This Gregory Reactor hydration pack is my dedicated MTB pack. I keep it loaded with a shock pump and used to carry my tools/spares in it until I moved them to my Porcelain Rocket frame bag. This pack is modest sized at 11L, but even with a full bladder I have room to stuff food for a long ride and a spare jacket inside. In a pinch I can use two bladders for maximum hydration on an uber long desert ride.
I love how it hugs my body and is basically invisible to me while I ride, but offers lots of useful storage for its size. I especially love the two wing/belt pockets at the waist where I keep a camera handy and a snack. I also love the mesh pockets that I can stuff any extra gear – particularly wet gear – quickly and then get back to my ride.
I was a bit concerned when I first got this lightweight pack that the materials used [sil nylon and mesh] might not stand up well to repeated hard use. So far everything has been solid for me. I do take care not to abuse the pack since I know it’s not crazy rugged, but at the same time I frequently crash and fall with the pack on and end up rolling on the ground like a drunken monkey! I run into brush at the sides of the trail and the pack gets bounced around in the back of my pick up truck on my travels to the dirt.
Personally I like the many pockets and streamlined lightweight design of the Reactor. Of course it’s been a while since I got this pack – the Gregory model that is closest to the Reactor is the Wastach at 12L. If my Reactor was stolen I’d go buy a Wasatch tomorrow.
The Reactor didn’t come with a bladder. I used to use Camelbak bladders, but thought I would try a bladder from Nalgene when my older bladders got a bit smeggy. The Nalgene bladder shown has been used on all my long mountain bike rides the last few years and on my recumbent brevets. It doesn’t leak. The opening is large and easy to use when filling with water/ice. The valve has a closed position [shown above] for leak free transport. The plastic doesn’t taste of anything and I get enough flow from the valve to be useful on a hot day.
I find I get less water flow with this valve than I did with my Camelbak bladder, but the Nalgene valve is less prone to shoot/dribble water out when I didn’t intend it to. On the whole it’s a good trade off. I tend to pressurize my bladder by blowing air into it as I ride so when I want a big drink I just arch my back and open the valve to get a strong jet of water. Using that technique the Nalgene valve offers sufficient flow. The Nalgene valve has a built in magnet you can use to keep the hose from flopping around when not in use. I haven’t found that necessary and I’ve since lost the other bit of the magnet that would attach to my pack. It’s a feature some folks might enjoy.
After use I rinse out the bladder and hose then store in the freezer until the next use. So far after many freeze/thaw cycles the Nalgene bladder/hose/valve hasn’t complained about this process. I can’t be bothered to clean and dry my bladders so it’s essential that whatever I use can handle being repeatedly frozen.