Question about hydration packs for MTB

Recently on the podcast I heard @Nate_Pearson talk about an USWE pack. I was curious what the feedback on that was, or if anyone had any thoughts on hydration packs for mountain biking. I have heard that packs moving around can be uncomfortable and annoying, but I’m not sure how much I should be concerned with that. I don’t want anything that is uncomfortably hot that causes me to sweat more than I should. I prefer to ride without anything on my body, but one bottle will not last me a 35 mile race at the OZ Trail Off Road, even with 2 aid stations. Bonus points if anyone knows which episode of the podcast that was, and thanks in advance!

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I have a USWE Airborne 2 and it is much better then any Camelbak product I ever had (and I had alot of them). I use it just for racing MTB, holds 2 liters of water, with a bottle on the bike it is enough to get me through a 35-40 mile race or around 3 hours. The harness system on the USWE packs is much more comfortable and moves around much less than most packs. You have to fiddle with the adjustment to get it right but once you do, the fit is great. You will feel a little warmer where the pack sits on your back, that is unavoidable.


I’ve been thinking about the Airborne 9 or an Osprey Syncro 10. I like the idea of a bigger pack even if I don’t use all of the space, I can carry food and some tools/an extra layer when it gets colder through the winter. But in the summer, it’s incredibly hot and humid, and the suspended mesh back panel on the Syncro is very attractive. Many people say that the suspended panel really makes a difference, but if it’s going to move around and be more annoying than it’s worth I could care less about back sweat.

I’ve had really good luck with a Nathan hydration vest I got at REI. For a vest it had a surprising amount of storage in a small space if I need it (ex. Tube, keys, hand pump, plenty of food, phone).

Had always had Camelback before but thought this pack was just as breathable but sturdier. Just seemed to stay in place better too.

It’s great, the syncro, suspension makes a difference. However, no backpack is at least 3x better for me. You will sweat more. It will bounce around. You may not care though. The utility is huge. Other options are frame bags or feed bags. Feed bags can hold bottles. Frame bags can do bladders.

If you have big bottle you could probably work with 2 aid stations over 35 miles. That’s a bottle every 12 miles if they are spaced. You can also drink and then refill before leaving the station if you aren’t hardcore racing it or if it’s hot.


I also agree with @craigmanning. I hate wearing anything on my back while riding and therefore never “liked” hydration packs. Not to say that other packs are not designed well, I just feel, for me, that I am able to taylor fit the USWE to my body and it literally feels as if it does not move nor does it feel cumbersome. Another thing it that it sits high on my back so access to jersey pockets is not hindered.

I actually purchased a second USWE pack and just switch it out along with another bottle when doing longer distance mtb events. It is comfortable, fits snug, and is a minimal pack in that aside from hydration and a few necessities (a phone and wallet and keys, maybe a snack) not much else, if anything, will fit.

Everyone is different and has his/her own likes and dislikes. For me, while other hydration packs I have tried are designed very well, the USWE, for what I like to do (endurance mtb events) fits well, feels light, is a minimalist pack, and seems to not move around on my body at all. Hope this helps and cheers!:raised_hands:


@craigmanning - I’m looking at getting the Airborne 2. I like the minimalist style, and harness system looks great.

Question about the location of the harness buckle in the front - can this be adjusted where it does not sit right on top of a HRM?



To check back in, I did end up purchasing the USWE Airborne 9 pack and it is awesome! I also believe that it sits a bit higher than the HRM as I haven’t noticed any discomfort with them both on.


What are the chances I can fit these in the 3L Outlander sub-pack?

I’ve always used various CamelBaks, but I switched to the Osprey Seral this winter and absolutely love it. It’s a “fanny pack” but man it’s just so practical. I wear it on the road too. The 1.5L hydration bladder (with hose) is the deal sealer for me. It also has two side pockets on either side of the waist buckle; perfect for easy gel or tool access without removing the pack. I do have to tighten down the waist strap as a drink water throughout a ride, but it’s not a big deal. It’s gotten me through 3+ hour MTB rides with no problem. Also holds tool roll, co2, phone, extra gels, Garmin inReach, and a jacket.


I use a Rhythm 24 on my arm so I dont know if it would interfere with a chest strap.

I realize this post is now about 9 months old but for me the buckle sits more in the middle of my sternum, not below it like a heart rate monitor does. I’ve worn it a bunch with both a Garmin HRM and a wahoo tickr and didn’t have problems with either.

I have that pack, those items don’t appear like they would fit. I’d put the tire pump on the bike frame. Not sure you need to carry around a shock pump, what are your thoughts on doing so?

I sometimes take the shock pump when I need to dial suspension. I’m far too much of a cycling fashion elitist to put anything on the frame. I’m not sure if I should get the bigger bag, ugh. I want to use it for gravel races on the CX bike and for MTB riding in the summer because it’s extremely hot in Texas in the summer, drank 4-liters of water in 2 hours yesterday and still felt destroyed by heat.

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It sits high on your back so you can have access to your pockets on a jersey. I’d just pocket the pumps in my middle back pocket, although I never carry a pump and may only dial in suspension once a year. You actually might be able to fit them in the large pocket where the bladder goes but it may impact the amount of water you can get into the bladder.

I’ve had an USWE Airborne 2 for about a year and used it in Leadville for Columbine Climb. The reservoir is super easy to fill and holds 2L as mentioned. It has very little room for anything else though and should really been seen as a pure hydration pack. It does give you full access to your rear jersey pockets though.

The Camelbak Chase vest is also a good option for a minimal pack. It holds only 1.5L but has some small pockets and areas to stash things like gels, chews, tire pressure gauge, etc. Similar to the USWE, it doesn’t move much while riding and still gives access to lower pockets.


I love my Chase vest for gravel and shorter MTB riding/racing. Just the right size for most riding and the strap/pocket access is super handy.


I was also able to fit a 2L badder in the Chase as well.

If you need a minimalist pack for racing XCO I say USWE pack. If you need a practical pack to hold a few other needs I say the Chase. I use my Chase for (MTB 100s).


Seems like many people have experience with the Uswe Airborne packs. Does anyone use the Uswe Outlander pack? How do they compare?

i have been running an older re-branded Leatt version of this pack for probably 7 years racing 3 hour harescrambles on my Motocross bike. it has a hands free system with quick detach coupling that is plumbed into my full face helmet. I always thought the bladder was a little lower quality in feel but it has not failed(current packs look to have better bladder than mine). it has one pocket that will not fit my galaxy note smart phone so it is only good for some small snacks at best. Miles of whoops, logs, rocks, bouncing off trees, and jumps on the moto track and it does not move with the harness.