|During a snack break.|
What did I love about this pack? It was comfortable and highly adjustable. Although my back got a little sweaty wearing it in fairly humid conditions, it really was an unobtrusive presence during my ride. The straps are all attached, so there are no dangling ends. This is great, as there is very little chance of catching the straps on a piece of tack or tree branch. And it's great for those mid-ride potty breaks - ladies, no worries about getting your straps wet by accident. I did not have to remove my pack to take a "nature pee." The fully loaded bladder and pack are still very lightweight, and sat very close to my back, therefore not interfering whatsoever with my balance in the saddle or while mounting/dismounting. I had no problem using the tube, reattaching it to the magnet, or drinking. I definitely drank more water, more consistently throughout my ride than I do with just bottles. I did carry a single bottle of electrolyte-supplemented water in addition to the plain water in my pack.
What did I not love about this pack? Near the end of my nearly three hour ride, I couldn't get any more water out of the drinking valve while riding. I assumed the bladder was empty. In fact, I think the bladder had kinked in the middle as it lost volume and I wasn't able to get water until I'd removed the pack and manipulated the bladder a bit. I am hoping this tendency will decrease as the bladder gets a little more "broken in." As the volume of water decreased, the pack got lighter, and had more of a tendency to bounce on my back at the trot and canter. However, I really didn't find this to be an annoyance at all (contrary to what I'd expected). I did have to tighten the straps considerably once I began posting trot, compared to what was comfortable at the walk. The waist strap did tend to ride up, but it was comfortable at the higher position so I let it remain there.
The sternum strap has a whistle built into the buckle. I used this to signal my dog. I forgot, however, that I'd never blown a whistle from Rhio's back. He handled it just fine, but did have a little startle response. The integrated whistle turned out to be a great feature! But I do recommend you try it out from the ground around your horse first.
The water bladder is unique in that it is shaped to reduce sloshing. It has a "hole" in the middle of it. Between this design, and turning the filled bladder upside down and sucking all the air out before you put it in the back, I had very little water sloshing noise at all. Rhio did indicate he could hear something weird up there when we first started trotting (perhaps just the motion of the padded, ventilated back against my tank top) but he quickly got used to it. The pack did not make my tank ride up, which has been an issue with some hiking packs I've had in the past.
The drinking tube is fabric-covered (UV protection according to the manufacturer) and this makes it really easy to handle. As with all bladders, the water that remains in the tube gets warm, so your first sip is always warm to hot (kinda yucky). The water in the bladder stayed fairly cool, but not cold. The drinking valve comes with an attached cover, which is nice. However, I did find that I needed both hands to get the cover off and twist the valve open. This may be a skill thing, and perhaps I will be able to operate it one-handed with more practice.
There is also a slim pocket along the length of the pack, and a bungee-cord outside attachment (you could put a lightweight jacket in this I think.) I did not use either of these features.
Overall, with just one pleasure/conditioning ride with the pack, I am happy with it. I will hopefully be trying it out on a 50 mile endurance ride very soon!
P.S. It does come in a few colors! I got mine for about $100.