First of all, let's get one thing clear - conventional hydration packs aren't a problem that needs solving. You want a drink, you suck on the mouthpiece, it's as simple as that. Then again, standard-definition video, dial-up internet connections and friction-operated bicycle shift levers were all considered "good enough" at one time, too. It's hard to say if GEIGERRIG's pressurized hydration pack system will eventually join the ranks of HDTV, cable internet and indexed shifting, but based on my experiences with one of the company's test rigs, it could at least gain some converts.
The system is very simple and low-tech, which is good.
Instead of consisting of one water-only compartment, the GEIGERRIG's polyurethane bladder has an internal partition running from its top to bottom, splitting it vertically into two sealed compartments - one in the front, and the other in the back. Water goes in one compartment, which incorporates the usual attached hose and bite valve. Air is pumped into the other using a second hose attached to a rubber hand bulb. That bulb is mounted on one of the shoulder straps, where the user can reach it when wearing the pack.
The more air that is pumped into the one compartment, the more pressure it exerts on the adjoining water compartment. When the bite valve (mounted on the other shoulder strap) is pinched between the user's fingers, the air pressure causes the water to come shooting out.
So, what's the point?
For one thing, multiple people can drink from one pack, without having to swap germs. Users can also spray their sweaty faces and dirty hands, clean their gear, or hose off the various wounds that hydration pack-wearing types inevitably incur while partaking in their chosen activities. Last but not least, it's simply easier to squirt water into your mouth than it is to suck it through a long tube.
For the purpose of this review, the folks at GEIGERRIG sent me one of their ballistic nylon RIG 500 packs. Ideally, I would have liked to try it out while mountain biking, as that's what my existing CamelBak is pretty much exclusively used for. Given that the trails in my part of the world are currently covered in ice and slush, however, I decided that a simple run in the woods would have to suffice.
To test the RIG 500's stuff-carrying capabilities, I transferred all the bigger mountain biking items (pump, spare tube, tools, etc.) from my CamelBak into it. There was plenty of room, and the rig's internal mesh pockets helped to keep things organized. Next, I filled up the water compartment of the bladder. This was nice and easy, as it incorporates a wide-mouthed slide-top opening.
After hooking up the two quick-release hoses and sliding the bladder into its nylon pouch within the pack, I then pumped it up the recommended 15 to 20 squeezes. If you're wearing the pack while doing so, you can definitely feel it start to press against your back as the air pressure builds, but not uncomfortably so - a thick plastic plate in the pack helps distribute the pressure more evenly, and the outside back of the pack is well-padded.
The bladder also presses itself around the cargo items in the pack, as it expands with air. Should you subsequently wish to access one of those things, particularly if it's stored toward the bottom of the pack, you might have to use the release valve on the bulb to let the air out. Keep in mind, re-inflating only takes a few seconds.
Once I cinched up the chest and waist straps, I was ready to go.
Upon pinching the bite valve, a stream of water did indeed spray out. It certainly was nice to be able to quickly just shoot water into my mouth as I ran, although I did periodically have to give the hand bulb a few squeezes to keep the pressure up as the water level dropped. For people who don't want one more thing to think about, this might be a hassle.
GEIGERRIG promotes the fact that its system eliminates the sloshing-water effect common to traditional hydration packs, as the water has no empty space to slosh into. This is true, although I did notice that the bladder as a whole had a tendency to shake up and down within the pack as I ran. Stuffing a T-shirt or some other soft filler in above it would likely minimize that problem.
Upon completion of my outing, another useful feature of the system presented itself - not only can the bladder be turned inside out for easy drying, but it's also dishwasher-safe. CamelBak users who have tried rigging up systems for drying and/or cleaning their reservoirs will definitely appreciate this.
I also tested one of GEIGERRIG's inline water filters. This optional extra quickly installs between the bladder and the water hose, and uses activated coconut shell carbon to remove a reported 99.9 percent of cryptosporidium and giardia bacteria from lake or river water. It's good for processing up to 50 US gallons (189 liters), and is definitely a nice range-extending feature for those times where one fill of the bladder isn't enough.
My RIG 500 has a 2-liter (70 oz.) bladder, 500 cubic inches (8 liters) of dry storage space, and retails for US$125. GEIGERRIG's other packs range in price from $115 for another 2-liter offering, up to $145 for the 3-liter (100 oz.)/1,600 cubic inch (26-liter) RIG 1600. By way of comparison, the 3-liter CamelBak Alpine Explorer 30 sells for approximately $115.
So, is it worth the extra dough? Well, there is more to fuss over with the GEIGERRIG, but if the advantages of sharing, showering or shooting water into your mouth on the trail appeal, it might be the pack for you.
More details on the system are available in the mock infomercial below.