Those serious about leaving a pack at home should look at the Stash, as compared to the Smuggle, it’s camel-like. And that’s not just because the pockets at the back are wider and deeper; the Stash has an integrated hydration bladder sleeve with associated tube guides, for up to 1.5l of liquid.
While adding a bladder increases bulk, in use the sleeve keeps it well under control, and I never got slapped in the back of the head by an errant bag of water. Access to the pockets is only slightly hindered by the badder too.
The wide central pocket is easily big enough for an inner tube and some tools, while there’s also two smaller pockets to the side. They drop below waist band height of your shorts though, and given they’re only attached at the top of the pocket, bulky loads can flap around a bit.
The extra pockets on the thighs are handy, especially the energy gel stash pocket, which is easy to access, but the Stash doesn’t have any zippered pockets.
The fit is good unless you have a long torso, when it can come in a bit short. And while I'm being picky, I’d like a stretchier front for less toilet stop fumbling and deeper leg grippers to help match up with and secure knee pads.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.