Fanny packs, hip bags, lumbar packs--whatever you choose to call them, they’re all the rage these days. When it came time for me to hop on the bum-bag bandwagon, Bontrager didn’t even come up in my mental Rolodex of possible options to choose from. I had no idea they even made a tuchus tote until I saw a Bontrager Rapid Pack staring at me from the backside of a fellow media hack, like a flaming golden hawk.
It was the cleanest, tidiest hip bag I’d ever seen, and I had to find out if it was any good. Well, I’ve been riding the Bontrager Rapid Pack for a solid year now, and I can confidently say it’s by far the best hip bag I’ve used to date. Here’s a list of what I love about it:
1: Close Quarters
A big reason people avoid hip bags, other than their dorky reputation, is that they tend to bounce around a lot. Rather than having a big square shape that hangs way off the back, the Rapid Pack stays close to the body and wraps farther around the waist. The low-profile form makes it more secure than any other hip bag I’ve ridden. Even when you pack it full of stuff (we’ll get to that soon), the bag remains flop-free on the roughest trails.
Another thing keeping the bag close to the body is the fact that it doesn’t use a bladder for hydration. Bladders seem sweet, but when you have a big-ol water pouch up against your back, all the other stuff you’re carrying has to be placed farther out. The Rapid pack holds a single bottle right up against your back, with pockets on either side of it, so the contents won’t shift as much. Also, bladder-equipped bum bags require constant hip belt adjustments throughout the ride because bladders get smaller as you drink from them.
2: Balancing Act
Even weight distribution is essential to any pack. What’s the heaviest single item you’re likely to carry? Water. A full bottle can easily throw the balance off, making things feel lopsided and weird. It seems to me like there’s only one place you could even put a bottle on a hip bag: right in the center. Yet, it’s very common to see a bottle or bottles on one side or another. Speaking of bottles--as in plural--that’s a tricky thing for fanny packs. The thing about water bottles, is you consume the heaviest part of them. They’re constantly changing weight, so you’re unbalancing the pack every time you take a drink. I guess you could alternate which bottle you drink from, but who wants to mess around with doing that? Besides, what if your ride isn’t super long and you don’t need two bottles worth of water? Do you fill two bottles up halfway to keep it balanced? That’s my long way of saying that I think hip bags should only carry one bottle. One bottle in the center of the back.
These are the two main things that make the Rapid Pack so perfect. It keeps weight close to the body, and it keeps it balanced. Whether you have a full bottle or no bottle at all, the bag never feels awkward.
3: Feng Shui
Not only is the Rapid Pack clean on the outside, the interior lets you get all feng shui with your stuff. Each of the two zippered pockets has elastic-banded pouches to hold things like multi-tools, C02, tire plugs, phone and credit cards. There’s even a key-ring clip so you don’t accidentally pitch your keys on the ground when rooting through the pack
One of the best things about the Rapid Pack is the stretchy material from which the pockets themselves are crafted. Instead of being a big, bulky Cordura pouch, the Rapid Pack will shrink or stretch to the size it needs to be. Whether you’re carrying just a few things, or need to bring the kitchen sink along, the exterior will be taut and tidy.
It’s surprising how much the svelte little thing will hold. At full capacity, this is what I’ve been able to fit into the Rapid Pack: Multitool, 4 25-gram CO2 cartridges plus inflator, tire plugs, tube, jacket, spare gloves, keys, mini shock pump, tire pressure gauge, my Camelback tool roll spares kit, a Clif Bar, and some Glukos Energy Tablets. And of course a water bottle.
4: Lumbar Love
Padding between your back and what’s in the Rapid Pack makes the bag that much more comfortable. This isn’t a feature that’s exclusive to the Bontrager bag, but it’s worth pointing out. With some minimalist hip bags, you really need to be careful how you position items so they don’t poke you. This isn’t the case with the Rapid Pack.
5: Enduring Enduroing
The Rapid Pack doesn’t appear to be extraordinarily durable. There’s no waxed canvas, over-built Cordura, or gigantically course zippers on it at all, but nonetheless, it’s survived a year of wet woods and harsh desert conditions without any life-threatening injuries. I’ve stepped on the hip belt buckle and slammed it in trunks without shattering it. I’ve jammed the pockets so full that I was certain the zippers would bust. I’ve generally treated it less-than-daintily--you know, as if I was purposefully testing it for durability, and it’s been impressively impervious to my beatings. There’s a solo strand of elastic that’s dangling near the bottom of the water bottle pouch, and a zipper pull pulled off, but that’s about it. I expected the elastic in the pocket material to stretch out and get saggy long ago, but it’s running strong.
After a year of riding with the Bontrager Rapid Pack, I’m confident in claiming it to be the best hip bag I’ve ever used. The only room I see for improvement would be to have it be more water resistant, or perhaps just having a waterproof phone pocket. But that doesn’t stop me from looking forward to it carrying my crap around for another lap around the sun. Sometimes the best things in life come from unexpected places.
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