Vaude Hyper Air 14+3 Review

by Brian Mullin on May 22, 2010

Eons ago I recall seeing a Vaude (pronounced ‘Vhod’) tent at a local specialty shop, and I was highly impressed with its craftsmanship, innovation and functionality. Recently, Magura USA picked up the distribution for Vaude in the US for the bike related items, and they were kind enough to pass along the Vaude Hyper Air 14+3 hydration pack for a test. The pack has plenty of innovations, designs and features, including an incredible back panel system and water reservoir. The pack has been comfortable with excellent ventilation, and has proven to be a great hydration pack for mountain biking.

Vaude
Vaude is headquartered in Obereisenbach, which is near Lake Constance in Southern Germany. The family owned business makes outdoor recreational gear and clothing, including apparel, shoes, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, panniers and accessories. Their subsidiary Edelrid, makes mountaineering and rock climbing gear, including carabiners, crampons, picks, harnesses, ropes, and helmets. Vaude is a strong proponent of responsibility, in both environmental and social commitment in their business practices and manufacturing processes.

Hyper Air 14+3
The Vaude Hyper Air 14+3, in which the 14+3 refers to a 14 liter carrying capacity, with additional 3 liters expansion (via a zippered bellow), comes with a 3 liter reservoir bag and a plethora of features. The pack is made with a coated 210 denier mini ripstop polyester fabric, for lightweight (955 grams/2.10 lbs.) and durability, and comes in Black/Anthracite (as tested), Black/Sap Green and Red/Anthracite.

The most obvious feature when examining the Hyper Air 14+3 is the Aeroflex back system, which uses a mesh panel and lightweight steel spring frame to hold the body of the pack away from your back. The system bows the pack out away from the mesh panel, offering excellent suspension, ventilation and breathability, so no more sweaty back due to the pack.

Hidden behind the mesh, is Vaude’s FLASH (Floating Length Adjustable Shoulder Harness) system so you can dial in the fit by adjusting the length of the padded shoulder strap sections. This system allows a large degree of adjustability for any torso length, so the pack fits better, and has improved weight and load distribution. By simply resetting the Velcro strip at the bottom of the FLASH system, you can lengthen or shorten the padded shoulder straps.

The reservoir bag is made by Source Vagabond Systems, and is called the Widepack, and it’s pretty trick. The Widepak closure is a variant of a river runner dry bag closure system, and is durable and leakproof. Just slide the top bar off the reservoir, fold open the bag, clean or fill as needed, then fold over and slide it back on. Source was founded in 1989 and manufactures in Haifa District in Israel, where they make hydration systems, adventure sandals and travel accessories. Besides the excellent opening system, the reservoir has the Z-Valve silicone mouth piece, Grunge-Guard (an anti-microbial treatment) and the Glass-Like surface (1000% smoother than other PU films) which prevents a bio-film build up. Which means no funk or slime buildup inside the reservoir, so water will remain fresh for a longer period of time.

The reservoir sits in a large pocket within the main compartment, so it’s not separated in another compartment like most brands. It certainly makes it easier to pull the bag out for filling and cleaning. Hanging off the back by the reservoir is a small coin bag, kind of a neat little zippered pouch for tiny items. The main compartment is nice and large, and the 2 zippers can be snapped together to prevent accidental opening. I must admit that I broke the snaps after a couple of weeks, so it really needs to be beefed up to be useful?

The front has 2 small pockets, the upper one being slightly larger with 2 elastic slots to hold tools and stuff, while the lower one would be for smaller items. There are also 2 side elastic mesh pouches, for sundry items. I do wish the main compartment had pockets, as this greatly helps in organizing gear.

The very bottom of the pack has a zippered compartment that holds a rain cover for the pack, which is a totally trick item! During rain storms, I get protected by wearing a jacket, but the poor pack gets drenched and water creeps slowly in and items get wet.

There is a detectable helmet net that clips onto the front of the bag, which should also be good for apparel items, etc. The loops for the helmet can be used to clip on elastic cords, and along with some very beefy red loops on the inner sides, and the top carrying strap, an assortment of attachment options can be used.

