Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Easy to drink, easy to clean reservoir, comfortable pack
Cons: Heavy, expensive, complex
This is the most innovative hydration system we tested. When pressurized, the water jet shoots into your mouth just by biting down; no need to suck the water out. Theoretically this keeps the system much cleaner. The question is: are these innovations worth the extra weight, complexity, and cost? We personally prefer a more simple and lightweight approach to hydration packs. But if you are a gear addict who loves tinkering, the Geigerrig is by far the most intriguing system we have seen. Even if you find the pack too heavy and bulky, you can just buy the Geigerrig Hydration Engine reservoir that comes with this pack and use it with other hydration compatible backpacks.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
This is one of the most comfortable packs we tested. It is very well designed with ample padding and plenty of adjustment in the right places. It’s a good thing too, because there is a lot of tech to haul around here. If you consider yourself a gear geek, you’ll love this pack.
Ease of Drinking
This is the only hydration pack we used that is pressurized by inflating part of the reservoir with air (you use a separate tube attached to a black bulb: it is like a blood pressure test). This takes extra time to adjust and set up, especially at first when you are learning the system.
When pressurized, this pack was one of the easiest to drink from. Water jets into your mouth just by biting on the mouthpiece. Conversely, when unpressurized this pack was hands-down the most difficult to drink from, requiring more effort to draw water out than one might expect.
The key question: "How much difference does a pressurized system make?" We found the pressurized system innovative, but by no means a game changer as far as how we effectively we stayed hydrated. Yes, it's easier to get water from the Geigerrig. But we just don't find it is that hard to get water from other systems. And the pressurized system adds more complexity, weight, and costs. That is our take. You can read many reviews online from users who love the pressurized system.
Minor note: there was a heavy plastic taste initially which went away after first use/refill.
Ease of Filling
The reservoir is basically a thick rubber bag that opens at the top, then folds over and locks to seal. It’s a fantastically quick and easy way to fill the bag, however stuffing the full bladder back in the pack still requires some effort. This open top design also allows for filling in streams and lakes for use with the optional filter accessory. Because there are two sets of hoses, it takes a little longer than most packs to get everything clicked into the right place.
As with all bags that fill from the top, in certain instances it is hard to get the bag completely full. See photo below of what was the most we could get the bag full in our bathroom sink.
This is the heaviest pack we tested, by a lot. It is almost as heavy as some 65 liter backpacking backpacks we tested and more than double the weight of many hydration packs we tested. This is not a pack for the fast and light hiker. The weight partially comes from the more complex reservoir with an extra tube, bulb, plastic fitting and neoprene sleeve. However, most of the weight is just do to the burly materials. The pack is made of heavy and durable ballistic nylon and has big zippers (and lots of them).
No leaks from the bladder or seal. However, our mouthpiece was prone to leaking when the bladder was pressurized and we tried locking it. A pretty substantial amount of water dribbled out, which kind of defeated the purpose of a lock.
Also, the hose attaches to the bladder with a quick release button. It’s great for cleaning, but can be inadvertently depressed while in the pack. The result is no water delivery suddenly and some leaking in bottom of bag (we managed to do this accidentally while handling the pack/ taking it on and off).
Ease of Cleaning
It is very easy to clean the main reservoir and it is the only one marketed as dishwasher safe (it appears you could put the Platypus Big Zip SL in the dishwasher but we can find any official word on this). Even if you don't use the dishwasher, it is just easy to get your hand inside the bag with a brush and then it is very easy to dry out. There is no special drying rack or improvised coat hanger necessary. This is awesome. Cleaning and drying most hydration reservoirs is a nuisance if you only drink water and a total pain in the ass if you regularly add sugar powders to your water.
As far as cleaning the hoses… it is a bit of a mystery. This video implies all you need to do is run water through the tubes. That might be okay if you are just drinking water. Maybe. But if you use sugar drink mixes we doubt just running water through the hoses is enough to really get them clean. Bacteria loves even the smallest amount of moist sugery drink residue. And, unlike with the reservoir, it is not easy to get the hoses clean and dry. We can't find a Geigerrig tube cleaning brush, so you will have to find your own or flush the tubes with a soap or sterilizing solution repeatedly or perhaps the CamelBak Cleaning Brush Kit will fit.
The Geigerrig web site text implies that the pressurized system keeps backwash and "granola bar fragments" out of the drink tube. Why? According the their web site, "Because your GEIGERRIG pressurized hydration pack sprays, so the granola bar never invaded the drink tube in the first place." We did not run any tests to prove it is impossible for backwash to get back up.
Larger than the other packs. Storage similar to a basic daypack.
Filtration System: very cool. You can refill from streams and drink from the pack as water passes through filter. Good for light multi-day trips maybe. Iodine tabs and a platypus in a backpack might be just as good though.
Hypochondriacs beware – this system looks like a mobile pressure tester with a reservoir that is somewhat resembling an IV bag (it even has three red crosses to complete the medical them).
— Chris McNamara
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: February 3, 2014
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