This whole fanny pack thing is getting a little out of hand. Some are big enough to cram as much gear as you would into a traditional pack. There comes a time that maybe a traditional pack is the better option. But after a summer of riding bareback, it’s hard to make the switch. If only there was something in between…
Tasmania-based Henty offers a catalog full of roll-up garment bags for urban commuters who need to put on a suit once they've braved the streets. You might say that's not the background of a brand that's here to produce another cookie-cutter hydration pack. You would be right.
The Enduro Pack 2.0 is exactly what it looks like. It's a fanny pack with shoulder straps. I'll get to why that's not as ridiculous as it sounds later. First, some details. The pack's main compartment is about the same size and shape as that of a classic bare-bones 100-ounce hydration pack. But it's oriented horizontally instead of vertically. Folding over that compartment is a wide flap which, when unfurled, hides four smaller mesh compartments; two wide, flat zippered and two narrow, loose and elastic. There are also two small, zippered hip pockets and a wide flat one that's accessible when the flap is closed. Finally, a flat but large mesh zippered compartment stretches between the shoulder straps.
The Enduro Pack 2.0 has military-issue build quality. It's about the same weight as an Osprey Raptor 10, which has significantly more internal carrying capacity. But it isn't meant to be light. Its canvas is coarse and stiff, unlike the paper-thin material that has trickled down from ultralight backpacking tech. And the piping around the edge has a generous amount of overlap. The molded neoprene panel that sits across your waist is equally simple. There's no Brillo-pad pillows or deep ventilation chambers. The contours mostly just add grip. Anyway, most of the pack sits low on your waist, where any airflow would have to pass through your baggies and your chamios before it could get to your skin.
The outside of the pack is criss-crossed with either rigid or elastic daisy chains. Much of what you'd put inside a traditional pack can be strapped outside the Enduro Pack. And that even includes food. Two pairs of elastic loops on each side of the main compartment firmly hold a standard-shaped energy bar. I even tried carrying an energy gel packet in one, but it popped out somewhere on the trail. Sorry, nature.
The Enduro Pack comes with a 100-ounce lumbar reservoir made by Hydrapack. But it was originally designed for traditional vertical reservoir to be laid in sideways. The benefit of the lumbar reservoir is that it leaves some room on either side of it for bulky items, but that volume gets displaced into the center of the pack, making it a tight fit to put items in the mesh pockets or, as I found myself doing, to strap knee pads and/or extra layers under the flap. The disadvantage of the old school vertical reservoir, especially for taller folks like myself, is that the hose has a long way to go from the outside corner of the pack, all the way up to my shoulders. It eventually sits just above my chest, and I had to turn my head to reach it. But it was nice not having a load of extra hose, and there are extenders if I ever want it to loop down like I was used to. Regarding taller folks, one important upgrade made to the Enduro Pack's new 2.0 version is its 150 millimeters of height adjustment. You can use that feature to suit your preference or your torso. The adjustment is made via Velcro panels on the bottom of the shoulder strap assembly, and because they’re sharing the weight with the hip belt, Velcro is plenty strong to hold it up. The adjustment itself is a little tricky, especially if the pack is full, but I never moved it again once I found my sweet spot.
I spent most of my time testing the Enduro Pack in the hot Los Angeles summer. Meaning, I started with a full bladder every ride. It's why I can rarely wear traditional hip packs on big days. I would treat it like any other hip pack, strapping it across the soft spot between my hip bone and my leg bone, or, between my iliac crest and greater trochanter. Don't ask me to pronounce either of those, by the way. If this were any other hip pack that I’d load up with food, tools, pads and 100 ounces of water, I’d have to strap it so tight, that I'd get a bruise every time I landed a jump. The Henty concept allows you to distribute the load between the hip strap, the shoulder strap, and the natural shelf it sits on just above my glutes. My previous mid-sized pack was a Camelbak Skyline LR, and though that design takes some pressure off my back, it doesn't sit nearly as low as the Enduro Pack. And with almost 100 percent of that load spread wide across that lower latitude, there's absolutely no shimmy or shake. It's the kind of thing I had taken for granted on traditional packs. Shifting my weight during slides or steep descents would jostle any normal pack across my back. I'd trained my shoulders to twitch back and re-center a wayward bag, but after months on the Enduro Pack, I really can't tolerate the mobility of traditional packs anymore. That's not to say that the Enduro Pack doesn't bounce up and down at all. It's probably the primary complaint about hip packs. But that's where the shoulder straps come into play. There's nothing there to keep the pack from levitating up when I was cresting after a jump, but the shoulder straps keep it from bouncing down too far when I landed. With such limited vertical motion, I simply didn’t think about it.
On the climbs, though, where neither shimmy nor shake are an issue, I expected the "fanny pack with shoulder straps" concept to seem a little silly. Like, why not use a regular pack if you're going to have weight on your shoulders anyway? But something pleasantly surprised me on those hotter days. Because there's essentially nothing above the pack's main compartment, the panel that stretched up to my shoulders was actually elevated off my back. The weight of the main compartment rotates it back and down, so the strap assembly never lays against my back until it reaches my shoulders. There's no need for over-teched air flow channels because there's no contact anywhere between my hips and my shoulders. Only time there was contact would be if I tried to stuff that mesh pouch between the shoulder straps. Even a pair of sunglasses would bug me a bit. So, I reserved that for thinner goods like extra bars or first aid supplies.
And I did have to get creative with my packing. If I set out with a full bladder, there was not a comfortable place to store large food items like fruit or sandwiches. The thin pocket where my phone was easiest to access was between the reservoir and my back, so it was more comfortable to tuck it into the mesh zipper under the flap. It would be nice if the hip pockets were large enough to fit a phone, but they're perfect for quick-access things like tools, energy gels and small food items. But I've successfully strapped all sorts of excess baggage to the Enduro Pack. A small canvas bag and some toe-clip straps helped me carry a six-pack one day and a mid-sized camp stove another. Owning this pack demands some outside-the-box thinking. On hot days, your excess water might mean rearranging the rest of your supplies. On wet days, you might be wearing it under your rain jacket to keep the otherwise exposed contents dry. But out-of-the-box thinking is what this pack is all about. It's a bit of a lightning rod for skeptics, but if you're one of them, it'll make quick work of converting you once you try it.