Acre Hauser Backprotector NSMB AndrewM.JPG
Seasonal Adjustments

Swapping Bladders For Back Protectors

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Dec 6, 2021
Reading time

SMRT

Occasionally I have an idea so simple and sensible that I spend more time wondering where I borrowed it from than actually implementing it. Then, after I ponder the origin of my idea for a while, failing to discover the source, I'll admit I feel silly about getting excited. I mean, even if I did think it up independently, it isn't exactly rocket surgery.

After years of riding in backpacks exclusively, then using different fanny packs, and sometimes even riding pack-free, I became quite settled on Camelbak's Chase Protector Vest (CPV) in the summer of 2020. I like the easily accessible cellphone pocket, I like the fit and how it stays in place, and I love how the CE Level 2 back protector separates me from my stuff. I've landed on my back before and I rather like having a layer between me and my 4/3 camera.

I only fill up a bladder for real adventures and even when it's fairly mucky, I get by with bottles because I find I drink much more water that way. Also, water bottles' squirting function comes in handy from time to time. But between my camera, tools, and spare clothes, a pack of some sort is the most convenient way to carry my crap.

CamelBak Chase Vest NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

The Chase Protector has been my go-to since summer 2020 for the fit, easy phone access, and the CE2 protection from my own gear.

Acre Hauser Backprotector NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

Prior to last year, I switched over to my Acre Hauser in the moister months. This weatherproof beauty keeps all my stuff dry.

Through the fall, winter, and spring last year, I broke with my usual tradition of running a weatherproof pack for the moister months in favour of the CPV. Sometimes I thought ahead and stored my stuff in a second drybag inside and when I didn't ,my spare duds were drenched. There's nothing quite like swapping your cold, soggy gloves for the fresh pair of equally cold, soggy gloves that are swimming in your backpack.

In the aftermath of a recent fishing expedition, where I caught a sopping wad of wet backup clothing, I'd finally had enough and I pulled my trusty weatherproof Acre pack off the wall. The Chase needed a solid baking soda-soak to de-stink anyways. It was in emptying the Chase and removing the back protector that I got to thinking.

CamelBak Chase Vest NSMB AndrewM (7).JPG

The Chase Protector Vest sits higher on my back than most packs.

Acre Hauser Backprotector NSMB AndrewM.JPG

The CE 1621-2 Level 2 protector moved straight across to my Acre pack with no fuss. I just zipped it in to the pocket where a bladder would normally sit. The protector weighs just over 200-grams.

Camelbak actually sells the Impact Protector Panel on its own for 50 USD | 65 CAD and while they state it's "designed specifically to be used with select CamelBak hydration packs" most bladders are a uniform shape. Sure enough, it zips right into my weatherproof pack in place of a bladder. And yes, it's just over 200-grams of added weight on top of already wearing a pack, but it makes my camera more comfortable and the added confidence makes it a worthwhile addition.

I'm one of a grand total of three folks I know that rides with a back protector, and most of my riding friends have sworn off backpacks for all but the most epic days, but I'm glad the option exists and stoked that it's compatible with my favourite weatherproof rolltop pack.

Related Stories

Trending on NSMB

Comments

trailschnitzel
+1 Andrew Major
Eric Schuler  - Dec. 6, 2021, 3:48 a.m.

We must have had similar ideas :D When riding with my pack I shove my backprotector from my vest in the bladder compartment of my Evoc Trailcapture. Works like a charm but one think I noted is, that the pad doesnt get as soft and forms to the body as its not warmed up by body heat.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2021, 6:56 a.m.

That’s an interesting point about body heat. I don’t know if I’ve noticed the pad being more rigid than my best, but I’ll pay attention next ride.

Reply

Fahzure
+1 Andrew Major
Fahzure  - Dec. 6, 2021, 7:41 a.m.

I like the Osprey 3L bladder with the rigid plastic panel for its dual function as a spine protector. I've had an OTB to sharp rock which punctured the bladder and dented the plastic, but combined with the pack's back panel padding, left me with nothing more than (luckily) a small bruise. I think the rigid plastic could do a better job on point loads than all foam construction.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2021, 12:38 p.m.

It's an interesting thought. If anything I think most folks would want more conformity out of their backplate not less though. I'm actually surprised that there isn't a d3o (or similar non-Newtonian) material being used. Maybe a matter of it not having adequate structure over such a big surface area?

