2 Litre Hydration Pack
Hydration Pack Bladder
Hydration pack review
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2 Litre Hydration Pack

A vital area that trail riders often overlook is proper hydration. I'm not talking about the cold ones at the end of the day, but actually while we are out on a ride. We all know the feeling of a throat full of dust, miles from base camp and feeling like you're dying of thirst. It gets even worse when a breakdown or some other problem delays us on the way back to camp.

Aside from the comfort issue though, dirt biking is an extremely physically demanding activity and proper
hydration is very important for a rider's health and performance.

With this in mind, we secured ourselves a wearable hydration pack and set off into the harsh Aussie summer to test it out.

We opted for one of the cheaper 'no-name' brands, figuring that once we worked out the shortcomings of a cheap unit, we'd be able to select the features we needed in a more expensive unit.

We selected a 2 litre version (approx. 2 quarts), which seems to be about right for rides under 2 hours or so. If you regularly go on longer rides you may want to consider a larger capacity, but obviously it'll be heavier on your back.

Although you can get hydration packs that are purely hydration packs, we opted for a backpack style unit that has some storage space as well. Even though it's quite compact, it's packed full of pockets and compartments, many of which have elasticized openings or drawstrings to keep your precious items secure in rough terrain. Our model even has a lanyard connection inside one of the pockets, to keep your iPod or MP3 player secure, with a little rubberized opening for the earphones to poke through. There's also a clip-on mobile phone holder which attaches to either of the shoulder straps.

We don't even go close to filling all the available space, but it certainly comes in handy to carry a few essential items like a spare plug and spanner, a couple of screwdrivers, first-aid kit and maybe a sandwich or snack as well, just in case.

The backpack itself has the normal 2 padded and adjustable shoulder straps, which are quite comfortable when properly adjusted. In addition, there is also a belly strap and sternum strap, both fully adjustable as well, which really ensure the pack stays stable and securely attached to your back. While riding, you don't even notice it's there and it's easy to forget you're wearing it until you stop and realise you're thirsty.
Now for the really important stuff, the hydration part. The bladder is a flexible plastic of some sort, which inserts into the back of the unit (up against your own back) in a padded pouch. It has a large filler with a threaded lid, which means you can easily put ice in as well as your drink. Our unit is rated from -20 C to +60 C, so the night before a ride I half fill it with water and lay it in the freezer, making sure that the filler hole and drinking outlet aren't covered. Then I can fill it with water in the morning and the ice keeps it cold all day, I just top up the water as necessary. I did have concerns about carrying around a large chunk of ice on my back, so close to my spine, but it is well padded. On one the first rides I wore it on, I ended up hitting the deck, back first, onto a large flat rock and I didn't sustain any back injuries. I won't say it can't hurt, but so far it hasn't.
The drinking tube comes out of either shoulder strap (your choice) just forward of the top of the shoulder, and runs to a clip on the strap to secure it in place. It has ample length to reach up under your helmet.

The nozzle is a softish silicone, which on our model needs to be pulled to switch it on before you can drink. You then need to bite gently on the nozzle and suck to drink. This double system is supposed to prevent leakage and so far ours hasn't leaked at all. I recommend that after each drink you blow back through the nozzle to return the liquid to the bladder, keeping the drinking tube empty. While this means you need to suck a bit longer before you get a drink each time, it stops the liquid in the tube from getting warm between drinks. While it's not an issue for us in our climate, in icy conditions the liquid in the tube could freeze up if left exposed to the cold as well.

As of yet I haven't tried the unit while wearing body armour or a neck brace, but there is plenty of adjustment in the straps and I can't see there being any problems.

I rarely have a drink while I'm actually moving, I just can't spare the concentration needed to co-ordinate it, unless we're on a long, smooth section of track. However, everytime we stop for a breather or to work out where we are, it's the first thing I reach for. I can see every member of the crew having one of these in the very near future, given the evil looks they give me as I slurp cool, refreshing water and they try to swallow dust.

The one downside of this unit is a slight taste of plastic in the water. A dash of cordial or lemon juice would hide it, but I'm still hopeful it'll go away once I use it more. Perhaps a more expensive brand might not have a taste, but I can't guarantee it.

Overall, I'm very happy with my cheapie hydration pack, and I wouldn't be without it except on the shortest of rides. Once you get one, I'm sure you'll feel the same.

By the way, for those who are wondering, we paid a whole $19.99 Aussie dollars for ours so you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good product.
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