Desert racers have long known about the necessity to carry water and in the old days- the 70’s it was all about carrying a canteen. Several companies offered plastic canteens, but going to an army/navy surplus store would reward you with an army issue canteen. The aluminum can and thick pocket kept the water cool.

Over the last 40 years we have witnessed some serious evolution in the off-road riding/racing category of hydration. This world has morphed from the 70’s when riders who wanted fluids carried a canteen, to the 80’s where water bottles of various designs were attached to the rider’s chest protector.

In 1978 an army issue canteen kept the water cool and fastened pretty easy to your butt bag.


In 1991 the Back Canteen was popular. It mounted to your chest protector, was easily removed for quick changes and wasn’t offensive. On the not so good side was  its capacity- which  was small and it would need to be refilled, or changed out in longer off-road events.

In the 90s we felt some technology enter the Off-Road Hydration scene with units that you could pressurize and simply clamp on a bite valve and get fluids. And Scott Summers popularized the CamelBak in his GNCC dominance with 5 championships through the 90s. Big things started to happen in 2008 when Kurt Caselli started using USWE systems at the ISDE and around the 2010 time frame the top GNCC racers were switching to fanny bag water systems.

This is 1995 and is a pressurized system that fixed to your chest protector. It was light and worked really well, though it didn’t hold a large amount of fluid.

Today the progress continues with hydration systems that resist bouncing when you ride. That has always been a huge drawback to chest protector mounted unit and soft systems with a bladder that hold a good quantity of water. With just a shoulder strap system, 1.5 liters of water will float, bounce and move around in rough terrain. Companies like Klim, Leatt and USWE are offering hydration system with easy to fill reservoirs, sizes ranging from 1 liter to 3 liters and importantly, adjustable harness systems that keep the weight of a full water system from hopping around your back when desert hack, or boney woods.

Leatt’s systems have a bladder system and a strapping design that limits its reaction to violent moves.

We have taken one of the larger USWE packs and shoehorn a full sized  Nikon camera with a large zoom lens inside, plus water and riding is quite manageable. The nearly 10-pound weight doesn’t swing or hop and this would never happen with a normal shoulder strap and belt cinch system. Today’s hydration systems are most certainly worthy of the Off-Road Game Changer award.

USWE calls their cinching system No Dancing Monkey. They’re dead on, even a full pack with water and tools stays it in place and is totally manageable in rough conditions.


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