Though they remain a fairly small player in what’s become a very crowded hydration market, Hydrapak are mounting a bit of a stealth attack on the big boys with their excellent reservoirs, very clever gel-dispensing bottles, and some very well executed packs. At Interbike last fall, their Reyes hydration pack caught my eye with its ‘just right’ size, streamlined appearance, and light 1.25lb weight. I’ve been using the Reyes for virtually all of my sub-3 hour rides since then and have come away very impressed- not just with the included bladder but with the entire package.
Though I do own smaller packs, there is really a minimum amount of gear that I’m comfortable headed for the hills with. A tube, small tool kit, CO2, tire pump, phone, wallet, and a some reserve snacks are really the basics as far as I’m concerned. Throw in a lightweight jacket or knee and arm warmers and most race-oriented packs start to look awful sausage-y. For this load (and even a bit more), the Reyes’ 5L cargo capacity is just about perfect. It’s also nice that they’ve thought to accommodate a 3L bladder- it’s always possible to under-fill the bladder, but when was the last time you wish that you’d brought less water on a ride? Click ‘more’ to read on. Looking at the Reyes’ fairly narrow footprint (it’s 7in wide- essentially the width of the bladder), I was initially concerned that the bag would be all sorts of floppy. Though the shoulder straps do need to be fairly snug in order to stay put- all unstructured packs’ seem to- the Reyes is remarkably stable off road, something that was a very pleasant surprise. Sure, excessive body English and lunges over high logs will result in a thwack to the back of the helmet, but that’s par for the course. With that out of the way, let’s get into the details…
Hydrapak aren’t breaking any new ground with the Reyes’ layout- which is fine, because it works. The bladder sits against the wearer’s back in a dedicated compartment, with the hose working its way out through either of the shoulder straps. While the majority of the pack is a lightweight baby ripstop nylon, the bottom panel is significantly heavier for durability’s sake. The contact points (back and shoulder straps) are lined with a nice-feeling wicking material and the waist belt is easily removable. There is a stretchy outside pocket that fits a small camera and energy bar well and a pair of compression straps help to keep things tidy or tether whatever doesn’t fit inside. The large rainbow zip provides good access and visibility. A pump sleeve, zippered phone/wallet pocket, and key clip round out the interior.
Hydrapak’s provided Reversible Reservoir II remains one of my favorites. The company have solved the filling, flow, bite valve drip, and cleaning problems that seem to have most of their competitors stymied. The BPA-free TPU material is surprisingly soft, remarkably strong (see their website for bladder abuse videos), and, along with the quick release Plug-N-Play hose and large Slide Seal closure, allow the bag to be turned completely inside-out for cleaning. The bite valve’s flow isn’t quite that of CamelBak or Nalgene’s latest, but it has remained impressively leak-free, only dripping as the liquid inside approaches freezing (which I take as a warning to drink more, clearing the slush and stopping any drips). Despite my worries about feeling the reservoir’s rigid slide closure through the thin bag, I never have.
In use, the Reyes works very well. It’s never really felt overwhelmed and the narrow footprint provides for excellent freedom of movement. The tubular shoulder straps were a bit odd out of the box, with one of the undersides wrapping up around the side of the straps and the outer fabric wrapping around the inside. It’s never been uncomfortable but could be prevented with a seam across the layers. The pack’s lightweight construction no doubt helps it disappear- but it also contributes to my greatest complaint about the Reyes. Even though this pack has never seen temperatures over 50 degrees, it’s not uncommon for me to finish a hard ride with a wet rectangle on my back. Some sort of 3D mesh or molded foam could help with ventilation- though possibly at the expense of weight and stability. As it stands now, all that sits between the rider and a very un-breathable bladder are a couple of thin layers of fabric. No matter how well that fabric may wick, the moisture needs some sort of escape route. This isn’t uncommon with lightweight packs, but is an area that could be improved upon.
My only other complaint is minor: because the key clip is on the outer wall of the bag and keys don’t have a natural place to tuck, it’s not uncommon to hear them rattling against a pump or something else in the bag. Mindful packing will prevent this- but so would moving the closer to the rider’s back or providing an interior pocket into which keys could tuck. That’s about it. For anyone looking for a sleek, lightweight, right-sized bag, the Reyes is absolutely worth trying. The $75 price is competitive and it includes what may well be the best bladder out there. In truly hot climates, the lack of effective ventilation may be a deal-breaker, but it’s a question of priorities: weight and stability or moisture management. The Reyes is available in 5 (!) color combinations, so there’s bound to be one for everyone.