Will Shaw tests Thule's new hip pack range.
Words and photos: Will Shaw
The Thule Rail Hip Pack 4L is exactly what the name suggests, a hip pack with 4L of storage. Sitting in Thule’s Rail hydration and storage range, the 4L Hip Pack features a 1.5 litre Hydrapak bladder with Thule’s ReTrakt Magnetic hose, a secure smartphone storage pouch, and another four separated storage areas. There’s also quick access pouches on both waist straps, which are perfect for compact nutrition.
A couple of years ago I went through a Hip Pack phase with Bontrager’s Rapid Pack. The Rapid Pack doesn’t feature a bladder, so you were limited to a single 750ml drink bottle. With a drink bottle on board and the pockets filled I found the Rapid Pack quite comfortable to ride with, although I did need to stop every hour or so to fill my water up. Whilst I liked the look of the Rail 4L on paper with its 1.5 litre water carrying capacity, I wondered how this extra weight would go with the pack full of other items.
With the 1.5L bladder filled, I opted to use the other storage area within this zipped compartment for my multi tool and spares (tube, tyre levers, mini pump). I normally carry a shock pump in my Thule Rail 8L Backpack, but this didn’t fit inside the 4L Hip Pack. I then used the Velcro compartment on the outside of the pack for nutrition, and it’ll fit about 8 bars if you really cram them in there with a full bladder and spares in the zipped compartment.
I used the Rail 4L for rides of sub one hour to around the four-hour mark. With the 1.5L bladder and a bottle on your bike, you can do anywhere from 2-3 hours with all the spares and nutrition you need. The pack is quite comfortable, even when fully loaded, although I’d recommend doing it up quite tightly to avoid it bouncing around your back on rough descents. The weight on the Rail 4L sits more central on your lower back compared to something like the Bontrager Rapid Pack, which wraps the weight around your hips a bit more. Whilst it wasn’t uncomfortable riding with the pack fully loaded, it’s really in its element in the 2–3 hour ride time bracket where with a bottle of mix and a couple of bars you don’t need to fill the pack up to its absolute maximum capacity.
After more hip and hydration pack reviews?
Thule are putting more focus into their mountain bike storage and hydration range, and the Hip Pack range also features a 0L (with 0.5L of storage) and a 2L option. They sent me the 0L pack, which retails for $79, and whilst I was sceptical about the need for such a small hip pack, if you’re the kind of rider who heads out for rides of less than two hours and you’re looking for somewhere to put your phone, a multi tool, and a couple of bars than the Rail 0L could be a winner. It’s certainly nicer to have that weight and bulk low and central on your back than spread out throughout various pockets.
Other than not being the best choice if you’re going on all-day missions and need all the space you can get (in which case I’d recommend Thule’s Rail 8L backpack), my one other criticism of the Rail Hip Pack 4L is the price, as at $169 it sits a fair bit higher than many other options in the bladder equipped hip pack market such as the CamelBak Repack LR 4 1.5L ($109.99) and Dakine Hot Laps 5L ($114.95). The Thule Rail Hip Pack 2L sits closer to these offerings, although the 2L uses two water bottle pockets on either side of the main storage compartment rather than a bladder.
For rides over half a day, I’d recommend the Thule Rail 8L Backpack. For sub two-hour rides, the Hip Pack 2L and 0L are both worth a look as well.
- Comfortable even when fully packed
- Spot on for non-stop rides up to 3 hours
- ReTrakt hose is great for drinking when riding
- Fairly expensive for what it is