Bumbags. Yep, the word that seems to strike fear, loathing and condemnation into the collective psyches of the mountain bike world and the general population at large. Those who choose to bravely carry their essentials around their waist rather than on their back are subject to the calibre of taunts and mockery usually reserved for the schoolyard. All the while the bumbag devotee smiles inside, content to put up with the barbs in favour of the most comfortable and unobtrusive type of pack there is.
We've tried just about every bumbag available, and most do a good job of most things but a poor job with others. The Camelbak FlashFlo, while designed for runners, had the advantage of a bladder, something that backpack wearers will always covet. It was a major consideration for me also, but the FlashFlo had a tendency to twist on the hips with a full load on board. The SUP-specific Tahoe was a lot more stable, with more carrying capacity, but not enough separate pockets for tools, and too-thin straps holding it back from being a great pack. Camelbak seem to have been working on the shortcomings of their non-bike packs to develop the new bike-specific Palos pack. It has four litres of carrying space and a 1.5 litre lumbar reservoir for your liquids.
Wide straps and a large buckle are a welcome feature, and the cinch straps are well hidden until you need them. The back seems stiffer than the other packs and is well-padded, and we'll be interested to see how the ventilation fares on the trail.
One large main zipper gives access to the bladder and storage compartment, which has plenty of room for bigger stuff like tubes, food and camera. The outside flap could hold a jacket and/or pads, but we're not convinced about how secure it may be until we give it a proper run and see if our stuff is still there after a rough descent or two.
A bugbear of having a bladder in a bumbag is how to deal with the hose and valve. The other Camelback packs used a peg-like clip which attached to your jersey, which tended to pull the garment off the shoulder a bit, and not in a sexy way at all. The Palos fixes the problem with a magnetic clip on the waist belt, so the hose wraps around you and should be easy to grab and replace while on the fly. The bite-valve is still the industry standard.
A small zippered pocket on the outside for keys, cash or stash. Undo the buckle and...
...another zippered pocket reveals itself, and then...
...under the flap another two compartments ideal for tools, tyre levers and those bolts, valves and other small shit you really should carry but probably don't.
The Palos will be released as part of Camelbak's 2016 range and should be available in NZ around Oct/Nov. For now we just have to keep Rod away from it, he's in a bit of a state about this well-sorted little pack already.