POC’s protective pack has a premium price tag, and sadly no hydration bladder, but I really like it for days with lots of descending.
It fits snuggly around the torso with a double-strapped chest harness – a bit like a cross between conventional shoulder straps and a trail running style vest pack – which will appeal to riders who don’t like waist belts. Despite sitting quite high, the pack remained solidly in place.
On some protective packs I’ve tested, I’ve found the thick, rigid spine boards have prevented them from contouring to my back and resulted in a lot of unwanted movement when riding, but POC’s VPD back protector doesn’t suffer from this problem and the heat of your body makes it malleable enough.
However, the elevated position meant that POC’s level-1, hardening-upon-impact VPD back protector didn’t provide full coverage, leaving the lower half of my spine exposed.
The 8l volume is tight but sufficient, and while the internal pouches in the main zipped compartment are a bit shallow, the phone pocket behind the spine board and zipped pouch on the chest harness make up for this.
The Spine VPD Air 8 has no external cargo capacity, which keeps it looking clean and simple, but makes it less practical, and straps to carry a full-face helmet would be welcome.
Although POC doesn’t supply the pack with a hydration system, I tested it with a 2-litre Hydrapak reservoir, and it worked perfectly. The hose routing along both shoulder straps is good, although the pouch on the left-hand strap to tuck the bite valve in is a little fiddly on the go.