Saturday, 8 June 2013

Hydration sacks (Platypus vs. Camelbak vs. Source vs. Osprey)

Hydration sacks
(Platypus vs. Camelbak vs. Source vs. Osprey)
          Its amazing to think that until about 15 years ago hydration sacks simply didn't exist, it was just plastic bottles or metal Sigg bottles and at the time we didn't think anything more of it,

          Then along came Platypus and Camelbak and changed everything, at the time I was working in a local camping shop and thought that not only was the idea revolutionary but was quite simply the best thing I`d ever seen, the ability to drink whilst on the go, I was so enthralled by the idea that I bought one straight away, the Platypus 2 litre and whilst it changed everything it did have its drawbacks, as with the first generation of most equipment, some of which have been addressed and others that haven't. after this I moved onto the Camelbak 2 litre and then the Source 2 litre, I`m currently using the Osprey Hydraulic system which is incredibly similar to the Camelbak, each of the sack has its own unique advantages and disadvantages as well as universal advantages and disadvantages which I will describe below.
universal advantages  
          The biggest universal advantage of the hydration sack is first and foremost the ability to drink whilst on the move meaning a decreased risk of dehydration and the associated risks it comes with, especially the "I cant be bothered to stop and take my rucksack off" mentality (we`ve all been guilty of that one!). most rucksacks are now equipped with a specific pocket for them. They pack up smaller than a standard water bottle, they come in a variety of sizes usually from half a litre to 3 litres which is bigger than most standard bottles and they can be used as an emergency splint! (I did this on a wilderness first aid course and impressed the trainers, who I`m pretty sure nicked the idea afterwards and patented an air splint based on the idea....)
universal disadvantages
          Whilst the ability the drink whilst on the go is a massive advantage the one disadvantage to this system is that you have no idea how much you`ve drunk until you empty the bottle, unless you take your bag off of course, its for this reason that I always recommend to everyone that if you do go for a hydration sack then you should consider buying a normal drinks bottle as well, better safe than sorry, another disadvantage to hydration systems is that they may not be as tough as some of the metal bottles either, how many of us have a huge dent in a classic Sigg bottle? another disadvantage to the hydration system is the maintenance involved with them, with a standard bottle the most that needs to be done is it tipped upside down left over night to drain and stored overnight with the lid very loosely done up, purely so its not lost of course, with a hydration sack care needs to be taken to make sure that its completely drained of water, the pipe is empty and dry and that the whole system properly aired out else mould forms on the inside, personal experience speaking there! the other irritation caused by these bags is clients on seeing the pipe coming out of the bag asking you if its an oxygen tank and why they don't have one! 

this was the first system I used and at the time I was really impressed, it made perfect sense to have something to drink from as I walked along and I would still recommend this bag to anyone, the plastic used is tougher than most of the others meaning it can stand a little rougher handling making the bag ideal for first time users providing the disadvantage of this bag are kept in mind, in the case of the hoser the pipe is difficult to clean out and it can be difficult to fill up, as I found out to my cost if the pipe isn't properly cleaned out it can become very mouldy but as the one I had was a first generation I`m sure Platypus has fixed this problem. the bags also come in 0.5 litre, 1 litre, 1.5 litre, 1.8 litre (rare), 2 litre and 3 litre versions.

          Camelbak make many different types of water bottles including standard bottles, filtered bottles, insulated hydration sacks, standard hydration sacks (which they call bladders), sacks with wider openings (big zip) and colourful ones for kids and helpfully a cleaning and drying system (sold separately), the first thing that grabbed me about the Camelbak was the realativly huge opening to fill it up with as well as the easy close lid, the softer plastic of the bag and the pipe made this easier to pack and also nicer to bite on, the other thing I found with Camelbak is the faster flow rate of the water, greater flow rate however means that I was emptying the system quicker, which is when I decided that I needed to start carrying a spare water bottle, the other good thing with Camelbak is the pipe itself detaches for easier cleaning, the disadvantage to the Camelbak is unless you use the big zip it can be difficult to get rid of all the water afterwards. the Camelbaks come not only in different sizes ranging from 1 litre to 3 litres but in so many different varieties and in some cases in their own bags designed for running. 
          Possibly the best hydration system I have used and would absolutely recommend this system to anyone over the others and for many good reason, most of the systems have a tap on the pipe to prevent any accidental leaking, the opening to fill up is the full width of the bag, the flow rate is excellent and the plastic used is tougher than most, the pipe comes off for easy cleaning and the bag can be propped open to air out without using any specialist equipment, I usually use a stick to do this, the only disadvantage to the source system is filling it up can be awkward, the big orange fastener needs to be slid off and put somewhere safe, the top unfolded, the bag filled, top folded over and the orange fastener replaced which can lead to some spillage, again personal experience. they come in the standard sizes from 1 to 3 litres. these bags can be expensive but are worth the money.
          The bag I currently own, so why did I get this bag, quite simple it was half price when I bought my Osprey bag, how does it compare to the others? well the flow rate from the (non detachable) pipe is good but no tap, big cap which is easy to get at with gloved hands and easy to fill but the position of the opening does make it difficult to empty out, the plastic is thin but surprisingly tough, the carry handle across the whole bag makes this bag really easy to carry, obviously, but does prevent the bag from being rolled up, the one thing I really did like about this bag was the magnet it came with rather than a clip to attach to the shoulder strap, which I then promptly lost, fail. this doesn't make the bag any less effective though and is still recommended as are all the other bags in this blog.
A hydration system is certainly more effective than a water bottle and providing limitations are remembered they will quite quickly become a regular feature in your equipment.
 As with all outdoor equipment personal preference is key to any decision you make.

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.

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