Measured Specs:
Weight – 954.4 grams/33.67 ozs (with bladder)
Size – 17 x 10 x 6 inches

Impressions
The Aeroflex is sure a highlight of this pack. At first the stiffness of the mesh frame seems strange, especially in comparison to the more conformable soft packs. The Aeroflex keeps the main pack away from your back, so it ventilates more efficiently, and keeps the usual soaked rear padding from happening. No need for any fancy air channel system, this offered uber air conditioning! I strapped on a heavy full faced helmet, and the load was surprisingly well balanced, stable and evenly carried (almost like the extra weight wasn’t there). When I switched from the big helmet to the normal XC noggin cover, I could use the attachable helmet net. It worked quite nicely, although the clipping system was difficult to use, since the clips and loops were a bit small using my fumble fingers, and in addition the placement was a tad too high on the pack.

The FLASH system is nice, and it’s real easy to adjust the length (shoulder strap to hip belt distance) to match your torso, something that is usually only common on large backpacks, and not on small hydration bags. The shoulder and waist straps are nicely padded with a puffy diamond pattern, which helped with cooling. There is one zippered pouch on the left side hip pad, but it was pretty small and useless for most cell phone (think iPhone).

The main compartment was large enough, but it really needs zippered pockets and/or pouches for sundry items (the reservoir pocket doesn’t count). The lack of any pockets was a major mistake in this otherwise well engineered pack. Having inner pockets allows you to organize gear, so everything from tools to smaller items can be arranged and accessed as required. The pockets on the front were fine, and I appreciated the side mesh ones to toss in items like a windbreaker or an energy bar. I never did use the coin pouch that hangs by the reservoir, I have accumulated too many keys for it to be useful for a key holder. Although the rain cover seemed sort of silly, it was quite nice to have a dry pack when I got stuck out in a huge long down pour. The pack stayed completely dry, and I certainly stood out due to the bright orange color, perhaps it would be good for the hunting season?

The lack of a separate compartment for the water reservoir was not an issue, and it sure made it easy to fill with water (I rarely pulled it out of the pack). I cannot say enough about the incredible Source Widepack reservoir, it’s super easy to open, easy to fill and then close it back up. It also seemed not to get the funks to it, and didn’t seem to get that slime coating that bladders get after some time. The Glass-Like surface (has a mirror like finish) was a really nice feature which greatly helped with the non-slime abilities, and its synergy with the Grunge-Guard kept away the nasties. Even though the bite valve didn’t have an on/off (wish it did), it never leaked nor dribbled on me, and it drew water evenly.


Bottomline
I sure liked the Aeroflex back system. The bowed out mesh back panel carried the weight evenly and seemed less burdensome, and the pack never got sweaty, and ventilated really well (call it super vents). The FLASH system was nice, and made it adjustable for any body type and/or torso length, giving one a tailored made pack. The awesome and trick Source reservoir was simply a pleasure to use, and made the filling and maintenance of water an easy task. The little features such as the comfortable padding in all the right spots, a rain cover and helmet holder was all quite nice. I pretty much hated the lack of pockets in the main compartment? Hello, please reengineer it!

The craftsmanship really stands out on this pack, as does the stitching, placement and the choice of materials. The Aeroflex and FLASH system shows the typical German engineering and design, which is also evident throughout the pack. The pack was comfortable, carried loads well, had nice padding, and vented like a champion.

Strengths
-Source Widepack reservoir
-Aeroflex back panel system
-FLASH adjustment system
-Excellent ventilation and breathability
-Rain cover

Weaknesses
-No pockets in the main compartment
-No on/off for bite valve
-Main compartment zipper snaps broke
-Helmet cover clip system is difficult to use

Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Hyper Air 14+3 Specs
Features: details
Hyper Air 14+3
Rain cover with safety light attachment – expansion bellows – helmet holder – side mesh pockets – padded hip belt with pocket – suspension system with F.L.A.S.H. Adjustment – sternum strap – opening for hydration system – coin compartment – safety light attachment – front patch pocket – front outer pocket with mesh organizer – reflective elements
weight: 770 g
volume: 17,000 l
Measure: 42,50 x 23,00 x 13,00 cm
Material: 210 D Mini Ripstop Polyamide Polyurethane coated, 450 D Polyester Polyurethane coated
Colors: Black/Sap Green, Black/Anthracite and Red/Anthracite
MSRP: $109

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