Australian Mountain Bike - - Tested - WORDS: KATH BICK­NELL PHO­TOS: TIM BARDSLEY-SMITH

If you want to ride longer than an hour, a good hy­dra­tion pack is a must-have ac­ces­sory for any moun­tain biker. It’s a place to store your tools, spare cloth­ing in case the weather changes, a first aid kit and enough food and wa­ter to power you through a solid ride. While broader women and ladies with less hip definition are of­ten com­fort­able in a uni­sex pack, other fe­male body shapes ben­e­fit from gen­der spe­cific de­signs. Load­ing up the Raven, I was im­me­di­ately pleased to see that the shoul­der and chest straps of­fered plenty of ad­just­ment while stay­ing close to the body. It is a lot like the CamelBak Women’s L.U.X.E. at first sight, which is sim­i­larly priced and, like the Raven of­fers 10L stor­age in­clud­ing a 3L blad­der. While most packs of this shape of­fer mul­ti­ple fea­tures to stash or sep­a­rate your goods, in­clud­ing ex­pand­able stor­age at the front, the Raven has some more re­fined fea­tures that re­ally stand out. Th­ese in­clude a zip­pered sec­tion cov­er­ing the hy­dra­tion hose, which makes thread­ing the hose from the blad­der a two-sec­ond job, not a two-minute one, and a wide open­ing at the top of the blad­der that makes it easy to re­fill mid-ride without pulling the blad­der all the way out of the pack. The hel­met car­rier tab is sim­ple and ef­fec­tive and a roll-up tool pouch sits down the bot­tom via an ex­ter­nal pocket, keep­ing th­ese hard ob­jects out of the way in the case of a crash. Ma­te­rial on the in­side en­cour­ages users to store a pump on the side and away from the spine for the same rea­son. Out on the trails, the Raven seemed to dis­ap­pear from con­scious­ness which, for a lot of rid­ers, is the best qual­ity you could ask for. The mesh-cov­ered foam back panel and the breath­able “biostretch har­ness” come into their own here, mov­ing with the body rather than main­tain­ing a rigid shape. I also liked the strong pull of the mag­net at­tached to the chest strap. This al­lowed me to re­po­si­tion the hose be­tween drinks without fid­dling, or even look­ing, to store it se­curely across the torso. One end of the chest strap is fixed to the shoul­der strap, which also stood out for its func­tional sim­plic­ity. It’s much eas­ier to fas­ten while rid­ing with gloves on, com­pared to try­ing to co­or­di­nate two straps that hang. The Raven is avail­able in 10L and 14L op­tions, and in three colours (the royal pur­ple tested, as well as orange or green). The men’s equiv­a­lent is the Rap­tor pack in black, red or blue. While I was ini­tially at­tracted to the 10L pack to carry my DSLR cam­era out on the trails, I was sur­prised how of­ten I reached for this pack off the trails. Un­loaded, it can just fit a 13” MacBook, al­beit at a di­ag­o­nal, and the side pock­ets on the waist­band prove very handy for keys, snacks or an iPhone 5 sized mo­bile. There was only one fea­ture that ir­ri­tated me, which was the waist strap. It’s de­signed to of­fer quick, easy ad­just­ment, but the com­pro­mise is that it’s hard to keep it neat and tidy while rid­ing. This not only looks a lit­tle messy, but I found the loops at the end of the ad­just­ment straps some­times got caught on my rear shock valve when car­ry­ing my bike over ob­jects or up stairs. The Raven 10 is a hy­dra­tion pack I would rec­om­mend, not be­cause of one big thing, but due to lots of lit­tle as­pects which make it ex­cep­tion­ally func­tional for moun­tain bik­ing. In fact, the longer I used it, the more I ap­pre­ci­ated sev­eral thought­ful fea­tures that aren’t al­ways ob­vi­ous at a shop or when com­par­ing var­i­ous op­tions on­line. It left me with the impression that it has evolved as the re­sult of con­sid­ered feed­back from peo­ple who use and abuse th­ese packs reg­u­larly. This cer­tainly makes it a wor­thy choice if longer moun­tain bike rides, or car­ry­ing some ex­tra gear, is high on your pri­or­ity list.


- Moves with you on the bike - Well thought out fea­tures


- When will waist straps get neater?


$199.95 os­prey­packs.com/au

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