When the packs arrived I'll be honest I don't like the colour schemes. But then I'm 40 years old so I have so sense of contempory style anyway and this was confirmed by a quick straw poll of colleagues who liked it. However neither bag grabbed me by looks alone.
Both packs feature the expected features of a bike pack with loopy things to attach lights, reflective detailing and clips inside to attach your keys. The Dothie also features a reflective rain cover. The bags also come with 3l hydration bladders and a magnetic clip to keep the drinks tube tidy whilst riding.
The Tokul RidgeAir back system
The Tokul X.C. come in a 5 litre and an 8 litre version. I chose the five. It features two main compartments one for the bladder and one for your kit. It really is a minimalist bag so taking a lot of kit is not an option especially with a full hydration system. It does however have a number of mesh pockets perfect for gels, light layers and a little cash.
When first putting on the bag feels far far too small. It seems to sit very high on the back and the straps feel flimsy but then you get a on bike and it all makes sense. The back system curves with the rider and in a matter of seconds you forget your wearing it. Its low profile reduces aero drag and the whole thing stays stable over the rough stuff. One fault I'd mention is that when the bladder is filled when it encroaches onto the other compartment making access didfficult. However you know what you are getting when you buy a pack of this capacity. All in all a very good fast and light X.C pack.
The Dothie All Mountain Pack though is in a different league. I opted for the 15 litre version (it also comes in a ten) and it is cavernous. This is a big 15 litres believe me. Like the Tokul it features a separate compartment for the bladder and one main one for kit. It also features a small external pocket and a smaller padded one for your phone. It also has two mesh pockets on the waist belt and probabley has more I'm yet to discover. The outside of the pack has a mesh section for storing a Full Face lid or crash pads. This pack is huge!
I managed to get my crash pads two spare layers, a first aid kit, a d-lock, full spares, pump, fork pump and food in and still had space even with a full 3 litres of energy drink on board. I reckon this pack would be ideal for photgraphers on the trail due to internal space alone and with plenty of mesh pockets in the main compartment organisation of bobbins is easy.
The Dothie A.M uses a Floatair back system and even with all the weight I was carrying the pack was stable and comfortable. No I'll go further than that, it was amazing. When riding in the dark down a black section at Coed Y Brenin I forgot I was wearing a pack. The Dothie A.M. is that comfortable.
Now I hate rain covers on pack. They're stupid. They add weight, flap about, get lost and breed a false sense of security but commuters love them so I begrudgingly put it over the pack and wet for a commute in the good old Welsh weather. Well it worked and every stayed dry so now I'm removed it so lets never speak of it again.
Now onto the most important test. I'm rubbish at sorting myself out after a ride and I have been known to leave my bag weeks unpacked with energy drinks giving life to new civilisations. I've ruined at least two hydraytion systems like this so one that is easy to clean is vital to me.
So I packed up the bag filled the bladder with juice and water and went to Croatia for 5 nights. True enough when I came back the bladder was "minging". However the ziplock wide opening made it very very easy to clean. One tablet of false teeth cleaner and a thin brush down the tube and good as new. If it can stand up to me it can stand up to anything.
There are a few niggles however. You have to make sure the tube comes out on the left or the magnetic clip doesn't work properly and the tubes have a habit of kinking if you put the them in wrong. (Oh and I don't like the colour), but these are minor things. All in all whilst not quite redifining Mountain Bike Hydration packs both packs are near to perfection. The Dothie A.M especially, has now got a place the Hall of Stu's favourite kit archive. I just need to find a bike that doesn't clash with it.