a couple of snacks and that was all I really wanted to carry around my middle.
With this reduced load, the waist pack really came into its own, keeping weight low and my back slightly less sweaty. Even with less water in the bladder, the divider stops the slosh and prevents any undue movement. The bite valve, although located on the hip, works well. It takes a little adjustment, but soon becomes natural.
Over a winter of grime and dirt, the Hot Laps has fended off the worst and come out fighting. The zips, clips and straps all remain in place and functional even under a layer of crud.
The Hot Laps can take a pretty large load, but trying to stuff it to capacity is not the answer here. Slim your kit down and take the minimum in style with a comfortable and secure pack. With the weight low and stable it's a great option for quick laps where you don't need to pack the kitchen sink.
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.