It’s April 2012 and I’ve now been using this pack heavily on my walks this year. But when I say pack, I do mean just the pack. I love the pack itself – despite being claimed to be 19L it seems about the same size as my Berghaus Remote 30. Consequently, I’ve found myself using it on every walk this this year as I’ve only been doing day walks. I’ve even used it under semi-winter conditions in Snowdonia at Easter (by semi-winter I mean cold and with snow remnants still lying around but not enough to need crampons etc.) and it’s held everything fine.
What I have done though is abandon the hydration part itself. The pressurised system is unquestionably ingenious, but it’s just too much faffing about for me. My tried and tested Camelbak 3L fits in fine, although with the special tap attachment at the end of the drinking tube, it is a bit of squeeze to manouver it through the inside of the shoulder straps. Unfortunately, the bulb holder on the other strap isn’t detachable so I’ve had that dangling about as I walk. I guess at some point soon I’ll make the decision to cut that off.
I’m sure this isn’t the result that Geigerrig had in mind, i.e. that if I only used part of the set-up it would be the hydration not the rucksack. But I really like the bag itself because of its size and comfort on my back. This pack is now my “Go To” daysack for single day countryside walking and in mountain conditions where I’m not carrying loads of stuff. So much so that my Remote 30 has gone to my son. And I’ve sold my old Regatta X-ert 20-25 which was bought on a whim in the Lakes a few years ago but seen good service, and I’m now down to one small daysack. And it feels great. So much so that it’s prompted me to clear out my excess big rucksacks too.
But I guess the conclusions reached here aren’t going to help anyone. You can’t buy the bag minus the hydration system, after all it’s the hydration that’s at the centre of what Geigerrig do and you wouldn’t pay £100 for a daysack and then chuck away the bladder. I’m just going to count myself fortunate to have ended up with a really nice daysack for nowt, as I’d be feeling annoyed with myself if I’d shelled out £100 for it and found that I didn’t like the hydration part.
Original Review (Dec 2011)
If you’ve been taking notice of any of the walking media over the last month, you’ve probably been introduced to Geiggerig and their range of hydration packs and accessories. Well, courtesy of a competition through the Outdoor Blogger Network, I was sent one of their packs to review recently, and here are my findings.
What do you get ?
The 1200 pack consists of a 19 litre daypack with 3 main compartments. First a main one for the bulky stuff, then a front organiser pocket with attached flap for organising small items like pens, keys etc. Behind the main compartment is the hydration pocket, accessed from the back of the rucksack, making the hydration bladder effectively part of the bag’s back system. The back of the pack itself is made up of 5 separate pads with channels between them for moisture to run off.
When in place, the bladder sits in a pocket within its section, preventing it moving around too much. The two tubes, one for drinking and one for pressurization exit at the top of the hydration compartment and run down the shoulder straps of the pack, being held in place by a clip for the drinking tube and a mesh pocket for the air bulb.
There’s also a pocket at the top of the pack (just under the handle shown in the picture) for an MP3 player, with dedicated headphone lead exit hole.
The pack also has side mesh pockets for small items, side compression straps and bungee cord on the front.
The hydration bladder is a blue and clear tough plastic which opens at full width at the top for filling and cleaning. To close the top, it’s pushed together and folded over, then held in place by a locking and sliding clip. This clip itself, also has a security cord to prevent loss.
More about the pack:
- Fabric: Heavy Duty Dura-Oxkin
- Weight: 1.14 Kg. / Dry Capacity: 20 Ltr. approx
- Bladder: 100 oz., quick-release valves for drinking tube and pressurization tube for easy refill and bladder removal, slide top for easy refill, cleaning and drying.
- Zippers: Heavy Duty Size 8 Coil Zippers
- I-Pod Ready Compartment with Waterproof Zipper Garage
- Removable Waist Strap
- Shoulder Strap: Ergonomic Fit, Terraced Overlay for Adjustable Tube Configuration and Power Bulb Configuration, Industrial Load Dispersement cut and padding
- Chest Strap: Integrated slider chest strap
- Plug & Play Reservoir Tube Connector
- Compression Straps
- PVC Reinforced Exterior Side Heavy Mesh Pockets
- External Bungy Storage System
- Reflective Tabs & Zipper Pulls
- Internal Storage Compartments and Organizer
- Eco Rig Back Pads
- Air Drive Ventilation
- Heavy Duty Nylon Pack Handle
So how does it work ?
