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If you've ever used a hydration reservoir to carry water on the go, you'll know that these systems provide a convenient method of staying hydrated during physical activity. Rather than stopping, taking off your pack, and fumbling with a water bottle, hydration packs allow you to sip your beverage of choice through a long tube and bite valve. You don't even have to take off your pack or touch a zipper.
However, there's one flaw with traditional hydration systems: cleaning. They're much more difficult to clean than a water bottle. To clean a plastic reservoir properly, you'll need to drain it, wash the inside with water and baking soda (or use specialized cleaning tablets), and then hang all the components out for several hours to air dry. This process must be performed frequently, or the system may start to grow mold or bacteria that can make you sick. Even if trace amounts of mold in your pack don't make you sick, they can make the water you're drinking taste bad.
Speaking of taste, you need to be very careful what liquids you fill ordinary hydration systems with. Plain water is fine, but if you make the mistake of pouring in some flavoring powder or sports drink, the system may retain that flavor and smell forever. Don't even think about filling up with iced tea or juice, as these strong flavors will be near impossible to remove, even with repeated cleaning. To remove any residual taste and odor, you'll need to buy a new system (complete with hose and bite valve), since replacement reservoirs are usually not available on their own.
As a result of these frustrations with cleaning and lingering taste, a company known as RoguePak has developed a new type of hydration system. RoguePak is made in the USA as a division of AquaStorage, the same Austin, Texas-based parent company that makes the AquaPodKit emergency water storage system we previously reviewed.
The RoguePak modular hydration system allows what other hydration packs don't: replacing the reservoir at an affordable price. Every RoguePak system includes at least one spare reservoir, and the hose is fitted with a quick-disconnect adapter, so it can be swapped between the reservoirs in seconds. For $23, you get a complete system with one extra reservoir, or you can buy a 4-pack for $36.
The effects of this modular design are surprising, and they can actually change the way you carry water. So, we'll list some of the benefits we noticed during our testing of the RoguePak.
Firstly, the modular design takes a whole lot of time out of the cleaning process. RoguePak reservoirs are reusable like other systems on the market, so you can still wash them out and fill them up again. However, having two (or more) reservoirs means you don't have to wait around for the system to air dry—you can leave one at home to dry out after cleaning, and fill another up immediately.
Remember how we mentioned hydration systems tend to retain flavors and odors from the liquids inside? This is pretty much unavoidable, since the liquids dry into the seams of the reservoir, or seep into the plastic itself. Fortunately, replacing the reservoir eliminates both of these issues.
If the taste and smell isn't too bad, you can clean one reservoir thoroughly, while continuing to use the RoguePak with a spare. On the other hand, if the taste and smell can't be removed by cleaning, you can simply toss the offending reservoir in the recycling bin and buy a new one. The reservoirs are only about $5 each, with a four-pack available for $15 or $16 (depending on the capacity you choose).
Most hydration packs on the market today use a screw-on cap, positioned on the front of the reservoir pouch. To fill, you unscrew the cap, pour in water, and then tightly twist the cap back into place. A few others use a zipper that runs across the top edge of the reservoir. These designs seem fine, until you see what RoguePak came up with to replace them.
The RoguePak system replaces the traditional cap or zipper with a beautifully simple Fast-Fill port. Just pinch the layers together to create an opening, and fill with water. The port naturally flattens out and seals itself. Check out the video below to see how it works:
This isn't some TV studio magic—we tried this exact test with a RoguePak system, and it works as seen in the video, even if the bladder is filled to the max fill line and squeezed. To prove it really seals tightly, the RoguePak's inventor pumped it full of air until it burst:
Although the nature of the Fast-Fill port makes leaks very unlikely, RoguePak provides added leak-proofing via a Secure-Seal tube. Just roll the top of the port around the blue plastic tube, then snap the C-clip section over the top to hold the roll in place.
In addition to providing a leak-proof seal, this design keeps the RoguePak lightweight. It also eliminates the threaded cap and O-rings found on most hydration packs, making this design less complex and potentially less prone to failure.
At this point, some of you may be thinking that it's wasteful to discard reservoirs, or that the plastic materials may be harmful to the environment. Fortunately, RoguePak has addressed those concerns as well. Like we said earlier, the reservoirs are durable and reusable, so you could easily use them again and again to avoid waste.
Also, each RoguePak reservoir is made of LDPE, also known as low-density polyethylene. The particular LDPE material used by RoguePak is FDA and USDA compliant, Kosher, and has even passed a bio-toxicity report that indicated it can be used for medical applications. RoguePak reservoirs are 100% recyclable, so you can put them in your recycling bin instead of the trash can.
To top it all off, you can even burn discarded reservoirs as kindling. RoguePak says this LDPE material “burns as clean as natural gas”, so it won't produce highly toxic fumes like those from some other plastics. LDPE also burns slowly, so it can help sustain a fire until you add some larger logs.
We had a hard time finding any major flaws with the RoguePak. The biggest issue we noticed is that this reservoir is only designed with two round mounting holes, one on each side. This is fine for many backpacks, but certain packs—such as an old REI-brand pack we own—only offer one central hook for hanging hydration reservoirs. Another pack we have from Triple Aught Design has a central strap and two side straps, but these would require oblong mounting holes, not the round ones the RoguePak has.
If your backpack doesn't have compatible side anchor points, you'll have to rig up some paracord or small carabiners, or leave the reservoir loose in your backpack. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but we wish there was a little more adaptability here. Also, the flat profile of the Fast-Fill port makes air-drying a used reservoir a slow process, but that's a small price to pay for its various other benefits.
Overall, we were pleased with the RoguePak. It filled easily, didn't leak a drop, and provided reliable hydration when we needed it. On top of this, by throwing a second reservoir and some powdered drink mix into our bag, we could swap out reservoirs and re-fill with a flavored drink when we wanted to. Additional reservoirs weigh next to nothing—only 0.8 ounces each, according to our scale—and they can be rolled or folded into small spaces easily. RoguePak tells us the system is currently being tested by the US Army and Marines, and has received positive feedback as a result of these qualities.
For more information on RoguePak, visit RoguePak.com.