USWE Outlander 2 Hydration Pack Review
  • Total score
4.5

Summary

USWE keeps the pack bounce-free and offers a more personalized fit better than anything else on the market. Outlander 2 is a minimalist pack which can be used for everything from short outings on the bike to XC racing and gravel riding.

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Pros

  • Excellent NDM harness prevents loaded pack from bouncing on the body while on the bike
  • Clever modular storage system
  • Low-profile and lightweight construction. Great for racing (or for those who don’t like larger packs)
  • Hydration bladder included.

Cons

  • There is lots of velcro on the harness. If you’re not careful with how you place it, the velcro will pull on your expensive cycling jersey fabric and eventually wear through it!
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Introduction

Being picky about cycling gear can be frustrating. With so many great products on the market, the search for the “best” can often be an exercise in futility. No single product is perfect. Accepting feature trade-offs is part of finding what works best for you.

With some products, like shoes, finding your gear of choice can be fairly straightforward process once you’ve figured out what you want out of the product and found the right fit.

That’s why I’ve been loyal to two brands of cycling shoes for nearly a decade. They fit well and have a balance of features that works for me. With others, like hydration packs, it’s not that simple.

USWE Outlander 2 Hydration Pack

There are so many good cycling hydration packs on the market. I can’t claim I have tried them all, but I have certainly used plenty of packs from enough brands to make some authoritative claims about what makes a good cycling hydration pack with confidence. So many brands make well designed packs when it comes to storage and organization.

How the pack fits, though, seems to be where manufacturers struggle with perfecting. Not that this is surprising. After all, hydration packs are wearable gear, and the fit and comfort of anything wearable is entirely dependent on body size, shape and personal preferences.

Swedish brand USWE (pronounced you-swii) seems to have come pretty close to designing what I personally consider the holy grail of hydration pack comfort and personalized fit. In the paragraphs that follow we have a look at one of their mid-size cycling packs: the Outlander 2.

Who is it for?

When I started shopping for my next hydration pack my criteria was rather specific: I wanted a minimalist, super lightweight pack with enough water capacity for at a two-hour ride at most.

I already had cavernous gear haulers for multi-day epic rides, packs for trail building, even super minimalist packs designed for trail-running (which fit amazing, but soft bottle hydration systems don’t really work well on the bike…just try stuffing one of those bottles back into a bottle pocket when it’s half empty while on the bike!).

I wanted a pack light enough for the occasional race where I don’t need to carry a ton of water and gear, and I wanted the pack to fit in a way that minimizes the dreaded bounce especially when the hydration bladder is full. USWE came on my radar and their Outlander 2 ticked all the boxes, theoretically at least.

USWE uses a harness system unlike anything else on the market. They call it the No Dancing Monkey (NDM) system (love brands with a sense of humor!). It is essentially a four-point harness that place the buckle at the chest rather than the waist, forming an X shape that prevents all but the tiniest bit of movement.

It cinches up tight without being constrictive. The harness can also be sized with velcro straps to different body sizes to give a more personalized fit.

USWE Outlander 2 Hydration Pack

Once you’ve done the initial sizing and went for a ride or two with it on to fine tune the fit, you forget the pack is there once you have it on your back. This is one of the few packs on the market that you truly wear rather than carry.

The Outlander 2 is a truly minimalist pack. With a full 1.5 liter bladder (included), I can fit a mini pump, a tubeless repair tool and maybe a CO2 canister inside, but that’s about it. In terms of style, USWE offers the Outlander 2 in two colors.

I really wanted the Crazy Yellow high-viz but it was out of stock at the time I needed the pack, so I went with Carbon Black. You can never really go wrong with black.

Modular storage

USWE Outlander 2 Hydration PackThe other great feature of USWE’s NDM harness system is the modularity it allows. USWE utilizes several locations on the harness where you can affix modular storage pouches, and they offer several options for storage expansion in their accessories catalogue.

This being one of their most minimalist pack, I opted to also add three harness add-ons: the Phone Pouch (easily carries a modern large smartphone with a small mesh pocket), the Organizer Pocket (great for mini tools, tire levers and tubeless repair and patch kits) and the Chest Pocket (a vertical pouch with a draw cord top that easily accommodates a mid-size bike water bottle, with an additional mesh pocket for energy gels and the like). Other add-on options include an action camera harness and an energy gel “rack”.

On the bike with the Outlander 2

Aside from the effectiveness of the NDM harness for a great fitting pack, USWE’s accessory list also makes their packs extremely adaptable for different riding scenarios. Two-hour ride in moderate weather? Just the pack with a full 1.5L bladder and trail tools inside the Organizer Pocket. All day ride with need for extra food and water? A bottle in the Chest Pocket and gels in the other modular storage pouches will get me through the day, or at least to the nearest replenishment point.

One thing that I have discovered which I’ve been very pleased with (and which isn’t mentioned in USWE’s marketing material) is that this pack lets me use my three-pocket jerseys for even more storage! The pack sits higher on the body and its shorter length and low profile design allows me to make use of the additional storage offered by my cycling jerseys.

Packs that hang lower on the back, even if they have clever internal storage, prevent easy access to rear jersey pockets.


Final Thoughts

This is going to sound like a big claim to make about a product in a market full of very worthy competition: the Outlander 2 is the best cycling hydration pack I’ve ever used in terms of fit and versatility. The claims USWE makes about their NDM harness are certainly not overhyped.

It keeps the pack bounce-free and offers a more personalized fit better than anything else on the market. If you’re in the market for a minimalist pack which can be used for everything from short outings on the bike to XC racing and gravel riding, I suggest you put the Outlander 2 on your short list.

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