The hydration pack market is busy with myriad options, sizes, and uses. I’ve reviewed quite a few packs on these pages, but none as small and minimal as this pack from upstart company DolfinPack.
I purchased this pack last year off a kickstart campaign and have run with it a few dozen times, ranging from time on the trails to quick jaunts on the street. My five year old daughter is attempting a hostile takeover of much of my gear, so I figured I’d better get this review out before she succeeds. This thing is made pretty well, but I’m not sure it could survive a few days with a Kindergartner.
The Dolfinpack is super basic and minimal and that’s going to be a major positive for some people who don’t want the fuss of zippers, pockets, fancy nylons, and the accompanying price. The pared-down aspect to the pack will also turn off some runners who like to have separate pouches and pockets for clothes, pills, tech devices, gels, and whatever else we deem necessary to commune with nature.
The pack literally has one pocket–just big enough to carry a 1.5 liter hydration bladder that closes with a 1″x6″ piece of tough Velcro. I suppose you could cram an extra shirt or gels in the pouch, but I’v never felt the necessity.
It’s got shoulder straps made of an elastic nylon that have a few adjustments options, but would fall short for the person who needs specific alterations to their gear or is susceptible to rubbing and chafing. The straps worked for me, but I’m not very picky with packs. There’s a chest strap made of the same 2.5″ wide Velcro material that keeps everything relatively tight, and a small elastic loop on each side of the chest in which to run the bladder tube through. And at the bottom of the pack, 5 metal grommets reinforce 1/2″ holes in the neoprene that I assume are for draining, though I’m not entirely sure.
That’s it. That’s the extent of the pack. It does come with a BPA-free bladder, but it’s a pretty cheap version and most runners will likely replace it immediately with whichever bladder they’re comfortable using.
Note, there’s no hook at the top of pouch by which a bladder could hang. It’s all dependent on the pack fitting snug and dispersing the liquid evenly. I’ve never had a problem.
Fit-wise, one size fits all, and that’s true. At 6’2″ it sits high on my back, but there’s enough give in the straps to accommodate my frame. And parents, listen up: It’s also a pretty good pack for the little ones. Sunny is 5 1/2, very petite at 36lbs, and she wears it pretty well.
For someone looking for something basic, this is a decent option. Certainly not fancy, but the DolfinPack is well suited to join you on runs and MTB rides, and it’ll be on my back when I start stand-up paddle boarding next week. The price should also be comforting to people who worry about losing gear at aid stations. I’ve worn expensive gear and left it at aid stations for whatever reason, then spent the next few hours stressing on whether I’d ever see it again. Forty bucks ain’t nothing, but I would’t stress about not seeing the pack again if I had to ditch it with strangers.
Available here for $40 in a few colors. The site prefers to use very attractive swimsuit models for the pics, and I’ll mark that down in the positive column.