Deuter Race EXP Air Hydration Pack Review

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Hydration packs are definitely one of the best inventions of the past 10 years. I remember the first hydration pack I purchased. The bladder was thin and awkward to fill and insert/remove from the pack itself. The pack was pretty basic, but functional. Mountain biking and hiking adventures got much more enjoyable without the need of carrying several awkwardly-sized water bottles in a pack or on my bike frame.

As full suspension frames have changed over the years, the standard water bottle mounts have been either removed or placed in unusable locations like underneath the downtube. Luckily, there are many hydration packs to choose from at many price points. One of those options comes from the innovative German packmaker, Deuter. Their lineup of hydration packs are popular for a reason… they are some of the best-designed on the market.

Deuter Race EXP Air Hydration Pack Review

About the Deuter Race EXP Air Hydration Pack

Deuter has been building backpacks for 110 years. Can you believe that? I know very few companies in the outdoor industry with that much longevity… actually, I don’t know any. That said, Deuter has some great ideas on how to build a backpack and hence, a killer hydration pack.

The new Deuter Race EXP Air Hydration Pack is an expandable pack that’s built for all-day epics, but is versatile enough to handle the quick rides as well. The heart of the Race EXP Air is the Air Comfort back panel and suspension design. The mesh back panel¬† is suspended between the top and bottom of the pack, so as to maintain critical airflow on your back.

The cool features don’t end at the Air Comfort system, the Race EXP Air features a hydration sleeve capable of schlepping the 3 liter Source bladder, numerous pockets to stash your essentials and tools, a built-in pack cover and an expandable storage system that boosts volume from 750 to 900 cubic inches.

Highlights of the Deuter Race EXP Air hydration pack:

Deuter Race EXP Air Hydration Pack Review

Deuter Race EXP Air Hydration Pack Review

This is the second Deuter hydration pack I’ve flogged. Last season, I put the hurt on the Deuter M3 hydration pack and liked it a lot, but wished it had a few more organizer pockets. So, this spring, I’ve been pounding on the new Deuter Race EXP Air hydration pack and have been very impressed with it.

For starters, the Air Comfort suspension design is awesome. Honestly, nobody likes having a sweaty, manky back after a long slog. It’s inevitable, right? WRONG! The Air Comfort system is simply amazing. I have yet to have that wet, sticky shirt feeling when reaching the top of the climb. Airflow is outstanding and breathability is second-to-none. That feature alone makes this pack the best I’ve used.

With plenty of organizer pockets of various sizes, I found ample storage locations for my PROBars, Crank Brothers Multi-tool, shock pump, jacket, camera and whatever else I felt like stuffing in there. I had no worries about fitting it all in because the pack expands with a quick zip.

The Source bladder is flat-out awesome as well. I’ve been told that the material is nearly as slick as glass, so cleaning is a snap. Just a bit of hot water and a touch of soap, a quick swish, rinse and it’s clean. No more scrubbing or discolored bladders. The cap on the end of the bite valve is a nice touch, but a bit awkward to operate while in the saddle. The hose does not have a quick disconnect valve to easily remove it from the bladder for filling, but you can’t have everything.

The overall fit is outstanding and again, the Air Comfort system shines here. The only complaint I’ve got with the fit is the location of the waistbelt wings. These should be placed along the outer edge of the pack to wrap around your waist, but instead, they just sit in the middle of your lower back–kind of odd. I only really notice it when I’m first putting it on. After that, it’s completely out of my mind, so no biggie… just a little weird.

Good Race EXP Air

  • Amazing Air Comfort Design Eliminates Sweaty Back Disease (look at the air gap in the following image)
  • Source Bladder is Easy-to-use
  • Plenty of Pockets to Stash Your Gear
  • Expandable As Needed

Bad Race EXP Air

  • Waistbelt Hip Wings Are a Little Odd-fitting
  • Cannot Easily Disconnect Hose from Bladder for Refilling
  • $118 Pricepoint is Spendy

Deuter Race EXP Air Hydration Pack Review

The Bottom Line on the Deuter Race EXP Air

I’ve used a lot of hydration packs from cheapie to high-zoot. The Air Comfort back alone puts the Deuter Race EXP Air in a class all by itself. I wouldn’t care if the actual storage compartments were completely bare bones, the fact of the matter is that the Air Comfort back allows your back to breathe and remain comfortable–even after a long slog uphill. This pack is versatile and has all the right pockets to keep your gear organized on an all-day epic or a quick afternoon ride. It is a bit on the large side, but it’s a great pack for those who want the ability to store body armor or all-day sundries.

Buy Now: Find the Latest Deuter 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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