Saturday, 17 November 2012

Hydration Bladder Longterm Review Part 1: Camelbak Omega

Before I continue with this review I have to make a small admission, I'm still not entirely a convert to hydration bladders. I've used both the Camelbak and Osprey bladders quite a lot, for more than a year, but still prefer bottles at times. I know that bladders are more convenient on the move, but I find them annoying to keep clean and prefer the flexibility of a bottle. I'll expand on this during my review.

In no particular order I will review the Camelbak Omega first. Although Camelbak appear to have discontinued the Omega in favour of the Antidote, it seems to me that the essence of the two are pretty much the same. There are some excellent, cheaply priced, military style Omega hydration bladders around at the moment that have many of the Antidote's features.

The Camelbak Omega is pretty much a flimsy polyurethane bag with a pipe to drink through. It is very simple in design with few features.

The welded polyurethane bag has the Camelbak name and a measuring gauge printed into the outside. As flimsy as the bladder is, it does seem like it could take a few knocks. The bladder incorporates Camelbak's Hydrotanium Reservoir Film which is supposed to make the bladder a lot more resistant to damage and leaks. The hydration bladder also has Camelbak's Hydroguard Anti Microbial Technology which is supposed to resist 99.99% of common bacteria and fungus. That's great, but why does the bladder stain so easily. I've had varying drinks in the bladder and it has definitely taken on a few interesting colours inside. That said, it doesn't seem to have affected the taste of the water,  or ability to clean the bladder.

At the top of the bladder is a large filler cap that only requires a part turn to open and close. I've seen reviews and comments about difficulties unfastening the cap on the Omega. To be honest, I have had no difficulty, so can't make the same complaint. The cap is however quite vague in respect to tightening up when fastening. I'd much prefer a definite closure to the cap, but it is possible to over tighten it, which maybe what leads to the complaints.

On the upper edge of the cap housing is a hook which helps to facilitate hanging the bladder in a rucksack which has the appropriate feature to permit this. If the rucksack doesn't have the ability to hang a bladder then you face having the bladder collapsing into the bottom of your rucksack or bladder sleeve.

Filling the bladder up can be a bit of a pain. As you try to fill the bag from the tap you find it falls around quite bit. It's not very hard, but it can be tough to fill without splashing water around.

The tube and bite valve for the Omega are very simple. It's basically a polyurethane pipe with a squidgy bit on the end that opens when you bite it.

These basic features make for quite a light hydration bladder. It wont make you think 'wow' when you buy it, but it will get the job done. There are a few ups and downs on the way though.

Since the bag is so thin, in warm weather, the water warms up quicker than the other bladder reviewed. On the plus side, the bag has never leaked, it takes a battering well. For me, the main weak point is the bite valve. While flow is excellent when drinking, the occasional flow when not drinking can be a pain. I have added an old 35mm film case to the end to keep the bite valve free of debris and regularly have a small flood of water when I take the cap off. Not a major, major issue, but can be embarrassing if the leak is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So while a good drinking system, it hasn't been good enough to steer me away from bottles for the majority of walks. I like to use energy drinks etc and find that if the bladder isn't cleaned properly even the Hydroguard can't stop the build up of mildew.

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