Leatt Hydration Core 2.0 Review
Cons: Funky system to attach hydration hose to waistband, dealing with excess waistband straps is awkward
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Hyrdation Core 2.0 is a solid entry into the competitive market of mountain biking hip packs. This bag is totally functional and delivers a comfortable fit. That said, it does have its quirks, and it seems a little more complicated than some of the top options in our review. Comfort and ease of filling are two of the more impressive aspects of this pack. However, ease of drinking has some quirky design aspects that prevent it from competing with the top options.
Ease of Drinking
The Hydration Core 2.0 has a, you guessed it, 2-liter hydration bladder. There is a hose that is of adequate length to reach the rider's mouth both in and out of the saddle. Even freakishly tall or long-torsoed riders will be satisfied with the length of the hose.
The hose exits the bottom of the bladder compartment and can be routed either to the left or right side of the pack through small loops. There is a sliding clip near the nozzle that attaches the hose to the waistband when not in use. This design takes some serious getting used to. Most hydration hoses have a magnet or a hook that allows you to stow the hose on the waistband quickly and easily. It is generally quite simple to unhook the hose, have a swig, and return it to its position. More importantly, it doesn't require the rider diverting too much attention from the trail. The clip-on design found on the Leatt, on the other hand, is easy enough to remove from your waistband, but it can be very difficult to return it to the storage position on the band… especially on choppy trails. The clip looks like an office supply binder clip and requires a bit of precision to accurately clip it in place. Mix in the fact that the clip is quite small and can be hard to handle, and you have an, at times, frustrating system. While the magnet design isn't perfect, it is far better than this.
The bite valve also has a plastic cover on it, intended to keep dirt, pollen, or any other undesirable materials off your valve. Fair enough. The cover is easy enough to remove with your teeth or fingers. The bite valve itself is a circular design that allows for decent water flow. The shape is a little unusual, but it works just fine. Replacing the plastic cover is easy enough and can be done with one hand. That said, the valve cover seems unnecessary and only adds an additional step to an already complex process. None of the other hip packs in our review have this plastic cover feature.
Ease of Filling
The Hydration Core 2.0 earns a respectable score in this metric. It uses a quick-connect design, which allows you to detach the hose completely from the bladder. This makes it super easy to leave the hose in the pack when pulling the bladder out for filling. This is quite important and cannot be understated. Other packs require you to pull the hose out from its routing if you want to pull the bladder out. The quick-connect feature is user-friendly and cuts down on the amount of time the process takes. Where the hose meets the bladder, there is a small red button. Upon pressing the button, you can pull the hose out of the bladder. To re-install the hose, simply push the nozzle back where it came from, and it will clip into place. Other hip packs in our review have a more dialed quick-connect system, but this one is functional.
Once the hose is disconnected and the bladder is removed, filling it is simple. A 3-inch gray clip slides off the top of the folded bladder easily. After removing the clip, you can unfold the top of the bladder and fill it with water. The opening of the bladder is smaller than all of the competition by a good margin. This is a nice touch, as it makes it significantly easier to handle. Once the bladder is full, re-install the gray clip on the track of the folded bladder to pinch shut.
The Hydration Core is a reasonably comfortable hip pack, as it conforms to the body quite well. The majority of the backing is covered with a dimpled screen material. The very center portion of the backing is more of a nylon-like material as opposed to a ventilated screen or mesh. When this hip pack is sitting in place, it feels great against the body. All of the contact points are soft, and there are no pinch zones or irritating areas. This is not the most breezy or well-ventilated hip pack we have tested though — on warmer rides, it definitely traps some heat and causes a good deal of sweat. Still, the pleasant feel against the back makes up for this.
On the trail, this pack stays in place nicely. It doesn't bounce or flop around incessantly. One strange quirk is that while the waistband adjustment is functional, it is difficult to deal with the excess straps. Leatt includes two velcro bands that are meant to secure the extra material by folding it a few times and then using the velcro band to hold this little bundle in place. You need to do this on either side of the buckle. This takes a little bit longer than it should. To strap down the excess band securely and neatly, it takes a minute or two. If you need to adjust the band significantly, such as when you are adding and subtracting layers or a rain shell, you may need to re-do this process.
The Hydration Core 2.0 has a decent amount of storage space: 5-liters to be precise. The system is fairly intuitive and more organized than much of the competition. If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder and want a clean pack that is well-laid-out, this could be a good option.
There is a large storage compartment at the very top of the pack that holds the hydration bladder, but the next compartment towards the front is the main event. A large zipped flap unfolds to expose this area where there are two zipped, mesh pockets. One of these pockets is cell phone-sized while the other is larger and is a good spot for a wallet and some snack bars. In the main storage portion, there are black, elastic loops that help secure items. C02 cartridges, a handpump, tire levers, a multi-tool, tire plugs, these can all be stuffed into these elastic loops to hold them in place. This is nice as it keeps items from clanking around and has a clean look to it.
There are also two pockets on the portion of the pack that wraps around the hips. We could call this part of the bag the wings. These pockets are great for items you need to get to on the fly like a Clif bar or a small GPS computer, though they won't fit a modern cell phone.
The Leatt hip pack weighs 292-grams without the hydration bladder. That puts it on the lighter end of the spectrum. Weight isn't super important with a hip pack as the items you store inside have a much larger impact on total weight.
Ease of Cleaning
The Hydration Core posted a solid score here. If it gets soaked with sweat or your peanut butter and jelly sandwich explode, the materials are easy to wash in the sink or with a hose.
It is important to keep a hydration bladder clean. The quick-connect system that detaches the hose from the bladder makes it nice and simple to remove the bladder for thorough cleaning. This is important as the easier the bladder is to clean, the more likely users are to do so. The hose can be cleaned with a long pipe cleaner.
The Hydration Core 2.0 is an average value. The price tag is in line with the majority of the packs in our review. We feel this bag delivers average or slightly above average performance, but it is a little overcomplicated. We think you can do better with your hard-earned money.
The Hydration Core 2.0 is a functional hip pack that does a handful of things well. The storage compartments are very well organized, the pack is comfortable, and the hydration system is decent. It could be a viable option for the hyper-organized rider, but we feel there are better options available for the masses. There are a few design quirks that really bog down the overall performance.
— Pat Donahue
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