Platypus tokul XC 5 backpack

Review: Platypus Tokul XC 5 Hydration Backpack

A highly user-friendly and simple hydration backpack with enough features and storage for big rides out in the wild or short, sharp off-road missions.

For those hitting the trail on a regular basis, the simplicity of the Platypus Tokul XC 5 makes it a highly appealing choice. With a few unique features that put it above its competition in terms of usability, it’s really hard not to love everything about this backpack. The lightweight construction and exceptionally comfortable and breathable back panel, make it the kind of bag you’ll forget you’re even wearing.

Platypus Tokul XC 5 backpack : The stats

Capacity:5 litres
Reservoir capacity:3 litres
Gear capacity:2 litres
Pockets:5 – 1 hydration pocket, 1 internal zip mesh pocket, 3 internal mesh pockets
Weight:1 lb. 6 oz. (624g)
Size:7.5 x 4.5 x 18 in (19 x 11.5 x 46 cm)
Material:160D and 210D PU-Coated Nylon

Design features of the Platypus Tokul XC 5

Hydration pocket

Water bladder pocket on bagThis is a totally separate pocket to the gear storage section of the bag with a zipper opening that is just big enough to get a 3 litre reservoir into. The suspension hooks at the top of the pocket hold the reservoir in place brilliantly, although they can be a little tricky to use (especially when you are in a rush!).

3 litre reservoir

Platypus hydration bladderThe wide mouth opening is so easy to use and allows you to easily fill the reservoir up without getting water all over the outside of it. The quick-disconnect valve is my favourite feature which allows you to leave the hose in place (threaded through the H20 port and the loops on the strap), whilst you refill the reservoir. Just make sure you suck out all the water from the hose once you’ve disconnected – otherwise it trickles out and all over your stuff.

Magnetic hydration hose retention

Hose magnet on hydration packThe magnet sits on the sternum strap on the right hand side shoulder strap, and is an excellent feature of the Tokul. I love how easily you can detach the hose from its secure position and then just snap it back into place without pfaffing around with clips or straps. The position of the magnet can be adjusted higher or lower with the sternum strap and the opposing magnet can also be moved to your preferred position and angle on the hose.

Sternum strap

Sternum strap of backpackAdjustable right down to the base of the shoulder straps to allow for a specific fit for most people with medium to large torsos. If only the adjustment continued further up the shoulder straps – it would also be much more suitable for those with small torsos, and more female friendly too. There is also an adjustable waist strap.

Helmet attachment loops

Helmet attachment loops on backpackAnother appealing feature of the Tokul 5 is the webbed helmet attachment loops at the top of the bag. These are ideal for securely storing your helmet on when it’s not in use, and can also be used to secure an extra layer on the outside of the pack with some bungee cord, making it more versatile in non-active scenarios.

RidgeAir back panel

RidgeAir back panelNot only is the design of the back panel superb at keeping sweat levels down, but it is also mega comfortable to wear. There are no uncomfortable spots and the foam panels provide cushioning in all the right places. There is an internal (and removable) solid back plate that gives the bag its rigid form, and also prevents you from feeling any irregular shaped items you might be carrying.

Internal pockets

Internal pockets of Tokul backpackI love keeping my gear organised, so the 4 internal pockets are a big plus for me. They are all made from mesh to keep things lightweight and easily visible. They fit snacks, puncture repair kit, pump, spare inner tube and bike tool with no problem at all. And there is still room in the main compartment for an extra layer or jacket.

Key attachment

Key attachment in backpack pocketOne of the internal mesh pockets is closeable with a zip and also has a key attachment hook for extra security. I used to think this was a slightly unnecessary feature of bags such as this but I use it every time I’m carrying keys, without fail. The zip pocket easily holds a phone/gps, money etc with room to spare to stuff in your gloves or a buff.

Light attachment

Light attachment loopAt the bottom of the pack, flanked by two reflective strips, is an attachment loop to secure a rear red light for adventures in low light.

