You know you’re a gear-head when you buy gear whilst on a trip. But in my defence, it wasn’t extra gear, it was replacement gear.
After a couple of days it became apparent that I just wasn’t hydrating properly. I ended the day more tired than I should have been, very thirsty, with sticky eyes and just generally feeling a bit pants. I wasn’t drinking from the water bottle often enough but would keep pushing up hill and be distracted from my thirst by the views from the top.
So just as I was talking about having to finally give in and put up with a nasty plastic taste from a hydration system I walked into a little gear shop in Champex and found Source Widepac hydration bladders.
They claim to have a “glass like” lining in both the bag and, importantly to me, the tube. After finding that the Sigg bottle tube tasted terribly of plastic I am convinced that’s where most of the taste comes from. Probably an inevitable consequence of the plastic being so soft – it’s full of volatile plasticisers that dissolve into the water.
The bite valve seems to work well in sealing off the water and comes with a cover that slips over the top to keep it from picking up dirt or getting squashed and spraying water around. It’s not cylindrical so if you don’t get the cover aligned with the shape of the valve it will force it open and make it drip. But I found that once I’d noticed it could happen I tended to line them up easily enough.
The rather insubstantial clip to hold the tube to the pack strap was lost very quickly but by tucking it in between the strap and the shoulder padding it would sit nicely without it.
The seal is a fold over top, with a separate orange clip that slides along it to keep the bag folded tightly. I’ve given it a good squeeze and it seems bomb-proof. They come in several sizes; 1, 1.5, 2 and 3L sizes so there’s a size for every pack.
There are no weights on the site but I make it: 2 Litre; bladder 108gms and 1 Litre; bladder 92gms. Plus a hose and bite valve+cover 66gms.
The one really odd thing is that there’s an extra layer of plastic on the side of the bottle that has the tube, forming a sort of pocket. I can see no use for this whatsoever. It’s even got a hole through it that the tube joint pokes through so it’s not as if it’s intended to protect that.
So, I simply cut it off.
And they now weigh 88gms and 76gms respectively. Meaning that, plus the hose, the 2L weighs in at a total of 142gms. Not all that light when you consider a Platypus and hose is apparently 100gms but as I say, if it doesn’t taste of plastic I’ll carry it.
But unfortunately, they’re not completely without plastic taste. Although they are better than others I’ve tried (although it’s been some years…). After a night soaking in a sink of hot water they were even less flavoursome and with cold spring water it’s almost undetectable even by me.
As an experiment – I took off the soft plastic and from the bite valve and chewed on it for half a minute or so (nothing is too much trouble when researching a Blog entry). To my surprise I couldn’t detect any plastic taste. Next I filled the bladder with warm water, left it to soak for overnight and sipped from the top; very, very slight plastic taste. Almost undetectable.
So, I stuck the end of the tube in a cup of warm water and sucked some up – yep – slight plastic flavour. The tube would seem to be the culprit once again.
Overall I like the strength of the materials, the wide neck for easy filling from streams and the very solid seal mechanism. I don’t like the weight, the odd bit of extra plastic that doesn’t help with the weight or the fact that I can still detect a plastic taste, albeit not too much.
The taste is still less than the last Platypus I tried and far less than the last CamelBak I tried. But, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to bring myself to try either of those. But I’ve just heard that Platypus have inserted a “taste free liner” into their tubes so even though both Platypus and Source use a PE liner to achieve this “taste freeing” I’ll have to give Platypus another try. Since having a hydration tube to sip from has definitely sorted out my hydration problem.