Bladder packs, bleh. I once won a smaller bladder pack at a smallish 10k some years back. I'd never used one for running or hiking, but it was free so thought why not give it a go. I gave it a good old college try, but it never amounted to anything. While it was nice to have water on the go – this was long before I had heard of running with water on your person – the fit just wasn't right, and I really didn't enjoy wearing it. Soon enough it was relegated to the closet and eventually lost amid one of our many house moves. Before it had gotten lost, I had fallen in love with pretty much all of the Orange Mud packs, so losing a bladder pack that I never really used anyway wasn't much of a loss. In fact, it was kind of a win as I no longer had to hear my wife ask me if I really needed “this stupid water bag” and I didn't have to feel bad about throwing away something “useful.”
A couple of years later, when my Achilles really started acting up, I took to the bike. Road biking isn't something I particularly enjoy, but being that I do enjoy my fitness – it seemed a good idea. Unlike most road bikers, I wasn't all high tech. My bike was my father's old bike – ca. 1973 Raleigh Racer. It was heavy and had a water bottle carriage in the center of the handle bars. It was also summertime in Georgia and one water bottle wouldn't cut it, so I started wearing my Vest Pack 2 – it gave me ample water and I could easily carry a cellphone in case of a tire blow out (patch kit, what?). So while the VP2 worked pretty well for the bike, on a couple of occasions going up hill, I found that I would be leaning forward and bouncing so much (did I mention the dérailleurs were limited to only two gears?) that I would dump a bottle out of the pack and it would go skittering in front of me.
Sometime just before I started getting on the bike, Orange Mud released their version of a bladder pack. I had been in love with their packs before this, but the addition of a bladder pack to their line up made me turn my head a bit. I was certain I would never purchase one. I hate bladder packs. That was until I started biking more. I found myself kind of stuck. I needed another way to carry more water, and I hated bladder packs, but I love Orange Mud. I caved and picked up a green Endurance Pack. It had some of the same design features as the other OM packs – two stretchy pockets on the shoulders big enough to fit a fist or any number of things, two breast pockets (still not big enough to comfortable fit a cheeseburger), and some super soft materials.
It fit quite well – dare I say – almost better than my VP2. There was plenty of space to bring along my phone and tablet (you know, in case I catch a flat), and the bladder is huge and secure for those 94 degree rides. As time wore on, my Achilles started to heal and I started to run a little bit. More often than not, I didn't need to bring the EP along, but I did – mostly just to figure out whether or not my favorite pack on the bike would be my new favorite pack off the bike. (And partly because I dream of running some ultras again so any mileage vetting gear is good mileage.)
To start, the bladder that comes with the pack is a Hydrapak bladder that holds up to two litres of liquid – two litres. That's a whole bottle of Mt. Dew, or Coke. (Though if you put two litres of soda in there, there is no telling what will happen once it starts shaking about...). If soda isn't your thing, that's room for a 1.5l bottle of wine. Not the little guy, but the big one. Or better yet, how about a half gallon of chocolate milk? It'd fit.
When all is said and done, the only real drawbacks I've found are found within the bladder – and to be fair – are consistent across the bladder board. While they're easy enough to rinse, you need to a.) remember to rinse it, and b.) make sure you thoroughly dry it. If you forget your bladder for a few days with something in it – lets hope its not chocolate milk – the bladder will start picking up flavours and odors and you may just start having flashbacks to your dirty bpa-riddled Nalgene from high school. When you do rinse it, you need to dry otherwise you run into the same issue or worse, mold. The valve and tube provide the same issue but even more so. You can rinse your bladder, but unless you remember to drain the tube, the fluid will remain in it until your next use. One trick I've found is to disconnect the tube, pinch the bite-valve and swing it in a circle. (Do this outside!)
The other issue I've had with the bladder is the seal across the top. It's a fairly simple design, the top flops over and exposes some teeth that a hard plastic piece slides over thus completing the seal. On occasion – and I can't figure out why – the hard plastic seems to get stuck on the teeth, or it's tough to push on. It's almost as if I'm cross threading a screw, but when I examine it, that's not the case. It's simple enough to pull the black plastic off, and shove it back on, but figured I'd mention it. (Not a fault of Orange Mud, or maybe even the Hydrapak folks, just something to consider.)
