I was skimming through a magazine the other day and saw that Fox Outdoor was promoting a line of packs in safety orange. This new color option appears to be geared toward hunters, but I took an immediate interest for other reasons:
- Orange is my favorite color.
- I’d prefer not to get shot while wandering through the woods.
- The extra visibility might be useful when riding my bike.
- It’s “tacti-cool” without looking like I’m on deployment in the state park.
Since switching from hiking to biking as my main mode outdoor travel, I was also looking to get a pack that’s a little more streamlined than my Pygmy Falcon II. With all of that in mind, I ordered the Fox Outdoor Compact Hydration Pack in orange. Today marks my third day of field-testing it.
This pack from Fox Outdoor is designed as a small day pack with a focus on hydration. Remember all of those complaints I had about the hydration capabilities of the Pygmy Falcon II? None of them exist with this pack, so I immediately loved it. There’s a dedicated pocket for your hydration bladder in the back panel, as well as a very nice pass-through in the shoulder strap for the drinking tube. Each shoulder strap has an elastic band to keep the tube secure on the left or right side. If you don’t have a hydration bladder, you’re in luck; this pack comes with one.
I expected the included 2.5L hydration bladder to be – quite frankly – a piece of crap. The best case scenario in my mind was that it would be on par with the passable $10 hydration bladders that I’ve bought off Amazon in the past since this entire pack setup cost me about $55. Man, was I surprised! The hydration bladder is actually pretty nice. The material is a thicker plastic so it doesn’t feel like a water balloon on the verge of popping. There’s a wide-mouth opening that makes it easy to fill (although the screw cap isn’t tethered to the bag in any way.) The drinking tube even comes with a black cover to protect it and help keep the liquid inside cool. Once filled, the bladder hangs nicely inside the pocket using a hook-and-loop tab (another thing lacking from the Pygmy Falcon II.)
In other words, this bad boy is a real hydration pack. The only thing I didn’t really like was the standard not-great bite valve which I immediately replaced with a Hydrostorm Bite-Me Valve. Yes, the Bite-Me cost half as much as the entire pack, but I really like the 90-degree bend and the on-off twist valve.
As far as capacity goes, the Fox pack overdelivered. At 17″ x 8″ x 5″, it holds pretty much the same amount of gear as the Pygmy. (You can see in the comparison shot that the size of the packs is nearly the same.) If there’s anything I really miss about the Pygmy Falcon II, it’s the two water bottle pockets on the sides. When you move your extra water into the pack, you’re losing quite a bit of space, and since I like to travel with a bottle full of electrolyte mix seperate from my hydration bladder, this is a noteworthy loss.
That being said, I’ve been able to carry everything I need for a day out in the woods without having to unzip the expanding main compartment, so that means I have quite a bit of room to spare.
The pack rode well on my back. It does have both a sternum strap (with elastic, so it doesn’t constrict) and a waist belt but I rarely use either. Riding or running, the pack is great. The shoulder straps are a bit narrower than those on something like the Pygmy, but they were very comfortable. The mesh backing on the straps and the vented back panel kept me cool and comfortable.
The MOLLE straps on the pack are useful, as always. The point of buying this was to be streamlined, so I didn’t add anything excessive. I did attach my Maxpedition Volta battery holder/pouch to the lowest row of straps, which makes it sit almost perfectly along the “bottom” of the pack.
The color of the pack is very much “safety orange.” If you’re concerned about it being a bit too in-your-face, I wouldn’t worry about it. Even after spraying down the bag with Camp Dry fabric protector before its first use, the dirt really sticks. Drag the bag around in the dirt a couple of times and it will be a few shades less obscenely-orange.
- Extremely well-suited to carrying a hydration bladder. A purpose-built hydration pack.
- Holds a lot more than it looks like it will.
- The internal pocket organizers are well-designed and the interior mesh pockets have enough stretch to actually put things in them.
- The included 2.5L hydration bladder is pretty nice.
- Seems to be very well-built so far.
- For the money, I don’t think you can beat this pack.
- No exterior water bottle pockets (if you care about that sort of thing.)
- The included bite valve on the hydration bladder isn’t that great.
- The MOLLE straps seem to be a thinner webbing than I’m used to. I don’t know how well they’d hold up to a heavy load…if nothing else, they seem like they would sag.
I can’t think of a reason not to buy this bag. At $55 on Amazon, it’s a steal. If you’re not into the bright orange, it’s also available in coyote, olive drab, Multicam, and a few other colors. I would take this bag over the commonplace MOLLE Medium Assault Pack any day. It’s served me well through a few days of hiking, running, and biking which leaves me with only one small issue: I have to talk myself out of buying another one in Multicam.
Check out the Fox Outdoor Compact Hydration Pack on Amazon for the best price!
* I was not compensated in any way for this review. I paid full price for this item and wrote the review for the benefit of my readers. If you found this review helpful, please do me a favor and click through to Amazon using one of my links. Your price doesn’t change, but I’ll make a few cents commission for the referral. That’s money I can spend on more stuff to review!