Staying hydrated is one of the most important things while having fun outdoors. Dehydration can sneak up quickly and could result in a medical emergency. Access to clean drinking water is limited if you are not near a source of clean, fresh water. You could bring water bottles along with you, sure why not. But now you’ve got to carry it around all day. Maybe you could put the bottles in a backpack and keep your hands free for whatever you’re doing? But then you’ve got to stop what you’re doing and dig around in your pack for the water bottle. When I’m on the move I don’t like stopping to dig, drink, and stow; I’d rather keep moving.
Hydration systems are a good solution. They keep your hands-free and allow you to drink whenever you want. Not in hurried gulps as you try to keep from interrupting your pace. They have been around for well over two decades and are used by the armed forces and exercise enthusiasts. Usually you’ll find a storage bladder, a hose and a mouthpiece from which you drink. I’ve owned a few Camelbak’s before, and while I got use out of them, I thought that they could be better. I didn’t like the screw cap or the way that the hose attached at the bottom. They were a pain to clean and dry out. I remember putting one away after draining it only to find that some moisture had stayed behind and mildew had grown in the reservoir. I cleaned the reservoir with soapy water and bleach in an attempt to remove the mildew; I succeeded in sterilizing the reservoir but the stain remained. Long story made slightly shorter; I wanted something better.
I was on a hiking trip with a co-worker and saw that he had a hydration system different than what I had seen before. He called it a platypus and showed me a few of the features. I knew that it was something that I would have to try for myself. Fortunately for me I received a Platypus LP Big Zip as a surprise Christmas gift. The Platypus has quite a few features that set it apart from other water reservoirs with drinking hoses. Let me start with the way that you open it to fill it with water. The opening resembles a thick, reinforced zip-to-close storage bag and it’s located at the top. This allows for fast, easy filling through the generous opening.
Once you fill the reservoir the Platypus comes with a handle that doubles as the zipper closer. After you use the handle to seal the reservoir it’s recommended that you remove the handle and then invert the reservoir to see if the seal has any leaks . So far I have not found it to leak after shutting it properly. Since the opening is located at the very top of the reservoir I’ve been able to fill the reservoir to its peak capacity and eliminate any airspace. That may seem silly to some but I’d rather have one more mouth full of water than empty space. But for me, the icing on the cake is the fact that I can load ice cubes into it without any effort. They just drop right in through the wide mouth opening. Why would that matter? I live in Texas and if I can have a cold drink of water available whenever I’m outdoors I’m going to take advantage of that.
The reservoir is constructed of BPA-free polyethylene with a silver-ion finish, which gives it antimicrobial properties. This makes me feel better about toting water around in a reservoir that I can’t clean properly while on a multi-day hiking trip. My model also features a divider in the middle that keeps the filled bag from being one tall cylindrical bulge in your pack. Instead it flattens it out a bit, helping it to spread out the bulk. At the bottom it’s the quick connect port for the drinking hose. It locks the hose securely in place with a click and is only released when you squeeze the button and remove it. On top of that the connection allows the hose to swivel 180°. Despite that freedom of movement, it doesn’t leak. There is an O-ring on the hose that keeps everything watertight. The drinking hose already comes with a clip which you can attach to your backpack or shirt so that you may have quick access to the bite valve.
To be able to drink from the Platypus you first need to open the flow valve located at the base of the bite valve. This is a great feature and keeps your water from leaking out on accident. Once the valve is opened and the end is in your mouth you must gently apply bite pressure and drink from it as though it were a straw. The bite valve is made from medical grade silicone and can be removed and replaced if needed. All of the components of the hydration system are of good quality and won’t give the water a plastic taste.
My most recent use of the Platypus big zip LP was at the Texas Firearms Festival. I loaded it into my backpack and kept the bite valve handy at all times. Temperatures that day only got into the upper eighties, so it wasn’t too bad. Regardless, I was sure to sip from it whenever I wanted as I waited in line or walked to the next booth. Over the course of the day I drained the 1.5 liter reservoir and refilled it once. By the time we left the Texas Firearms Festival I had walked over 5 miles and I nearly drank 3 liters of water. Despite being on my feet all day and having very little shade in the nearly 90 degree weather I was properly hydrated; I’ll call that a win. Could I have survived without it? Sure. But did it make staying hydrated easier? Absolutely. I’m hoping to really put it to the test in the coming months with more hiking trips and opportunities to use it.