I see this thread has pretty much come and gone. I’m going to throw in my $.02 since I think uni riders use packs almost all the time and getting a good one doesn’t make life awesome, but an uncomfortable pack makes it much less.
I’ve had CamelBak packs for years. I had a Fox pack I liked too. After it wore out I went back to a CamelBak. The biggest issue I had with most packs are the lack of a convenient side pocket for a water bottle. I like to keep the reservoir for water only, but still have quick access to an energy drink. I found it very difficult to find a suitable side pocket that would securely hold a water bottle, yet still allow easy access. The last CamelBak I had was OK, but it ultimately either held securely or was easy to access. I couldn’t seem to get both.
Then, I found a used Wingnut Hyper 2.5 pack at a swap meet for $5. Short story: it may be the best $5 I spent in 2013.
I realize packs fit people differently. Wingnut was one of the pioneers of the low riding hydration pack. For me, it works incredibly well. The side pockets hold a water bottle securely and allow easy access. And, it’s a very light pack. My last CamelBak felt heavy- even when unloaded (it was designed for downhill riders so durability is a priority I’m sure). The way the Wingnut fits, it’s not only lightweight (around a pound w/o bladder), but when loaded the weight is distributed very well.
Drawbacks? The Hyper 2.5 only holds a 70 oz bladder (not included- I’ve been using a CamelBak bladder as they’ve been very good to me over the years.) After months of use I noticed some wear and tear so my wife bailed me out with some sewing fixes. I should note that I did buy the pack used. Fairly used at that, so durability is not a typical problem. The only other item of note is when I pack it with too much stuff, it can sway a bit. As long as I’m reasonable about what I’m carrying, it’s a minor quibble. My other packs seemed to have this issue as well.
I liked the Hyper 2.5 so much that I ordered a Hyper 3.0 to accommodate the 100 oz bladder. It has more interior space too. It should be noted that Wingnut packs do not have a lot of pockets in the main interior space. I usually keep my smaller tools in the side zippered pockets, a water bottle in the mesh pocket (and a snack in the other side), and keep the big main pocket for a tube, pump, jacket, etc.
Wingnut packs are not the cheapest option. They aren’t completely out of line either- with the uni friendly packs starting at $105 (without bladder). They are made in the USA out of high quality sailcloth. Bonus.
Some of my fellow riders still use CamelBak. Others like Osprey (the Zealot 16 was on my short list before I bought the Wingnut). There are other good brands that are out there too.
I’m sold on Wingnut. They are a bit harder to find and they don’t have all the fancy organizational pockets in the main bay. But, they check all the boxes that I want in a pack (lightweight, comfortable to wear, easy and secure side pocket access). At this point I use the 2.5 for most rides under 2.5 hours or so (unless it’s hot and humid). I use the 3.0 when I need to carry more liquid.