Review: Kulkea OTRmost Hydration Backpack

It is our experience that Kulkea makes some of the best-built, most durable, and smartest designed bags on the market, and the OTRmost Hydration Backpack continues that tradition. Leave it to Kulkea to take an established design -- the hiking and biking daypack -- and reinvent it. Not only did Kulkea improve the daypack by adding its own design cues and high levels of quality and durability, but the company might have made its own Micro Pack obsolete. Introduced a few years ago, the Micro Pack was Kulkea’s first foray from traditional ski and boot bag designs into the world of daypacks; you can see reviews HERE and HERE. The only shortcoming that left us thirsty for more was the lack of hydration integration.

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One of the most notable steps forward with the OTRmost Hydration Backpack is the integration of a HydraPak bladder system. The 2L HydraPak is cleverly contained in its own adjustable pocket, so as the day goes on and your fluids are running lower, a dual velcro closure can be used to keep things from sloshing around. The tube travels from the back to the front and is held by a magnetic clip that attaches to the adjustable upper chest strap (with an integrated whistle). Where some brands might use a slide clip to connect the tube to the strap, Kulkea chose to go with a heavy-duty magnet; it works so well that all you need to do is get the tube close and it will connect, no fuddling or fumbling around. This is very important when your hands need to be on the handlebars or if you are hiking in uneven terrain.

As usual, Kulkea has not short-changed the bag with regard to compartments. Starting at the top and working down, the LensArmor semi-hard sunglass case has a spot not only for sunglasses but also for additional lenses; this is a feature I would like to see incorporated in its Trekker boot bag collection. This “XTRA Space” compartment is also nice and deep so you can carry a multitude of other items such as power snacks or even a light lunch. The compartment also extends over the Tri-wrap reservoir support where the HydraPak is contained. Depending on how much space you are using, the volume of this flex pocket can be controlled with four straps. Next to it is a sleeve for a bike pump. About halfway up the pack, two loops on either side are cleverly placed for attaching a bike or climbing helmet. What is well thought out here is that the chin strap on the helmet attaches between the breathable control panels on the back ... pretty ingenious. Speaking of the breathable panel on the back, there is a great hidden pocket behind it for ID, extra cash, or whatever flat items you need to carry with you.

The list of features continues. A lower compartment is ideal for carrying bike tools, an extra tube, and CO2 cartridges. It also contains a clip for attaching keys -- again, something we have been asking for in the Trekker boot bags. The waistband’s backing also has breathable panels and is adjustable, not only in the center with a clasp as expected, but also on both sides. Also located on each side are pockets for a cellphone or gel packs.

Don’t order yet: I didn’t tell you about the rain cover cleverly hidden in the bottom of the bag, a feature I probably will never use in the high desert of Nevada but a thoughtful addition for other parts of the country. There is also a spot for a rear light and loops for hiking poles. This bag has everything!

Now that we know about its features, how does it work in the real world? Well, this will be a two-part review. The first part will cover its use for mountain biking, and the second will discuss its application for hiking when I visit Alaska later this summer. In typical Kulkea fashion, there are almost too many compartments -- not that it is a design flaw, but it can be a flaw in user application, because stuff tends to expand into whatever space that it can. I immediately start filling all the nooks and crannies with stuff, then I ended up backing things out. Comfort-wise, Kulkea did an awesome job with venting. One of the things that @Andy Mink didn’t like about the Micro Pack was that it sits right on your back. The OTRmost solves that issue: not only does your back breathe well, but both the shoulder and waist strap are also well ventilated.
  • Who is it for? Those looking for a daypack to use for a multitude of outdoor activities.
  • Who is it not for? Pack rats who can't control themselves; you can leave the kitchen sink at home.
  • Color Options: Solar Yellow, Electric Blue, Racing Red
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About author
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.


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