Now, onto all the goodness. Two things that I've always thought set OM packs apart from the rest are the amount of storage built in, and the fit/ride. The Endurance Pack is no different. One of my concerns was how it would sit on my back. In the past with other bladder packs, I found the bladder would sit too low on my back and over time would leave my lower back/shoulders a little achey. The Endurance Pack rides high – not quite as high as the VP – well above the small of the back and the dual chest straps seem to relieve my shoulders of any discomfort. The part of the pack the actually rides against your back is made of some super soft material that not only breaths but gives a little bit of padding – just enough to be perfect. There are essentially no seems that really come into contact with your body on the back. The first seem that really touches you is on the top of the shoulder and, for me, was unnoticeable. The chest pockets also have some seems, but the way they ride leaves them pretty harmless and I've gone unchaffed using this pack shirtless.
The first time I used the VP2, it took a little toying with the straps to get it to fit just right. I had to stop a couple times mid-run to adjust. Of course, once it was dialed in, there was no issue, but getting it there took a couple of tries. For some reason, the EP didn't have this issue. I played with the adjustment straps once, and it was all set. There are more straps on the EP than the VP2, so I'm wondering if it doesn't have more of an organic fit. Either way, getting the right fit is an easy task.
After comfort and fit comes probably the biggest thing with any pack: how much can it hold? As I mentioned earlier, the bladder is 2 liters – which is a whole bunch of liquid. The pack itself is built like the VP2 pack with two shoulder pockets that ride on top of the shoulder. They don't look that big but can fit a fair number of things, including my fist. The pockets have an elastic mouth and a high quality velcro strap that closes them up nicely. The front of the EP also has two chest pockets for easy access to gels and other high necessity items. While I haven't tried it, the rumor is you can fit a soft flask into the chest pocket if you need to carry two types of liquid with you (think water and electrolyte). The chest pockets are stretchy and carry a large number of things, but are limited as the mouth of the pocket is a non-stretchy material that encloses a shock cord to snug the pocket shut. (This is seldom an issue as things that won't fit in the chest pockets, can fit in the shoulder pockets.)
So where do we stand so far in terms of storage? Four pockets that can easily be accessed from the front without removing the pack.
But wait, there's more! The back! Not only is the back of the pack where the bladder is stored, but it also doubles up as not one, but two pockets! The bladder pocket is the closest pocket to to the body. It closes with a velcro strap that feeds through the top of the bladder pack and then closes in on itself. I suppose if you really wanted to stuff some extra goodies in there, you could, but I wouldn't recommend it. The second pocket on the back is also accessed from the top, and opens parallel to the bladder pocket. The fabric is soft, smooth and stretchy. I imagine it would be a good place for maps – though I use it for my tablet (pictures!) and with a little effort, I can get my tablet both in and out of the pocket without having to remove the pack. Finally, the last true pocket on the rear of the EP is a zippered pocket that opens vertically the length of the pack. Inside the pocket is soft and smooth for delicate items (I imagine a phone or other electronic device would be much safer from the elements in this pocket). It also – like all OM packs – has a nice little clip if you want to put your keys in there. Zip it closed, and there is no way they'll be escaping somewhere out on the trail.
One side note about the rear pockets – as you fill the bladder more, the space in the pockets starts to be restricted when putting hard, non-bendable items in i.e. an 8” tablet.
Lastly, the rear of the pack features two one inch webbing loops and a clip-strap. What are these meant for? Tying things on, like trekking poles or other objects. (You can purchase the trekking pole upgrade when you order or afterwards. Basically, you're purchasing the shock cord and hardware that holds the poles in place.) I've used them to strap extra clothes to, and they've worked quite well. The Endurance Pack also comes in the traditional Orange (I had to try the green this time...), grey, lime green - like the one I have, and white. I pre-ordered the EP when the only color selections were orange and green. If I hadn't, I'd own that white. It looks seriously dope.
You can also pick up some extra add-ons:
Direct cut and paste from the Orange Mud website, all the stats:
- Pack Weight: - 270grams, 9.5oz.
- Dimensions: 10"W x 13" tall / Volume 6 liters.
- Bladder: HydraPak 2L (70oz) elite, with quick disconnect and blaster valve.
- Compartment 1: Bladder compartment
- Compartment 2: Main cargo
- Compartment 3: Zippered elastic pocket with secure key clip.
- Material details: Our stretch fabric is tough, abrasion resistant, & endurance designed.
- Shoulder pocket storage: Phone, gel, nutrition, electrolyte and more, both sides.
- Front chest pocket storage: 15oz/450ml soft flask capable.
- Front adjustments: 2 elastic straps have multiple adjustment locations.