Words Lester Perry
Images Cameron Mackenzie
RRP $349
Distributor Wide Open

As athletes begin to push rides further and longer, the need for additional hydration has also increased. It could be because front triangles are now commonly filled with frame bags, meaning a lack of space for water bottles, or perhaps due to the environments we’re riding in, which provide fewer options to refill our water stores.

When it comes to racing, any time stopped refilling is time lost and, even if feed zones are available, in an effort to keep the momentum going, it’s quite common for groups to completely bypass them during an event.

With a full day ahead of us as we headed out around the Coromandel Peninsula for a recent trip, we knew additional hydration would be key to a successful day. With limited storage in the front triangle due to frame bags, we grabbed an Apidura Racing Hydration Vest to remove any anxiety about where we might be able to refill our small bottles.

The Apidura Racing Hydration Vest has a total capacity of 7 litres (in the L/XL size), two of which are occupied by the bladder. The main pack is made from 70D lightweight ripstop with a TPU waterproof coating, while the ‘vest’ part and harness is a 3D, lightweight mesh. On the back there’s a light mount and reflective graphics, adding elements of safety for late or overnight excursions.

Two stretchy front pockets allow for additional hydration stowage (e.g. soft bottles, cans of Coke), food or tools. Their stretchy mesh keeps everything close to the body and stops items from bouncing. Bungee adjustment on each helps keep anything that’s oversized and sticking out the top in place. There’s a larger zipped pocket on the front; you could hide anything away in there but heck, riding’s best when your phone is zipped away so it’s ideal for that.

Additional storage in the main pack is available with two larger side pockets for bigger items, such as a pump, spare parts, or even bulk packs of Jet Plane lollies.

The 2-litre roll top bladder makes filling and cleaning simple and, with no hard cap, it’s more flexible and compliant – no doubt adding to the comfort of the whole package.

Two fully adjustable sternum straps work with the adjustable stretchy side straps to ensure a non-restrictive and comfortable fit. I’ve been seriously impressed by how little I notice the pack when it’s on and there’s no restriction when worn. The pack sits in the middle of the back, offering enough space to still have easy access to jersey pockets, and a low-cut neckline means it won’t make contact with the wearer’s neck or helmet when tucked in the aero position.

The 2-litre roll top bladder makes filling and cleaning simple and, with no hard cap, it’s more flexible and compliant – no doubt adding to the comfort of the whole package. Having had a mid-race mishap before, cross-threading a bladder cap after a refill and consequently being left at a feed zone faffing, the roll-top style is a nice touch and should save some panic when a lid just won’t go on properly!

The hose snaps onto the bladder with a click, and the bite valve allows a good flow of liquid, although it’s got quite a different action to others I’ve used, after a couple of gulps it was second nature. There’s a handy magnetic clip on the hose and I could just drop the valve from my mouth once I was done drinking and, a majority of the time, it would snap into place, out of the way, on the bag strap; a simple feature I appreciated.

The fit of the vest spreads the load over the torso, not just hanging it from your shoulders, and I found that even when fully loaded and riding demanding or rough terrain there’s minimal bounce or movement when worn, things I’ve struck with other hydration vests in the past. During a ride as the front pockets or the bladder are emptied, everything is pulled in closely to the body by the stretchy fabrics; no flapping or unexpected movement takes place, keeping everything sleek and dare I say it: aero!

The whole pack is remarkably breathable, lightweight and exceptionally comfortable. In the past, I’ve noticed how some vests are noticeably hot, particularly on my back. I haven’t struck this with the Apidura pack, and I’m surprised by how breathable it is.

I found the closure on the bag’s bladder sleeve a little strange, just three small pieces of Velcro hold it closed; it does work but I am sure it could be improved. One great feature, particularly in a race setting, is the ability to access the bladder while still partially wearing the pack, just drop one arm out and spin the pack forward under the other arm to fill; super slick!

If you’re considering some extra hydration capacity, or just want to give yourself some more stowage options, an Apidura Racing Vest would be a great investment. It’s plain to see all the small details Apidura have incorporated into the design, making it an item that simply does what it’s supposed to without any gimmicks or unnecessary flare. A winner in my book.