- It was a little heavier than I expected. Not heavy by any means, but with the water being all down at the bottom, it made it seem somehow off balance carrying it. Once I put it on though I didn't notice anything and it settled nicely onto my hips.
- It was really easy to adjust all the straps to fit my waist, shoulders and chest. Each strap could be done with one hand making adjustments on horseback simple.
- The shoulder straps pulled up onto my neck even with the chest strap loosened.
- The two side pockets were roomy and easy to reach. The back one I left empty and would have had no way to get into it without removing the pack.
- The hose was way too long and hung down past my hips when mounted.
Mounting up with it on was just as normal. In fact I actually forgot I was wearing it and just jumped on up. I was a little worried it wouldn't sit right on horseback or would hit me funny when I posted since it isn't made for riding a horse. I don't know if it was because it was made for cycling or what, but it fit just perfectly. Even posting it stayed put and didn't rub.
The drinking hose was way long and came over my right shoulder. Not only did it flop around, but it also required me to hold it with my hand to drink. Not terribly annoying, but more effort than I wanted out of it. There was a little loop on the sternum strap to the left (not sure what it was meant for) and so I ended up taking the hose and running it loosely from the right shoulder to the loop on the left sternum strap. This allowed me to easily drink with no effort and kept it out of the way. The only downside to this set up was that I had to unhook it to take the pack off, but that's not such a big deal.
I stashed my cell phone in the left pocket and my truck keys in the right. There was plenty of room for additional items in both if I had anything to put in there. I did grab my phone a couple of times to check time and grab a picture (which I never took) and it was easy to do even one handed as Gem trotted along.
15 miles later I untacked Gem and took off the pack. I had no rubbing or chafing on my neck from it at all. It was very comfortable and let no marks. I had taken small sips from about the half way point on and when S offered me a bottle of water I wasn't thirsty at all.
- Nice and light weight. I forgot I even had it on for the majority of the time.
- My neck didn't chafe at all where the shoulder straps were which was great. I had been worried about this.
- Easy to drink from once I rigged up the hose as above
- No bouncing!! With the water bladder being placed around the waist it created a nice comfortable snug fit and no bouncing.
- It was a little hot, but any pack will be hotter than not wearing one. This has padding down either side of the spine allowing for some airflow. I wasn't a sweaty mess and compared to the other pack I wear frequently (W's hiking backpack) it was much cooler.
- The side pcokets were easy to get into and out of and had plenty of room. Probably wouldn't fit a ton of things, but enough for a snack for Gem and I going down the trail plus phone/camera and ride card.
- My shoulders/neck were sore that night and the next day.
I am overall very pleased with the pack. I like the side pockets for easy access to small things and having the ability to place nonessentials in the larger main compartment for use when I get off to run or at vet checks is great. I did end up with that migraine and sore shoulders, but I am going to attribute it mainly to the tree branch and also to my bad habit of riding with my shoulders up by my ears which also causes headaches and soreness. If it happens again I will need to re-evaluate.
My only concern with the pack is inherent to any water pack. I took small sips through the entire second half of the ride. I wasn't thirsty and so I figured I was hydrated appropriately. This was not the case and I ended up fairly dehydrated at the end. I blame this on those small sips I took throughout. Basically it gave enough water to shut down the thirst response, but not enough to maintain proper hydration. In the future I will need to make sure I am taking actual drinks and not just small sips. It will take some time to figure out the proper rate of water consumption for me, but I probably only drank 1/4 at most during those 15 miles in the heat and humidity and I think doubling that would have prevented some of the headache that ensued that night.
Also, for the longer events, I think having a spare bladder would be perfect. That way all I would have to do is switch my empty one for a full one at checks instead of waiting to fill up 2 L. Something to add to the wish list.