For the past eight months I’ve heavily used the Eagle Industries YOTE Hydration Pack and it’s still like new. It has been put through continuous use in harsh conditions ranging from daily runs down black diamonds in deep powder to impromptu use as a back pad while crashing downhill mountain bikes on rocky terrain. The YOTE has become my go pack for anything adventure related. I’d like to a moment and explain why.
When I received this pack, I wasn’t necessarily shopping to replace my daily pack – a Mystery Ranch ASAP. In fact, anytime I find a new pack that might create competition for EDC use, along with adding to debacle of which pack to take, I usually abandon the thought and stick with what I know works. My hesitation became fleeting once I started to transfer gear from the Mystery Ranch over to the YOTÉ.
Aside from its empty weight being reasonably light, I immediately noticed that for a pack of its size it collapses down to something the size of a lunch box. However, it easily expands due to its well thought out design and capable pockets to hold all of my essentials gear. My first use of the YOTE Hydration Pack was last summer. It was a mountain bike ride in 98º humid Virginia weather. This is where I discovered the pack’s main flaw, though it can easily be overcome with a simple modification. I’ll discuss in further detail, but first let’s talk about the pros.
The main items I carry which were first to transfer over were: my EDC Glock 42 (I’m skinny, it’s concealable), bike tools, spare inner-tube, hard-shell sunglass case, Bison Bacon Bar, first aid kit, Sony DSLR, and my helmet stowed in the outer mesh pocket until I reach the trailhead.
With the hydration bladder full, I expected the bite-valve to leak as I hit a series of rock gardens and jostled the pressure around. It didn’t, and this hasn’t changed with constant use. All of the gear stayed put rather nicely thanks to the pack’s compression straps. The bite valve was easy to access and it has the ability to stow away with a web dominator located on the shoulder strap that sits just below the pectoral muscle. It does becomes a challenge to stow during winter while donning anything bulkier than a thin wind-stopper glove. I finished out the 9 mile burst with eagerness to put the YOTE through some more use.
During the next few months, I continued mountain biking in much more aggressive terrain while in Utah waiting for winter to strike. My list of packables expanded while the packs ability to carry maintained. As the temps dropped and I started my trips with layers, I was able to easily shed and stash them as the day warmed up. This is a big issue with a lot of day packs. Many fall short on construction of a large enough outside compartment or beaver tail to keep layers that aren’t compressible. Eagle Industries overcame this by designing YOTE with a hybrid beaver tail which uses an integrated mesh compartment.
The two side pockets became extremely useful for keeping some overflow gear organized. These vertical pockets have a combined capacity of 63 cubic inches and perfectly fit most hard-shell sunglass cases, IFAKs, gloves, and multi-tools. The best way to gauge the size of them without seeing them in person is by telling you it will easily hold a can of beer. Maybe you can get creative and make use of its 3 hydration ports by routing some tubing to make your own beer guzzler pack reminiscent of the nostalgic Thinking Beer Cap.
A lower front clamshell pocket allows for 37 cubic inches of storage. Use of this pocket was best suited for small food items and my Glock. My binoculars also fit perfectly in the zippered pocket.
The two external utility pockets usually house my trail maps and wallet along with an extra magazine and flashlight batteries.
With a 3 liter Source Hydration bladder located under a layer of nylon mesh within the packs main compartment, staying hydrated on most of my runs was never an issue. Although I did find out that the hydration hose will easily freeze in temps below 20º Fahrenheit. This is with the supply hose insulation. Source did a fantastic job on the build quality of the bladder itself. With regards to ease of use for filling and maintaining, the bladder ranks high when compared to others I’ve used in the past.
The bladder has two fill points. The first is the main screw cap (which doesn’t seize up like some other brands) and has a 2 mm leash. The leash is attached to the center of the cap and back to a ring around the opening so the user won’t have to worry about dropping it or losing it. The other access point to use as a fill point, though best suited for cleaning access, is a top mounted slide lock system similar to what Cascade Designs uses on their Big Zip bladders.
A key feature on the Source bladder is the protective cap on the bite valve. It does serve up some degree of insulation in extreme cold temps, though not enough to entirely thwart freezing. Where it really shines is at keeping dirt, dust and grime out. Source integrated a shutoff mechanism within the angled valve; one half of a turn will open the valve, half a twist back to shut off the ability to flow water. It’s simple, but works very well.
I have definitely noticed that this particular bladder doesn’t get funky nearly as fast as others brands. Source® lists on their website that the bladder is constructed with a 3 layer co-extruded polyethylene and integrated Grunge Guard antimicrobial. I’ve seen a lot of companies claim that their “trademarked manufacturing process” lives up to “real world” use, though those claims usually fall short on delivery. That being said, Source’s trademarked hype has delivered well above expectation. In the past 8 months I’ve cleaned the bladder twice. Both of those times were using the old “add an ounce of Vodka method.” If you’re not familiar with it, it’s pretty easy. Pour in one ounce of vodka to an empty bladder, seal, shake, pour out, then add water and go!
The YOTE Hydration Pack’s downfall can easily be overcome. Sweat, heat, and more sweat mixed together leads to the certain destruction of moisture wicking shirts. Every aspect of the pack is well thought out, except for this one. That being said, this one isn’t applicable if you’re using the MOLLE direct attachment feature to fasten the pack to a chest rig or plate carrier. 500 denier CORDURA is light and robust, though it’s not light enough to go unnoticeable once you start to heat up. This is because there are no air channels or raised ridges to prevent the pack from laying flat on your back creating a sweat seal. As I mentioned earlier, I had discovered this on day one.
The good news is there is a simple mod to overcome this and prevent shirt deterioration. The shirts I’m referring to specifically are finer, moisture wicking shirts such as the ones produced by ExOfficio or Under Armor. It all has to deal with how they interact with the roughness of the robust denier construction. Within just an hour of wearing this pack (without any mods on the back panel), I noticed that the friction between my outer most layer and the pack’s denier created pilling. The pilling was bad. Really bad.
On the back panel, you’ll notice two MOLLE attachment straps that run the vertical length of the pack. They are secured via button snaps at the bottom of the run. To install sleeved risers or padding, simply unsnap these buttons, de-lace the straps, and you’ll be able to customize it to your liking. I found some from REI that worked really well as a solution.
To sum it up, the Eagle Industries YOTE Hydration Pack is an excellent pack that has proven to be not only functional, but incredibly well made. Eagle Industries chose wisely in their design and construction of the YOTE, while the using Source hydration bladder only adds to the quality. The pack excels in its category for both form and function. For the amount of times I’ve taken unexpected spills off my bike or stumbled while hiking up steep terrain, I would’ve expected to see more rips, tears, or abrasions on the pack. However, it’s yet to sustain any major damage – cosmetic or otherwise. The YOTE Hydration Pack lists for $250.00 and can be purchased through the War Store. For more information on Eagle Industries and the YOTE, please visit their website.