The CamelBak Podium Flow Belt is a minimalist’s solution for hydration and cargo

There are times when you don’t want to be weighed down by a big pack. If you’re road or mountain biking, running, hiking, or paddling, a hip pack like the Camelbak Podium Flow stays securely around your waist and never interferes with movement. You can stretch out your back and reach with your arms without the weight of a traditional backpack to weigh you down. The Podium Flow is small enough that you just might forget it is there; until you get hungry or thirsty, that is. Then everything you need is at your fingertips.

A good fit
Podium Flow
The Podium Flow Belt carries up to 2 liters of cargo in addition to a 21 ounces of water in the Podium Dirt Series bottle. CamelBak

At first glance, the Camelbak Podium Flow hydration belt seemed too small for use on a mountain bike ride, run or paddle trip. But I was wrong. Sometimes smaller is better—and for the Podium Flow, that’s the truth. The first time I used the Podium Flow was on a three-hour paddle on Elk Lake (Oregon). I filled the handy 21-ounce bottle with water, stuffed a handful of energy bars into the roomy main zippered compartment, and voila!, I had everything I needed for a day on the water. Plus, there’s a smaller zippered pouch on the front where I put my phone for photos. The Podium Flow isn’t waterproof, but the small compartment is big enough for a larger phone in a waterproof case.

Podium Flow
Accessible and at the ready for a thirst-quenching drink, the 21-ounce bottle is right where you want it to be.CamelBak

The bottle that comes with the hipbelt fits well into my hand. The soft PBE-free plastic has a great feel, and the ergonomic shape ensures there’s no danger of dropping (but it does float). You can take off the lid for easy filling, then drink out of the “mud” cap for easy on-the-go hydration. The 21-ounce flask slips easily into a secure elastic pocket—which holds the bottle tight, but doesn’t impede entry and exit.

For the best part

Perhaps the best part of the hipback is the soft, open-cell foam that forms the back panel. The pack snugs up against your lumbar, but the mesh material doesn’t get sweaty. After a bruising 6-hour ride on Phil’s Trail in 85-degree heat, everything from my hair to socks were sweaty, but my hip belt and lumbar remained as dry as could be. 

Clever packers will stash a tire and tools in the belt for long rides, or even a packable rain jacket for inclement weather. Three daisy chains on the front let you configure a carabiner or bungie if you want to clip your helmet or ball cap to the outside. 

Our conclusion? This is the most versatile little pack you can buy. Hip packs are back in style for a lot of reasons—they look cool, don’t weigh you down, and provide the storage you need without a lot of bells and whistles. www.camelbak.com

$45