By Jenn K.
The manufacturer provided this backpack for the purpose of this review.
The Women’s Cascade Designs Platypus B-Line Cross County Backpack 8.0 is a women’s specific cross-country backpack. This backpack has a female-tailored suspension with cross-country features. This backpack has a 6 liter gear capacity and a 2 liter hydration capacity. It weighs in at 1lb. 7 oz./600 g. It is made of 210D PU-Coated Diamond Ripstop Nylon and 210D PU-Coated Oxford Nylon.
The B-Line has four main compartments: a zippered hydration reservoir pocket, a main zippered gear compartment with a pump sleeve and inner mesh pockets (one which houses a key fob), and an external stuff pocket. There is an adjustable waist belt with mesh pockets on each side. These do not have any type of closure besides a fold over type of pocket top.
The zippred hydration pocket has suspension hooks to support the reservoir and prevent it from sagging and shifting. The hooks are also designed to allow the reservoir to be quickly installed and to allow for a greater flow rate. The reservoir snaps in and out of the suspension hooks with some effort and force. Maybe this will become easier with time.
What I found most to be the most intriguing feature of this pack is the 2.0 L Big Zip LP Reservoir. It is reminds me of a heavy duty zippered plastic bag; well not exactly, but I will say this is one made of heavy duty plastic. What I really like about the Big Zip LP Reservoir is the opening is very large. That makes it easier to clean and fill. It’s made with with a taste free lining, BPA free, and has a silver-ion antimicrobial treatment to keep water fresh. There is also a taste free guarantee. The reservoir is slender and is designed to fit in a variety of packs.
Here is more about how the reservoir works. It attaches to the inside of the pack with suspension hooks. The closure has what the manufacturer refers to as a Slidelock. This is a heavy duty, plastic slider that seals the hydration bladder closed.
What is very interesting about this reservoir is the design for the drinking tube to be removed for ease of filling. The tubing is released from the bottom of the reservoir by a push button release (called a Quick Disconnect) that closes the bottom of the reservoir when the tubing is disconnected. The tubing easily snaps back into the connector. I am concerned if this connector stays clean and mold free.
The hydration hose can be routed to exit the pack on the right or left side. However, it can only be secured with the sternum strap magnet on the right side when wearing the pack. The magnet cannot be relocated to the other side of the harness. The height of the sternum strap is easily adjusted by sliding it along the rigid track.
There is a warning on the hydration system literature regarding the magnet: It is a small, high energy magnet. It is advised to not use the hydration system if the user has a pacemaker. Can also cause damage to medical implants, ATM cards, credit cards, watches, compasses, mobile phones, avalanche beacons and transceivers computer hard drives, and other electronic equipment.
The bite valve of the hydration system is designed with a shut off valve to prevent leakage. The valve works as intended to allow liquid to pass through by biting on the valve. Just sucking on the valve will not allow liquid to pass through.
The B-Line pack has a foam padded back panel, hip belt, and shoulder straps. The foam is a compressible foam designed to eliminate chaffing and tank top friendly. I wonder with all the padding how much this pack will wick away moisture. The shoulder straps are made of a stretchy fabric to allow for more movement.
Some basic features of the B-Line are a blinker light attachment and webbing daisy chains to allow a helmet to be attached. The helmet can be attached by fastening the straps through the webbing. There is minimal reflective material on the pack. The design is simple, clean looking, and the grey/yellow contrast is an appealing color combination.
At a first look this is a nice looking pack. It appears to be well constructed and of high quality materials. The zippers move smoothly to open and close the compartments. There appears to be significant padding on the shoulder straps, back panel, and the waist belt. I am just wondering if there is so much padding that moisture is not wicked away. The shoulder straps and sternum strap is easily adjusted for fit. The webbed waist belt is also easily adjustable and the excess strapping can be secured to the belt via a plastic routing piece. The plastic buckle easily snaps and releases to fasten/unfasten the belt.
I broke my leg just over two months ago and I am now cleared to ride. I cannot wait to get out and try the B-Line pack. Check back next month to see how this pack is working for me.
The good news is my right fibula fracture is healing. The bad news is that I will not be back on the mountain bike until the end of October or the beginning of November. I used the B-Line pack on one of my commuting rides to and from work. One ride is not a good test of the pack. I will post an update on the B-Line pack in November after some use.
