Stylish, custom design meets practicality? Fledgling brand San Util offer a wide selection of fabric colours to choose from for their bags. We tested the San Util Whirlpool to find out whether it’s just good looking, or if the 3.5 L hip pack has got what it takes to prove itself on the trail.

San Util Whirlpool 3.5L hip pack | Price: $ 185 | Colour: Ranger Green, Black Knight | Manufacturer’s website

Hip packs are a big trend, so you won’t be short of options to choose from. You’ll find a wide range of colours, sizes, and finishes on the market. However, the small US brand San Util Design, founded in 2021 in Winter Park, Colorado, hope to stand out from the crowd. They offer various storage options from small saddle bags to large ski backpacks, all made by hand in small batches. Thanks to an online colour configurator and high-quality materials, the products can be extensively customised, making each item unique and stand out from the crowd. We chose the San Util Whirlpool 3.5 l hip pack ($ 135) from the young brand’s portfolio, as well as two bottle holsters ($ 25), bringing the total to $ 185. If you live in the USA or Canada, shipping isn’t a problem. Outside of these borders, however, you’ll have to order through other online retailers and not directly from San Util. With two bottle holsters, the San Util Whirlpool hip pack weighs 365 g. Read on to find out how it performs on the trail.

You’ll find plenty of storage space in the large main compartment.
And you can secure additional items to the outside of the hip pack via straps.

San Util’s hip pack is made of water-repellent fabric, which keeps out most of the moisture, despite the lack of taped seams. Our hip pack in Ranger Green is available either in the standard version or with a custom design, configured as desired with the colour of your choice and adapted to your personal needs. For those who want to choose from the seemingly endless colour combinations, you’ll be charged an extra $ 30, which seems fair. You usually only have to wait 5 days before you can collect the hip pack from Winter Park. When it comes to dividers, San Util prefer to keep things simple. The large main compartment has a volume of 3.5 to 5 l, serving as a single receptacle for all your goods. To prevent things from getting mixed up, you’ve got three small pockets sewn into the main compartment, allowing you to keep snacks and other small items within easy reach. However, they can’t be closed, and when things get rough on the trail, you may find everything jumbled up in the bag. A key loop has also been sewn into the interior of the hip pack and reliably secures your car or house keys, which is very convenient. The rolltop is secured with a magnetic buckle, which is easy and quick to open and close with just two fingers. It even works well if you’re wearing thick gloves.

The bottle holsters of the San Util Whirlpool hip pack proved to be reliable even on demanding and rough trails.
The magnetic FIDLOCK closure is easy to use and keeps your San Util hip pack securely in place.

As the name suggests, the San Util Whirlpool hip pack offers plenty of water storage capacity. That’s because the hip pack is compatible with two water bottle holsters, which we also had fitted for our test. They simply attach to the provided webbing. You can also pop an hydration bladder into the main compartment, and there’s even a small port for the hose sewn into the bag. To prevent the hose from dangling around, additional webbing has been sewn into the waist strap to hold it in place. The hydration bladder and the two bottle holsters ($25 each) are sold separately. The two compression straps for things like knee pads or a rain jacket are sewn to the outside of the main compartment. The large wings on the waist strap should help distribute the weight of the hip pack, while offering additional storage space for small items thanks to small stretch pockets. The waist buckle also closes with a magnetic FIDLOCK closure, which is easy to open and close.

When it comes to asking what to pack when you’re heading out on the trails, there’s little need to weigh things up, as the main compartment offers ample storage space. However, due to the lack of dividers, there is no real way to keep order in the San Util Whirlpool. The small pockets on the inside may hold a few snacks and the like, but due to the lack of closures, the contents quickly find their way back into the main compartment after bouncing down a rough trail. Constantly having to search for your energy bar or multitool is a bit annoying, and we would like to see an update with some form of closures here.

Attaching the bottle holsters to the side of the bag was a bit cumbersome and fiddly. Once fitted, however, the bottle holsters stay securely in place, and don’t interfere while riding. Our tip: attach them and leave them there. Our water bottles stayed in the bottle holsters reliably even while riding on rough trails. No water bottles were harmed in the making of this test.

On the trail, the hip pack sits snugly on your back and hardly bothers you, even on longer rides. However, the continuous padding offers little in the way of ventilation. As such, you’ll likely get quite sweaty underneath it, especially on hot days. If you want to stop and treat yourself to a snack, you can remove the bag and access the contents in just a few quick steps. The small pouches on the left and right wings of the waist strap are convenient, but since they also lack any form of closure, they’re more of a temporary storage solution. We usually used them for our gloves on the climbs.

Our conclusion of the San Util Whirlpool 3.5 L hip pack

The San Util Whirlpool 3.5 L Hip Pack impressed us with its comfortable and secure fit. For a fair $ 30 more, the extensive colour configurator also allows you to customise the hip pack to suit your preferences. Considering the hefty price point, however, we found it to be lacking in a few small details. We would have liked closures for the pockets, and a better subdivision of the large main compartment, allowing you to keep things a little more orderly.


  • extensive colour configurator
  • comfortable to wear
  • simple and secure closure


  • minimal ventilation
  • hefty price
  • just one main compartment
  • attaching the bottle holsters can be fiddly

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Words: Benedikt Schmidt Photos: Peter Walker