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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Ultimate Direction Hornet & Honey > Test Report by Mike Curry

ULTIMATE DIRECTION HORNET HYDRATION PACK
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
LONG-TERM REPORT
April 14, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Curry
EMAIL: thefishguyAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 38
LOCATION: Aberdeen, Washington
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all-terrain, off-trail kind of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Ultimate Direction
IMAGE 1
Hornet Hydration Pack, Back View

Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.ultimatedirection.com
MSRP: None Listed
Listed Weight: None Listed
Measured Weight: 1 lb 6.5 oz (638 g)
Other details:
Manufacturer's Listed Internal Volume: 540 ci (8.85 L)
Manufacturer's Listed Reservoir Volume: 96 fl oz (2.84 L)
Measured Reservoir Volume: 94 fl oz (2.78 L) (filled to "96 fl oz" line and emptied into measuring container)
Color: Grey and red

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

My first thought upon opening the box was that the Ultimate Direction Hornet hydration pack felt lighter and looked larger than other hydration packs I own. I liked the color, and overall, the design I found appealing.

IMAGE 2
Hornet Hydration Pack, Front View
The next thing I noticed was the materials, and the liberal use of mesh for pockets, the lower portion of the shoulder straps, and over the padding strips that rest against my back. I was also happy to see that the Ultimate Direction logo, sewn on the back, was made of reflective material and that an additional reflective webbing lashing point was sewn on the back below it.

I next turned my attention to inspecting the construction of the pack, and found the stitching and overall construction to be very high quality and good attention to detail. Overall, my initial impressions were very positive.

FEATURES

Back padding - The Hornet is equipped with two strips of padding along either side of the spine, covered with nylon mesh material. The padding is curved on it's inside edge so that it forms an arc, and the two pieces of padding almost touch in the middle.

Straps and Buckles - The pack is equipped with the standard shoulder straps, waist strap, and a sternum strap that can be adjusted for vertical positioning. In addition, there is a strap that connects the top of the lower outside compartment to the larger main compartment, allowing the space between to be used as a semi-secure storage space. The waist and shoulder straps provide a great deal of adjustment, and have elastic loops on the end that allow me to roll up the loose ends into a tidy, secure ball. The shoulder straps include elastic hydration tube loops on both sides. The plastic buckles on the sternum strap and waist belt are an open design that I suspect shaves a minute amount of weight off the pack, though they require more careful alignment to connect than others I have used. The sternum strap also features elastic on one side that seems quite strong, yet flexes well when I move.

IMAGE 3
Inside Small Compartment
Zippers - Zippers close the main compartment and smaller outside compartment, and are of a fine-toothed plastic type. Both zippers have two pulls, with plastic zipper pull extensions connected by a cordage loop.

Configuration - The pack is configured with a large main compartment and a smaller compartment located outside. There are two "FastStash" mesh pockets on the bottom outside corners (water bottle type pockets) for smaller items. There is also and an open space between the main compartment and the smaller compartment that can be tightened closed by means of an adjustable length webbing strap with buckle which also appears useful for storage. The large main compartment contains a hydration sleeve that is almost the width of the pack and has a strip of hook and loop fastener for securing/hanging the hydration reservoir. The smaller compartment contains two internal open-top pockets and a plastic key keeper clip. The exit port for the hydration tube is surrounded by elastic, and forms a snug fit around the insulated hydration tube. The exit port is located at the top of the pack, directly behind the head while wearing it.

Reservoir - The reservoir included has a roll top closure that secures shut with attached hook and loop closures and includes a cordage loop for hanging inside the pack. The reservoir and tube are clear plastic, and the tube is enclosed in a neoprene insulating sleeve. The reservoir has a single interior baffle which runs vertically inside the reservoir separating the left and right halves, and is approximately 1/3 to 1/2 the height of the reservoir. Near the bite valve there is a hook and loop fastener that wraps around the insulating sleeve and holds a small metal clip for securing the hose and/or bite valve where I want it. The hook and loop closure allows the clip to be repositioned along the insulated sleeve at any location.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

IMAGE 4
Roll Top Reservoir and Sleeve in Main Compartment
No instructions were provided with the Ultimate Direction Hornet hydration pack. The included reservoir includes the following "Care and Maintenance" instructions, printed as follows on it's back (including a spelling error).

*Wash and rinse reservoir before and after every use.
*Scrub reservoir, tube and valve using a mild soap solution and hot water. A biodegradable soap is recommended.
*Rinse thoroughly and hang dry with roll top closure faced down.
*Freshen - Add two teaspoons of baking soda to a full reservoir and let soak overnight. Rinse thoroughly and hang dry.
*Sanitize - Add two tesapoons (sic) of bleach to a full reservoir and let soak overnight. Rinse.
*Store Reservoir in a cool dark place when not in use.

