Hydration Pack Review - Hydrapak Big Sur - Video

Hydrapak Big Sur - Camel Bag Alternative Funny Drawing
Copywriting & Concept: Constantin Gabor

No matter what you do outdoors, there's always something you need to have: water.

Of course some can resist longer without it but depending on the level of your physical exertion you will need to drink water sooner or later. Weather conditions, the nature of your activity (hiking, trekking, cycling, trail running) and your metabolism will dictate how often and how much water you'll drink.

So, how do you carry your water?

Well, the modern outdoor athlete has what's called a hydration pack, also known as a camel bag.

To be honest I never considered buying one until I got my Hydrapak Big Sur from the guys at Outside PR. Now I'm really getting over my drinking problem...

There's a certain comfort of carrying and drinking your water this way. Once you fill your reservoir, you know you're set for hours.

I've been converted and now I'm a believer. If you care about time and convenience when doing endurance sports, having a hydration pack with a water bladder of at least 1.5 liters may be the key to improving your last time record or who knows...maybe getting on that podium.

Watch me test the pack for the very first time in this winter tour (starting at min. 3:00 in the video)

Stuff I don't like about Hydrapak Big Sur

Let me tell you right from the start that I love the product - and maybe not just the product but the concept of a smart hydration system that you can carry on your back. So no matter what flaws I outline here, this is is a positive review overall. Just wanted you to know how biased I am. :-) (I work in the honesty industry, remember?)
  1. It immediately caught my attention that the shoulder straps are sewn at a 90 degree angle on the bottom of the pack (see picture below). This is rather unusual for a backpack (of any kind). The rule is to have these straps sewn at a 45 degree (or similar) angle for an even distribution of weight across the webbing. The way I see it this is a design error that must be fixed. Why? Let's say one time you'll load your pack with rocks (coz you may a be an amateur geologist). The weight will cause the thread in the sewings to pop due to uneven distribution of force on the sewings. Hydrapak guys, fix this! Update: After a conversation with Jim from Hydrapak (see the comments) and after some extra inspection my conclusion is this: if you let the pack hang low on your back, there will be a crease in the upper part of the webbing. But since most athletes keep the pack as high as possible on their back, the webbing is loaded correctly and takes most of the weight. So the pack is carried more like a harness not like a regular pack and thus the shoulder straps don't need to be sewn at a sharp angle with the backpack. However, I'd go somewhere in between if I were to design how the straps should be sewn. 

    Design Error in Hydrapak Big Sur
Shoulder Straps in Hydration Pack

It's a matter of adjustment. The higher the pack,
the better the weight distribution of weight.

Big Sur Hydrapak Shoulder Strap Detail

Correct weight distribution in webbing when pack is high on the back.

Crease in Shoulder Strap

Crease in webbing when the pack hangs low

  1. The shoulder straps - the part that rests on your shoulders in particular - are not was I expected. They're like a tube coz the drinking hose runs inside and they don't stay flat as in other backpacks. So you have the pack on but feel like the shoulder straps don't kiss your shoulders as you'd expect - if you know what I mean. Once you have your reservoir full, and maybe some power bars inside and some clothing, the weight of the pack make the straps flat and firm. However I would expect a rugged construction right from the start - it would simply feel better!

  2. Hydration Hose in Hydrapak Big Sur

  3. The zippers could have been waterproof but they aren't (a silicone tape zipper or something like the new waterproof jackets have now may be a good solution). I guess you want your paper money to be dry after a long ride in the rain. How are you gonna pay for your Starbucks with green pulp that used to be money?
Stuff I like about Big Sur hydration pack

Well, just about everything else which compensate for all the the previously mentioned inconveniences.
  • Awesome drinking system: from the easy to fill reservoir to the plug and play hose and smart drinking valve. The bladder is smarter than Camelbak reservoirs just because the large mouth and the easy sealing with the sliding rail allows you to operate it faster and to empty or fill it in no time, whatever the conditions (water dripping from a weak source as rock cracks or melting ice, etc.). The drinking valve has an On/Off switch and when it's On - it doesn't leak. If you wanna drink, just squeeze the transparent rubber with your teeth and drink - it's simple and effective. Hydrapak Inc. offers lifetime guaranty against leakage on the drink system, including reservoir, drink tube and bite valve

  • Tons of pockets. If you're a triathlete and consume energy gels and power bars you'll have lots of designated pockets for those goodies. Elastic straps will hold them in place so you can visualize your menu in one glimpse and pick the one you want.

  • Adjustable position for the chest strap. Each buckle of the chest strap is fixed on a rail which allows you to place the strap higher or lower. I see this useful especially for women (you know what I'm referring to).

  • Cool materials and finishings

  • Wicked design of the pack and interesting design of the quick release buckles. 

