Hydration Musings

In the past, I used Camelbak bladders as my primary water reservoir. I’ve had three of their military hydration systems and never experienced a leak – except once when I neglected to fully close the bladder’s lid. In snowy, alpine conditions I would chuckle at others whose hydration hoses were frozen shut, while I confidently sucked on my insulated Camelbak hose. The Camelbak mouthpiece always insured a high flow-rate, unlike some other brands, and the hose could be shut off at either end, providing further protection against the accidental leaks that have been known to plague other bladders.

But the Camelbak’s durability comes at a price. My 100oz Omega Reservoir (including bite valve and insulated tube) weigh in at 10oz. Not exactly light. So last year, I decided to give Platypus bladders a shot. I had been critical of their toughness in the past, but their 2 liter bottle weighed in at only 1.4oz. With optional drink tube kit and bite valve cover, the full system weighed 3.6oz. It had been referred to as the “gold standard” in ultralight bottles. Too enticing not to pick up.

Of course, the low weight of the Platypus system also comes at a price. The small opening makes the bladder less convenient to fill. The tube is uninsulated, and so inappropriate for much cold weather use. The bite valve has a low flow rate and is prone to leaking. The bite valve cover is cumbersome and difficult to close. And the bladder itself is made of a much thinner and less durable plastic than the Camelbaks. Still, I have been very happy overall with the 2L Platypus bottle. I have not touched the Camelbak once since making the conversion.

Leaky Platypus

But now my Platypus has begun to leak. I’ve patched it with Gorilla Tape, which seems to be an effective fix, but it is only temporary. I need to replace the bottle. Nowadays, all the rage seems to be for the new bottles with their ugly colors. The largest of these is 1 liter, and so not an option for me.

Platypus also now offers two newer hydration systems. The first is the Hoser, which is similar to the old bottle, but with a grab loop at one end and an angled port at the other. The manufacturer’s weight for this system is 3.6oz, which is the same weight that I have measured for my old bottle, hose, and valve. The trouble with the Hoser is that the bottom does away with the traditional expanding bottom of the old bottles in favor of a grab loop. Because of the small opening of the bladders, the best way that I have found to fill it is to scoop up water with something else and pour it into the standing bladder (a method made popular by Jason Klass). For one person to achieve this, the bladder has to stand on its own. The Hoser bladder will not, so it isn’t an option for me.

The other new offering from Platypus is the Big Zip SL. The zipper closer on this addresses the difficulty of filling. The manufacturer’s listed weight is listed at 5.5oz (though I’ve heard reports that it is actually heavier): still a good deal lighter than the Camelbak, but significantly heavier than the old bottle system.

I could go back to the old Camelbak, but the weight deters me. It is also difficult to pour precise amounts of water out of the Camelbak bladder for cooking, which is a disadvantage now that I’m used to the Platypus bottles.

The other option is a bladder from Source. I first heard of these with MilitaryMoron’s review. They have many features that are attractive to me, but I haven’t seen anybody post an accurate weight. Source themselves list their 2L bladder at 0.53lbs (8.48 oz), but they have the same weight listed for the 1.5L and 3L bladders. It seems highly improbable to me that three different sized objects weigh exactly the same. More likely, the manufacturer’s listed weights are inaccurate. I am assuming that the Source bladders will be heavier than the comparable Platypus Big Zip SL and that they have the potential to be slightly lighter than a Camelbak, but that is only a guess. I would rather not purchase a Source bladder without knowing an accurate weight.

For now, I think I will buy another 2L Platypus bottle to replace my leaky one. Despite the durability issues, they seem to be the best mix of price, performance, and weight. They must be thought of as disposable, but that is true of all plastic water carriers. I’m not sure why they have lately become more difficult to acquire from large retailers.

Does anybody know of any other options that I have overlooked?