The bladder itself is made up of a compartment for the liquid surrounded by an outer layer through which the air is pumped to pressurize the system. A few squeezes of the bulb are needed to build up the pressure, and then you simply press the bite valve at the end of the drinking tube to spray the water out. You can also use the bite valve in the normal way and suck, but this kind of defeats the object of the system. The drinking tube also has a twist lock to prevent unplanned spillage.
Geigerrig claim several benefits to this system:
- You don’t need to suck, so it’s suitable for those who are out of breath or unable to suck.
- Because of the spray, it’s more hygienic, and you can therefore share your water with others.
- Also because of the spray, it’s more versatile than a normal hydration system, and if you look at their website you’ll see demonstrations of people cooling their faces and washing muddy cycles with it.
- You can wash it in the dishwasher.
- It won’t leak.
- It’s bomb proof (literally).
So what do I think of these claims ? Well…
- Well yes, this I guess is its USP.
- How hygienic it is depends on the user, I would say. You need a fair bit of pressure and a reasonable aim to hold it a hygienic distance from your mouth and spray it in. Yes, it’s probably more hygienic than a traditional suck-based system, but I still wouldn’t share my water with my dog. But it might help keep the drinking tube cleaner for longer – I’ll have to wait and see.
- Ok fair enough, but I probably won’t use it for anything other than drinking.
- Ok, but I’m happy enough doing it by hand. And the hardest bit to clean is the drinking tube anyway, and I still think you’ll need one of those long bendy brush things.
- I’ve not had it long enough to see if it really will last a lifetime, but it certainly feels robust, and I’m sure its leak credentials are helped by the fact that there’s a separate layer of air between the water and the outside world, so even if you do puncture the outer skin, the inner will probably be unaffected.
- There’s a video on Geigerrig’s website showing that a bomb inside the pack wrecked the pack, but the bladder still worked fine afterwards. I’m not sure that targeting this pack at the niche market that is suicide bombers is necessarily the best marketing strategy. I for one probably won’t use the pack to carry bombs in, and if I did then a bit of post-blast water leakage isn’t going to be high on my list of worries. But joking aside, what the video does demonstrate is the toughness of the bladder and backs up the anti-leak claim fairly well.
Now although it comes as a complete hydration system, I think there’s some merit in also looking at the two main components individually, as you could use them separately if you wanted.
The Hydration bit
I found the bladder easy to fill, but the top closure involving rolling down the top and then securing with the sliding clip was a bit fiddlier as I still had to support the main body of the bladder. It’s probably no more of a pain than the screw top on my Camelbak though, and for one thing is a lot easier to undo than my Camelbak’s lid, which I tend to have really tight. Removing the tubes was easy enough too as they are held in place by integrated clips.
My first attempt at pressurisation worked once I figured it out, although the bladder swelled alarmingly. But this actually helped get a better feel for the strength of the material it’s made of. I managed to squirt the jet of water into my mouth ok, although it could have been more powerful – I think this is just about finding the balance of pressurisation. I also tried using the drinking tube in the traditional way, by sucking, and this worked fine. However, it’s not designed with sucking as the intended main method of use, so if you want to suck you really ought to be sticking to your Camelbak, Platypus or whatever.
To be honest, I didn’t really test cleaning or cooling – it’s just a simple matter of spraying the liquid at the target, be it you or a dirty object – and the main reason is that I don’t generally carry plain water in my hydration system. I like a bit of flavouring and have no desire to spray that on my face or waste it washing down my boots!
Despite being sceptical before testing, I could actually see myself using the bladder longer term, although most likely in combination with a larger pack. In this case, it would be worthwhile investing in a bulb holder that I can attach to another pack. But despite the fact that the bladder clearly works as claimed, for me it’s not offering much that I would use over and above my existing 3 litre Camelbak.
