A quality product but it’s expensive
Hydration packs with spine protection come in all shapes and sizes. Some cover the entire length of your back, while others offer the minimum amount of protection needed to reassure a judicious race marshal.
In fact, plenty of enduro racers run dedicated packs without the spine protection fitted, just to save weight and skirt the regulations.
That’s not an option with the Scott Airstrike 22, as the protection actually forms the backbone of the design. It’s not certified like the latest range of Scott Trail Protect packs, but the integrated back panel means the pack can be made from a lightweight rip-stop fabric to keep weight down, while still retain its shape and a degree of protection.
The only real drawback with this approach is that the base of the pack tends to rest on two small areas just above your love handles and, when loaded with enough kit to be self-sufficient on a big day in the mountains, they become pressure points. Still, even with the minimum amount of contact, the pack is very stable and doesn’t tend to ride up even when fully loaded.
There’s a large zip compartment in the base designed for storing essential tools, so they don’t rattle around in the pack. Initially, I thought this was a great idea, but as the zip got gunked-up with mud, I resorted to putting my pumps in the main compartment. I quickly moved my multi-tool to one of the mesh pockets on the waist strap too, making it much easier to access.
No bladder is supplied, but I mostly use water bottles anyway, the two side pockets offering a perfect storage solution. The pack can be expanded to accommodate a three-litre bladder, and the side pockets can be used for stowing kneepads or a jacket. The helmet tab is a great feature too and there’s storm cover tucked into the base to keep your kit dry.
Testament to the durability of the Airflow 22, the only sign of wear after almost one year of continuous use is that the mesh side pocket, where I keep my multi-tool, is starting to become threadbare. So there’s no denying that it’s a quality product, but at a penny shy of £80 it’s expensive, especially given there’s no bladder included.