TRYING IT OUT

As someone that has never used a roll-top hydration reservoir, I started by filling the reservoir with water. Filling was easy, as was rolling the top and securing it with the hook and loop closure. Inverting the reservoir and holding it upside down for over two minutes produced no drips. Placing the reservoir into the sleeve of the empty pack proved easy, as did routing the hose. Removing the clip for securing the bite valve would, however, make it easier to get through the elastic exit port. Trying out the bite valve, I was impressed with the high flow it provides with modest bite pressure, but noted that with heavier pressure the flow seemed reduced.

Putting the pack on, I was amazed at the length of the straps, which were much longer than any other hydration pack I own. I put on a fleece top and my heavy winter coat, and the pack still adjusted comfortably with several inches of strap to spare on the waist, shoulder, and sternum straps. I secured the bite valve to the sternum strap with the metal clip provided, and the clip held securely (though I will watch this closely for any weakening of the spring). I took off my winter gear, and readjusted the pack. I rolled up the extra strap length on the shoulder and waist straps and used the elastic bands to secure them into a tidy bundle. Though I like this feature for getting the strap out of the way, I wonder how secure it will hold when there is only a small amount of strap rolled up as they seemed somewhat loose. I will watch this closely during testing.

Finally, I tried packing a few items into the pack. The main compartment still has a fair amount of space available even will a full reservoir. I found I was able to put quite a bit of gear in the main compartment, a fair amount in the small compartment, and could put a fleece jacket and ultralight raingear between the two, secured by the strap. Overall, I was impressed at the volume of the pack, and feel it will work well for long day trips.

As far as comfort is concerned, I found the pack to fit me very comfortably, and to provide a great deal more adjustment than other hydration packs I own. I've carried it back and forth on my walk to work for several days, and continue to find it very comfortable. The only thing negative that has happened is that, while putting on the pack, the keys I was holding in my hand got caught in the sternum strap buckle. I will be watching these buckles closely to see if they tend to snag on things.

SUMMARY

The Ultimate Direction Hornet hydration pack is a well-made, lightweight hydration pack with a good amount of storage that appears well configured for long day trips. The construction is clearly high quality, and the design appears well thought out. The only potential weakness I can see at this point is the metal clip used for securing the bite valve where I want it, which I fear may rust quickly in our damp environment, as I have experienced with similar clips.

This concludes my initial report. My field report will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back at that time for additional information.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Ultimate Direction Hornet Hydration pack on approximately 10 day trips during field testing. Trips have primarily been solo day hikes and snowshoe trips, the majority of which have involved steelhead fishing. All trips have been in the southern Olympic mountains of Washington State in temperate rainforest. Weather has included sun, wind, rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain. Temperatures have ranged from 20 F (-7 C) to 65 F (18 C). Pack loads have ranged from 5 - 20 lbs (2.25 - 9 kg).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 1
Hornet on Fishing Trip
Overall, I am quite pleased with the Ultimate Direction Hornet Hydration pack. While the pack looks relatively small, I am constantly amazed at how much I am able to ferret away in it. In the picture at the left, the pack contains four small tackle boxes, a coil of lead, a jar of salmon roe, a bulky fleece pullover, a sandwich, two granola bars, gloves, beanie cap, several assorted small items, and the full hydration reservoir. I'm quite certain I could have fit quite a few smaller items in as well. On my non-fishing day hikes I find it more than amply sized for my lightweight raingear, an extra pullover, food, and miscellaneous items I take on even the longest day trips.

I am very much looking forward to some warmer weather, as I feel this pack will really shine on lighter, faster trips where I'm wearing fewer layers.

COMFORT

Under most conditions I find the Hornet very comfortable. When wearing heavy layers of clothing, however, I find the hornet difficult to adjust securely when carrying a heavier load (over 15 lbs, 7 kg). It isn't uncomfortable under those conditions, it simply tends to shift around and feels unstable. Also, when the hydration bladder is full and the main compartment is stuffed full of gear, the pack tends to bulge out against my back. Under these conditions, the pack doesn't conform well to my back, and again feels like it is always shifting around. Adjusting my load and/or draining some of the water out of the reservoir was usually adequate to make the pack feel tolerably stable.

Despite these two limitations, under moderate loads with moderate clothing layers the pack fits and performs wonderfully. It is remarkably stable with the shoulder straps alone. While hopping slippery boulders along the Wynoochee River I often found myself not bothering with the waist belt since the pack and load felt so secure.

