On any endurance race, there’s a certain amount of gear you need to carry, but you don’t want to get weighed down with extras. Since I tend to drink a lot during rides and don’t like fumbling with bottles, I opted for a hydration pack. This provided room for a tool, pump, tube, etc., and kept the weight off the bike. If you fall into the camp of putting all the gear on your bike and running bottles, there’s still something here for you, too.


osprey syncros 3 minimalist hydration pack review and actual weight

The Syncro 3 is Osprey’s smallest cycling hydration pack. It pares down the feature set and options to keep it small and light, which means it’s really only able to carry the essentials. Other than a key clip, there is no organization inside the single zippered cargo pocket, and that pocket is just barely tall enough to contain an iPhone 6/7/8 Plus inside a case. Fill the reservoir and stuff a 29er tube inside the spaces behind that pocket and it becomes very tight getting the zipper shut with that phone in it.

Fortunately, an innertube helps keep everything inside the open-top pocket behind the zippered section from slipping out. I ended up putting just the tool, two CO2 cartridges, CO2 chuck, and wireless ear buds inside the zippered pocket and crammed my phone in with the tube. My pump lived inside the larger zippered compartment meant for the reservoir.

osprey syncros 3 minimalist hydration pack review and actual weight

Despite the light weight, there’s still a semi-rigid frame with their Airscape back panel.

osprey syncros 3 minimalist hydration pack review and actual weight

This keeps the pack off your back and lets air flow. I never had a hot, sweaty back while racing or during two multi-hour pre-rides…in the UT desert. The shoulder straps are also very breathable and light.

Another standout feature of Osprey’s packs is the magnetic hose retention on the chest strap’s clip. It holds the hose snugly, so you know exactly where to grab when you need to drink quickly. And it’s relatively easy to get it to find that magnet again while riding.

osprey syncros 3 minimalist hydration pack review and actual weight

The 2.5L reservoir goes inside the large pocket. It uses a fold-and-slide closure, which opens wide for easy filling. The red handle makes it easy to pull out. Perhaps the best feature is the inline disconnect at the top of the hose. This made it extremely easy to get the bladder in and out for quick refills.

osprey syncros 3 minimalist hydration pack review and actual weight

The Osprey Syncro 3 comes in S/M and M/L sizes to fit different height people. Complete weight with the reservoir is 634g (1.4lb). Retail is $85, available in shops and at Osprey.com.


crank brothers klik hv gauge and F15 mini tool review

In addition to the Eggbeater pedals, Crank Brothers provided their F15 multi-tool (which is available in a red Syndicate edition), Klic HV Gauge mini pump, and Sterling CO2 chuck.

crank brothers klik hv gauge and F15 mini tool review

The pump is fully featured, with only the Klic HV Gauge+CO2 coming in above it…which was out of stock, so they sent the Sterling chuck instead. The pump hides the flexible hose with inline pressure gauge inside the pump’s body. Slide it open, flip the T-handle position, and the hose comes out. And this is the best part:

crank brothers klik hv gauge mini pump review crank brothers klik hv gauge mini pump review

The hose can thread to the valve stem while unattached to the pump body. Not only is this MUCH more ergonomically friendly, but no air is lost in the process. Once threaded on, the other end connects to the pump magnetically, and holds firmly in place even through spirited pumping. Bend the hose aggressively and it still won’t dislodge. Done pumping? Just pull it out and unthread the hose, slide it back in, and you’re off to the races.

The inline gauge has windows on two sides, each showing PSI and BAR, so it’s easy to view your progress. This HV (High Volume) version is aimed at mountain bikes and made short work of filling the 29×2.35 tire from completely flat to almost 30psi. I didn’t count strokes, but it was far from tiring. Even when I had to repeatedly re-fill a slow leak during the race, it was easy and quick enough that I wasn’t cursing. Need a good MTB or gravel pump? The Crank Brothers Klic HV Gauge should be at the top of your list.

The F15 tool uses a metal case that acts as the handle for a chain breaker tool. In a pinch, the slot of that part can work as a valve core remover…which came in handy when I needed to add sealant. Worked like a charm, and would have been easier if I’d realized the chain breaker part comes out, too. On the bottom of it are 0/1/2/3 spoke wrenches.

The backside of the sleeve works as a bottle opener, which we demonstrated in last week’s Friday Yard Sale video. The other tools included are Hex 2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8, Philips #2, Flat #1, and a T25.

The Sterling CO2 chuck takes threaded cartridges and uses a spring-loaded valve head to control flow. The top has rubber sections to protect your fingers from frostbite while filling.

crank brothers klik hv gauge and F15 mini tool actual weights

Actual weights are 133g for the pump, 15g for its included frame mount, 162g for the F15 tool, and 42g for the CO2 chuck. Retail prices are $46.99 (pump), $42.99 (tool) and $16.99 (Sterling CO2). More options and colors at CrankBrothers.com.


life proof phone case

Last but not least of the gear was a Lifeproof iPhone case. Having proven itself for years now, the Lifeproof Fre (48g) case is slimmer than the original versions, yet still provides complete enclosure and 100% waterproofness up to a few feet. Regardless of whether the moisture is coming from unexpected (or expected but dammit I’m gonna ride anyway) rain or excessive summer sweating, I don’t want that to ruin my phone. Considering most of use rely on our phones to take mid-ride photos, and that there were a lot of very hard rocks and good places to fall at the True Grit Epic, the impact protection might come in handy, too. The Fre case is surprisingly thin and small, adding little to the phone’s dimensions. It also protects against dust, dirt and grime, making it a great way to keep your pack or pocket small and protect your Strava relay.

On the right is the Otterbox DryCase 3250. Otterbox and Lifeproof share the same corporate parent, but differ in their stylings. I requested the hard case because my original plan was to bring along a Sony RX100 camera to better document the race. Once I saw the case size and the Osprey pack’s size, the iPhone 6+ (189g) became the only real option. As small as the DryCase (390g) is, there’s no way it was fitting inside the Syncro 3.

Check out the rest of the Project XC Race Bike build in these posts:



  1. Would you be able to squeeze a 3L bladder in that Syncro 3? I’m looking for a minimalist pack with maximal water capacity.

What do you think?