Designed for long cross-country rides, the Tokul XC Hydration Pack features a ventilated back panel, removable reservoir, and comes in variations ranging from 5-12 liters in capacity. This is my review:
The model I have, the Tokul XC 12, packs 12 liters of storage and features a large 3 liter Big Zip Evo Reservoir. It features one large compartment for the reservoir, a main compartment with three internal mesh storage pockets, a smaller back pocket, and an expandable stash pocket. Inside, there hides a small key retainer and various vertical slots for bike tools and supplies. The pack is primarily built from 160 and 210 denier nylon, weighs 1 lb. 9 oz, and retails for $99.
What I liked
The most important aspect of any pack is comfort, so let’s start there. The Tokul XC, turns out, is a very comfortable pack. The shoulder straps are very lightly padded yet feel great against the collar bones thanks to their design, which is essentially compressible and forming foam between layers of nylon and mesh. This allows the straps to bend and flex easily across the chest and shoulders, without creating pressure or hard edges. The waist straps are minimalist, basically just bands of nylon, yet provide enough plenty of support to keep the pack in place over rough, bouncy terrain. The back panel is my favorite aspect of the design. It’s comprised of thick compressible foam panels that sit underneath a taut mesh body. The mesh panel does most of the work, gently sitting against the back, while the foam pads are pushed forward if there is any weight or hard object in the pack pushing in. The pack sits directly against the back for improved stability and balance, but still provides enough airflow to keep fresh air flowing in, and sweating to a minimum. Even with a fully loaded pack and several liters of water, spread over 20+ mile rides across rough terrain in the summer heat, I’m yet to experience any chaffing, soreness, or overheating.
When it comes to storage and organization, at least on the 12 liter version I tested, the Tokul performs great. Internally, there is a large main compartment that easily houses my spare tubes, tools, and a few parts just in case I snap something off mid-ride. A small zippered mesh pocket near the top holds my phone, wallet, and has a clip for my keys so I don’t have to worry about losing them. Deeper down inside, a few long mesh pockets stow my tire pump, tire levers and anything else I feel like tossing in. The expansion stuff pocket on the outside is large enough to hold a light outer layer and some gloves, and it cinches down tight to keep everything in place and secure. This pack has proven to provide plenty of pack space for my long, weight conscious trips. It can also be used for cooler shoulder season months, but storage space will get a little tighter.
Build quality is overall is great. The thick, high denier nylon body has held up great to mountain biking, gravel biking, and just generally being tossed around the garage and car. I’m yet to see any stray threads or seams pulling loose, and all of the junctions and seams are reinforced when need be, often times with thick bands of cross stitching for good measure. It cleans up easily too, with mud and dirt coming out with minimal effort. As far as long term durability is concerned, I have no concerns. Especially considering I have an older Platypus pack of similar concept that’s held strong for 5 years now.
Smaller details like a helmet mount, reflective bands, sturdy YKK zippers with easy to grab pulls do a fine job of wrapping up the package and making the pack feel complete.
What I didn’t like
The only thing really missing on this pack is a couple of compression straps to pull the entire bag in and tighter. Admittedly, this really isn’t an issue but more of a personal desire, but I do prefer being able to cinch my packs in extra tight for maximum stability for when I hit rough patches, rock gardens or jumps. It’s still rather stable without them and it’s lack of compression straps really isn’t a problem, but it is something I would like to see in the future.
The airflow is pretty good, but the pack does manage to get a bit sweaty on hot, humid days. The rear of the pack can absorb a little bit of moisture, but does manage to dry off rather quickly. It’s a minor complaint and ventilation is still better than most lightweight packs I’ve tested, but worth mentioning.
The Tokul XC is a great little pack. It’s lightweight, aerodynamic, and does an excellent job of stashing everything I need without feeling bulky, intrusive, or really even being noticeable at all when I ride with it. It’s survived rainy mud rides, dusty gravel excursions, hot summer days in the sun, and has really taken a beating with falls and just generally being shoved full of hard edged tools and equipment. It feels excellent on the back and manages to be rather stable and balanced in any riding condition. It looks great too. Having so much going for it and being devoid of any real issues, I can’t help but give it my highest possible rating.
The Highest of Recommendations
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Platypus Tokul XC Minimalist Hydration Backpack, 5.0-Liter, Coastal Blue
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