My search for a “taste-free” hydration system is, for now, at an end.
I mentioned before that I bought a Source Widepac hydration system on the basis of its advertised lack of plastic after-taste. But unfortunately, although it was better than anything I’d tried before – it was by no means taste free.
Having taken it apart and taste checked each part I discovered it was mainly the hose.
So LB and I have been experimenting with Camelbak and Platypus,variously drinking directly from the bags, sucking warm water out of cups through hoses and chewing bite valves. All in an effort to see which ones tasted the least of paddling pools.
Overall the winning system is a hybrid between the three: a Source bite-valve, a Camelbak tube and a Platypus bag. Which is also the lightest system since the bag is the heaviest component and the Platypus Big Zip seems to be the lightest bag at the moment. As it happens the Camelbak tube is fractionally lighter as well.
I’ve not actually bought a Camelbak Omega bag (sorry, I can’t link directly to their own page since it’s an awful Flash site) since they’re pretty heavy, so I can’t comment on them. However my brother has tried both and in his opinion the Platypus definitely has the edge (he never walks anywhere if he can avoid it – but he hang-glides, and dropping a Nalgene bottle from several thousand feet whilst simultaneously letting go of the bar might have unpleasant consequences, so he uses hydration systems).
Assembling such a system isn’t too hard as the parts are all available separately. Swapping out the Platypus bite valve for the Source version is something I’d definitely do since I think it’s a better valve. To want to spend the extra to swap the tube as well you’d have to be pretty sensitive to plastic taste… but I am.
The Source Z-Valve never leaked when sat in the kitchen attached to a bag that was soaking. Which is more than can be said for the Platypus valve that I first I tested. It was the basic, non-angled non-tap-type rubber valve and it just kept on dripping water. It also tasted terrible whereas the later one doesn’t taste quite so bad. However the angled valve doesn’t always work; a friend who we walk with all the time has had two and both have leaked.
I was surprised to find such a difference in taste between the tubes from Source, Platypus and Camelbak since as far as I can tell they each use the same PE liner technology. The Source tube has a definite taste but although the Platypus tube is reasonably taste free the Camelback Tube Extender kit we tested was almost completely without taste.
As a side note, I would be wary of where I bought a Platypus Big Zip in future since the one I was supplied with from Go Outdoors, despite (still!) being pictured as having the new blue “taste free” tube and angled valve turned out to be one of the older, cardboard packaged, non taste-free, clear tubed ones with a bite valve that tasted like TCP. Go Outdoors have since promised to refund this but it shows it’s worth checking by phone that the stock held really is the newer Platypus. I got the one that I finally tested from Snow & Rock in Brighton.
Finally (if you really want to get into it!) here are the notes I made during the testing:
|Source Z-Valve||Camelback Big Bite valve||Platypus HyperFlow Bite Valve + Shutoff Valve|
|10gms||4gms||6+6gms (mouthpiece + elbow valve)|
|9/10 Tastes fine||9/10 Tastes fine||7/10 Tastes a little of plastic|
|Good flow||Good flow||Found it a little tricky to get water through|
|Cap that stops it leaking even if something rests on it||Leaks if something squashes it||Won’t leak if you remember to shut the valve|
|Cap to prevent it getting dirty||Trails in the dirt||Trails in the dirt|
|50gms / 95cms = .53gms per cm||48 / 98cms = .49gms per cm||56gms / 105cms = .53gms per cm|
|5/10 Tastes quite bad||8/10 Tastes almost fine||7/10 Tastes not bad but not quite as good as Camelback|
|Source 2 litre Widepac||Camelback (Omega?)||Platypus 2 Litre Big Zip |||
|88gms once trimmed||Not tested (Appears to be around 105gms from my research)||44gms|
|7/10 Tastes a little of plastic||Not tested||9/10 Tastes OK|