Drinking from a hip pack has never been super easy when you’re running or riding a bike. Either you’re reaching back, grabbing blindly for a water bottle, or you’re wrangling a long hose that’s annoying at best and a snag-risk at worst.
The Mazama Sidestream addresses these issues with a retractable hose that you simply draw from the waist belt, drink from and then release — it recoils back into the pack by itself. It’s a great idea. But when the hose kinked, which it inevitably did, it made it tough to get water when I needed it.
The pack itself settled snuggly in the small of my back and cinched securely in place. I liked the low center of gravity and ventilation compared to a backpack. Inside, the two main compartments were mostly filled up by the 45-ounce reservoir and hose, with room for a few small essentials. Another zippered stash pocket held my keys. I ultimately ended up removing the reservoir and hose and used the pack to carry my smartphone, wallet, multitool, snacks, compact jacket, etc.
The verdict? For a long ride or race, I still prefer the confidence and convenience of a traditional hydration pack. But for short rides and runs, a grab-and-go hip bag like this one lets you get the gear off your back. $59. mazamadesigns.com