We test Thule's cycling hip pack

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For active commuting riders, or mountain bikers, a hip pack is ideal (Photo: Thule)
For active commuting riders, or mountain bikers, a hip pack is ideal (Photo: Thule)
  • Riding with the hip pack affords cyclists a much wider choice of clothing
  • Thule have put their design team to work and created a cycling specific hip pack
  • A hip pack offers safe and secure storage with none of the drawbacks of a backpack

As cycling increases in popularity, there has been demand for more casually styled cycling clothing. Apparel brands are servicing this need with baggy shorts, loose-fitting tops and stylish sunnies.

The problem is that many cycling clothing items don't have pockets. Whether commuting or hitting the trails, you are going to need to carry a few items and for riders who don’t like a backpack, hip packs have become a popular alternative.

Swedish cycling rack and gear specialist, Thule, has a solution for this problem. Its Rail hip pack offers hydration, food and tool storage, without the inconvenience of feeling weighed down.

Smartphone cycling
If you want to keep that Smartphone and other small items, safe, and reachable, a hip pack works well (Photo: Thule)

Big, medium and small

Thule’s hip pack range includes three models of various sizes. The four-litre option includes a hydration bladder and allows riders to locate and replace the hydration hose without taking their eyes off the trail using the patented ReTrakt magnetic hose retention. The four-litre capacity is divided between 1.5 litres of hydration and 2.5 litres of small-item storage.

Which one is best? The comfortable and versatile two-litre option offers storage for all your necessary items and has space for two water bottles in the side pockets. This makes it ideal for longer rides; these pockets are collapsible giving a streamlined fit when extra bottles are not required.

One of Thule’s smallest hip pack models is the Rail half a litre. It allows you to get the most out of quick rides with one-handed phone access and a 500ml capacity for other essentials.

A hip pack has much lower centre of gravity, and is comfier, than a backpack (Photo: Thule)

Lots of clever design features

Strapping on this pack you immediately realise this is not your dad's moon bag. The wide velcro band system is backed up by a belt clip for excellent retention.

Complementing each other, the slightly stretchable inner waistband, featuring rubber grippers ensures a comfortable fit, while the outer belt and clip ensure the pack remains in place. All this combines to ensure that the pack stays put, doesn't weigh you down and is comfortable on those long rides.

I put the two-litre pack to test on the rough trails of Buffelsdrift and Wolwespruit and came away impressed. Even when carrying two Smartphones, tools and snacks down the flow line, the pack stayed firmly in place and didn't bounce around.

The interior pouch features a couple of smaller internal pockets to keep things organised and is perfect for cash or a multi-tool. The centre section will swallow larger items like a pump and a spare tube, with some space left over for a carefully folded gilet or arm warmers.

Thule hip pack
Hip packs are robust enough to keep your devices safe, no matter what the riding conditions are (Photo: Thule)

Keeping your devices safe and secure

My favourite feature is the fleece-lined Smartphone pocket, which is large enough to fit most smartphones, even in their protective case. The side opening zipper of the Smartphone pouch, with its supporting grabber, makes one-handed access to your phone a breeze. Perfect for capturing those trail moments for Instagram. Putting your phone back is easy just as easy, even while pedalling.

The water bottle carrying capability makes this pack great for use with those bikes that only allow for one bottle cage, once your first bottle is empty you can swap to a full one from your pack. The water bottle pouches almost disappear when not in use if you are after a more streamlined pack.

Loaded pockets on a slightly baggy jersey are not ideal as it bobs around as soon as the trail gets rough. The hip pack has the carrying capacity of a small hydration pack but without the drawbacks of a backpack, like a sweaty back and sore shoulders.

What is great about the design is that it keeps items that you might need during the ride easily accessible and the lesser-needed items are stowed away in deeper storage.

Having a hip pack like this is also a great way of ensuring that all the necessary tools and spares are organised in one place. These items never need to leave the pack. Simply add your nutrition and phone and hit the trail

Thule products are of very high quality and their pricing often reflects that. Fortunately, Thule has managed to price their Rail hip pack range rather competitively.

The four-litre model, including hydration bladder, sells for R2 499, the two-litre for R1 499 and 0,5 litre will set you back R 1 199.

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