- Water bottle carrying capacity is secure
- Comfy to wear
- Easy to access on the fly
- Designed for a very specific set of circumstances
- Stores for essentials only
- On the pricey side
The CamelBak Podium Flow Belt is a great little pack for those who like bum bags yet also need to carry a water bottle. It carries two litres of gear, 600ml of water and is comfortable – if a little pricey.
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Camelbak says the Podium Flow Belt is designed for quick laps of the bike park; it's a small bag just for the bare essentials. I'd argue it's not out of place on gravel rides either, adding the ability to carry a third water bottle without donning a heftier hydration pack. There’s enough storage for a few tools – say your multitool, tyre levers and CO2 canisters – plus snacks and a little over 600ml/21oz of water. The Podium bottle is included.
More cynically though, I think this pack was designed for riders with a full suspension bike that can’t fit a water bottle in the front triangle. It’s also for those rides where one bottle isn’t enough – with the Podium Flow you can keep another accessible on your back.
This is a bum bag, waist pack, fanny pack... whatever you want to call it. There’s a 1.5in wide belt with a chunky buckle and easy-to-adjust straps. Small foam stabilisers where the belt meets the bag keep it secure, while elastic keepers tidy up the tails of the straps.
I'd like to see the strap attachment areas made longer so the bag hugs the waist a little more; it’d be more stable, and easier to settle back into position after you pull it round to your front to access it. I appreciate though, all body shapes are different and this design may be the best compromise for all.
The bag consists of two parts: the main storage section and the portion for the water bottle. The bottle part is made from what feels like plastic-reinforced foam to give structure and rigidity. This is topped with an elastic sleeve which encloses the bottle up to its tapered neck. There is also a webbing strap on the bottom to stop you overstretching the drainable mesh fabric on the bottom.
Getting the water bottle in and out when the pack is on your back takes a few practice goes, but you soon find the knack and it’s easy to get along with. You can use other brands of bottle – go much larger than 600ml though, and the elastic mesh topper can't hold on so securely.
The storage section is one large opening lined with inner mesh pockets, plus a smaller zippered pocket on the outside. I stored tools inside the mesh, stuck my key on the key hook and filled the rest with snacks. Two litres isn’t a whole lot of room, but it’s enough for shorter rides if you keep your tube and pump/CO2 canisters on your frame.
The storage is easy to get into with a zip that extends down the outer edge, and a decent pull tab for gloved hands. The rear of the bag is well-padded which, as well as keeping you comfortable, also helps stop the bag sagging or flopping around. Lastly, there's a hanging loop for storage – a nice extra touch.
As for the Podium bottle, check out our separate review here for the full skinny.
It's stable in use, and once you get used to the lopsided weight of the bottle – at first I kept trying to push it 'back' into the middle' – it’s pretty unnoticeable. Testing the CamelBak Podium Flow Belt in winter has, quite possibly, revealed its forte: it's absolutely bob-on for storing the batteries of helmet mounted lights on short night rides!
I used the pack on both mountain bike and gravel bikes, and it performed well in both situations, hardly moving when riding hard and being easy to access. It's most suited to mountain bike rides, though – it covers the useful rear pockets of gravel or road jerseys.
There’s no denying it, the CamelBak Podium Flow Belt is a niche piece of kit that not all riders will need. And while we're on the negatives, a small length of mesh came unstitched on our test pack, which – while quite possibly an isolated case – is still not something you expect from a premium brand on a £45 bag.
Those who say yes to tools, treats and drinks but no to backpacks, drinks bladders or things stuck to their frames won’t be disappointed. If you looked at the Repack bum bag and were tempted but thought it was too big, the substantially smaller Podium Flow could be the one. The Podium Flow Belt does what it sets out to do well, even if what it sets out to do is offer a very narrow and, like Liam Neesom in Taken, very particular set of skills.
Also comes in all Black and a green Camo - who doesn't like Camo?
A big minus for me would be that it's claret and blue.