Reply

slyfink
+1 Andrew Major
slyfink  - Dec. 6, 2021, 8:54 a.m.

great timing on this. I've been riding packless for the past three years now and really enjoying it. but I went OTB off a table top in August, and broke two vertebra (one needed fusion to fix), my shoulder blade (the coracoid process) and three ribs. I'm extremely lucky in that I will be making a full recovery and will be able to return to full activity.

but... when I do get back on the mountain bike, I think I will return to wearing a pack, and I was hoping to get one with spine protection. I have the Osprey mentioned above, and have put the EVOC Trail Pro 10 on my Christmas wish list, but something like this would make "upgrading" my current pack do-able.

I guess my only question is whether it is big enough to offer proper coverage in the event of a crash?

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Andrew Major
Pete Roggeman  - Dec. 6, 2021, 12:19 p.m.

Sorry to hear about your injury, slyfink, and hope you recover soon.

To your question about proper coverage, I don't have an answer - perhaps Andrew does but it may also depend on your answer to my question: Was the nature of your crash one in which a spine protector would have helped prevent some or all of your injuries? I assume the answer is at least a partial yes, but just wondering as I understand when a back protector would be useful but it also seems to me that most injuries wouldn't be prevented by one.

I've been saved by a full bladder in the past - that used to be the case way more often in the past when we had steeper HTAs and shorter front centres so that OTB crashes were more common. Anyway, just curious about the nature of your crash and where a back protector would and would not (potentially) have helped.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2021, 12:46 p.m.

Ugh. Happy to hear a full recovery is in your future! 

As to protection, it's going to totally depend on the contact point I suppose. What it's definitely providing complete coverage area for is my stuff that's in my bag. I've heard some stories of folks screwing themselves up crashing on smooth singletrack because they landed on their camera, tools, etc. I've had a bad endo where I believe I was saved by my hydration bladder and also one last year where I walked away fine but felt the awkward shape of my camera or tool roll or whatever when I rolled over. 

I wear a pack anyways, and the back protector isn't a hindrance at all - if anything it's more comfortable than not having it with the load I carry - so it's totally worth it in my case. As Pete noted, whether it's enough coverage for you versus say an identical crash situation I wouldn't be able to say. 

------

I love really nice gear but have very limited space and a limited budget so multiple applications and years of use are requirements. I've been using my Acre pack for hiking and light trail building for a while now, and now it's my go-to mountain bike pack again. I think that's a pretty cool example of the value I'm getting from the back protector.

Reply

demo7_rider
+1 Andrew Major
demo7_rider  - Dec. 7, 2021, 3:55 a.m.

I've had the original Camelbak Kudu 18 in the past and currently use the EVOC Tail Pro 10 you've mentioned is on your Christmas list. The EVOC protector definitely has a wider and slightly longer coverage than the Cambelbak and also seems to sit more squarely and is held in place better by the pack's better straps. It's less comfortable off the bike as the protector is much more rigid, but it is very comfortable in a riding position and also a lot lighter.

I've had one big off while using the EVOC and it did save me from a potentially more severe injury. The protector (which uses similar material to a helmet and is designed to be a one-hit-only deal) was dented right in the centre, which would have been my spine. EVOC provide free replacements of the protector, which I received within days from the distributer.

So all in all, I thoroughly recommend the EVOC for maximum coverage and I think the more rigid protector is also more likely to help in an over-extension type situation than a fully flexible protector would (although I have nothing to back that up).

Reply

SprSonik
+1 Andrew Major
Mark Forbes  - Dec. 6, 2021, 9:06 a.m.

Can't stand riding with packs, but plan to ride park and race enduro with protection in 2022. Years of wearing roost guards on motorcycles has convinced me the extra protection is worth it. I've just been lazy. Had 3 crashes over the past 4 years or so where broken ribs were part of the equation.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2021, 12:50 p.m.

I can't stand a lot of packs - and tried pack-less and hip-pack riding for a couple of years for a reason - but between the Camelbak Protector Vest and my Acre pack I seem to have a 1-2 punch that works for me. Sure, I often miss the extra breathability of a packless system in the summer.

Reply

khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Dec. 6, 2021, 1:36 p.m.

