Updated October 2018
The R15 is the smallest of Kriega’s six Rider Packs (right), excluding the Hydro 3, and comes with all the features you expect from Kriega gear. It’s pitched at the active off-roader not wanting to carry too much on their back.
The Hydrapak is a 3-litre reservoir which slips into the R15 and all other Kriega Rider Packs.
I’ve used the R15 for two years now, from a weekend’s trail biking in Wales on the WR, 800 miles of backroads, highways and tracks between the Colorado Rockies and Phoenix, AZ on the KLX and on my Morocco tours.
What they say:
The compact, hydration compatible solution when off the beaten track. The R15 provides the freedom of movement, light weight and tough, long-lasting performance essential for the rough and tumble world of off-road riding. Incorporating Kriega’s Quadloc-lite™ system, the harness is angled away from the underarms giving total freedom of movement.
An optional waist strap is included for the extra demands of riding off-road.
Hydrapak® military spec reservoir and drink tube compatible with all Kriega Backpacks. Wide slide-seal opener for easy fill. Reversible for easy cleaning, drying.
What I think:
• Great size for biking – not too big
• Feels solid and well made
• Very well-designed hydrator – easy to use, remove and refill
• Comfortable to wear
• Removable waist strap
• Other Kriega modules (or whatever you got) easily added to the pack
• Much prefer a roll-top closure to a main zips on small backpacks
• Waterproof liner is an option
• All gets quite expensive once accessorised
• The hydrator’s mouth valve broke when dropped on concrete
• The chest strap gets in the way of jacket pocket access
I used a Kriega R30 a few years ago but sold it once the liner started delaminating and went for a similar-sized, all-PVC Over-Board (right) which is currently MiA. Handy though it may be to get a lid in there, now I think about it, both those packs were too big for my prefs. What I want most from a bike backpack is a means to carry a laptop and other valuables with me at all times, including pelting rain, as well as the capacity to run a hydrator. The simple, roll-top Over-Board did rain OK until a hole wore in the Cordura base, but was just a basic PVC sack with straps and had no special means of fitting a hydrator.
The best thing you can say about an R15 is that it fits so well you forget it’s there. One user I spoke to told me how she was struck down in a panic, convinced she’d left it somewhere, but – like the apocryphal missing specs – it was right there all along.
The arrangement of the stiff backboard (Forcefield spine protector an option), waist strap and anatomically formed straps – and not-least the Quadloc Lite chest buckle – means it sits on the back and stays there as you rattle over rough terrain.
I have to say I much prefer the zip-less roll-top closure of the R30 over the stiff-to-use but water-resistant main YKK zip of the R15 and most other Kriega packs. Case to point: cabin baggage scan at the airport. You know the deal – at the other end of the conveyor, repack, re-shoe and all the rest, but forget to do up the R15’s zip and the laptop falls out with a clatter as I walk off. I can’t be the only absent-minded traveller who does that once in a while, luckily not while riding away this time. With roll-top, if you forget to do it up, things won’t fall out unless you go flying. A zip makes it easier to get to what’s inside (left), but it’s only a small pack. get in there and grope around a little.
For exterior pockets, zips are handy. There’s an A4-sized zipped pocket on the outside and another smaller one inside behind some chunky coated mesh, for tools or sharp-edged things like keys.
The R15 uses the Quadloc Lite with a single chest clip (a Duoloc?). I recall the twin clips on the R30 felt a bit OTT, but that was a bigger bag. If you need more capacity on your R15, the US 5 and 10 Dry packs clip right on (right), or there are enough looped tapes to strap on whatever you have.
Four exterior compression straps cinch the contents down, but after a while I snipped them off as it’s just more stuff to undo, forget to do up or flap around (though Kriega go to great measures to constrain loose strap ends). It’s not like I’m racing about from checkpoint to checkpoint. Kriega do like to make merry with straps and fittings but I prefer a minimum that gets the job done. Inside there’s a pair of straps to hold the bladder in its sleeve which is a good idea, given the 3-kilo mass of a full hydrator.
The pack doesn’t come with a waterproof liner (left) – they’re another £29 to fit an R15. I’m told they use a new proofing method on the fabric which ought to last better than the old ones, though a white option (like the old ones) would be good to add luminosity inside.
Back on the bag, the reflective tape front and back will probably do more good than I’ll ever realise, and all the padding and harnessing easily measures up to the potential capacity of the pack. Like tank bags, smaller seems to work better on the back while riding, the hydrator is great, and I’ve enough dry bags going spare to use as a liner.
I’ve been using the same old 3-litre Camel bak hydrator for years for various activities including biking. Kriega’s same-sized Hydrapak is a big improvement in just about all ways and includes some features I’ve added to my Camel Bak to make it more functional.
Someone’s really had a good old think about this reservoir and addressed just about every requirement you can think of to drink water from a bag via a tube on the move. For a start it slips in easily into the sleeve inside the pack which, as mentioned, has adjustment to stop the full bag moving around when you hit a series of whoops.
The bag can be opened fully by slipping off the pinch-bar slider® over the folded-over top, giving easy filling access and, as importantly, easy cleaning and quick drying too (Osprey use a similar system). If you’ve had something other than fresh spring water in your bladder you’ll want to be able to rinse and dry it easily to prevent algea. The body of the bag is marked with a scale showing imperial and metric volumes.
More cleverness: the hose clips into the bag base with an o-ring clip lock that so far has been secure. It gets a bit stiff but that’s actually very handy when you want to refill the bag but leave the threaded-in hose in place. And at the mouth end there’s a small twist lock on the bite valve, a ridge to help the teeth get a good bite on the valve, and also a cap to keep it clean. There’s more: they’ve thoughtfully covered the hose in neoprene, again to reduce temperature variations as well as sunlight setting off more mildew in the tube. Sunlight-generated algae is harmless, but something less benign might latch on to it and contaminate your water. With my Camel Bak I find cleaning the black residue from the clear hose is awkward (no doubt they sell a hose cleaning kit) until I bought a neoprene sleeve.
Usually I use High 5 rehydration tablets in my hydrators, but in the US used plain water to make it usable for cooking too. After a day or three the water tasted pretty bitter. Don’t know if that’s the Colorado mountain bore water I was using or the new, untainted Hydrapak. If it is the later, I’m sure the aftertaste will reduce in time.
When the original Camel Bak idea came along in the 80s it offered a great step forward in near-hands-free hydration when engaged in mobile activities, not least desert biking. As I’ve found, if it’s easy to drink on the move you’ll do so – if it means faffing about with a bottle, you may not and pay the price later. Add up all the features and the Kriega Hydrapak’s well worth the price alongside a comparable Camel Bak bladder and will of course work with any pack, Kriega or otherwise.