I tried the pack on my daily work commute, and found it to be quite a nice size and to be comfortable. Having also been sent a grey one, it didn’t look too garish in the city either. But it’s clearly at the smaller end of the daypack range, and so isn’t going to be much use on a Scottish mountain in deepest winter. It’s ideally suited to more lightweight activities and day walk use in summer. I think it will make my Berghaus Remote 30 redundant as it doesn’t seem that much smaller and is much more comfortable.
With the filled bladder in the pack, then it felt a bit different because of the additional weight, but the thick back pads meant it wasn’t uncomfortable – if anything the bladder probably made it more comfortable.
If you’re the sort of person that likes a simple unfussy rucksack without all the pockets and compartments, this isn’t going to be for you.
Geigerrig make a big thing about the inconvenience of sucking on a regular hydration system pipe, and hence that their system is better because it doesn’t require you to suck. They go on to say that the difficulty of sucking means that you may, therefore, not drink and end up dehydrated or having to lug bulky drink bottles instead. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that. I have no problem sucking on my Camelbak, or on my Platypus before that, and I would contend that if you do have trouble sucking then you may not be of a level of fitness and activeness that this product is aimed at anyway. So in my view the principal technical argument for this product compared with a traditional drinking system is a bit weak. But having said that, I won’t deny that it is ingenious and does do what it claims. It’s also well made and robust.
Now compared with similar size hydration systems from other manufacturers, I’d say that it’s broadly comparable with the top spec. packs, although for me it is towards the expensive end. Given that you can easily take the reservoir out and put it quite comfortably in a normal 20-30l rucksack, most of which are now hydration compatible nowadays, the complete system, retailing at just under £100 rrp does look expensive. The hydration bladder itself sells for about £40, which is pricey and which means the bag is costing about £60. It does have some extra features, provided by the spray rather than suck mechanism, but ultimately it doesn’t do anything for me that I can’t get from my trusty Camelbak. I do also have to say at this stage, that despite my propensity for being lured by gear shops and shiny new bits of kit, a combined hydration reservoir and pack has never been something I’ve been tempted by, and this product hasn’t really changed my attitude. I like my kit to be versatile, and although I can use the bladder in another pack, I’m realistically going to need to buy a bulb holder to attach it to the strap.
The rucksack itself is towards the small end of what I need for a day’s walking, so is more ideally suited to a half-day walk when weather conditions are predictable (so I don’t have to carry loads of just-in-case gear) or to shorter high intensity activities. Ironically, it’s actually quite a good size for just general, less active, family days out, when I would usually take a drink in a bottle. But this does mean that with 3 litres on board, I end up being the mobile water truck for the whole group, especially with the sharing ability you get from the spray mechanism.
Geigerrig also produce an in-line filter tube, meaning that you can filter as you drink. But other manufacturers, especially the specialists in water purification, make similar devices that are compatible with the main hydration brands anyway. So I don’t think this is a killer feature either, although the Geigerrig accessories look decently priced compared with the alternatives. But personally, for water purification, I’d myself go with one of the specialist brands and, also a personal choice, wouldn’t integrate with my hydration bladder anyway. But again, that’s very much a personal preference.
So I guess the overall conclusion is that if top-end dedicated hydration packs are your thing, then this may be worth a look, but if like me you’re a “normal” walker (whatever that means!), then it doesn’t give you much that you can’t already get from a traditional rucksack and bladder combination, unless of course the spray rather than suck mechanism changes the game for you. This is really one for those who like to have the latest thing.
Please note: I won the opportunity to review this product in a competition on the OBN website, and so the product was provided free to me to test. That being said, the review here is my honest opinion of the product. Quite frankly, if the product were no good then I wouldn’t waste loads of my precious outdoor time writing a long and glowing review, unless it’s so bad that I have a duty to warn others! So if I’ve said I like it, then it’s because I do really, but as with any product there’s an element of what suits you personally, and I hope that I’ve given a sufficiently balanced view for you to work out what whether this would suit you. And please don’t try to hold me responsible for any crazy use of the product outside what the manufacturer recommends. If I’ve tested the product outside of its recommendations then I’ll have made it clear in the review, and rely on your common sense to read any product warnings rather than blindly copy me.