Considering I support myself (somewhat anyway) by reviewing gear, I probably shouldn’t confess that sometimes gear simply overwhelms me. That’s why I run—grab some shoes (or not) and you’re good to go. So when I was invited to the Mountain Hardwear pack testing weekend, I went for the camaraderie and good food, but I got an amazing education as well!
Being fitted with a sport-specific pack (Mountain Hardwear’s Fluid 10 is ideal for trail running, hiking and mountain biking) by the person who designed the pack, and having them show you all of the relevant features is an amazing experience. Going on an 11-mile hike/run with Eric, the pack designer, to give our instant, on-the-trail feedback was over-the-top.
You should be wondering how in the hell I’m able to give an unbiased review after such ideal pack testing conditions. Good question—you may just have to try it for yourself!
After other testers tried the Fluid 10, we decided the compact yet roomy 10-liter pack works best on a small to medium-frame person. It has a snug, surprisingly jostle-free fit, with on-the-fly compression to adjust your load without removing the pack. Newsflash for me: sternum straps should be on your sternum—yup that bone just below your neck. No boob smashing required! The sternum strap on the Fluid 10 is on a sliding track for micro-adjustments.
Other features of note for our gear obsessed readers:
- The HardWave frame sheet in the back panel truly keeps the back from collapsing without being rigid;
- The back panel has plenty of mesh for good ventilation;
- The soft-edged shoulder straps rock—no chafing and good breathability; and
- The easy access (it really is!), zipper-free hydration sleeve is simple to use and holds most bladders up to 3 liters.
The Fluid 10 has zippered mesh pockets on the waist belt for essentials. They are handy and you can reach them with the pack on, but it’s a two handed affair best done while standing still. The stretch woven side pockets provide even more storage space for gear or water bottles. I could not reach the pockets with the pack on, and fully loaded with a three-liter bladder and two water bottles, the pack gets heavy in a hurry.
The pack is equipped with stretch cords, loops and an internal zippered pocket, but my favorite innovation is the externally accessed, fleece-lined pocket for glasses or a phone. Think about it, the outside top bit of a pack is always empty, so adding an outside pocket for fragile things is a brilliant use of space.
All-in-all it’s a good pack with room for all I need, and then some, for a day on the trails. The Fluid series also comes in 18, 26 and 32 liter sizes for fast-packing and longer trips—you do know the number refers to liter size right? Of course, you already knew that! The 1 pound, 4 ounce Fluid 10 will retail for $80 and will debut with the rest of its kin in Spring 2010.
[We here at iRunFar.com are happy to introduce the newest member of our editorial staff, Allison Pattillo. A Carbondale, Colorado-based outdoor enthusiast and former editor at Trail Runner Magazine, we couldn’t be more excited about adding her contributions under the moniker of Non-Gear Girl.
Why Non-Gear Girl? Because Allison appreciates useful products, not extraneous “gear” for gear’s sake. Allison explains: “My take on gear is that it has to serve its purpose, be good quality and easy to use. I don’t like gimmicks and tend to be rather suspicious of new things and updates — what was wrong with the old one? But once a product proves its worth, I’m sold. But if gear doesn’t augment my running experience, it goes straight to the interns – used to anyway!”]