The Care and Feeding of Platypi

Frosted tents at -10C - Peak District-Feb2008-1

As a relatively recent convert to hydration systems, or platypi (it seems Platypus is to hydration what in British English, Hoover is to vacuum cleaner) I’ve had to learn how to look after them when they are not being lumped about in my pack.

It might sound strange that they need any “looking after” at all, but they do. Or else you end up sucking mildew flavoured water through a black spotted tube.

The usual handy hint to prevent that is simply to store them in a freezer. But in a small kitchen, with a very small freezer, the food has to get first priority. So no freezing for our platypi except in-use on the hill (for which a neoprene cover, that covers the bite-valve, combined with blowing back into the bag, works very well for preventing a freeze-up even at minus-a-lot Celsius).

So I’ve got in to a very simple routine for making sure they stay mould free:

When you get home, fill the bladder with really hot water from the tap. Not from a kettle. It might work, I’ve not tried it, but I have a feeling that boiling water would damage the bag (anyone know different?). But use very hot water never the less.

Hold the bag above the sink and squeeze the bite valve until a lot of really hot water has had a chance to clean out the tube. It needs to run for a good ten seconds I reckon, since the first run through the pipe will cool by the time it gets to the bite valve.

Then drain it out and shake out the excess drops of water.

The last trick relies on having a bite valve that will pop off easily, or at least dissemble without too much of a struggle (like the Source variety – whose bite-valves I favour) and a bag that opens at the opposite end from the tube (like a Platypus Big Zip or Source Widepac): Remove or dissemble the valve to get a good airflow up the tube, stick the tube out of a window (perhaps a second floor window, in case you forget its open and leave the house!) and prop open the bag with something.

The breeze blowing through the window will get pushed up the tube, and usually dries the bag in a few hours even on a still day.

With a bone-dry bag, there’s nowhere for the black mould to grow – and you get a happy, healthy platy.

18 Replies to “The Care and Feeding of Platypi”

  1. This is just a constant battle and you’ll find yourself buying new ones regularly! The last one I bought has always tasted plasticky from day one; nothing I do can get rid of the taste!

  2. I filled my Platypus several times with boiling water. No problem aside the fact that they get too hot to touch..;-)
    Platypus themselves give their o.k.:

    I agree with you letting them dry out is the key to prevent mildew growth. In addition to what you recommend I also spin the drinking tube around me after tube and valve removing to let the centrifugal powers support getting the water out. No, I don’t care looking like a cowboy ;-)

    I’m actually thinking about switching to a platy bottle for water storage inside the bag plus normal plastic bottle stored in the side mesh pockets for drinking. Less hassle with cleaning, bottle would double as a cup and lighter overall weight. Downside is probably less frequent drinking and water in the bottle gets hot quicker and of course you could loose or damage her more easily. Still thinking…

  3. Andy – have you tried a really strong solution of Bicarbonate of Soda? (You probably have! :)

    So far LB’s managed six months of very regular use with hers, with no sign of the gunge… And I know other people have had theirs gunge-up in a lot less time than that so it definitely is at least delaying it a fair bit.

  4. Lighthiker – Thanks for the boiling water tip! That will help even more I’m sure.

    And of course! The spinning tube trick – I did that at first and then somehow forgot all about it. That helps dry the tube a lot.

    Those Platy Bottles look interesting – might be just the thing for carrying a little wine…

  5. I’ve recently found a small wire brush similar to those used for cleaning thermos flasks but with a cord on the end to pull through the tube. I can finally get the tube clean again.. Have to try not to think about the colour of the gunge coming out though.

  6. Remind me not to run out of water with you (again ;)

    At least it’s going to be less scary than your infamous Nalgene bottle. I’m surprised whenever that makes it through a customs check.

  7. We probably pased each other in the hall on the way between the bottle and bladder rooms!

    I’ve been drifting away from bladders and back to bottles for a year or so and now carry only bottles. One water/ one mix of soemthing.
    I do miss the bite valve being right there where you need it though.

    I think the rucksack I use just now help as well as the bottles are so accessible on the move.

    I really like the Camelbak bottles with the straw, no head back/ tripping incedents.

  8. If it wasn’t for my laziness with not bothering to get the bottle out and thereby getting de-hydrated, I’d be avoiding all the faff myself!

    Maybe those platy bottles might be worth a try. At least they’re light enough.

  9. I keep the mold out of my platy and hoser by dropping a chlorine dioxide tablet in a quart of water and running it through the system after a hike. Seems to work, but I did have problems with the black mold in the past.

  10. Thanks Philip – I didn’t know that Aquamira came in tablet form as it happens. Does seem like quite an expensive way to do it though looking at the prices – I might stick with Lighthiker’s boiling water trick for now!

    Picking things up in REI is tricky for me living in the UK. Interesting that you said that maybe the blog didn’t come across as very UK-centric? :)

    Great Blog by the way.

  11. Oddly I’ve never had a mildew problem with my platypi – I use CamelBak bladders, and they claim that the tubes have some anti-mildew agent. I just empty them out after a trip, hang them up with the bite-valve off and the cap of the bladder unscrewed. Or maybe it’s something to do with Tokyo air being too dirty for even bacteria to grow..

    I’ve gone back to bottles in winter however, I find a Nalgene clipped onto my rucksack or harness is far preferable to fiddling with a frozen hose – for some reason the blowing-back-into-the-tube trick just doesn’t work for me. Like Tyler Durden and paraffin…

  12. I use a Camelback tube on the Platypus – partly because they taste less of plastic but mainly because they’re so much more flexible. The Platy tubes are like having a blue corn-snake sitting on your shoulder waving it’s head in front of you.

    There were moments in that film I’d rather not remember (the soap related moments mainly).

    I’ve found I have to be meticulous with blowing the water back, and zipping the cover over the whole valve. Even then, the valve has frozen but there’s so little water in it that a gentle chewing cracks enough of the ice to allow me to suck fresh water through and defrost it.

    Love the upgrade to the photos on your site by the way. I’ve been wondering about similar but have no apartment in need of packing so can’t find the time. ;)

  13. Well I’ve cleaned the Platy with boiling water – it’s happy.

    But I couldn’t find any info on the Source Widepac so I tried it out on my old ‘spare’ bag before cleaning LB’s – and it’s not so happy.

    It survived, but only just. It’s a bit crinkly around the top and tried to stick to itself in one spot. So, hot water from the tap from now on for the Source bags.

  14. Thanks RedYeti, I’m quite pleased with the new blog layout too. The trigger needn’t be an apartment move – the nice thing about procrastination is that it is non-task specific… :-)

  15. I just noticed a problem with one of my platypus bladders last weekend – it seems to have a red hazy blotch growing on one of the inside walls. Is this mold? Chlorine Dioxide tablets didn’t kill it.

  16. Having only recently converted to bags-o-water I’ve not seen any mould so far so can’t be sure. But from Andy’s warning (first comment) and by the sound of it – your bag’s got the lergy (cooties?)!

    I’d try Lighthiker’s excellent suggestion of boiling water – not much will survive that.

    And perhaps one of those tube cleaning brushes might be handy for removing it?

    I’m surprised re. the chlorine dioxide not working. I assume you put the tablet in there and let it soak for an hour or so?

    The other thing that people suggest is Milton sterilising fluid. It’s used to sterilise baby feeding things – so there’s bound to be some equivalent brand anywhere in the developed world!

    Good luck with defeating it!

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