Hydration packs bring salvation to parched souls during long, hot climbs in the high mountain desert terrain here in Utah. What could be better than riding around with 100 oz. of liquid refreshment available on-demand both on and off the bike? And, to top that off with enough room to stash a pump, tubes, tools, extra layers and bars, goos and gels galore just makes them that much more essential.

Hydration packs have many personalities, but the best personality of all is comfort. And, Deuter‘s Air Comfort Backsystem is, in my mind, the cream of the crop when it comes to comfort and breathability. I’ve been able to experience that first-hand with several Deuter packs now tested.  However, next to comfort comes function and usability. So, how would the Deuter Race Air Light stack up against the competition when it comes to pockets, stashes and storage?

Deuter Race Air Light Hydration Pack Review

About the Deuter Race Air Light Hydration Pack

Built on the one-of-a-kind Air Comfort suspension design, the Deuter Race Air Light hydration pack is an all-around workhorse hydration pack that has enough storage capacity for all-day epics, but is still small enough to use on daily rides.

With 350 cu. in. capacity, the Race Air Light sits in the sweet spot of hydration packs, but it also includes the ability to carry an XC helmet, armor or even a full-face helmet thanks to the elastic Stuff-it Pocket. This pack also includes an easy-to-use Source 100 oz. hydration bladder.

More highlights of the Deuter Race Air Light:

  • Air Comfort Backsystem for breathability
  • Mesh shoulder straps for ventilation
  • Floating Stuff-it Pocket expands to carry larger items
  • Includeds Source 100 oz. bladder
  • 350 cubic inches
  • Expandable helmet storage
  • MSRP: $78.95

Deuter Race Air Light Hydration Pack Review

Deuter Race Air Light Hydration Pack Review

Hot on the heels of my review of the Deuter Race EXP Air, the Race Air Light is cut out of a similar mold as the EXP. Sporting the absolutely kick-butt Air Comfort suspension design, the Race Air Light is built for comfortable mountain biking assaults.

Let me talk a little more about the Air Comfort system. The mesh back panel is suspended between the top and bottom of the pack–providing unsurpassed airflow and breathability. To be clear… this suspension design is flat-out the best going. You’re not going to find a more breathable pack on the market today. Even after miles of singletrack in the heat of the day, your back will never feel like the winning coach after a Gatorade bath. Yes, you’re still going to sweat, but most of it will evaporate naturally instead of pooling up on your back.

This pack sports plenty of pockets to stash your gear and other extra goodies for a daylong ride. I had a love/hate relationship with the floating Stuff-it back pocket. It’s nice to have that extra space and the bungee cords easily expand to store a regular helmet, jacket or other items. But, the floating nature of the pocket makes for two-handed unzipping (because the pocket isn’t secure to the pack) and gobs of webbed bungee cords going all over the place on the pack with a rat tail of excess when attached tightly.

Even though the floating back pocket has its drawbacks, I did appreciate the helmet storage for travel. I used it on a flight to and from Las Vegas for Interbike 2008 and it worked like a charm.

The 100 oz Streamer bladder is easy to slip in/out of the pack and functions on par with the best bladders on the market. It’s great to have a complimentary tube of Bigger Nuun with every pack. I’m a big fan of Nuun and you should be too.

Good Race Air Light

  • Awesome breathability
  • Excellent for hot-weather riding
  • Ample pockets to store your tools, etc.
  • Helmet storage is convenient for travel

Bad Race Air Light

  • Detached rear pocket should use straps instead of bungees

Deuter Race Air Light Hydration Pack Review

The Bottom Line on the Deuter Race Air Light Hydration Pack

With just enough storage and pockets for an all-day Summer ride, the Race Air Light is a great size. Though the pockets and ample storage is a great feature of this pack, it  isn’t the winning feature–the Air Comfort back panel is by far the biggest selling point of this hydration pack. Deuter is the one to beat when it comes to sheer breathability and overall riding comfort.

Buy Now: Deuter Hydration Packs at Backcountry.com

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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