Kulkea sends it into the cycling industry with the OTRmost collection, a mix of gear packs highlighted by a new hydration pack designed for mountain biking. And it offers cyclists an entirely fresh approach to packing hydration.
Northeast ski brand Kulkea’s slant to a cycling-focused hydration pack uses a nifty “Tri-Wrap” design. This innovation, along with the expandable 8-15L cargo hold, unlocks a bevy of features and gives the sub-2-pound, 17.5 x 8.75-inch pack more versatility than the size suggests.
I tested the brand-new Kulkea product on the trails of Galbraith Mountain in Bellingham, Wash. With a mix of gravel climb, singletrack climb, cross-country, and downhill trails, I took the pack into the heart of Pacific Northwest mountain biking.
In short: At $160, the new Kulkea OTRmost hydration pack sits on the premium end of cycling gear. But it has the features, technology, and quality that prove it belongs in that space.
Kulkea ‘Tri-Wrap’ Backpack
Appropriately, the Tri-Wrap pack took the New England ski brand 3 years to design and create, but it was cycling-inspired from the start.
The most innovative feature Kulkea built in this hydration pack comes from, well, the hydration. Using a 2L HydraPak Shape-Loc reservoir, which comes with a lifetime warranty, the Tri-Wrap system makes it both quick and hassle-free to get into the reservoir.
To fill up, simply unclip the main gear compartment and flip it up, revealing the Tri-Wrap system. From there, a Velcro panel pulls away to show the two interior panels locking down the reservoir.
Fully exposed, the reservoir can quickly unclip for a fill-up and, most impressively, clip back in without squishing and finagling. The plug-and-play hose system gets out of the way for filling.
Fold, secure, and strap the reservoir in place, and the hydration tube flows easily to the front and stays locked in place with a magnet. It really is one of the smoothest systems I’ve tested.
Kulkea OTRmost Features
While hydration comes as the focus, the pack’s main pocket has a 3-inch expansion that helps bikers stuff more into the pack, or keep it all locked in tight when space isn’t needed. This also explains the 8-15L spec.
Along with the main compartment, the pack features an armored, crushproof pocket on the top to carry glasses, a security pocket, two waistband pockets sized for a smartphone (or snacks!), a helmet sling, and a slot for an air pump.
One thing Kulkea left out was any sort of tool storage. According to CEO and founder David Abramowitz, riders love their own tool rolls. So, he added a special pocket on the bottom to hold a tool roll, which also makes the pack more versatile.
But, the pack also has hiking pole loops for non-cycling versatility (or some serious hike-a-bike). Under the bottom pocket sits a hidden rain cover in case riders encounter a surprise shower or muddy trails.
Overall, the silhouette pushes the pack off your back for actual airflow — I really felt this during climbings. Reflective detailing, a light loop, and a built-in (and super-tiny) safety whistle add some extras geared toward cyclists.
The mixture of 450D diamond ripstop polyester and 200D ripstop nylon also makes the pack water-resistant.
Kulkea OTRmost MTB Pack Review
Filling the hydration system proved one of the easiest modes I’ve tried, giving the Kulkea product a nice start before I even set out for the trails. I stuffed extras into the pack to test out its expansion and utilized the security pocket for a wallet and key. It all worked as advertised.
During the climbs, the ability of the Tri-Wrap design to compress the hydration was a noticeable benefit. Never once could you hear water sloshing about, let alone feel the movement of water throwing off stability.
The high-flow bite valve tucked across the chest made it easy for gulping during climbs. The magnet meant I could drop the tube back into place without it throwing off my cadence.
The baffled HydraPak Shape-Loc system pushes the weight of the pack’s contents toward the rider and evenly distributes it with minimal water movement. The Tri-Wrap system also allows riders to tighten the system as water levels draw down, keeping everything tight against the back.
While most packs advertise an ability to promote airflow, it felt especially pronounced with the Kulkea pack, a welcome aspect during the toughest parts of the climb. The HDPE frame back panel and ventilated shoulder straps were cycling-specific inclusions.
During the cross-country and downhill rides, the tight fit and manageable size of the pack felt snug and sat out of the way, without pulling in any direction. This instilled confidence to tackle tricky sections.
Should You Buy the Kulkea OTRmost Pack?
The $160 price point for the Kulkea OTRmost will put off some folks, but if you’re looking for durability, the pack comes with a 2-year warranty. The hydration system has a lifetime warranty.
Overall, the small, nimble hydration pack doesn’t really feel like it’s carrying water. And the Kulkea has the technology to impress and the features to make it worth the effort.Check Price at Kulkea