Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
The Drankful “Mountain Bike Waist Pack” as it’s referred to on the startup’s Kickstarter campaign, buried under what appears to be the company’s main focus (a running pack), isn’t just a good first attempt at a hip bag for mountain biking, it holds up against offerings from top brands in the space like Camelbak, Osprey and Dakine.
I’ll be the first to admit that the Drankful hip pack resembles one of those soft lunchbox things from the ’90s. It looks like it should come with a fountain pen sleeve and dedicated TI-83 pocket. It’s got a bit of of a nerdy vibe.
And that’s sorta what I like about it.
Sorta. I mean, I don’t love how square it looks, or that the pillowy-looking, foam-insulated panels that give the compartment its shape have this glossy sheen to them, complete with reflective piping. I don’t love that it’s easy to imagine six Capri Suns lined up inside the cooler-like main compartment. Or do I?
What drew me to order a sample of the Drankful Waist Pack in the first place was the fact that it looked organized. I appreciate organization. Mesh pockets line the inside of the main compartment, which itself has a wide, zippered lid with its own zippered mesh pocket on the inside surface. I’m able to throw key items such as a multi-tool, tire plugs, CO2 cartridges, spares kit, and extra tube in the elastic mesh pockets, while bigger items like mini tire and shock pumps, sunglasses, or a light jacket, can all fit in the rectangular well of the main compartment. The zippered pocket on the lid is good for things like keys, money, or a tire pressure gauge. On the front panel is another zippered pocket that’s handy for carrying snacks. It’s actually just about the perfect size to be a quick-access map pocket, if there’s anyone left out there who carries paper maps.
Probably the same crowd who got the TI-83 reference also still carries paper maps. A smart group of folks.
I also like that the hose for the hydration bladder has a really solid magnetic connection with an extra layer of anti-flop technology in the form of a little plastic clip to mechanically make the magnetic hose holster more secure. My least favorite thing about hip bags with hydration bladders is their poor hose management. The hose needs to be long to reach all the way up to your mouth, so it basically has to wrap around your waist, with the nozzle end nested somehow simultaneously securely, while also being easily accessible. It seems like a pretty simple thing, but not many folks nail it, and crap hose management is an instant deal-breaker when it comes to practical use on the trail. On this metric, the Drankful passes where many fail.
Stability is another problem that plagues bladder-equipped bum bags. Add a floppy bladder and the whole bag becomes a floppy mess. But since the Drankful uses a not-too-big 1.5-liter Hydrapak bladder, it never get’s too bad. Still, it’s floppier than a bottle-based lumbar pack and has the inherent quality that all bladder hip packs have of the waist band needing adjustment as the water in the bladder is consumed. Every few sips, you need to cinch the belt a little more to take up the room left by the shrinking bladder.
There are deployable elastic mesh pockets on the sides of the pack that are designed to hold bottles, but unlike the rest of the pack, they lack structure and are therefore difficult to get a bottle into one-handed. They’re really more of a last resort kind of thing.
But I do love that they’re there. I also love the zippered pockets on the waistband, as well as the Fidlock main buckle—both of which are premium features not found on many hip packs made by established brands. I love that the zipper pulls are burly and how breathable the material against the body is. So, while the overall aesthetic of the Drankful hip pack probably won’t land it on my upcoming “top 5 sexiest bum bags for your sexy bum” listicle, the usability and feature-set make the product stand out above most other hip packs I’ve worn.
Function over fashion, just like any good nerd knows.