I first came across Geigerrig a few years back when they first hit Aussie shores. I’m a self-confessed gear junkie and early adopter and jumped at the chance to try something new. After all, why not take some as simple as a bag with a tube attached and make it more complicated? Hydration systems haven’t come very far since CamelBak, in a marketing coup de grace, became the de facto category name for all water bladders back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Sure, packs have changed, bladders are made of different materials and you can buy them in all sorts of funny shapes, sizes and configurations. But really, they’re still bags with attached tubes that you bite down and suck on.
While Freud would no doubt have had a field day with conventional bladders, you can bet he’d convulse at the thought of introducing a second, pressurised, chamber that effectively forces the fluid through the tube into your mouth/wound/dog/eye/PTSO at high speed. But that’s exactly what Geigerrig has done with their Hydration Systems. Take a standard Hydrapak bladder, glue on a reinforced second chamber and add a pump. As the air chamber is pressurised it reduces the space available to the Fluid chamber and thereby pressurises that, too.
While this review is about the Geigerrig Rig 1600, in truth it’s more like a short Backpack review and a longer Hydration Engine [corny name!] review.
The Rig 1600 is a 26litre daypack that comes standard with a 3litre Bladder. It’s reported weight is 1.46kg which makes it fairly hefty, but when you consider it’s made of 1680 Ballistic Nylon, that’s fairly understandable. It’s evidently NOT targeted at the lightweight market and more closely resembles kit you’d find the Armed Forces using. The build quality seems pretty decent, there’re an abundance of compression straps, zippered pockets and other widgets (audio pocket, reflective bits, back ventilation, internal divider etc.) and the waist belt is strong enough to take some weight but is also removable for those lighter loads. Perhaps there are a few too many widgets for my liking, and I find the internal design frustrating but it’s a good pack that’s built around a great Hydration System. It neither screams “amazing” nor “burn me”.
The Bladder is a different story entirely. Whereas the pack takes features seen elsewhere and sews them all together, the Bladder is an unconventional idea with some practical applications, done well. The Geigerrig website loudly highlights the fact that the ‘Rig allows the user to: Spray to Drink (no more sucking), Spray to Cool, Spray to Clean, keep Constant Pressure, Stabilise the load and drink Clean Water.
The first three a pretty obvious: the water is pressurised so you can spray it into your mouth, over your face, at other people and to clean wounds and other things, all without the need to suck, have the bladder above the tube mouth piece (at the top of your hiking pack, for example) or Piano-Accordion the bag under your arm. It’s the last two, however, that really stand out for me.
Running with water sloshing around on your back is not only annoying but can unbalance you and uses more energy. Reducing that bounce is well worth the effort! Other brands have attempted to achieve this through baffles, sliders, odd shapes, positioning the bladder laterally or designing a pack that holds it in a certain way or place. Geigerrig figured “Hey, if we compress the shit out of this water it won’t bounce around!” And it works – mostly. In my experience using the bladder while hiking or cycling there’s no perceptible bounce. The water stays put and does what it’s told. I’d say it’d be awesome for paddle sports too as the rigidity of the bladder when pressurised would allow you to strap the bladder into your boat and spray water with hands-free abandon.
For running, however, I found that pressurising the bladder made it bounce more! I plunged the 3litre version into my Salomon S-Lab 12, pumped it up and ran off into the sunset. For about 2minutes. Then I screamed in frustration and depressurised the beast. Firstly, the rigidity of the bladder isn’t at all comfortable when wrapped around your upper body in a race-vest style pack like the S-Lab. Perhaps it would be better suited to something like the CamelBak Octane, which is tall and narrow, but I’m unconvinced. Secondly, it seems that creating a rigid tube of air around the water just serves to channel the bounce up and down, if anything exaggerating the movement rather than eliminating it. As soon as I depressurised it, the bounce receded and I was left with a few good litres of acceptably stable water in a nice, robust, conventional configuration.
How about the “Drink Clean Water” bit? While I didn’t get to field test this add-on, I know from experience with other in-line filters what they’re trying to achieve. And I love it! Basically, Geigerrig produce two different models of in-line (Crypto and Virus) filters that clip between the bladder and your mouthpiece. The pressurised water is forced through the filter and into your gullet – no need for chemical or UV treatment and no need to carry an extra pump. This functionality is awesome for those of us who spend time hiking, riding, running and travelling in areas without a reliable supply of quality water. The Virus version also features a replaceable filter, the absence of which being my main criticism of the original Crypto filter. In short, a brilliant feature that well and truly capitalises on the pressurisation system.
In closing, I’d strongly recommend the Geigerrig Hydration Engine, with or without their packs, with one small caveat. If ALL you do is run on roads or groomed trails close to a reliable water source, there are perhaps lighter bladders out there. But if, like me, you do OTHER activities, then the ‘Rig would be a great bladder and certainly something you could retrofit other packs with. While the 3litre is a touch big for something like the Salomon S-Lab 12, it’ll fit at a pinch and the 2litre would fit like a charm.
Note: This pack was supplied by Highly Tuned Athletes for the purposes of Field Testing and Reviewing. The opinions expressed here are my own.