I forgot to mention the beauty of a pack with a "trampoline" style back.  For years (before I was aware of slip-in protection, if it existed at the time) I rode with a Deuter Race EXP Air pack - chosen primarily because I felt the trampoline system with metal leaf springs holding the pack off my back gave me an added element of protection when compared to a pack that sat directly on my back.  The additional cooling benefits were a bonus for me rather than the main point of the design.  My Dakine Seeker has a very similar design, but additionally has a pocket for a slip-in back protector.  I'm not keen to test it but could probably fall pretty hard on a pointy rock and not feel too much through it.  It's not as nice as nothing, but when I need to carry a lot it's pretty comfortable.

Reply

andy-eunson
+2 Andrew Major Poz
Andy Eunson  - Dec. 7, 2021, 9:21 a.m.

Nothing is more comfortable riding than no pack. But I have concluded that it’s the weight more than anything that makes packs comfy or not. Bum bags with a bladder or too much stuff bounce and need to be cranked tight. I bought the Chase protector based upon Andrew’s recommendation and it’s great. All packs should have strap pockets like that. I have a Black Diamond ski pack that works really well like that. It’s a Cirque 22. Brilliant pack. For the short hikes I do with my dogs I bought a Black Diamond 8 litre running pack. Vest style packs rule. 

Also my bikes only have one bottle mount which is now taken up with bear spray. Had an encounter this summer with a sow with cubs.

Reply

craw
+1 Andy Eunson
Cr4w  - Dec. 7, 2021, 12:50 p.m.

Totally. Clearly not all packs or bum bags are created equal. I've had good and bad of both. 

Now I have an Osprey Raptor 14 pack that is incredible. Stays in place, it's super light, full of clever pockets and is tough as hell; perfect for longer days. I also have an Evoc Pro bum bag with its ingenious double wrap velcro belt. It's great for smaller days but the water bottle slots are all but unusable while riding so you still have to use a small bladder or stop each time you want to sleeve the bottle. The Evoc needs to be run at half capacity or it doesn't work well, overloaded it totally sucks. It's nice to have options.

Reply

khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Dec. 6, 2021, 10:01 a.m.

I've got back protection inserted into my riding packs, though I do ride with a fanny pack more often than I used to. I also have a chest/back protector and a neck brace for park duty though I haven't been wearing that as much as I used to. I like the protection, but also like the freedom of movement and airflow from not wearing them. I am trying to wear armour more of the time, so I'll probably go back to wearing it whenever I finally get cleared to get back on the bike.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 khai
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2021, 12:54 p.m.

I stopped riding in a fanny pack because I needed to carry more stuff regularly for the kid and I don't like switching all my everyday tools and things around all the time*. Now that I'm back in the pack every ride it's just like before I ditched riding them the first time. I never think about it - just grab my gear and ride. 

*Plus, my wife totally wife-taxed my beloved Porcelain Rocket hip pack...

Reply

andyf
+1 Andrew Major
andyf  - Dec. 6, 2021, 5:21 p.m.

Camelbak sells an optional back protector for $50 that fits in the latest version of some of their more popular packs.  I have an older KUDU pack that I like because the protector compartment unzips from the pack and it stays in place better than Camelbak's regular packs due to the wide waist belt and double chest straps.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2021, 9:05 p.m.

Yep, linked in the second to last paragraph. Turns out it fits other brands' packs too ;-)

The KUDU was/is a great-looking pack with the 'hip pack style' waist belt to boot. My understanding is it was killed because it was heavy but I don't know if that factors in the back protector or not. If the weight included the back protector then it's not that insane.

Reply

jon-hillstrom
+1 Andrew Major
Jon Hillström  - Dec. 7, 2021, 6:18 a.m.

FYI you can fit a POC VPD Spine backprotector into an Osprey Talon 22. Actually feels better than the vest it came from.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 7, 2021, 7:09 a.m.

They have a few models and generations, this is the vented “VPD System” you’re talking about or did you pull it out of a different product? 

Certainly curious about other models than the Camelbak.

Reply

jon-hillstrom
+1 Andrew Major
Jon Hillström  - Dec. 9, 2021, 2:11 a.m.

The VPD pad is from one of the older Spine VPD tee with the the white plastic armour so pad is full length.

The Talon pack has a good venting system that still works with the pad in the bladder pocket.

Reply

Poz
+1 Andrew Major
Poz  - Dec. 7, 2021, 12:22 p.m.

I picked up a Chase Protector for this year after riding packless for a couple years. It saved my back on a bad rocky crash this June and I won’t ride without it now. In the Okanagan it’s hot so I tend to like a bladder anyway and a bottle on the bike with hydration salts. But even in the cooler months I may not use a bladder but after that crash I always wear the backprotector if I’m riding anything other than a light fitness ride. 

