Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: 3 sizes, lightweight, compact, high capacity to weight ratio, tons of accessories, tremendously versatile.
Cons: Not as easy to drink of of as a rigid water bottle, hose and mouth piece accessories not as good as other companies.
Best Uses: Everything!!
The MSR DromLite is a highly adaptable, exceptionally durable, lightweight water bladder. After nine years of field testing across a multitude of outdoor sports, in a host of different countries, we can confidently say that the DromLite is the single best solution to backcountry water storage we know of. Simply put, this is the author's number one favorite piece of gear ever.
The DromLite is available in three different sizes and has a slew of optional accessories including: a hose and mouth-piece, a spigot cap for around camp, and a shower kit. This is much more than the average hydration bladder.
To accurately compare it's cost with the others in the hydration bladder review, you need to add in $20 for the MSR hydration kit which is sold separately.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The DromLite is available in 2, 4, and 6 liter versions. After using all of them, our testers prefer the four liter version best because it provides enough space to store enough water for the time between sources to refill, such as when rock climbing or hiking in the desert. The 2 liter version weighs 0.5 ounces less, which we don't believe is enough of a weight savings to warrant the reduced capacity. The 6 liter version only weighs 5.7 oz., or 0.6 oz. more than the 4 liter model, but we rarely if ever found this additional capacity to be useful, and therefore prefer the 4 liter model. Therfore, this review cover the 4 liter model, which at least three OutdoorGearLab Editors own and love.
The DromLite is made from a 200-denier Cordura nylon that's shockingly durable for its weight. It's difficult to estimate how long it will last. I've used the same model for four years of hard use and believe that it's //much more durable than standard transparent hydration bladders. Through using four other Droms the only thing that has broken was a small part of a cap, which Cascade Designs replaced free of charge. Like all other hydration bladders, the Drom will eventually wear out, causing water to task bad. When this happens we suggest that you replace the worn model with a new one. Overall, we suspect that the Drom is the most durable hydration bladder made.
Ease of Use
The DromLite's durable rigid cap can be used in three ways. (1) The cap comes off to reveal a large, wide-mouth Nalgene sized opening that makes the reservoir easy to fill, empty, and dry out the reservoir. (2) A small, flip open trickle spout releases a small amount of water and can be used for rinsing dishes, washing hands, or to spray your fiends with. Unscrewing the trickle spout gives access to a medium sized (1/4 inch ish) opening that I use most frequently. Your mouth can grasp around the edges of this opening well and when you tip the bag up water gushes into you mouth at a wonderfully fast rate. Despite fear of dropping the cap, I've never done so even after hundreds of multi-pitch rock climbs, where dropping the cap could have serious consequences.
The DromLite is tremendously versailte!! It's incredible for day hikes, backpacking, rock climbing, bike tours, road trips… just about everything!! Literally! The DromLite even makes an excellent pillow (blow air inside to create your ideal level of support). A vast array of optional accessories, see below, further increase a drom's versatility.
There are three primary drawbacks to the DromLite: (1) unlike rigid bottles that fit inside insulted cozies, a drom is not suitable for winter use. It freezes solid into a very heavy chunk of ice that takes a long time to melt, which is a total pain in the butt. (2) A drom isn't as easy to drink out of as a rigid water bottle. For example, it can't stand up by itself on your desk and it takes two hands to use. For most people, in most situations, neither of these drawbacks will be significant. (3) Filling it up in streams or in small sinks can leaves the outer nylon wet, which is bad because the water can then transfer to other things inside your backpack. This problem can largely be mitigated by wiping excess water off with your hand; by packing a backpack with waterproof items, like food, near the top of your pack—so that the drom lies on top; or by putting the drom in an outside pocket of your backpack. For the vast majority of people in the vast majority of outdoor situations these drawbacks are insignificant or downright trivial.
When compared to other hydration bladders that are only intended to be used with a hose and mouthpiece (all of the other models compared in this Best In Class Review), the DromLite comes up short when as a mouthpiece equipped bladder. The hose connects with a simple friction device, not a quick release, and the mouth piece is rudimentary (but effective). Some GearLab testers, such as this author, strongly dislike mouth piece type hydration bladders and find that the Drom performs better for nearly every activity except racing.
Tremendous performance for only $30!! As mentioned previously, this is the author's single all-time favorite piece of outdoor gear.
If durability is more important than weight savings consider the ultra burly 500-denier MSR Dromedary.
The DromLite is compatible with a slew of accessories that further increases its versatility. The company's water filters can screw on to create an easy, no leak seal. Perhaps, more importantly, various caps are compatible with droms. For example, a MSR Dromedary Bag Spigot Cap, $10, is great for car camping and base camping. An MSR Dromedary Bag Shower Kit, $20, turns any drom into a solar shower (water gets warmer faster with the black Dromedary than with the red DromLite). You can also add an MSR Dromedary Bag Hydration Kit, $20, to any drom to make it a hydration bladder!!
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: February 8, 2014
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