The Mountain Bike Life

Packing Big and Packing Light are no longer mutually exclusive.


Gearing up for those big summer rides demands the proper pack for the job. Many of the High Country rides here in Colorado are remote enough to be very very far from help should one need it. Even something as mundane as a flat tire can become dangerous if it means that a 6 hour ride turns into a 12 hour hike back to town.

Better pack a lunch, it’s a long walk back to the car

When I can get away with it, when I’m kicking around on my local trails, not going too deep, burning a quick hot-lap or when racing my SS in a supported fashion I ride with two water bottles and my seat-bag containing a tube, a CO2 inflator, a chain tool and either Fix-It Sticks or my trusty Park Tools MT-1.

Other times I am too afraid that I won’t get away with it and I load for bear (or when I ride my Ibis which has no provision for water bottles). I often pack heavy and with the philosophy that I may be required to spend the night in the backcountry should things go south.

However, as a very particular cyclist I can’t handle a massive pack squirming around like a bowling ball in a Jansport bookbag. I need a pack that is organized, comfortable, and stable.
I’ve used a couple other versions of Ergon’s take on this problem. My go-to bag is the Ergon BC3. It’s freaking huge and uses the clever F-link system which uses a shoulder harness and an articulating ball joint to separate upper body movement from lower. It leaves a rider’s arms and shoulders unencumbered to do other things like direct the bike. The other half of the system is a padded belt on a plastic skeleton much like a mini backpacking pack. Most of the weight rests on the hips. The tight, restrictive belt is an absolute necessity and I found that the pack frequently rotated on my hips as it articulated on the ball joint. My BC3 is a monster pack whose giant maw devours all my stuff and deposits it somewhere in its depths. I’m upper-arm deep in it to find that secret stash of gummy bears I lost last season. This is actually a major issue. I have burned critical time chasing imaginary snacks around the inky dark interior of the larger Ergon pack believing in my bonking mind that it contained some morsel of power food that had actually been eaten the last time I went hypoglycemic.

The BA3 Evo from Ergon solves most of it’s big brother’s issues without sacrificing much. The biggest difference of note is the absence of the F-Link system. Ergon replaces this with the Adaptive Carrier System which really just seems like fancy-talk for a series of D-rings that allow for additional range of motion in the direction of pull in the shoulder straps.

The second piece of ACS is a broad sling that runs horizontally across the bottom of the pack. This sling serves several purposes: It has gear loops to secure body protection gear, it is sort of rubberized to protect the bottom of the pack, and most importantly it integrates with the lower ends of the shoulder straps in a way that supports the bulk of the pack and pulls its mass closer to your own center of gravity. Its a series of subtle features that make a major difference in the stability and overall utility of the brilliant little pack.

The pack is adjustable for different size torsos via a sliding harness system that locks in place with bilateral velcro locks in seconds.

A thin strip of aluminum sown horizontally into the back allows the wearer to bend it to custom contour how the pack fits. Like its predecessors, the BA3 Evo carries it’s loads low on your back, but another component of the ACS is an adjustment strap near where the waist belt meets the pack that draws the weight of the pack closer into your center of gravity dramatically increasing stability.

The belt is updated too. Gone is the ultra-stiff thick padded pack-belt. The BA3’s belt is a medium-wide elasticky velcro band with a back-up buckle that hugs and supports one’s hips like something you’d wear as a Home Depot employee to avoid a back injury. The result is stability without bulk.

The BA3 Evo is well laid-out and has many mesh pockets which completely segregate the vast majority of the small items I tend to lose easily into their own little homes.

Three mesh sub-pockets sealed with velco keep your trinketry from rattling

A smaller outer pocket is perfect for tools, bits and snacks, while the inner compartment and its larger mesh divisions is suited to my jacket, filter, first aid and survival gear.

Way down there at the bottom there’s a kitchen sink

I have been able to ditch the little baggies and contrivances I needed with packzilla and still enjoy better organization. It’s like Extreme Makeover Hydration Pack edition came in and completely renovated my pack.

When things get really extended out there in the Wide World, a semi-circumferential zipper hides a fold of fabric that when deployed produces an additional 2 L of storage room. For me this is enough room to pack in my padded camera bag in addition to the kitchen sink and everything else I bring.

A little saw goes a long way in backcountry trail maintenance

It could also be the approximate difference between a light rain jacket and a thermal fleece. So go big. Get the 3lb bag of Gummy Bears at Costco. You’ve earned it and you’ll be able to cram in maximum Gummy Goodness. Just imagine the tears of joy from your riding comrades at the sight of hundreds of sweet little ursines tumbling from this pack into their shaking, glucose-deprived hands.

On the outside it has a sort of weird pocket/gear sling that is meant to carry things like body armor and a full face helmet.

Insert mega-sandwich here

I noticed almost immediately that this was perfectly tailored to growler storage and makes a hot-lap on the newly-minted local singletrack the perfect way to get thirsty before hitting the local brewery for a refill.

Growler Courtesy of Industrial Revolution Brewing Company

Or it also fits my Tenkara fishing rod and fly box. You could probably get a small child in there too. Like a high-performance Baby Bjorn. Might void the warranty (on the baby).
I miss the large zipper pocket in the lumbar area that was accessible without removing the pack on the BC3 which was great for maps and snacks and small items that one might use frequently. The BA3 has a small zipper pocket integrated into the waistband that could hold some candy or keys or some small item. My phone barely fits and a map definitely wouldn’t.  But it doesn’t add any bulk so it’s a cute little addition, albeit one of lesser utility.

But how does it ride? None of this matters if it becomes a distraction while riding. It is only worth its salt if it can capture some TARDIS-like quality and be bigger on the inside, hiding 10 pounds of crap in a 9 pound sack.

The Ergon BA3 Evo absolutely delivers. Despite the absence of the F-link and its seemingly basic design I can fit pretty much everything from the BC3 into the BA3 Evo. The entire load of the pack is held low and close and the Adaptive Carrier System keeps it there even during my particular sort of flailing that I call mountain biking. The Evo definitely feels minimalistic, the fabric it is made from and even the padding of the straps is pretty lightweight stuff and compared to the hard-framed mega-pack I’m used to it feels downright floppy, like a beached jellyfish. This is not a negative. Once its on it clings like a rabid octopus and I have a genuinely difficult time believing that its hauling all the trinkets that I typically do.
The BA3 has rapidly become my mainstay in my fleet of packs. Its lightweight organization, stability, and remarkable ability to wear like a much smaller pack than it actually is gives it the range to go from a daily driver to a long-haul trucker.

MSRP: $129.00
Capacity 15+2 L
Colorways: Blue and Black or Black/White logo
More Info: www.ergon-bike.com
 

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