In all my years of mountain biking, this will be the first time for me to use a hydration pack other than by CamelBak. First let me share with you about loading this pack with water. Unlike CamelBak which uses an easy to open lid to fill their packs with water, the Deuter requires you to slip off their Streamer Clip to open their wide mouth reservoir. A two handed operation which when I did it the first, I didn’t think to have the Streamer Clip nearby which made it somewhat difficult to close the reservoir and spill water. But once I realized while filling the reservoir just have the Streamer Clip in one hand and once the reservoir was full, fold over the top and slide the clip in place. A nice thing about this design is that you have easy access to the inside of the reservoir if you need to clean it. Your whole hand can go inside the opening of the reservoir.
Once the reservoir is filled with water, I was able to quickly adjust the shoulder, chest and waist straps to my build. One thing I noticed is that I am not accustomed to 3L packs, the extra liter of water weight was felt since I normally use 2L systems. The extra liter was welcome when I experienced temperatures in excess of 95 degrees on the trail. Normally my 2L system will run out but having the Deuter and its extra liter of water, I never felt I didn’t have enough water even when I was patrolling up to four hours on the trails. I noticed that the water didn’t seem to heat up as much as my CamelBak. I would probably attribute the extra insulation properties due to the thicker padding and Airstripe system. It seems the Airstripe system works very well. With a large hydration pack that the Deuter is, the Airstripe system gives your back lots of breathing room for airflow and the pack doesn’t feel like it is lying on top of your back as my CamelBak does. My back was certainly less sweaty using the Deuter. Using the bite valve to activate water flow, this is possibly the one weakness of the Deuter. Water flow is less than a CamelBak. I would say it is about 75-80% of a CamelBak. This is not to say this presented a problem on the trail, just on observation.
In regards to comfort on the trail, even with the additional weight, the chest, shoulder and waist straps ensure a snug fit worthy of single track use. Never was there a time I felt that the Deuter was shifting when riding through my local switchback trails. You will feel the additional water weight initially on the climbs but over time it won’t be a problem when you start using up the water. Unlike some plastic bottles I have used in the past that imparted a plastic taste to the water, the Deuter from its first use does not have any taste imparted to the water. Overall, the build quality of the Deuter is first rate. Seams are tightly sewn and fabric materials are very durable. No frayed or loose threads can be found.
Overall, the Deuter Compact EXP 8 offers the mountain biker an excellent alternative to CamelBak for those long extended rides of two hours or more. High quality of engineering, lots of storage and many included features makes the Deuter an excellent value in extended hiking/biking hydration packs. Highly recommended.
Lots of storage compartments, twist-type mouth piece shut-off valve, cooler on your back.
Less water flow than CamelBak, initially the additional weight of water makes climbing more difficult.