Two Hydration Vests Reviewed: Apidura vs PEdALED
As hydration vests become increasingly common in the world of bikepacking, we figured it was about time we got our hands on two of the latest to see what all the fuss is all about. Find Miles’ thoughts after testing the Apidura Racing Hydration Vest and PEdALED Odyssey Hydro Vest here…
Regular readers of the site know that we don’t talk about backpacks very often. A few years back, Lucas published reviews of Oveja Negra’s Portero Backpack and Ortlieb’s Commuter-Daypack Urban, and a few of us have been using the Mission Workshop Hauser for years. But I think I speak for the entire team when I say we like to avoid wearing backpacks while bikepacking unless absolutely necessary, and most of us prefer to carry a hip pack instead. However, for folks with limited packing space or anyone looking to be as efficient as possible during a self-supported bikepacking race, stashing some water or extra gear on your back might be the only option.
Instead of trying to test out the overwhelming number of cycling hydration packs out there, I turned to the latest in hydration vest technology. Taking design cues from lightweight running vests, hydration vests aren’t quite backpacks but provide some packing space, a spot to carry a water bladder, and quick-access pockets.
Hydration Vests Explained
When I think of hydration vests, I picture spindly ultra-endurance runners covering mind-boggling distances while eating nothing but electrolyte gummies. However, hydration vests aren’t reserved for wild athletic pursuits anymore and have gained popularity due to their efficient and comfortable design. While traditional hydration packs, much like backpacks, adjust by shortening or lengthening the shoulder straps, vests generally have a fixed main body that wraps around the wearer’s chest and back, adjusting under the arms to increase or decrease the space between the front and back.
Vests normally position the weight higher on the back compared to a pack and spread the weight across the chest, shoulders, and back. They are designed to fit snugly against the body and are often made with stretchy mesh panels to conform to body movements and breathing. Their snug fit and minimal size mean it’s also possible to layer jackets over top of the vest, making transitions between inclement weather faster and easier. Find my thoughts on the Apidura Racing Hydration Vest and PEdALED Odyssey Hydro Vest below.
Apidura Racing Hydration Vest
Launched late last year, the Apidura Racing Hydration Vest is tailor-made for competitive ultra-endurance cycling. According to Apidura, running vests have all the features that riders might want, but they’re designed for a very different body position, often resulting in chafing and discomfort. And, cycling-specific hydration backpacks are simply too heavy, bulky, and overbuilt.
The Apidura Racing Hydration Vest is designed with a few anatomical adjustments that are specific to the positions riders have on a gravel bike. For one, it has a low-cut neck to avoid chafing or getting in the way of your helmet in an aero position. The front is shaped to be comfortable while in the drops, fitting high enough up the torso to avoid causing any chafing or impeding movement. The rear of the pack is made so riders can still access their jersey pockets, and the sides are shaped to avoid any chafing around the arms, using an open construction and stretchy materials that provide a secure fit without restricting breathing.
The vest has two large mesh pockets on the front that stretch to accommodate snacks, bottles, or even cans. It also has a zippered device pocket on the front, and two additional pockets can fit bulkier items at the rear, with the larger of the two featuring a pump loop to minimize rattling. Lastly, the pack has a hydration bladder pocket with an integrated bladder loop, customizable hydration hose routing, and magnetic hose keeper. The included 2L bladder has high-contrast fill markings, a quick-click hose connector, and roll-top closure for easy in-pack refills.
While out riding, I found the Apidura Racing Hydration Vest quite comfortable. The stretchy shock cord under the arms allows the pack the stretch nicely as you move and breath, and it provides enough adjustment that Emily was able to try it out on a few trips as well. The front pockets are deep and easy to use and are great for stashing snacks, a cell phone, satellite communication device, or even a small camera. The two rear pockets are big enough for a bulky hand pump or for stashing extra food and water while on the move. The bladder itself is one of my favourites, which uses a zip-lock/velcro-style closure on top that is easy to use and lightweight. The bite valve has a pull to open lock, and the bladder slips inside a dedicated sleeve.
- Slim and low-profile design
- Front pockets are easy to manage
- Stretchy under arms offer great fit and large size range
- Water bladder is quick to open and close
- Magnetic hose clip, reflective details, and light mount
- Limited pockets for on-the-go items
- Back ventilation isn’t amazing but on par with other vests
- Capacity: 5.5L (S/M), 7L (L/XL)
- Material: 3D Mesh, 70D Ripstop Nylon, Lycra
- Weight: 415 grams
- Place of Manufacture: Philipines
- Price: $189 USD
- Manufacturer’s Details: Apidura.com
PEdALED Odyssey Hydro Vest
Launched around the same as Apidura’s vest, the PEdALED Odyssey Hydro Vest is another option for ultra-endurance riders looking for a convenient way to carry extra water, food, and supplies. The Odyssey Hydro Vest is inspired by vests used by trail runners, constructed from a lightweight mesh fabric, and uses two adjustable shoulder straps that secure in place with cord locks for a secure fit.
On the front, there are five stretchy mesh pockets, three zippered pockets, and two adjustable sliding chest straps. On the back, there are two deep stretchy jersey-style pockets, plus an additional zippered pocket on the upper back. The main compartment holds a bladder, as well as the included bladder sleeve, but it remains open along the top for quick access and easy filling.
Even though the included 1.5L bladder is smaller compared to Apidura’s, the Hydro Vest is a much larger pack overall. The additional length of the rear mesh pockets and solid side panels result in a more covered fit, but provide far more options for quick-access items without removing the vest. While both vests taper down toward the bottom, PEdALED’s is a full inch narrower at the base. I found the arm openings on the Odyssey Hydro Vest significantly smaller than Apidura’s vest, and since they don’t share the same stretchy, adjustable design, I could see that being a problem for anyone much bigger than me. For reference, I’m 6’1″ with a ~40″ chest circumference.
- Lots of stretchy, quick-access pockets
- Loads of capacity, thanks to additional storage out back
- Insulated bladder sleeve is a nice touch
- Extra long bladder hose
- Arm holes might not work for everyone
- No side panel adjustment and limited stretch
- Breathability is limited due to design and spacer mesh construction
- Chunky slide-to-open bladder closure can be fiddly
- Hose clip not included
- Capacity: TBD
- Material: 85% Polyester, 9% Nylon, 6% Spandex
- Weight: 514 grams
- Place of Manufacture: China
- Price: $165 USD
- Manufacturer’s Details: Pedaled.com
As it turns out, vests work. Their design conforms to your body, rather than hanging off of it, and keeps the weight positioned tight and centred at all times. As you’ll have seen in some of the photos above, Emily was quick to take advantage of a vest when extra water was needed, which was a good reminder that you don’t have to be racing or powering across a continent to wear one. I also didn’t expect the Apidura Racing Hydration Vest and PEdALED Odyssey Hydro Vest to be so different from each other, but there’s a great deal of variation between the two. I chose to check them out because they are two brands that know bikepacking and we’re familiar with, and it’s good to see two unique options available that should be well-suited to a wide range of riders.
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