I've got a problem with hydration packs. They always seem good but never "perfect" and I've been searching for the "perfect" pack for a long time. I read some favourable reviews of a little company out of the USA called Wingnut Gear. After looking at their site and reading online forums, I went ahead and ordered a Wingnut Hyper 3.0. It took about 6 weeks to show up as it was custom made to order by a small company and hand built in the USA.
I've had the Wingnut for a month now and have but a bunch of miles on with it. The quality of construction is A1 and the pack is well thought out. It has a few unique features including a pocket for your gel flask, the lowrider system, and the wing pockets. I don't use gels so the gel flask pocket has gone unused. The lowrider system keeps the weight of the pack around your hips while the shoulder straps keep it stable. It works very well and keeps the pack from tugging on your shoulders and wearing out your back and neck, which is my biggest peeve with the offerings from Camelbak. The shoulder harness is made from a highly breathable mesh style fabric, while the rest of the pack is build from durable and lightweight sail cloth.
The 3.0 has a large main compartment, big enough for a change of clothes, gear, tools..... everything but the kitchen sink kind of compartment.
The feature that I fell in love with was the Wing Pockets. I've had Camelbaks and other brands with waist strap pockets that were a disappointment and could only hold a phone or Cliff bar. The pockets on the Wingnut are HUGE and you can easily open them, get at your gear, and close them while riding. I keep my wallet, phone, keys, tool, food all in the wing pockets. They work ace.
There is a top loading compartment just for your hydration bladder (not included) with the drinking hose exit inside the wing. My Camelbak 3 liter reservoir fits perfect. The back panel is very breathable.
The only problems I had was the shoulder harness loosening on my rides and a fraying strap. I fixed the shoulder straps with two pieces of inner tube as seen below. The frayed end was easily solved by cauterizing the fabric with a flame.
The Hyper 3.0 is a big pack. It will hold ALOT of gear and keeps the weight on your hips where you won't notice it. Now that I've had my hands on it I realize that I could have gotten away with the smaller Hyper 2.5 for most of my outings and the 3.0 is more of an "all day epic" type of pack. Only problem with the 2.5 is that it specs a 1.5 liter reservoir and I need more than that for most rides. My perfect setup would be a 2.5 that holds 3 liters of water but thats not possible. Besides, I'd rather have the room and not need it than not have the room and need it. And, an overstuffed pack does not work as well as an underloaded one. To give you an idea, I came from a Camelbak Mule to this and my reaction to the amount of storage space was "holy shit". I'm sure you could use this thing for some bikepacking overnighters (idea for next year).
I did end up going to a Hydrapak reservoir, it seems to fit the compartment better and is easier to secure inside the pack with the velcro loop.
I also had to supplement the interior storage with a "Sticky Pod" organizer, from another little company out of the states. It keeps things organized inside the pack as the main pocket is just a big open pocket.
It took some time to properly set up the pack and get the position on my back just right. It was a delicate balance of adjusting the back harness straps, the front harness straps, and the waist straps. I've found that the perfect spot is to adjust it so it sits in the small of your lower back while riding, it seems to disappear there. When off the bike it will hang lower, as the design is more like a huge fanny pack with a shoulder strap than a backpack. Even with my DIY strap management solution (see above) the shoulder harness back straps do loosen off a bit each ride and require a bit of adjusting every few hours. I would sew the harness in place but it would make it impossible to adjust for more clothing in the winter, and it needs to be tweaked a bit for different riding positions on different bikes.
The biggest weakness with the Wingnut pack is the lack of communication from the company. It is nearly impossible to get the owner to respond to emails, both on his Wingnut email and personal email. The website is atrocious and currently will not let you order any product. I wouldn't mind having a Hyper 2.5 or the new 1.8 which is being touted on the Wingnut Facebook page right now, but am unable to order. This alone will send lots of people away where they can easily get a Camelbak or Osprey pack. I also had some problems when ordering, after the pack was built (5 weeks after ordering) the owner of Wingnut sent me an email demanding me to pay another $30 for shipping. I refused and told him to cancel my order, at which point he shipped it to me without the additional $30 payment. Buyer beware.
So to sum it all up:
I would give the Wingnut Hyper 3.0 a perfect score, but problems within the communication lines of the company make the great product weak. At this point they seem to be unobtainium. If you have back and shoulder pain like I did, it will solve the problem. If you have no patience for snail pace or non-existent customer service, move along. The pack itself is great, the company not so much. IF you can get one you won't regret it........ big IF though.
I give the pack 4 stars (held back by lack of internal organization), but the overall experience in dealing with Wingnut makes it a 2.5 / 5 stars product.
Wingnut: If you're listening...... you have a great product, sort out your customer service and communication if you want to play with the big boys, otherwise pack your shit up and go home. I've never had such a love / hate relationship with a product in my life.
For more info check out Wingnutgear.com or the Wingnut Facebook Page.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.