The cell phone pocket is great as well. 

Good idea on putting the protector in other packs. I may try that for longer rides as the Chase is pretty limited in volume for epics.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Poz
Andrew Major  - Dec. 7, 2021, 12:35 p.m.

Yeah, very much thinking that I'd like to add a cellphone pocket to the front of my other packs. Maybe something modular.

Camelbak now has a weatherproof Mule that's based on the Chase that I'd very much like to get my hands on. It has the same basic layout with the phone pocket and, of course, the benefit of keeping my gear dry.

Reply

LWK
+1 Andrew Major
LWK  - Dec. 7, 2021, 2:25 p.m.

My observation is that I seem to be almost the only person riding a DH bike with a pack when I am at bike parks but I do it mainly for the spine protection.  Its a 20L EVOC with the spine pad so its a big pack.  I leave it empty save for a snack bar or two and a small amount of water in the bladder.  So its light enough and low profile to my body and I really dont notice it while riding.  Its also handy for food and water on the lift.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2021, 9:22 a.m.

It’s interesting how much armour folks here used to climb up with. I think it’s fair to say that crashes back then were much more frequent for everyone, but much less speed was involved on average. So simple padding could reduce a larger % of injuries than it would now.

I do notice, since going back to a pack full time, how few riders wear one now. 

I also notice - anecdotally -more open face helmets now compared to a couple or few years ago when, in my estimation, more folks had removable chin bars.

It’s an ebb and flow I suppose. I’d run elbow pads too sometimes if I could find some light-but-useful ones I like.

Reply

khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Dec. 8, 2021, 9:52 a.m.

I've got a really lightweight pair of Kali elbow pads and a slightly heavier pair of POC VPD Air Fabio Ed elbows as I've been trying to force myself to wear protection "at all times"...  (Both are good but the Kalis are approaching the end of their service life)  Neither are as robust as the POC Joint VPD 2 pads I have for park days and more "aggressive" rides but I've fallen elbow to rock on these multiple times and they've held up well.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2021, 8:17 p.m.

It seems everything I've tried either gives me massive amounts of arm pump or provides little protection AND moves. I have some P.I. pads that are almost there and I keep thinking if I 'made' them just a bit bigger they might do the job. Protection is good, they're relatively light and breathable, but they're too obvious when they're on right now.

Reply

khai
+1 Andrew Major
khai  - Dec. 8, 2021, 10:08 p.m.

Interesting - I've never attributed arm pump to elbow pads...  Getting rid of that SQLabs bar with mega backsweep and going to a OneUp carbon bar has generally resolved those issues for me.  I have on occasion wondered about the FastFlexx bar on my DH bike, but it's not enough of a problem to justify that expensive of an experiment for me.  Easing into park season seems to help a lot.  

I've tried pads that weirdly felt both tight and yet fell down right away (G-Form), and pads that felt super comfortable and seem to stay put pretty darn well (POC Fabios).  Nothing's perfect but comfortable/protective and requiring minimal pulling up is a win in my book.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1 Andrew Major
Pete Roggeman  - Dec. 9, 2021, 7:41 p.m.

Same for me - arm pads usually fit too tight and I get ze pump. If they don't fit that tight, they don't work in a crash. I think we still haven't seen the best design/ergonomics we'll see.

cornedbeef
+1 Andrew Major
cornedbeef  - Dec. 8, 2021, 5:31 p.m.

I have the EVOC Trail Pro 10L with the back protector after crashing hard as a result of pedal striking on a eMTB. I really got scared after that happened and basically took a deeper look into my riding gear after that. No more uncomfortable Kali elbow pads that constantly slip and result in me removing them, actual G Form units replaced them. Actual trail gloves not some awful cycling gloves (that are neither good for road or mtb).

I'm scared a crash can permanently take out my back...so I think it's a worthy investment.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 8, 2021, 8:22 p.m.

I tried the G-Form stuff and if I'm going to wear elbow pads I think I want a higher level of protection than I felt they delivered in exchange for the warmth/reduced comfort. Usually, I just discard G-Form recommendations as being of the different expectations/different terrain/ different risk-and-consequence assessment but here I'm very intrigued because you are wearing a pack with a pack protector. 

Other than the Kali models what else have you tried? Anything heavier duty? Which Kali did you use if I can ask?

Thanks!

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.