Hydrapak Bishop EXT 15L Hydration Pack Review

Hydrapak Bishop EXT 15L Hydration Pack Review

Pockets?  Did you say you like pockets?  You may be interested in Hydrapak’s Bishop EXT, providing 15L of storage in a multitude of storage compartments for all-day adventures.

Hydrapak Bishop EXT Features:

  • Weight: 1.96 lbs (0.89kg)
  • Gear storage: 915 cubic inches (15L)
  • Fluid capacity: 100 oz (3L)
  • Dimensions: 19.5″ x 9″ x 3″
  • Fabric construction: 210D Baby Rip Nylon, 210D Nylon, 420D HD Nylon Bottom, Hypalon construction
  • Air Tread back panel with ergo-bend aluminum stays
  • Swivel tacked hinged harness for increased range of fit and comfort
  • Thru-Vent padded shoulder straps
  • Splash guard rain cover included
  • Bucket wrap helmet carrier
  • Zippered belt pockets
  • Fleece-lined device pocket
  • Large front pocket w/multiple internal organizer pockets, elastic loops, and key clip
  • Side zip pockets
  • Shape shift fluid reservoir with Plug-N-Play quick connect tube, magnetic tube holder, and Blaster bite valve
  • Dedicated reservoir pocket on back panel
  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • MSRP $150

hydrapak bishop ext hiking

Built for mountain biking — capable elsewhere?

Hydrapak’s roots are in mountain biking, and for the most part, their hydration packs are designed with that specific activity in mind.  Although the company has become famous among a wide scope of endurance athletes for its gold-standard fluid reservoirs, and a few Hydrapak products have had good crossover capability into running or hiking, it’s never been a secret what activity the packs are primarily intended to serve.

hydrapak bishop ext 15L

The Bishop EXT is a great example of this “biking first, anything else is a bonus” mentality.  It features a handful of innovative designs that make the pack very comfortable and effective for mountain biking – but those same innovations also make the pack cumbersome for hiking or running.  I’ve used the pack for all three activities, and from a practical standpoint the pack is a one-trick pony – but it does that one trick quite well thanks to the new design elements.

Internal aluminum shank frame

Perhaps the biggest innovation on the new Bishop EXT is a new chassis with an internal aluminum shank frame.  It is combined with a molded foam Air Tread back panel and swivel tacked (more flexible fabric at the intersection of strap and pack) shoulder straps with extensive cutouts in the padding.  The resulting frame is fairly stiff and vents air effectively from the back and shoulders.  The stiffness is well suited for mountain biking, when you don’t want your pack shifting around during steep drops, bouncing through singletrack, or leaning into tight curves.  The tradeoff for all this stability is that the Bishop feels quite rigid against the body when hiking or running.

hydrapak bishop ext back panel

Air vent back panel; the aluminum shank runs vertically down the middle in the inside.

Another strength of the Bishop EXT is that the rigid frame and strap adjustments of the main pack keep the weight distributed fairly evenly throughout, even with a full reservoir and pockets stuffed to their limits.  Even with many pounds of gear, the pack sits comfortably and doesn’t create any asymmetric strain on the back.

Storage on the front straps is basically nonexistent aside from a narrow mesh pocket on each strap where you can tuck gel wrappers or other very small items.  The pack has pockets on each lumbar strap that are big enough for a smartphone or a handful of gels, but aside from this, all of the cargo capacity is on the back of the pack.

Innermost storage area

Innermost storage area with bonus zipper pocket

If you’re an “everything in its place” type of person, you’ll love the multiple organization options on the back side of the Bishop EXT.  There are two main compartment areas, one on top of the other.  The innermost one is more than roomy enough to stuff a jacket and other large items.  The outermost one has pictures of what tools and gear should go where – in case you need suggestions – and has plenty of space to stuff food or other gear in addition to your bike tools.

Outermost main storage area

Outermost main storage area

On top of both these compartments is a helmet carrier pocket; it’s wide enough to accommodate stashing jackets or gear if you’re not using a helmet (or if you’re wearing it), but this pocket is shallow and seems prone to things ejecting after a period of time.  There’s a lower horizontal zipper pocket that holds a rain cover – a great bonus feature that more packs need to adopt – and an upper horizontal zipper pocket has fleece lining for soft goods like glasses, a compact camera, or smart phones.  Two vertical zipper pockets on each side of the pack are wide and deep enough to stash water bottles or similar-sized gear, but are challenging to access on the fly.

hydrapak shape shifter reservoir

Great reservoir, but why does it stay put?

As with all Hydrapak hydration packs, the fluid reservoir is outstanding; in this case, it’s a 100-oz Shape-Shift reservoir that fills and closes in a snap, and is completely reversible for simple cleaning and drying.  The Bishop also features a redesigned high-flow bite valve and a locking mechanism that is larger and much easier to use than previous versions – it actually looks very similar to the locking mechanism on CamelBak’s drink tubes, and works quite effectively at preventing dripping or leakage from the valve.

hydrapak blaster bite valve

Updated Blaster bite valve and lock

However, there is one oddity about the fluid reservoir in the Bishop EXT: its clasp is permanently (sort of) affixed to the interior sleeve, presumably to prevent getting dropped or lost while refilling or cleaning.  I don’t like this feature at all, as I typically like to take the entire reservoir, clasp and all, out of the pack when filling or cleaning.  The only way to free the clasp on this pack is to cut the fabric attachment loop with a scissors – which is exactly what I did.

There's no escape - unless you have something sharp.

There’s no escape – unless you have something sharp.

The Good:

  • Stability on the back for unsteady cycling
  • Even load distribution
  • Top of the line reservoir, tube, and valve

The Bad:

  • No front storage and very little side storage space
  • Too rigid for hiking or running
  • Fixed reservoir clasp

The Bottom Line: Hydrapak Bishop EXT

Dedicated riders in search of a stable, large capacity hydration pack will find plenty to like about the Bishop EXT, but those looking for multi-use capability will be disappointed.

Buy Now: Available at CampSaver

 

Written By

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.