Zefal Z Hydro Race 1.5L hydration bag review - low price and low weight, excellent for short gravel races

Wallet-friendly, lightweight and minimalist - an excellent option for those getting into gravel racing

Steve Shrubsall wearing the Zefal Z Hydro Race 1.5L hydration bag
(Image credit: Future)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

Zefal Hyrdo Race 1.5L Hydration Bag is a perfect delivery system for short rides or races, and a capacious zipped pocket would see it fare reasonably well on longer outings, with the ability to stash extra layers and spares. For those looking into their first dalliance with gravel racing this bag would be a very sound starting point.

Reasons to buy
  • +


  • +

    Bladder valve worked consistently

  • +

    Zipped pocket

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Only really suitable for shorter rides

  • -

    Mesh straps easily twisted

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As cycling has evolved to include bikepacking, multi-day ultra events and long-distance gravel races as part of it range of disciplines, the need to be able to carry and have easy access to fuel and hydration has become ever-more pertinent. Water bottles are, of course, an option for such rides but bottle cages can take up valuable frame real estate which could otherwise be used for storage systems. They also demand taking your hand from the bars, and if the terrain is choppy this can either be dangerous or discourage the rider from hydrating or fuelling at crucial times - it’s easy to err from a well-planned fuelling strategy. 

This is where a good hydration pack can really complement your ride.

Zefal Z Hydro Race 1.5L: construction

Zefal’s Hydro Race 1.5L hydration bag

(Image credit: Future)

Zefal’s Hydro Race 1.5L bag more or less states its raison d’etre in the title, but there are also hidden components that we’ll come to later. 

Zefal has created a light delivery system with a capacity for 1.5 litres of water or fuel. Priced at $35.45 / £24.99, it falls into the category of a budget offering. It’s more or less accepted that 500ml of fluid per hour is the going rate for a long bike ride (in temperate conditions at a moderately relaxed pace), making Zefal’s offering good for three hours of uninterrupted delivery if you choose to use the bladder solely for water.

Using the hydration system for a carbohydrate mix is of course feasible but not the most efficient way of taking on fuel as it’ll compromise rehydration. Therefore it’s handy that the Zefal’s Hydro Race 1.5L comes with a separate zipped pocket that can swallow a handful of energy gels, as well as a multi-tool and puncture repair gear. The pack also sports a pair of straps at the bottom which allows you to cinch rolled up garments like wind cheaters or waterproof cycling jackets, so despite it’s pared down appearance, the bag is full of functionality. And it doesn’t stop at pockets and straps - a handy bike light mount also features, as does a hook for your car keys. 

Zefal Z Hydro Race 1.5L: the ride

Steve Shrubsall wearing the Zefal Z Hydro Race 1.5L hydration bag

(Image credit: Future)

In use the pack rests steady on your back while at capacity with water, and the ‘intelligent’ valve makes drinking easy. Some valves offer a lock-out position so as not to lose any of the bladder’s contents through the hose – this is a great safety net, but would’ve been superfluous with Zefal’s offering, the system working flawlessly. 

At 180g unloaded, it’s a super lightweight pack that moulds to your back with mesh straps unobtrusive and comfortable. The main TPU construction is very soft and waterproof but did seem to hang on to sweat for a while – although I’m a very heavy sweater so the back of the pack may handle reduced volumes with more efficiency.

I would recommend using this pack for short gravel races as it does lack forward pockets that you could easily pluck a gel or snack from, which is make or break for longer efforts. But anything up to two hours sees the Zefal Hydro Race bag perform as expected and without issue. 

Zefal Z Hydro Race 1.5L: value and conclusion

Having used a range of hydration packs from budget to boutique (the Zefal sitting firmly in the realms of the former), the differences generally err towards stowage, use of technical fabrics and the type of material used for the bladder - the bottom line being longevity and functionality. 

While the Zefal doesn't pack the constructional punch of some of the more boutique offerings and certainly offers limited pockets and stowage, it soundly does the job it was designed for, and at $35.45 / £24.99 cannot be faulted. 

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