Hydration packs — backpacks with a built-in water bladder and a hose running to your mouth — are a huge convenience for those of us who like to spend all day on the trail. But they have a rather annoying design flaw.
Imagine you’re wheezing your way up a hill on your mountain bike. You’re parched, so you reach for the tube of your hydration pack. Now think about what it’s like to suck a drink through a straw while you’re desperately gasping for breath. That’s what we have to deal with.
The Utah-based company Geigerrig has eliminated the need to suck on the hydration hose with its Rig line of hydration packs. These packs have a pressurized reservoir, so the water is forced out, like a fountain, when you bite the valve. This not only makes it much easier to drink, but it allows you to share water in a less-disgusting manner — you can fill a buddy’s bottle or your dog’s water bowl.
The reservoir is pressurized via a hand pump. The pump bulb (just like the one used in blood pressure tests) nests inside one of the shoulder straps. It fills a separate air chamber within the reservoir, pressurizing the water chamber. The two separate chambers are a great bit of engineering; rather than pumping air into the water chamber, the separate air compartment puts pressure on the water without it giving it room to slosh around in the pack.
For the backcountry hikers, Geigerrig offers an in-line water filter that snaps into the hose. In-line filters haven’t been possible before because of the added resistance the filter causes. The pressurized reservoir pushes the water through the filter and out the valve. The company’s activated coconut shell carbon filters will remove Giardia, Cryptosporidium and other nasty protozoa, making any water you come across on the trail a viable source of hydration.
This is a huge win for me, personally. I’ve been out of water and dehydrated on long runs, crossing streams without daring to drink the water I was wading through. There could be a dead cow a hundred yards upstream, and taking even a small sip just isn’t worth it.
I tested Geigerrig’s Rig 500 Ballistic pack ($110). On a 14-mile test run up Northern California’s Kanaka Peak, the pack’s 2-liter reservoir ran dry at about mile nine. I was able to refill the pack at a creek crossing and give the filter a try. You pull the bladder out, unzip the top like a Ziploc baggie, fill it up, then zip it closed. To use the filter, you have to switch to the hose with the filer attachment, so there’s an extra cost involved — the filters are $27 each, and the extra hose is $15.
The filter reduces the spray volume, but the water still dribbles out, just not as forcefully. And the filter seems effective enough — it’s been five weeks and there’s no diarrhea yet, so I think I’ll be OK.
The dual-chambered reservoir sits inside a reinforced sleeve, but you can still feel it bulge as it inflates. It’s a good idea to fill the storage pockets of the Rig 500’s 11.5-liter pack before pumping up the air bladder, since the expanded reservoir would make less room for packing food, gadgets and socks.
Photos by Ariel Zambelich/get-gadget