The B-Line Pack has been used during my commute home on my single speed mountain bike. I utilized it during these commutes to carry additional gear that will not fit on my rear bike rack. I have also utilized it while mountain biking. Specifically while completing my patrols for California State Parks. Before I broke my leg I was mountain biking more frequently. However, I am slowly getting back into it.
My favorite feature of this pack has to be the reservoir, for many reasons. First of all I like the large sliding opening; the reservoir can be easily cleaned and filled with this large opening. The slide-opening has not leaked nor has it become stuck. The drinking tube Quick Disconnect feature makes filling the reservoir easier. I have not noticed any mold in the connector. Also there has been no leaking from the Quick Disconnect when it is closed without the tubing in place.
The suspension straps of the reservoir have prevented the reservoir from sliding and shifting in the pack. I found that at times it is difficult to snap the reservoir in the suspension straps. It can be cumbersome. There have been no issues with the bite valve leaking and I like the size of the bite valve. It is larger than I am used to, but I think the water volume (into the mouth) is larger than with a smaller valve.
The pack straps and the back padding are comfortable; even with a full load in the B-Line. I never felt the straps pressing uncomfortably against my shoulder or causing any neck pain. The back padding is supportive enough that there is no excess pressure on my back or odd pressure when the pack weight is even. When I do not have the weight distributed correctly or the items placed inside the pack evenly to balance out the pack it can become uncomfortable.
The B-Line is large enough to carry my essentials for my commute to the train station or on my mountain bike while patrolling at the state park. When I am commuting home I usually carry my bike tools and pump in the B-Line along with my work pants and shoes. When I am patrolling at the park I need to carry extra water, maps, a jacket, tools/pump, camera and other miscellaneous items. The B-Line houses it all.
Final Update 2/9/15
It has been longer than expected since my last update. Getting back to regular mountain biking has taken me longer than expected since my broken leg. Now I am back to my mountain bike patrols at two California State parks on a regular basis.
The B-Line pack is an awesome pack. I find it to be the perfect size for a multiple hour mountain bike ride, to carry the extra items needed for my patrol, or to carry my necessities on my commute home. I have been trying to slim down on the items I carry on my commute home and this pack gets me by with what is actually needed. When I bring a larger pack with me for my planned commute I cram all I can in it.
There have been no issues with the pockets or storing my gear. My pump fits in the main gear compartment in the sleeve, a light jacket fits in the mesh outer pocket , my shoes fit in the main compartment, and small tools and other essentials fit in the inner mesh pocket. I have used the outer belt pockets on a hike, but not while riding. I was afraid that items would fall out since there is no fastener.
My favorite feature is the hydration system. It is easy to fill, easy to clean, and so far has not leaked. Initially I was concerned that the sliding closure may leak. The 2 liter hydration capacity has been adequate for me and since I can carry a bottle or two with me on the bike for long adventures I am not concerned that this capacity will not be enough. I am still only using water or Elete Electrolyte drops in the hydration system. In the past with other systems I mixed electrolyte powder with the water and mold developed from the sugar. And also from past experience I had no issues using the Elete drops. The water stored in the reservoir tastes pleasant with no stale taste (the reservoir has a antimicrobial treatment). The bite valve is still functioning well and with no leakage. I will say that the magnet on the sternum strap is powerful, I just wish it could be switched to the other side since the tube can be routed on either side of the pack. The drinking tube is still easily removed and attached to the bottom of the reservoir. I have cleaned the connector and the tubing with a small bristle brush to keep it clean. I have been disconnecting the tube to let the system fully dry.
So far there has been no chaffing from the shoulder straps, hip belt, or back panel. I have worn the pack with thin tops made of various materials (cotton, polyester, and wool). It has not been tank top weather so I have yet to see if there is any chaffing against bare skin. There is a great deal of padding on this pack which makes it comfortable. However, to be honest it does not wick moisture well. I do experience wetness on my back. The pack suspension is good. I have not felt a notable amount of pack or reservoir shifting.
I have attached a blinker light with no problems and it did not fall off (which is good). I wish there was more reflective accents on this pack since I do ride frequently at night and the pack is a dark color.
Attaching a helmet is easy through the webbing straps. I have done this to free my hands when transporting my belongings on the train or inside my work building.
I plan on using this pack for commuting and on my mountain bike adventures. I hope to continue increasing my miles on my mountain bike and being more comfortable since my accident.
This pack is available in two colors: Grey and Chili. The B-Line Pack retails for $99.95. For more information please visit www.cascadedesigns.com.