- Soma Hetch-Hetchy hydration pack
It’s tricky for anyone getting into the hydration pack business to hit on a suitable unique selling point. It’s just a bag with water in it, after all. Product differentiation tends to centre on who’s got the most interesting energy bar/tool/goggle/MP3 player pouches. Wholesome San Francisco brand Soma Fabrications, though, has taken a slight left turn by making all of its bags from hemp fibre.
Like Merino wool, hemp is one of those remarkable natural fibres that does all sorts of useful things without the inconvenience of being made from oil. “Hemp is awesome,” says Soma’s swing tag, listing all sorts of useful hemp facts, including its pivotal role in US history – the first American flag was made of hemp, the US Constitution was written on hemp, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were hemp farmers and so on. Soma’s packs are made in Taiwan, which you could argue hinders the fabric’s eco credentials somewhat, but then so is everything else so Soma’s stuff is still at least one step ahead.
The Hetch-Hetchy is Soma’s mid-sized hydration pack, containing a 1.5l Outback water bladder. It’s a serviceable bladder, although the screw-top lid isn’t tethered and the push-pull mouthpiece can be a bit dribbly. The pack itself is made from a stout hemp/cotton mix that’s rather unyielding at first but softens up with use. It’s lined to improve water resistance. The shape of the pack is very straightforward, with a main pocket containing the bladder plus a bit of extra space, a zipped compartment on the outside of that above a mesh pocket that’s good for flat things like maps. There’s a “floating” lower pouch ideal for tubes and tools, and the gap between the main bag and the pouch is just the job for stuffing a waterproof into. The usual bungee arrangement keeps things secure. The final compartment is a keys/change pocket right at the back. We’d have liked a key clip in there, but then we’re a bit paranoid.
The water hose exits through a neoprene panel right at the top of the lightly-padded back section. The shoulder straps are wide, contoured and generously padded and have elasticated loops to stop the hose flapping about in the breeze. The waist belt is a continuous arrangement passing through a loop at the base of the pack. Adjusting it correctly is an acquired skill but it does the job. All the clips and buckles are the usual nylon items – there don’t seem to be any eco-friendly sources of these yet. There’s no chest strap, and a few times we felt it could have done with one. We did have quite a lot of stuff in the pack, though.
Positives: Stout construction, understated looks, reasonable price.
Negatives: Occasionally dribbly valve, slightly awkward waist belt, no chest strap.
Verdict: The Hetch-Hetchy isn’t going to set the hydration market alight, but it’s a decent pack at a decent price and it’s pleasingly “alternative”, which’ll endear it to a lot of riders.