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Hydrapak Morro : For Day-Long Adventures

For the past month I’ve tested Hydrapak’s Morro on bikes, snow boards, and on foot, and doing so has convinced me that Hydrapak has almost reinvented the hydration pack.

Hydrapak’s bladder is, without a doubt, the best I've used, and the Morro backpack itself won me over with its multitude of pockets, spacious interior, and numerous handy design features.

On a recent snowboard outing in the Colorado backcountry, I immediately appreciated how well ventilated the Morro is. After a long and arduous snowshoe hike in, my back was totally dry beneath the pack. I’ve never had my back remain so dry before; I love how the contours in the Morro’s foam and mesh back panel create so much airflow. Breathability is important during hot summers because it staves off dehydration, but it’s perhaps even more essential during cold winters because it keeps me dry and, consequently, warm.

When I tested the Morro while mountain biking in the hills above Boulder, CO, I was thoroughly impressed with all the pockets. The Morro has two side pockets that are made of a stretchy material, allowing them to expand when I stuff them full of energy food. I like it when my treats are easily accessible because I don’t have to dig around in the pack when I’m hungry.

I also loved the small back pocket, where I hid my iPhone, which was running the indispensible RunKeeper app while I exercised. I used the second small back pocket for tools, and stored more goodies in the organizer pockets inside the gigantic main pocket. I was able to cram into the Morro's cavernous maw: a rain shell, several layering pieces, and a camera – and I had a ton of room to spare.

In use, I noticed how the pack stayed almost glued to my back, instead of bouncing around as I hit bumps while exercising. The pack has great compression straps to keep the load balanced and it also has comfy shoulder straps, which let me cinch the pack tight without causing pain. The relatively wide padded wings that wrap part way around my hips also help keep the pack in place.

I think Hydrapak makes the best hydration bladder on the market. The Morro comes with a 100L bag, which is perfect for all day riding, hiking, and ski trips. The bladder opening is essentially a giant zip-lock mechanism, so I can easily get ice cubes inside. But more important, it allows me to reach into the bag, grab the bottom, and pull it inside out for cleaning and drying. These functional features makes the Hydrapak bladder stand out from the crowd since it virtually eliminates the potential for mold growth. That’s important when I’m drinking water, but even more important when I’m using energy drinks, which tend to exponentially increase the funk factor. I find that I clean my bag (which is BPA-free, by the way) after every use because it's easy to do.

The Hydrapak’s hose and bite valve are just about perfect. The valve itself is angled and adjustable, so it’s super comfortable to sip out of when I’m working hard, and it’s got a great shutoff feature. Best of all, it’s totally leak free -- not once in my testing did I find stray dribbles of water down my front.

As for the hose? I think I’m in love. I hate how my other hydration hoses flop around in use, and I typically cram them into the D rings on the backpack shoulder straps to keep them out of the way. The problem with this is I have to finagle the hose back out of the D ring to drink. But Hydrapak is now using an ingenious magnetic assembly that lets me position me hose however I want.

The 800-cubic-inch Morro is available in two colors: a stealthy black version, and a more colorful gray and orange one. It weighs in at a scant 1 pound, 13 ounces.

Bottom Line: Spacious, well-carrying hydration backpack with an easy-to-clean water bladder. (N.W., April '11).

BUY ONLINE : $95-110 . Now on sale for $87.99 at eBags. (4/15/2011) icon

Manufacturer's Site: www.hydrapak.com

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