Deuter Race X Air I Pack
Cool, fresh H2O -- Everybody wants some, I want some too. David Lee Roth couldn't have been more prophetic when he penned those lyrics. While he might not have been talking about drinking water, that's what we're talking about here. Specifically, we are going to tell you about a hydration system from Deuter. They are a German manufacturer of backpacks for all occasions, bike bags, and sleeping bags. They make a race series that includes our test model, the Race X Air I.
The Deuter Race X Air I pack is a dedicated hydration pack. It has a 100 oz. bladder from a company called Source. We've long been fans of the CamelBak big mouth bladders, but this one from Source is very cool as well. We were originally skeptical about the bladder's closure system, but it proved itself to be sturdy and totally water tight. It uses a simple roll closure with a bar and clip to seal. It works great. What we really like about it is the ease with which we can gain access for refills. Ever had trouble unscrewing a CamelBak bladder lid after 4 hours of tough singletrack? The Source bladder is totally easy to use. The bladder itself is made of thick polyethylene. It's thick enough to give the bladder some support for itself, which aids in refilling and dropping it back into a full backpack.
The bite valve is the pinnacle of perfection. We'll go out on a limb here and say that it is totally dribble proof -- it's that good. Say goodbye to your wet right nipple! It has a blue silicone rubber sleeve that fits over a small orange plastic thingy that has a cone shaped end. The cone basically fits into the silicone sleeve like a needle and seat. When we bit the valve, the orange plastic thingy deformed and broke the seal at the seat -- voila! You get a good drag on the tube and relieve your parched throat.
In the past we'd say CamelBak has always had the best bite valve. It was the most user friendly, and flowed the best. Trouble was, they always dribbled a bit, especially when the pack was full and the bladder was under compression. They had to put an on-off switch on the valve to solve that problem. That kinda ruined the original simplicity of the system. Others have tried to design a great bite valve for years. Most worked, and most lacked the flow and feel of the Camelback. Even though it dribbled on us, we loved it. The Source bite valve found on the bladder included with our pack, has a flow rate similar to our old favorite, but it didn't leak in the least! We could also be bite it across the flatter top and bottom, or on the skinnier sides. No matter how we bit it, we got our fluids. We do love some cool, fresh H2O. For us, a good hydration pack must have a killer bladder with a killer bite valve. This one nailed it.
With the important part covered, we can talk about the Deuter pack itself. The Race X Air I is made of micro rip-stop nylon throughout, with a capacity of 850 cubic inches. Go ahead and carry a few spare parts…and a camera! You'll need to record the moment at that perfect sunset when you crack open a couple of beers at your favorite overlook. Good thing there was enough room for your headlight battery, some beef jerky to wash down the aftertaste of that warm PBR, and that extra baselayer you'll need to stay warm on the return leg back to the car. This pack doesn't feel big, but it will definitely support the type of rides that make for great stories.
The folks at Deuter have incorporated some nice features into the Race X Air I pack. The zipper pulls didn't suck. We loved the sewn webbing. It was simple but beefy, and easy to clasp with gloved fingers. The zippers were all YKK -- the industry standard. 'Nuff said. There is a blinky light loop and the Deuter logo is Scotchlite reflective material. We like packs that have options. The Race X Air I has a stowaway helmet holder that zips into a small pocket at the bottom of the pack bag, so subtle we didn't even see it at first. It worked well for our helmet, and we used it to tote a pair of running shoes with ease (adventure racers take note!). When it is stowed, the pack retains its sleek, snag-free shape. The bladder is held up by a velcro strap in the top of the pack bag. We found it to be very secure and assured that the bladder did not slump or settle in the bag when we ran with the Race X Air I.
The Deuter Race X Air I pack uses Deuter's Advanced Aircomfort back system. Basically, the pack bag is suspended away from the user's body. There are some thin spring steel strips that tension the system. This, in conjunction with the polyester mesh materials used throughout the system, allows air to flow between the pack and body. On hot days, the benefit is obvious. The Deuter pack feels cooler than other systems. In wintery weather, the Deuter system may not be such an advantage. For those who commute to work, the Advanced Aircomfort System in the Race X Air I helps eliminate the dreaded sweaty back syndrome and the accompanying “guess that shape” game from the salt stain formed there. The mesh theme extends to the shoulder straps. At first glance, they appeared to be in need of some padding, but we soon found that they worked well to distribute our pack loads evenly. The mesh construction allowed air to flow directly through to cool our chest and shoulders while we rode.
The pack interior is divided into a main compartment, which houses the bladder sleeve. That's where we crammed in 37 smashed beer cans that we found in a fire ring on one of our favorite trails. The outer pocket is smaller. It has some dividers to create spots for favorite carry-along trinkets like cell phones, money for Peanut M&Ms, and whatever else. There is also a key clip hanging on a short piece of yellow webbing for easy retrieval.
We liked the Deuter Race X Air I pack. In fact, it's a fantastic pack. It carried well. We rode in it. We ran in it. We carried it into the store to grab lunch supplies. What we did notice, and we've seen this before with other packs, is that the suspension system makes this pack feel just a tad clunky around town when we take it on and off a lot. Out on the trail, the suspension does precisely what it's supposed to do -- it helps the pack carry our load evenly while allowing enough airflow to keep us cool. However, our curiosity got the best of us at one point, and we decided to see if we could remove the Aircomfort mesh and springs from the pack body in one piece. We could, but we don't recommend it either. While it made the pack a bit softer for about-town jaunts, putting it back in was a bitch. Eat your wheaties!
Deuter packs have top notch construction. Our Deuter Race X Air I pack was flawless. The pack bag was sleek and well designed. It performed well on the woolliest of trails due to its streamlined, snag-less nature. The Advanced Aircomfort back system (AAS) provided ventilation and suspended the pack perfectly. The bladder and accompanying bite valve were world class -- easy to use and just as easy to clean. The bite valve is the best we've ever used. Period. Should your hydration pack have anything less?