Bite valve

Bite valve of PlatypusThe bite valve can be opened by squeezing the two levers towards each other. This twists the whole bite valve into an open position. Bite and suck to drink, and split the levers apart again to close. I have used better bite valves in the past and find that you have to work quite hard to get a good flow of water. But I like the easy opening mechanism. Try closing it wearing gloves and you may struggle a bit!

Platypus Tokul XC 5 backpack review

In the last few years I’ve steered away from wearing backpacks whilst cycling and instead carried gear on my bike. I found myself over-packing my backpacks with unnecessary stuff and feeling the strain of the extra weight on my back and neck. So for commuting I opted for panniers, and for off-roading I went for minimal gear in a saddlebag and less water – neither of which are ideal.

So using a mega lightweight hydration pack with limited gear storage has been a revelation. I was reluctant to start with as I really love the freedom and comfort of riding without a backpack, but the low capacity of the Tokul makes it ideal for keeping things lightweight and thus less noticeable on my back. And it means I an ride for longer without getting dehydrated.

With 3 litres of the 5 litre capacity taken up with water, it would be easy to doubt that 2 litres is enough to fit in everything else you need for a short day out on the trail. But as it turns out, 2 litres is plenty and fits everything you need providing your snacks are high calorie instead of high volume. And with 3 litres of water on your back you just don’t need to even consider re-fills during the day.

The shoulder straps are constructed of lightweight mesh making them really lightweight and as breathable as the mesh back panel. So it takes some serious climbs and high temperatures for sweat to build up.

So far the 210D nylon has proved to be super durable and robust, and I really like the reinforced front panel of the bag that provides extra protection to the contents of the bag, and increased overall durability.Cycling with Platypus Tokul XC 5

What I love the most about the Platypus Tokul XC 5 backpack

Aside from the slightly slow flow of water through the bite valve, I really love the design and usability of the reservoir and how well it fits into the hydration reservoir pocket. The quick-disconnect valve makes refilling so easy and I find that I use it much more than my old reservoir. It’s easy to interchange between bags and I don’t leave it in my bag after use to get mouldy – I actually leave it out to dry! Once disconnected, the hose dries out much quicker than other reservoirs where you have to get your pliers out to disconnect it, and so the whole things is easier to keep clean. I also like the wide-mouth opening of the reservoir. It’s mega secure and I’ve had no issues with leakages so far. I can also get my hand right inside it to fully dry it with a cloth after use.

What I don’t love so much about the Platypus Tokul XC 5 backpack

There is very little that is bad to say about this all round excellently designed bag. The one negative, for me, is the fit.

The fit

As far as I can tell, the bag isn’t designed gender specifically, however, as a size 10 (UK) female I am not able to get the bag to fit as snugly as I would like – it’s ever-so-slightly too big. I would love to be able to use this bag for running as well as biking but without being able to cinch down the straps tightly, there is just too much movement. This doesn’t pose much of a problem when it comes to cycling. However, even when cycling, I’m still not able to fit the bag as securely as I would like: the sternum strap sits too low on my chest to be comfortable and so I either clip the strap loosely or forego using the strap altogether.

That said, Rob (6 ft male), has no problems with the fit. He is able to carry it comfortably and securely whilst cycling and running. So ladies, if you are on the small side and want a women’s fit, you may want to consider getting the Platypus B-Line 8 which is 3 litres bigger but otherwise a very similar bag.

Verdict

The Platypus Tokul XC 5 backpack is an almost faultless hydration pack for biking and adventuring. With plenty of space for gear and water for a short day out on the trail, and lots of unique features that make it really user-friendly, comfortable and durable, it really is hard to see why you might look elsewhere. The price tag is certainly on the high side, but providing you are able to get the fit right (ladies, see above), then the cash is worth spending for the convenience and quality, especially if you are hitting the trail on a regular basis.

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