It is hard to go past the humble backpack for your fluid and spares needs. Or in the case of the USWE Patriot 15, the highly evolved mountain bike specific backpack. Those who don’t like riding with a backpack normally have a few pet hates: a sweaty back, stability of the bag, and protection from what’s inside. USWE manage these bug bears quite well with their all-day Patriot 15.

One of the features of all the USWE bags is their No Dancing Monkey harness system. The central attachment is not only a cinch to use with gloves, but as the straps are also elasticised it’s not a rigid fixing. The padded straps go over your shoulders, and have an elasticated point before the clip. The wide Velcro straps come up from the base where there is another section of elastic. You can adjust the length on all four straps, and there’s a hose holder right near the clip, with options to route a hose from a bladder over either shoulder. No bladder is included.

The back system has raised padding to help ventilation, but it’s the CE-certified central back protector inside that’s of real interest. The flexible viscoelastic foam hardens on impact, and save for adding a bit of weight to the bag (1.11kg on our scales) it’s not noticeable when riding. But if you crash onto a multi-tool, pump or even just a big rock on your back it might provide that extra bit of protection you need for your spine and spinal cord.

Two main pockets take care of most of the storage. The front one has two zippered compartments, a mesh section and the open part for things you need easy access to like snacks. The main compartment has access for a reservoir, a small pocket with a key clip that’s ideal for keys, a place for emergency ID to be written, 5 different tight mesh pockets to arrange tools, a pump, levers, spare hanger and more – plus a cavernous gusseted section for clothing and more. There’s an open space between the two for jamming a jacket or trail lid in, plus there are attachment points for a full face helmet. Best of all, given the stable nature of the bag attaching any of these doesn’t feel totally rubbish! There are also two straps at the base to roll up a jacket or even a trimmed down sleeping pad if a summer time overnight epic tickles your fancy.

ON THE TRAIL

With a day’s worth of gear, the pack is heavy to pull on but light on your back, thanks to the stability. Compared to any other backpack I have used for riding I fiddle with it less, and think about it less too.

Given that Patriot 15 is made from hard-wearing materials and has the back protection, it’s a solid bag for big days in big terrain. Although unlike some larger capacity bags, this one sits very flat when not filled up, so it’s just as good to grab for a shorter ride.

Having taken this bag to Blue Derby, Maydena, Garapine, Wooroi and even on the gentile Noosa Trail Network, it performs across a broad spectrum of riding. I didn’t crash onto it (not on my back anyway) and I’m happy to not test out the impact protection – the certification process can give you that piece of mind. But with a hydration reservoir thrown in, it was an easy bag to use for a whole variety of riding, and one that kept swallowing gear as I needed it to. The elastic is showing some use but it’s still doing the job – otherwise the bag looks just like it did 4 months ago when I started using it. The only downside is there is no way to get even the tiniest thing out without undoing the harness. But with a simple button to press to swing the bag around, it couldn’t be easier. The ventilation on the back is ok but really there is no magic ticket to not getting a sweaty back when riding. If you put something there, you get hotter.

All in all this is a versatile bag that will suit riders who charge hard to those who wouldn’t mind a bit of peace of mind for their spine – along with a stable bag.

HITS  MISSES
- Stable and safe - No deal breakers!
 - Carries a range of gear comfortably  
- Solid construction  
RRP $187
FROM Steve Cramer Imports

Words: Mike Blewitt   Images: Tim Bardsley-Smith