FEATURES

A couple of features really stand out in this pack for me. First is the middle compartment. While not enclosed, I've found that large, bulky items (coats, etc.) can be well secured in this void between the main and smaller zippered compartments. The strap that draws them together can secure items of varying bulk from a t-shirt to an insulated jacket. Granted, these items are exposed to the elements, but any fears I had about their security have been dispelled.

The second feature that really stood out for me is the bite valve. Other bite valves I've used either don't seem to have adequate flow, leak, or aren't comfortable to use. The bite valve supplied with the Hornet has excellent flow, hasn't leaked a drop, and is very comfortable for me to use.

The only feature I'm less than excited about is the small clip for securing the bite valve tube. While it has worked satisfactorily, it is virtually impossible to secure with gloves on. Also, I've found it difficult to secure the hook-and-loop fastener securely to the hose, and find that it often takes repeated adjustments to get everything to stay where I want it.

RESERVOIR

The reservoir provided with the Hornet deserves some special comments. It is, in my estimation, one of the best things about this pack. While the roll-top closure initially worried me, I've never had a drop of water leak from it. It makes it very easy to fill, and exceptionally easy to clean. The internal baffle does a very nice job of minimizing sloshing. I cannot think of a single weakness relating to the reservoir that I have encountered so far.

SUMMARY

Overall, the Ultimate Direction Hornet hydration pack is a versatile and comfortable solution to my day-hiking pack and hydration needs. When overloaded and worn with heavy layers, or when simply crammed full of too much gear, the pack tends to shift around a lot. Other than that, the pack is very comfortable, and can carry a surprising amount of gear. The hydration reservoir and bite valve are my favorite features, combining high volume, good flow rates, easy filling, and easy care.

This concludes my field report. My Long-Term Report will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back at that time for additional information.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Ultimate Direction Hornet hydration pack on 2 overnight trips (snow camping) and approximately 7 day hikes during long-term testing. The overnight trips were done with a pulk, and I wore the Honey over the top of my harness system. Weather conditions included sun, rain, and snow, and temperatures ranged from 20 F (-7 C) to 65 F (18 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Hornet pack has continued to perform very well. I was particularly impressed with its usefulness while snow camping. Though I did not use the waist belt, the pack was able to comfortably be worn over thick clothing layers (a baselayer, fleece, jacket liner, and jacket) as well as the harness system for my pulk. Not only were the straps long enough to accommodate this (and I'm not a small guy), they were very comfortable.

I did discover that freezing can be an issue remarkably quickly at 20 F (-7 C). When breaking camp one morning, I set the pack in the snow while I loaded my pulk. After about 25 minutes I put the pack back on, and went to take a drink. I was able to draw only a miniscule flow due to freezing in the bite valve. I was able to clear the ice by blowing warm air back through the mouthpiece, but it took about 2 minutes of blowing in air and then bleeding it off to restore normal flow.

We have had a few days of warmer weather as well, but nothing that allowed me to assess the Hornet's performance in truly warm weather. I have worn it on runs, however, on warmer days, and found that it provides reasonable ventilation against the back and I don't expect to encounter any unpleasantness in warmer weather.

In terms of durability, I'm duly impressed. All components look good . . . no sign of wear or damage. Even the small black metal clip hasn't shown any indications of rust (something that concerned me upon first receiving the pack).

One observation I have made is that I definitely continue to find the Hornet more comfortable when it is less than full. When I stuff the pack with gear, the bladder tends to bulge against my back, making it feel as though the straps are pulling against me and the pack feels quite unstable. Preventing this is as simply as not overstuffing the compartments, but rather securing larger items (coats and such) to the outside of the pack with the compression strap. Slightly draining the bladder (about 75% of capacity) can help alleviate the problem as well when I have tucked a little too much into the pack.

Finally, the bladder itself continues to be my favorite among all those I have used. From the roll top bladder itself to the bite valve, I find it more convenient and easy to use and clean than any other bladder I own.

SUMMARY

The Ultimate Direction Hornet hydration pack is comfortable and versatile. While relatively small, I found it held far more than I expected it to, though was more comfortable when less than stuffed. The hydration bladder and bite valve included with the pack have become my absolute favorites. I have been very pleased with the pack's performance.

CONTINUED USE

I will likely use the Hornet pack on warm-weather day trips without my children. When I don't need much more than water, some food, small items, and perhaps a rain jacket, it will be among the first packs I reach for.

I would like to thank Ultimate Direction and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Hornet hydration pack. This concludes my report.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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