Words by: Adam Englander
Riding with a hydration pack might not be seen as “cool” these days, but when it comes to being prepared in the case of a trail emergency who really cares? I have been riding with a hydration pack for the past 4 or 5 years and have become fairly comfortable with them. I never run out of water, always have tools, and most importantly...always have plenty of room for snacks. With so many brands offering pack options, it might seem strange that Hydro Flask would want to jump into an already crowded market. However, when they reached out to us asking if we wanted to review their new MTB specific Down Shift Hydration pack, there was no way we could say no. Read on to hear our thoughts!
Hydro Flask is known for making top-notch water bottles that keep your water ice-cold at all times. So it would stand to reason that they would be looking to recreate this in a hydration pack. To do this, they utilized their Cold Flow System which includes an insulated 2L reservoir, neoprene sleeve with reflective lining, and articulated back panel to keep water cold for over 4 hours. They have also positioned the reservoir at the bottom of the bag so that you can maintain a low center of gravity.
The outside of the bag features 2 pockets for holding your phone, keys, and other random items. Inside, there are 3 more pockets for tools, tubes, and snacks.
Hydro Flask definitely opted for the minimalist approach when it came to the design of the pack. The outside is pretty low key, a few small helmet loops and 2 pockets. Just a clean looking black hydration pack made out of highly durable and waterproof material. Personally, I prefer to have a few extra pockets and straps on the outside of the bag for random tools and things like that. But hey, the bag looks good and so far has held up great with no signs of damage or wear and tear.
The main priority for this bag, however, is keeping your water cold. So does it? I can report back that yes it does! Because they wanted to keep the weight as low as possible, the water reservoir sits in an insulated flap at the bottom of the pack. In order for the reservoir to fit in the pack though, you have to fold the top half down otherwise the flap can't close. When I filled the reservoir to its 2L max capacity, it took a bit of maneuvering but I got it to close and keep everything cold.
From a comfort standpoint, the hydration pack is great. I have used it for 2-3 hour rides and forget I am even wearing it. Having the majority of the weight lower has definitely contributed to it being so comfortable. The quality of the bag is top-notch, as one would expect from Hydro Flask. Although I haven’t had any crazy crashes while wearing it, I highly doubt it would rip or get seriously damaged. Not bad for a first hydration pack attempt Hydro Flask!
How much do you value cold water? If that is the most important thing to you when riding, then this is the hydration pack for you. In all seriousness, the Down Shift Hydration pack from Hydro Flask is a damn good first attempt at making an MTB specific bag. It keeps your water cold, looks good, and has room for all the essentials. Personally, I think it could use a few more pockets inside and out, but that's my opinion. All in all, I was definitely impressed with the bag and plan to continue using it moving forward.