Southern California’s 2017 summer was somewhat mild in terms of heat until the temperature’s recently soared to around 110 degrees. Lately I’ve been riding a lot of moto (Kris is trying to turn this off-road goober into at least a Ronnie Mac), until I got my hands on the Husky TE250i. I immediately headed into the dry and dusty hills of the high desert in seemingly the hottest month of summer. Kris put me in charge of the USWE Ranger 9 hydration pack, so I was excited to see what it had to offer in terms of storage (I’m kind of a bring everything AND the kitchen sink trail rider) as well as it’s hydration capacity (I’m also kind of a “Hey lets go up that canyon and see if it leads to a dead end” trail rider).
I’ve used many hydration packs in my numerous years exploring the California deserts; everything from those goofy crossbar water jugs, an MSR hydration bottle that basically zip tied onto your chest protector, to racing desert Hare and Hounds with a small pack that has a disconnect and fed right into my helmet mouthpiece. Now that I’m a washed up vet rider, I’m all about practicality and functionality, so when I got the Ranger 9 I was happy to see that when they say one size fits all it really does. There are two orientations to put the Velcro chest straps that allow the pack to fit from medium to extra-large. I’m 6’0 170 pounds and with the adjusters snugged up tight, when full, it hugged my body tight but not uncomfortably and had plenty of adjustment to be loosened if desired. The chest strap is simple, straight forward and kept the pack in place throughout multiple trail rides. The main compartment is for the hydration pack which holds 100oz (basically almost 6 normal sized water bottles), and also has a mesh pocket that I used for cliff bars and snacks. The bladder itself is well made, seals well, is easy to fill, and best of all the bite valve is fantastic. It doesn't drip on me while I ride, but it also has good flow and easy to get water out of while riding.
On the outside of the pack there is a top pocket that is big enough to hold a cell phone, tow strap, or microfiber for you goggles. The third and largest storage pocket has elastic loops to hold a multi tool, tube of quick steel, or screwdriver. There is a label inside the pouch to put important info just incase the pack is left next to the trail (which I have done in the past). Also, in the third pocket is a Velcro pouch where I kept my wallet, it’s towards the bottom of the pack which is where I like to store the heavier items (no I’m not saying I’m rich, just giving a comfort tip). Lastly there is a mesh pocket where I kept my keys, I like to keep them separated from my phone so they don’t scratch it or break the screen in a crash. Even with all the items I listed, the pack still had a little room to shove a few more snacks in without looking like I was a hunchback. Overall, I’d say that USWE did a great job designing a hydration pack that carries a lot of cargo as well as water. The only thing I wish the Ranger 9 pack had is a clip to hold my keys. Although they were secure in the mesh pocket, there is always that fear of getting back to the truck and realizing your keys fell out of your pack when you opened it up on the trail. With an MSRP of $112.26 the Ranger 9 isn’t cheap, but having used goofy cross bar water jugs, it’s worth the price and I would recommend it to any hardcore day long trail rider. USWE makes a wide range of hydration packs from backpack size to small packs which attach to neck braces, so if you’re looking for a hydration pack to help stay cool, check out all of USWE’s products at uswe-sports.com. - Michael Allen