My Leaky Bladder

Author: @tales.trails.journeys - Submitted  Date Posted:30 November 2018 

Ha! So now I have your attention and you are reading my blog, this is actually about hydration bladders!  But since you’re are here keep reading!

Ok, so for those of you who are following my blog, I spoke about not always thinking that the most expensive gear was the way to go, but likewise cheap as chips isn’t always a good idea either.  Well this was a perfect example of cheap as chips not being very good.

We have never really had hydration bladders before, when we run we have a hydration belts, they don’t bounce around and are easily accessible.  So hydration bladders for backpacks are a bit new to us.  While at an outdoor store on the Sunshine Coast they suggested Denali Summit Hydro Bladders, they retail for around $20-$30 on sale, vs. something like Camelbak which are around the $60-70 depending on the size. So looking at the fact that we have to buy 2 of these the money savings are very appealing to us, so we buy the Denali ones….

Well silly me, by the time we got home (some 3 1/2hrs from the store) I realised in unpacking that I had brought the 2Ltr bladders when we actually needed the 3Ltr ones, so I jump online and order the 3Ltr ones and because of the sale, they were still cheap and I got free postage.  Winning!!!  A couple of days later the correct bladders arrived and we decided that rather than return the 2Ltr ones, they will come in handy. 

The day of our hike of Mt Walsh out near Biggenden Qld, we start to get geared up.  Now, bear in mind this is a dry run, we are only testing shoes, socks, day packs and hydration. We don’t want to overdo it on our first run.  And I’ll talk about footwear in upcoming blogs, for this one though I’ll stick to my failing bladder!

I unpack my bladder, and I look at this piece of blue and orange plastic, and the first thing I thought was, “how does this thing work?”  First I slide the orange  slider off (not so easy, it was a bit firm) and unfold the top.  For those who are familiar with dry bags, the principal is the same, you roll the top over to form a crease (so apparently the water won’t come out…) and put the slider back on to seal it.  Looking at it, the slider is only held on by these really small lips on the white sealing strips. I start to feel a little un-confident in this whole process, but hey, we are new to this, so it’s gotta be ok right?  I start running the tap and fill up the bladder, so far so good.  I start to seal it off and have to then hand it over to hubby for his brute strength to put the slider back on, he ended up having to put the end against the side of the bench and push it back on.  I can live with that, (but it’s great having a strong man around the house LOL).  So next, connect the drinking tube.  Cue, the leaking!  I pull the tube of and the leaking stops.  Maybe the tube is faulty, I grab another tube and connect it.  Nope, still leaking.  We compare the 2 unpacked bladders and find the little o-ring sealer that is meant to be on the bladder itself is missing… YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!! I can’t use this, we search the packaging and it’s definitely not there!

But not to worry, these things happen and I still have the 2 smaller bladders that we brought by accident… See, told you they would come in handy, and I’ll just return the faulty bladder.  The other bladder seemed to be going ok.

We finally get under way and we start by doing a couple of smaller walks around Mt Walsh National park. Our first walk was Water Falls and Rock Pools track (Class 4) and I decide to have a drink.  I bite down on the mouth piece.  Imagine the thickest McDonalds thick shake and you are trying to suck it through a straw… I honestly thought I was going to pass out and I only got the smallest amount of water out.  Weird…. But we carry on, perhaps that is the way it is supposed to be, you know, so you don’t waste water.  We finish the short walk and drive to the next part of the National Park, The Bluff Walking Track (Class 4-5) the NPSR website says allow 5 hours but, for us I hope it shouldn’t take any more than 4 hrs return.  This walk is steeper than the Waterfall one.  It doesn’t look that bad until you start.  It’s not difficult terrain, but is a decent incline the whole way up and it is was a hot day. Needless to say I was getting really thirsty when we got to the top, only being able to have little sips here and there, and I was getting annoyed with my hydro tube, so I grab hubby’s mouth piece and bite down.  Oh the joy that is flowing water poured into my parched mouth. 

Well, that solves that, it’s my mouth piece that isn’t working.  So hubby tries to have a drink from my mouth piece, and to no avail, it’s the same for him.  At least we have his supply when I get really thirsty and mine will just have to do for top ups. 

We have something to eat and start the downhill climb. Wait, why does my chest feel wet?? I know I am sweaty but I feel, wet… I look down and what do ya know! My mouth piece is now leaking.  The rubber has torn and now I have a leaky bladder.  Gah, really??.  Well that’s just perfect!  I have a not had a good run with these bladders, not one, but 2 now have failed!  And I am starting to wonder if that’s why these things were so cheap!  I make a mental note to do some more research and buy new ones when we get home.  We tied the mouth piece to the top of my shoulder strap so that it wouldn’t leak as bad, gravity should keep the water in the bladder and we make our way back down the track.

Once we got home, we noticed a new challenge, because these bladders have a fold over seal system, to dry them you have to turn them inside out.  And turning these fairly ridged plastic bad boys inside out was a struggle in its own right.  Cue strong man again… that does it! New bladders for us!  No question!  That night reflecting on the performance of our gear we realised that, really from the very beginning these bladders were not user friendly.  Not for a day hike and so it wouldn not be suitable for any kind of multiday hike.

And honestly things do fail, or not work and it doesn’t matter what it is, but you need to buy things that you can fix easily and quickly or at least mitigate the situation.

I fire up the ‘all knowing’ Google and start searching.  After looking at Camelbak, Blackwolf and a few others I stumble across a picture of an U.S. Soldier  wearing a back pack and over his shoulder is a drinking tube… this looks interesting, so I delve a bit further.  And surprise, surprise, Camelbak make a Military Spec range of hydration reservoirs. No more leaky bladders for me! The next day I contact Kenny at Bundy Outdoors and tell him what I want.  He talks to me about some of the other products on the market, but when I explain to him what I want, he agrees there is no other product out there like this one and although they don’t stock this particular range, it was no hassle at all to order them in for me. 

So here’s the low down on the Camelbak.

  • Various Sizes and shapes (short or long) – Tick
  • Easy fill opening with a large bung that turns to lock tight and a handle to hold the bladder during filling– Tick
  • The mouth piece is supple and easy to use – Tick
  • The mouth piece is easily interchangeable and has a secure bite cover to keep it clean – Tick

Now this is my favourite part…eeeek Exciting!!!

  • A drinking tube with a shut off valve just above the mouth piece so if for whatever reason your mouth piece is damaged or unusable or needs to be replaced, you flick the valve and viola!!! The water stops, no more wet chest for me!  You can just turn it off and on as required.  Pretty cool huh? Big Tick
  • And… if you are an existing Camelbak Devotee or Camelbak Convertee the tubes and mouth pieces are interchangeable with the other Camelbak reservoirs.  
  • These reservoirs are also easy to clean, dry and sanitise for storage.

Now, yes these hydration reservoirs are more expensive, but believe me so far, worth every cent and more.  Especially where hydration is one of the most, if not the most important of any trek, long or short - We haven’t looked Camelbak.