I haven’t written a review in awhile as it just didn’t seem appropriate with the world facing more pressing issues than figuring out which gear to buy. And to be honest, my pandemic brain simply found it too difficult to focus enough to write. But now that most of us can venture out and indeed are encouraged to get out and get some fresh air and exercise, I figured now is as good a time as any to start talking gear and local adventure again. The ability to get outdoors is what saved me the past few months and I believe will continue to bring us some solace now.
Just before the world shut down, I traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona for a few days of mountain biking, hiking, and camping in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve with Hydro Flask. The goal was to test out their latest hydration pack—the 14L Down Shift—as well as a variety of other gear.
The Down Shift comes as a complete redesign from the initial hydration pack models that Hydro Flask released last year and is much better for it—I found the very first model to be a bit too heavy and bulky for a mountain bike pack. But the latest iteration not only pairs down the pack and lightens it up, but moves the bulk of the weight to the base of the pack thanks to a new lumbar reservoir and opens up more room for your gear.
Hydro Flask worked with HydraPak to design an insulated 2-liter reservoir that sits inside a reflective-lined neoprene sleeve at the base on the main pack compartment. This system, combined with an articulated back panel that prevents body heat transfer as you work up a sweat, helps to maintain cold water temperatures for four or more. After hiking and biking all day beneath the hot Arizona sun, we all still had ice chunks in our reservoirs as we rolled back into camp.
The reservoir hose disconnects for easy filling and cleaning and the bite valve self-seals after you drink so you don’t get water dribbling down your shirt as you ride or hike. The main pack compartment offers 14 liters of storage in addition to the reservoir storage so you can easily fit extra layers, bike tools, and snacks. The outside of the pack delivers the usual bike-related features such as helmet attachment loops, bike light attachment, and integrated whistle on the chest strap. A pocket at the top of the pack uses a soft liner to protect your phone or sunglasses.
In addition to the hydration packs, we all tested out some new crossover shoes from Five Ten. Called the Trailcross series, the shoes are lightweight and extremely breathable, with the traditional sticky rubber, dotty-tread outsole that has more aggressive lugs at the toe and heel to add grip when hiking.
While the flexible midsole lends comfort to all day wear and hiking, it also offers just enough stiffness on the bike to keep you moving efficiently. Coming in three different models gradually offering more coverage—LT, XT, and Mid Pro—the LT and XT feature drainage ports in the midsole to help keep your feet dry in wet conditions. The Mid Pro offers a full sock construction to help keep debris out of your shoes and added ankle protection made from impact resistant foam.
I find that sometimes Five Ten mountain bike shoes can seem quite stiff but the new Trailcross collection uses traditional helmet lining foam in place of the usual thick padded foam to make them more comfortable for all day wear, especially when hiking.
Both the Hydro Flask 14L Down Shift hydration pack and the Five Ten Trailcross series of shoes are available now.