It’s probably no secret that I have had a “bromance” with Kurt Caselli for quite some time. While surfing the Internet for various videos and pictures of “The Man”, two questions have constantly haunted me: “Why is Kurt Caselli so awesome?” and “What is that red hose sticking out of his helmet?”. The answer to the first question still eludes me, but luckily after my recent trip to the ISDE in Germany I found an answer to the second question.
That red hose is connected to a hydration system made by a Swedish company called USWE (pronounced you-swe) that started manufacturing premium hydration packs to suit their own personal needs. From there, the news spread about their products and now that red hose can be seen connected to many World Champions, as well in pictures of Team USA at the 2012 ISDE. After talking to a representative at the ISDE, I knew I needed to test this system to see how well it actually worked.
Upon first inspection, I knew this was going to be a great product. The pack feels to be made of a very high-quality material. The stitching looks to be very durable and should last years of riding and taking dirt samples. I do not know the material used in the creation of the tubing, but it feels a bit thin and flimsy. Many months of testing will prove whether how it feels determines how it actually performs.
Before just showing up to ride and strapping the pack on, I decided to give it a bit of a test run at my house. I filled up the bladder, strapped the pack on and placed my chest protector and jersey over it. Though my daughter gave me a few concerning looks, the process was quick and the pack was easy to adjust.
The only concern I had was with the cap on the bladder. Trying to screw the cap on proved to be a bit difficult because of the connected hose. As the cap was tightened, the hose would tangle up and try to unscrew the cap while repositioning it. This is not a deal breaker, but it seems there could be better options for a more efficient closure setup.
Getting the bladder in the pack was a no-fuss process, making it easy to quickly place your arms through the pack straps and go ride. The adjustments on the straps are super simple to use on the fly and don’t leave any excess straps dangling in the way. I was a bit leery of the one-buckle system, but it proved to be very sturdy and capable. There seems to be a lot of extra tubing from bladder to mouth, but this offers the opportunity to cut the tubing to the desired length.
Once I was at the trail and gearing up to ride, the pack setup went smoothly. The pack fit great underneath my FLY Racing Pivotal Lite Roost Guard and the whole setup was snug and comfortable. While riding, the pack never moved, bucked or got in the way. This was the best fitting system I have ever used for hydration. I wanted to test the USWE Hydration pack as it comes stock, so I had not cut the tubing yet. It did snag on a few branches due to the 90 degree bend. However, this is no fault of the product, just a nature of a bent bite valve.
The hydration pack I was testing had an 85oz bladder. For off-road I see this as the standard setup. The 18oz pack might work for some, such as those that are coming through the pits fairly often, but for longer races or Enduros, the 2.5L bladder was what I needed to be testing. USWE does offer a quick refill bottle setup that alleviates the need to remove the pack. For a fast pit or easy refill at a gas stop, this would be a great accessory to have.
The 85oz pack also has a small compartment on the back that could fit keys, a phone or a snack bar. If the pack is being worn under a jersey or chest protector, it might be a bit of a struggle to get to this compartment, but it is great to have this option available.
My final impression is that this is the hydration pack everyone should be using. The single buckle with adjustable straps keeps the pack in the exact spot you want it in and the elastic allows for all angles of movement. Holding 85 ounces, the system provided enough water for just under 2 hours of riding and was fairly easy to refill. I rate this product 4 out of 5 pints only because I feel the closure system on the bladder needs some work. I will continue to use this product and will have a long-term review up in the next few months. In addition, the hands-free system USWE offers will be attached to an older helmet to see if the juice is worth the squeeze.
4 Pints of Awesome