  • The magnet that holds the drink tube on the chest strap for fast access is another sweet feature that I love. 
Final considerations

This is one of the best choices you can make regarding a hydration pack. You can turn the reservoir inside out when cleaning it - which also means you can drink whatever you want with a Hydrapak system: milk, juice, Gatorade, Iso Star, or any other drink without bubbles.

If you go on longer trips with a bigger backpack, you can take the bladder with you and still use it. So once you have one, you'll enjoy the versatility of the drinking system with other backpacks as well.

I highly recommend it! But you don't have to take my word for it. Top athletes like Rebecca Rusch, Devon Crosby-Helms and Mike Curiak use Hydrapak.

And to see how rugged the water reservoir is, take a look at the video below where the Hydrapak guys test and abuse it like hell (the bladder withstands passing over with a forklift whereas Camelbak reservoir fails the test).

Also, check out the reversible reservoir animation video:

See details on design and features in the pictures below.

Hydrapak Big Sur - Hydration Pack

Big Sur Hydration Pack by Hydrapak

Hydration Pack - Lateral View

Inner Pocket in Hydrapak Big Sur

Hydration Pack Poacket

Chest Strap in Camel Bag / Hydration Pack
Slide the chest belt higher or lower on the shoulder straps

Slide Chest Strap in Hydration Pack

Drinking Valve in Hydration Pack - Hydrapak Big Sur

Exterior Pocket in Hydrapak Big Sur
Lateral mesh in outer/open pocket (helmet pocket)

Earphones Outlet in Hydration Pack Pocket

Drinking Hose Magnet in Hydration Pack

Hydration Reservoir and Sealing Rail
Fold the top of the bladder and slide the rail to seal the water reservoir. 

Hydration Pack and Books: Stephen King & Buyology

Hose Plug in Hydrapak Water Reservoir
Plug and play connection between tube and reservoir

Hydrapak Hose Plug

Hydrapak Drinking Hose Valve
On/Off switch in drinking valve 

Hydration Pack Reservoir - Big Sur by Hydrapak
Three (3) liter camel bag bladder - enough water for a day or two

Hydrapak Water Reservoir / Bladder

Hydration Pack Drinking Valve

Shoulder Straps Detail in Hydrapak Big Sur

Hydration Pack Reservoir

Interior Pack - Hydrapak

iPod Pocket in Hydration Pack
iPod / MP3 Player pocket and earphones outlet  

Key Pocket in Hydration Pack

Magnet on Chest Strap for Drinking Hose - Hydrapak
Magnet on chest strap

Hose Magnet in Hydration Pack

Hose Magnet - Hydrapak Big Sur

Open Drinking Valve in Hydrapak Big Sur
Bite Valve - the higher you squeeze the more water comes out 

Hydration Pack Pocket
Place your power bars here

Quick Release Buckle
Nice buckle design - sleek and lightweight

Water Reservoir / Bladder in Hydration Pack / Camel Bag

Go outdoors and drink plenty of water. Cheers!

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  1. Love the colors! Great review, as always, you have an eye for what is right and wrong with both the design and functionality, nice job.

  2. Thank you, Kovas!

    Yup the colors are nice. I have an orange cycling jersey that match the colors of the pack perfectly. :-)

  3. Thanks Constantin for the comprehensive overview of the Big Sur. It is rare in the "blogosphere" to have reviewers step beyond the usual catalog copy.

    Regarding your "What I don't like about the pack," I'd disagree with your comment on the shoulder-strap bottom webbing point being at a 90 degree angle. The shoulder strap webbing looks like a 90 degree angle, but this is deceptive because the side seam, where the tack is, runs at an angle and not straight up and down.

    Shoulder Straps? Ya, they could be lightened up, but are good if you like to fill the pack, otherwise try a lower volume Reyes or lightweight Selva.

    Also, we'd like to make a lightweight waterproof and affordable pack, but since this pack is not waterproof, we feel adding a waterproof zipper could be misleading. For now, people will need to use a zip-lock or perhaps their extra reservoir which not only holds water in but holds it out too....wait...there is a good idea...:)

  4. :-) Thanks Jim!

    Well, I studied the strap issue a bit more and my conclusion is this: since this bag is usually carried as high as possible on the back (unlike the classic backpack that "hangs" on one's shoulders) the angle of the straps doesn't need to be exactly at 45 degrees.

    However, even so, there is a small fold where the strap doesn't take any weight (the bottom part takes all the force whereas the upper part is loose). I'd sew the strap at a slightly more incisive angle as for the whole webbing to take the weight.

    I'll add extra pictures to back that up.

    Yeah - good point about using the reservoir as a waterproof pocket (in case water is in abundance). :-) In certain survival situations this may be critical (keeping the matches dry or so).

    As I said, I love your product and the overall benefits and functionality beat the small imperfections.

    Thank you for the opportunity!


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