This summer I found myself in need of a decent sized, robust and comfortable pack for my job as a mountain bike guide and coach in Scotland’s Tweed Valley. Marketed as an MTB Touring Pack, I came across the EVOC Explorer Pro 30L Pack, which looked up to the task; 30L is plenty of room for your average non-expedition style MTB guiding pack, and the body-hugging straps would help to distribute the weight nicely across my back and onto my hips. Here’s how I got on with it.
EVOC Explorer Pro 30L MTB Pack
Weighing in at 1350g, empty, the EVOC Explorer Pro 30L Pack is available in one size only, with the dimensions 27 x 53 x 19 cm. With no fewer than 7 zippered pockets, this pack literally has a place for everything.
With room to spare, I was able to carry everything from a well-stocked first aid kit, to spare clothing, tools & spares, phone, wallet, keys, compass, 8 man emergency shelter, bivvy bag, foil blanket, snacks, and even a stack of cones; everything one might need when coaching out on the hill all day.
The main compartment is actually extendable within the body of the pack – it doesn’t increase the outer size but the roll bottom can unfold to allow you to utilise more of the bottom part of the pack, or roll back up for further compartmentalisation. This compartment is also accessible directly from the bottom so you don’t have to unpack the whole thing if you need something buried. No further separation is available within the main compartment but sitting directly behind it is a low profile zippered pocket which runs the full length of the pack – the perfect place to put important documents that need to be kept flat, such as a map or emergency contact details. Though I didn’t use it as such, as I much prefer to carry a bottle, this is also where you would place a bladder – a wee opening at the back lets a hose out.
On the front of the Explorer Pro pack you’ll find two pockets, both zippered their full length for ease of opening. The top one is the smallest of the two – inside it you’ll find a super soft liner for protecting sunglasses. I normally prefer to store keys in this pocket but I do miss the presence of a clip for attaching them to. The key clip actually sits in the main compartment of the bag in a small netted pouch – putting keys here, deep inside the bag means you can usually feel them on your back through the bag, especially if you’ve a large bunch.
The second and larger of the two front pockets is neatly compartmentalised for storage of tools and spares. In here I carry CO2, a pump, tubeless plug repair kit, spare tube, tyre levers, patches, etc. etc. It’s good to be able to neatly stow things away behind their individual net as things like spare brake pads and quick links are super easily lost amongst everything else.
Forming part of the Explorer Pro’s wrap-around wings at the waist are two zippered compartments – excellent for storing stuff you need quickly and often, like Haribo (other forms of sugar are available) or spare gloves.
At the side of the pack you’ll find a netted pocket – this is where I opted to keep the Smidge midge repellent spray. Those unfortunate enough to have experienced the Scottish Midge will know all about how important it is to have this handy.
Tucked away at the front of the pack is a clip for carrying a helmet on the outside of the pack, with adjustable straps to ensure it is securely stowed. Also untucking from the bottom of the pack is a raincover which is well designed to cover the entirety of the pack, including the waist wings in addition to the main body.
It isn’t completely waterproof but it will keep your stuff dry through the odd shower. The EVOC logo on it is actually hi-vis too, in case you find yourself out after dark.
EVOC Explorer Pro – comfort & fit
Down to the most important aspect of a riding pack, comfort. It’s no good having a place for everything if everything weighs far too much to be carried comfortably. The first thing i’m interested in when buying a pack of any description is the straps, and the straps on the Explorer Pro did not disappoint. On a riding trip in the Cairngorms I employed the use of a hook-a-bike contraption for carrying my bike hands free up gnarly ascents. I fitted it to the Explorer Pro which then endured several hours of hike-a-bike. Thus, I know the straps are super strong and durable. I would say however that it would have been more comfortable if the back of the pack was more rigid – carrying the weight of a bike from the shoulder region caused the top of the pack to fold down and inwards slightly, instead of staying rigid and flush to my upper back.
I have pretty narrow shoulders which is often a problem for me as the straps of a lot of bags sit at a fixed distance apart from one another, thus they have a tendency to slip off. The Explorer Pro straps feature a reinforced brace link that allows the straps some lateral freedom of movement so that they can sit on your shoulders at the most comfortable distance apart from one another, and at the most comfortable angle. Problem solved.
An additional strap and buckle also comes across the chest for extra security, ensuring the top portion of the pack stays flush to your back. The buckle has a really nice feature in the form of an integrated whistle for calling for attention.
Strap length is adjustable at the bottom where the straps insert into the wrap-around portion, which brings me to the superb body-hugging characteristics of the pack. The last thing you want on a gnarly descent is to have the weight of your pack swinging around behind you, sending you off balance and off the line. At the waist, the Explorer Pro features oversized wings which wrap right around your hips and fasten with both a stretch velcro panel and an adjustable plastic buckle for extra security. This places the pack’s weight firmly at your hips, the most ergonomically sensible place to carry weight while cycling.
The rear of the Explorer Pro which interfaces your back is well designed around both comfort and ventilation. Four grooved and perforated EVA pads protrude from the pack, covered by a mesh. This means the pack ends up sitting around a centimetre away from your back allowing air to flow freely, delaying sweaty betty.
Pricing & Availability
The EVOX Explorer Pro 30L has a price tag of £139.49 (~$181) and is available in one size only, from both online and high street retailers. In addition to the heather slate/neon colorway, it is also available in heather light olive/slate, heather carbon grey/ruby, and all black.