Features & Construction
There's a sea of choices when it comes to riding packs these days, with options ranging from some great big-name brands to the many local bagmakers creating excellent purpose-built packs to suit your needs and style. Today I'm highlighting the latter, digging into a well-designed pack from the Bellingham, Washington, based Aldr Works.
Aldr is just a one-to-two person operation, but they were confident enough to let me thrash their little bag through a classically wet Bellingham fall. With a lineup that mostly focuses on gravel and bikepacking bikes, the Pika is Aldr's first foray into mountain bike kit - let's see how it shook out.
Aldr Works Pika Pack
• Made in Bellingham, WA
• Fidlock closure
• X-Pac fabric
• 2L-3.5L volume
• 5 colors
• Weight: 250 grams
• MSRP: $110 USD
• Contact: www.aldrworks.com
The 2-3 liter rolltop body of the Pika pack is typically made from X-50 X-PAC, which is known for its lightweight, waterproof, and durable qualities. This example is built with a duck camo Cordura, which has similar properties but weighs a bit more and is more abrasion resistant - all of Aldr's bags are made in limited runs, so fabrics like this come and go. Keep an eye on their Instagram
for a head's up on production.
Inside that tough exterior shell, you have a nylon drop liner, which can be fully turned inside-out for cleaning. The back panel has a spacer mesh construction that should allow air to pass through to your back, preventing the hotspot sensation that can often occur with a bag like this. There is one large compartment that rolls open, with an elastic shock cord and Fidlock clasp to hold everything together.
Aldr is quick to point out that the Pika isn't necessarily submersible, with this qualifier: "Although these bags are made with highly water resistant material and are built with integrity, they are not fully waterproof like a dry bag. Important items should be given additional protections (dry bag, garbage bag, zip lock etc) to ensure total dryness on those downpour days!"
The hip belt is nice and simple, with a standard plastic adjuster buckle and a 1.5" wide belt. Velcro straps have been sewn to the end of the webbing, which allows you to roll the excess up into a neat package, keeping things from flapping around. There is one internal divider, simply a flat panel to hold smaller objects closer to your body and keep them from jangling around in the main compartment. One nice detail is the rigid plastic inserts used at the mouth of the rolltop, which keep the opening more splayed when you want to get into the bag, and also make for a cleaner roll when you're closing things down. Trail Report
For the longest time, my favorite hip pack was a little zip-up number I bought at a convenience store in Japan. Far from high-tech performance, and generally pretty beat, but it is small and it stays in place while I bounce down trail. This little Pika pack is the perfect spiritual successor to that old pack, but honestly it's better in every way. At this point I've used a whole fleet of different hip pack options, and I tend to prefer those that are simple and foolproof. No zippers, no superfluous pockets, no faff. The Pika meets all those requirements handily, and manages to sit better on-body than far more "ergonomically designed" packs I've tried in the past.
Even when crammed to capacity or weighed down with dense items, the Pika doesn't shift around my hips, doesn't bounce around, and stays tightly cinched. For me, all other function follows suit, so luckily this pack passes the initial test with flying colors. In terms of waterproofness, despite Aldr's warning about this not being a full-on drybag, I have had zero issues with water ingress, even over the course of some very long rainy rides, where the outside of the pack was soaked - the contents were as dry as can be.
I've used the pack to lug around some clunky items, like a full-frame camera, some beers, and even my full size Silky Big Boy
, but it handles everything quite comfortably. To load the Big Boy, I simply rolled the saw into the top flap as I was closing the bag, and the shock cord kept everything nice and tight. Generally, I'm stuffing a jacket, some spare dry gloves, a multitool, and a Dynaplug tool into the pack, with room to spare. I know some folks swear by carrying a second bottle on their hip pack, but I've never been a fan of that method, as it always seems to jostle around, or leak onto my back as I'm riding. If anything I prefer to just pack a little water filter, but that's location-dependent for those of you in drier climes. If I do need to bring a second bottle, I just stick one of these Vapur soft bottles
in the pack and fill up my bike bottle when need be.
The durability of the Pika pack has been nothing short of excellent, with the perfect stitching holding up very well to my abuse, and the fabric showing no signs of wear, aside from the customary smear of dirt. If the shock cord is ever to give out, it's easily replaceable and available at any outdoors store. Everything else should last a lifetime, especially given the lack of moving parts. The Fidlock closure is quite simple, and even though it's very easy to open when you want to, I've never had it accidentally open on me, despite a few crashes and pushes through heavy brush.
Handmade from high quality materials+
Stays put while riding+
Ideal volume for most rides+
Durable and easy to use
Stock goes quickly on limited runs-
May lack organization for some users-
Expensive, but made in USA