This Zulo 6 is a new hydration hip pack from Swedish brand USWE. Banana-shaped, it comes pre-curved to better fit the human form with a slightly lower front waist belt than the main compartment.
This design is effective and the waist belt is nice and broad to stabilise the pack. There’s sufficient overlap to tighten snugly on my 34in waist, but there won’t be much Velcro left if your pub body is closer to the 40in upper limit.
The included two-litre bladder fits well and sits close to the spine for stability, although it does eat into available space in the main compartment if you’ve got a lot of gear to carry. Storage is organised in terms of one large main compartment and then a fold-open outer portion with multiple internal pockets and zip-up mesh stashes to organise gear inside a zip-out tool stash – it’s logical and pockets are deep/secure enough, as well as easy to delve inside.
Much like the smaller USWE Zulo 2 hip-pack I’ve tested for our best hip packs for mountain biking group test, stability is excellent when riding with minimal swinging and wriggling. With stiffer foam inside the wings on the thick stretchy waistband, a tensioning strap at the hips to cinch the cargo tighter into the body, and a secure single clasp fastening, the Zulo 6 stays put in the exact same position the whole day, which can’t be said for all hip packs.
With its bigger volume, I hoped this pack would replace an old and battered Scott Eliminator bum bag I’ve used for years to occasionally carry a DSLR camera with a couple of lenses, alongside the usual day’s mtb gubbins. But, even with four litres more advertised storage than the Zulo 2, there doesn’t seem that much more capacity here in reality, and there was no way I could squeeze my camera, waterproof jacket, inner tube, tools and everything inside, which is odd when the external form doesn’t look that dissimilar to Scott’s pack.
Most riders won’t need to carry as much stuff, but I still feel USWE has missed a trick with where the side stash pockets sit just above your glutes (in the ‘love handle’ zone), rather than on the front of the waist like the best packs. It’s a negative for two reasons; firstly, you simply can’t fit as much in as bodies bulge out on the back and have more room on the front close to hip bones to carry kit, and, secondly, spreading the load front-to-back, by having the option to place heavier, quick-access items like multi- tools on the hip, better balances cargo than placing all the weight on the backside.
Summing up then, the USWE Zulo 6 has excellent stability, sorted construction quality and the bladder function is great, but the storage layout could make better use of the front/ sides of the waist belt.