24 May 2010

bikefix Exclusive Review: Hydrapak Reversible Reservoir

As simple as hydration pack reservoirs are, they seem incredibly difficult to get right. In the beginning, we all put up with low flows, aquatic funk and difficult, leaky closures and dripping bite valves. Twenty years on, I'm constantly frustrated to be dealing with the very same problems. This is why it's such a relief to find a bladder that solves all of them.

At Interbike last fall, the guys in the Hydrapak booth were pretty excited about showing off their Reversible Reservoir. To be honest, it was a tough sell. Everyone and their auntie has an own-brand bladder, and I've never been particularly impressed with any of them. To be sure, some are better than others, but I continued to fall back on my old standard (and live with its occasionally frustrating screw closure). What I was excited about at the time was the included magnetic Quantum Clip (so much so that I mentioned it in our extremely limited Interbike coverage). Proud parents that they are, Hydrapak knew that there was more to love and sent us home with a Reversible Reservoir to play with.

When pulling the Reservoir out of its packaging, the BPA-free TPU bladder material is surprisingly soft and pliable. There are videos on the Hydrapak website of the guys running over a full bladder with a forklift and throwing at walls with no ill effects. The top end of the bag opens completely and is folded over and sealed by a hard plastic Slide Seal. At the bottom of the bag, the drinking tube is attached by way of a self-sealing quick-disconnect. Working out from there, a Quantum Clip comes with the bladder as does a locking 45-degree Surge Bite Valve.

The extremely pliable material and removable drinking tube have resulted in a bladder that can be easily turned inside-out for cleaning (hence the name). Now there are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to bladder cleaning. On the one hand are those who are religious about cleaning and drying their bladders after every ride. For them, a healthy little industry of cleaning and drying accessories has sprung up. On the other hand are those who just don't worry about a bit of cloudiness or bladder flora. I fall squarely into the second camp. Because my packs are used at least twice every week (ideally more), I just top off the bladder as needed, making sure that no air is trapped inside. Sure, I'll clean my bite valve in the dishwasher once or twice per year and drop some Efferdent into the bladder just about as often, but with regular use, things stay surprisingly funk-free. For those in the former camp, the ability to thoroughly clean the Hydrapak bladder will be a big benefit. For those of us in the latter, it might keep us from putting off bladder cleaning quite as long (but then again, maybe not).

What's far more important to me is that I have yet to have the Slide Seal leak. It's virtually impossible to fasten incorrectly, which means no more being brought to tears by a dribbling closure whilst trying to get out the door. Holding the bag open can require marginally more effort than other bladders do- but hardly enough to bear mentioning. Ice cube users will like the unrestricted access that the closure allows. The Plug-N-Play connector means no more balancing a muddy-bottomed bag on the edge of the sink while filling the bladder. All very, very nice.

The Quantum Clip is every bit as nifty as expected, as the base can be located on any appropriately-sized strap and the mating magnet anywhere on the drinking tube, making it more versatile than Osprey's similar (but fixed-position) magnetic tube holder. It's nice to be able to fasten the tube out of the way without having to feel around for a mechanical clip and is much easier to use in rough terrain.

While it doesn't offer the flow of CamelBak or Nalgene's latest bite valves, I have never felt as though I needed more water than the Surge bite valve can offer. I'm not as big a fan of the valve's 45-degree angle as I am of 90-degree bite valves, but I do, for the most part, manage to find my mouth without any trouble. For bags (like Wingnut's) that allow for under-arm hose routing, the 45 degree bite valve should be ideal. The twist on/off function isn't something that can easily be operated while riding, but seeing as the bite valve has yet to drip, that's really a non issue- it can be easily operated with two hands pre- and post-ride to prevent arriving home (or at the trailhead) with a soggy pack and back seat.

The biggest problem I've had with the Reversible Reservoir comes from bag (in)compatibility. Granted, Hydrapak make a nice looking line of bags, but I've been using their bladder with other companies' bags. As it's made of hard plastic, the Slide Seal can be felt through thinner, lighter weight bags (like CamelBak's Octane series or Wingnut bags) and doesn't fit very well in narrower bags (like Ergon's BD2). That's hardly Hydrapak's fault, though- just something to keep in mind when purchasing the Reversible Reservoir as a replacement. It works great in my Deuter pack and is certainly manageable in the Ergon.

These minor demerits don't keep the Reversible Reservoir from being the best-sorted hydration bladder I've used. If it were more compatible with the bags I've been using lately, I would be thrilled. Sure, Hydrapak have left a little room for improvement, but in the right bag, the Reversible Reservoir is the best I've used.




Tomáš said...

the best combo - Hydrapak reservoir and Camelbak hose and mouthpiece :-)

solitone said...

Marc said:
It (the bladder by Hydrapak) works great in my Deuter pack

But did you also manage to hook the bladder to the pack?

bikefix said...


I didn't hook it- but don't bother doing that with CamelBak bladders either. The internal sleeve works just fine.