I was never a fan of water bladders. Years ago I tried them and they never seemed to work well for me. They were leaky, got water everywhere, froze in winter, were a pain to work with and clean, take up valuable pack space, and are not conducive to allowing you to use the water for anything other than to drink. Being outdoors a lot, I tried different models over a few years and wasn’t able to get on board, so eventually I stopped trying and went back to standard water bottles like a 32 ounce Nalgene. It wasn’t the most efficient manner but I could clip one to the outside of my pack and then if I needed a second or third one I could put them in the side pockets of my pack.
Over the years I’ve heard that water bladders have gotten better but I still never really had any interest in trying them out again…until I saw the Geigerrig Hydration Engine. Built like a tank it’s almost indestructible. You can stand on it, drop it, and abuse it without it bursting or leaking. To really put this to the test, Geigerrig has gone to some extremes in testing the bladder from throwing it out of a truck at 100 MPH to literally strapping a bomb to it. You can see how the Geigerrig engine handled those Geigerrig torture tests here.
More intriguing than the toughness is that the pack has a pressurization system that allows you to spray water in addition to sucking like normal. A few pumps on the pressure bulb and you have a mini hose wherever you go. Why is this important? First, some people don’t like to share bite valves which you have to do with norma hydration systems. With the Geigerrig you can spray water without someone else (or a dog) slobbering all over your valve. In addition to that, when you are outdoors you need water for more than just drinking. You may want to wash off dirt or blood from some gear or a cut which is hard with non-pressurized water bladders or even a water bottle. The Geigerrig pressurized system opens up the possibilities to use your water how you would like. Using the Geigerrig I’ve washed my hands, cleaned my knife, put out a fire, and more.
Both of the hoses click in and out easily and I haven’t experienced any leakage during my use. The bladder is dish-washer safe by simply flipping it inside-out and placing it on the top shelf. The top is sealed by a slide top so you have quick access to fill or empty with a wide opening and secure closing.
For all the benefits, it’s still a water bladder and still takes up room in your pack. In fact, it can take up more because the bladder size increases as you pressurize it. This can be minimized by packing the bladder in first, then packing your gear, then pressurizing the bladder so it uses the other gear to help the pressurization. This can make it difficult to shuffle gear in and out of the pack but it’s easy enough to de-pressurize and re-pressurize the bladder so this isn’t a huge deal for me. In addition to the hydration systems, they also sell the systems with packs included. They have sizes ranging from bladder carriers (no additional room for gear) to 1600 cubic inches (26 liters), including the tactical hydration pack variations. The packs are very well made and are organized and are obviously made to fit the hydration bladder perfectly. 26 liters is not a huge pack so it won’t fit all the gear I need for multiple day backcountry trips, but it does fit enough for just about everything shorter than that.
Another unique aspect to the system is they have an inline water filter that you can hook up directly to the hoses on the bladder. This means you can fill the bladder up directly with unfiltered water and drink through the hoses and the water will be filtered and cleaned saving you the annoyance of using a water filter to fill the bladder. It also will save you pack space and time with the convenient and unique design.
With all the benefits and strengths of the Geigerrig Hydration system it has quickly become my go to hydration system. It still has some issues that all water bladders have that I don’t love. I did have one leak when I leaned up against the pack and water came out of the bite valve since I didn’t have it locked off…more my fault than the pack. And it still takes up pack space, but overall it’s solved a lot of problems that I have had with water bladders…and some issues I didn’t even realize that I had. And it’s more convenient than carrying water bottles and keeps the water out of the way while still easily accessible. It truly is a complete hydration system and allows you to utilize water much more effectively. And it’s tough…really tough.