I was perfectly happy with the kid-sized Camelbak I got my son when he was, what, six years old? But when the wasteful child was last home from college and saw it drying on the clothesline, he disposed of it while I wasn’t looking in spite of the fact I told him Jimmy Lewis himself had told me the black stuff growing in the hose was nothing to be concerned about. It had been colonizing in there since the mid ’oughts and hadn’t killed me yet. With another long hot summer fast approaching, I was forced to obtain a new “hydration system.” I never do any of the sort of serious “enduro” riding this kind of backpack is really designed for, but over the years I’ve found they’re also fantastic for street riding, especially when it’s hot and dry. And especially if I’m going anywhere with Brad Banister.
All signs pointed toward Kriega, designed in the U.K. and reportedly very high-quality gear. A couple weeks later, a new Hydro 3 Enduro backpack appeared on my doorstep. The “3” denotes this one holds 3 liters of liquid – nearly ¾ of a gallon, which is a lot. The opening of the heavy-duty bladder is almost like the one to a Ziploc baggie, meaning it’s easy to fill with water and big chunks of ice. When you fold it over and slide the plastic closure deal on, it’s watertight and ready to roll.
Unlike my (really) old Camelbak, the drink tube at the bottom of the Kriega bladder has a quick-connect fitting, which means you can take it off the bladder and dry both things out thoroughly between uses. And if the black mold grows in the tube anyway, you’ll never know it because the Kriega tube is insulated, which is really nice: That first slurp of water is never 100 degrees. The pack itself has a layer of insulation too, and keeps its contents cool for quite a while, if it starts out cool, anyway. I guess you could do hot coffee in Alaska?
Three liters of liquid and the pack itself must weigh 6 pounds or so, but Kriega’s “Quadloc” harness system does an excellent job distributing that weight so you barely know it’s there. Once it’s adjusted (over a really wide range), you only need to snap one snap atop your breastbone to keep it in place, though it comes with a waist strap, too, for serious off-road nuts. With a leather jacket on, you really don’t know the Hydro pack is there. It’s comfortable enough, in fact, that I throw it on over a T-shirt to pedal my bicycle 15 miles to the beach with zero discomfort. And after I get there, it also makes an excellent pillow for passing out flat on my back in the sand exhausted, prior to the 15-mile pedal home. (I wonder why nobody makes a “dual-bladder” system? A big one full of water for getting there, and a smaller one full of gin-and-tonic for muscle and psychiatric rehab?) Nobody’s going to claim the Hydro 3 is a back protector, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have between your spine and a solid object should it come to that.
My Hydro 3 is really just big enough for the bladder itself, but a zipper on the side of the pouch would easily let you slide in a money clip and phone – though Kriega threw a Kube in with my order, which is a small zippered pouch just for those small items, which you can attach to one of the front straps. There’s also an elastic cord on back for carrying miscellaneous items, and various buckles for other Kriega accessories. With this thing and a tank bag for clean pantalones and a toothbrush, you’re all set for a day or two on yon streetbike. It seems like nearly every gas station has a soft drink fountain these days; instead of of shelling out for some plastic container of Dow or Monsanto liquid, you can just open the Kriega’s wide maw and fill it (for free!) with ice and water. It sort of feels like getting one over on the Coca-Cola Company. And God forbid you do break down in the middle of the Mojave, you’ll be very glad you’re carrying hydration.
If you’d rather carry a bigger backpack, Kriega makes 15- and 20-liter Hydro packs as well that will contain a 3L bladder or three, along with a full line of other packs, panniers, and assorted objets d’ moto. There are cheaper alternatives than this $139 sweetheart, but the Hydro 3 appears to be so well thought out and put together, it will, in all likelihood, outlive me.
For more information, visit http://www.kriega.us.