Tested: Deuter Race Air Lite Hydration Pack - "A great pack with tons of innovative features"
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To kick off my racing season on the right foot, I picked up a new Deuter Race Air Lite Hydration Pack. I planned on doing quite a few endurance races, so I knew a nice hydration pack would come in handy.
I had a Camelbak that worked great for years, but it needed a new reservoir, so I just decided to get a whole new pack. (I wanted a 100oz reservoir anyway, and the Camelbak held a 72oz.)
After seeing the VisitPA.com MTB team (now PAValleys.com) racing with Deuter packs, I decided to copy them and get the same pack – the Deuter Race Air Light.
Here’s the rundown:
The Race Air Lite is for the cyclist looking for maximum hydration, maximum ventilation, and minimal weight. The front stuff-it pocket can hold a cross country helmet or downhill pads, or a jacket, and has a zippered pouch for keys and a snack.
Now here are my thoughts after getting my hands on the pack:
As soon as I put this on, I loved it! It has a sort of ‘trampoline’ system that keeps the pack off your back! It’s Deuter’s Aircomfort system and it holds the pack off your back so you get plenty of airflow for increased comfort and less sweat.
If you look real close in this picture, you’ll see how there is a mesh panel that goes against your back, then a gap between that and the pack itself.
I really can’t put into words how comfortable this pack is, after wearing a regular old Camelbak since 2003!
The pack is light when empty, just 1 lb 10 oz. Sure, it’s noticeable when filled with water, but what pack isn’t?
The Race Air Lite has adjustable shoulder straps and chest strap. That sounds great, but there wasn’t much for me to adjust. I had to pull the straps as tight as they would go!
Is this thing made for tall bodybuilders? I’m not exactly tall (somewhere between 5’8″ and 5’9″,) and I have an average chest size for a cyclist (38-39″ or so,) but why does that mean I have to tighten the straps down super tight?
I would imagine someone around 5’6″ and 130-140 pounds would have this pack flopping all around. If you’re short and/or skinny, try before you buy.
A note on shoulder strap adjustment: To keep this pack from flopping around, I had the straps pulled tight. But then the pack sat too high on my back, and the top actually pressed into the back of my neck (very uncomfortable.) The pack was more comfortable when the straps were loose enough that the pack rested closer to my hips; but then, on any sort of rough downhill, the pack slid up and down my back.
I couldn’t really find a happy medium in there.
The one color choice is yellow, so it might not match your kit. I started to like it, though, as the yellow increases visibility!
The Deuter Race Air Lite uses a 100oz Streamer Hydration Reservoir which is BPA-free. It also uses some coating to inhibit bacteria growth.
This reservoir is amazing! As soon as I used it, I thought it was the best ever design for the fill hole. There’s no stupid screw cap – instead, there’s a big opening thanks to the slider gizmo, which is easy to use and completely leak proof.
One problem though… The orange seal for the bladder is its own piece, not connected to the bladder at all. So you can misplace it, possibly losing it in your closet or in a race parking lot or feed zone. I didn’t even think of this till I lost mine!! I’m still looking for it!
The bite valve is great. It’s definitely different from Camelbak’s bite valve, so it took some getting used to, but it works.
Instead of biting the tip, you have to bite the middle. You get a good stream of water, but it’s weird putting nearly the whole valve into your mouth. (Got used to that after one ride though.)
You also get a bite valve cover. A thoughtful idea for keeping your mouth clean, but it would be annoying to have it flapping around. I can’t imagine anyone actually using it during a ride or race. I just put it on for storage but don’t leave it on while riding.
With 350 cubic inches of storage space, I had no problem carrying a spare tube, tools, and food.
With the elastic cord and extra “floating” pocket, I could easily carry a jacket and keys.
I debated cutting the elastic cord off to save weight. If I was a diehard racer, maybe I would. But I use the pack mostly for long endurance rides and longer races (like epic mountain bike races,) so I’ll keep it on there.
You can pull the elastic cord tight and tuck it into the pocket to get it out of the way, so it won’t get snagged on some tree branches.
Deuter Race Air Light, In Use
My first race with this pack was the marathon race at the Greenbrier Challenge in Maryland. That’s a 4 hour timed event over a 5.5 mile loop, and in 2009, it was over 90 degrees. The loop is extremely rocky, with crazy rock gardens on the climbs and descents.
After pre-riding the course, I had to drop the pack down my back so it didn’t hurt my neck. It was more comfy that way, but then it slid up and down my back. That did not help my control in technical situations.
Also, it hurt my lower back! A serious strain. I haven’t had lower back pain while riding since maybe 2004. The pain is probably from having 10 lb of water on my back, and not specifically from this Deuter pack, but it sure made me hate hydration packs!
But the good news is: my back didn’t get sweaty at all, and the water stayed cold! Did I mention this 4 hour race took place on a 92 degree day, under the hot sun? The previous few months were mostly 40-60 degrees, then for this race weekend, bam, it’s over 90! So I was very thankful for the cold water in the pack.
Post-race cleanup: Super easy. The bladder, including the hose and bite valve, just slip out of and back into the pack. Less than 30 seconds without any hassle! My old Camelbaks took a couple minutes of extreme hassle to remove for cleaning.
While not perfect, I was very happy with the Deuter Race Air Lite.
My final verdict is…
A great pack with tons of innovative features. A great value at $65, although it’s still fairly priced at $100.
I absolutely hate wearing a hydration pack (due to the sheer weight of water,) but other than that, this Deuter pack did everything right.
Official website: www.DeuterUSA.com