I am going to rock through Hydration Bladders and Base Layers quickly today, paving the way for two more posts in this series: Hydration/Electrolyte Supplements and Cooking Systems.
I tested Patagonia’s Capeline 1 and 2 upper body base layers on this trip, hiking in the Cap 1 and sleeping in the Cap 2. I liked both of these items better than my old system using Under Armour Heat Gear as a base layer. The fabric on the Cap 1 feels great and looks super high-tech. The Cap 2 also feels very good. The weave looks a little weird though. You can sort of see through the weave almost like on a wide wale corduroy.
Cap 1 is supposed to be the lightest series they make. Cap 2 should be a little bit heavier and a little bit warmer. I noticed no difference in the warmth of the two garments (on this hike and in subsequent use). My Cap 1 weighs 6.75 ounces and my Cap 2 weighs 5.60 ounces. My Cap 1 dries noticeably faster than the Cap 2. The Cap 2 costs $14 more than Cap 1. I am going to continue testing and observing through the winter, but so far, i think that the Cap 1 is my new long sleeve base layer.
I also tested the Cap 1 base layer bottoms and really enjoyed them. I do not like to have a lot of material in the groinal zone while moving about, so i hike commando style. But it was great to pull these on when i got to camp. They felt nice, kept me warm, and did not bunch or pull. At 5.55 ounces, they are even lighter than the old traditional red long johns.
The first hydration bladder i ever had was a Camelbak 3 liter model. I wanted a way to easily carry and drink water while dog walking and this was a great system. I have been using that bladder for backpacking as well. Only during my recent campaign to lose pack weight did i stop to think about my water systems. The Camelbak has some nice features, but it is also quite heavy for a bladder. I have switched to a Platypus Hoser 3 Liter. This is lighter and worked just fine. It does not come with a shutoff valve which is a drawback. One of the first things my buddy Jake taught me about having a hydration bladder is this: always engage the shutoff valve before you set your pack down. If you are in town, your house, someone’s car – setting your pack down on the bite valve can cause you to drain water all over someone’s property. If you are in the woods, worse than getting your stuff wet, you can LOSE ALL YOUR WATER. I was very careful on this trip to always set my pack down with the bladder side up and free of encumbrances.
I did order a shutoff valve but this had some issues upon arrival. A shutoff valve should have one piece that can “easily” be moved by a thumb or finger and a second stationary piece that acts as a stop. On the Camelbak, this system is simple and works well.
* Looking at these two Camelbak photos, you can see that the yellow piece moves and that there is decent access to the yellow tab when in the open position. *
On the Platypus, the piece that moves to activate the shutoff and the backstop are exactly the same size, so that you have to use a finger nail or other thin object to separate the two halves before you can activate the shutoff. This fails the simple and easy to do with a thumb or finger test, or even one hand test. However, a few careful cuts made with a tiny saw from a leatherman, and i was able to chop the stationary stopping piece down to size so that the moving piece is now easily accessible and easy to activate with just a thumb or finger.
* Looking at the Platypus pics, you can see that the clear plastic piece moves. The blue plastic was the exact same size as that clear plastic tab. Now that i have cut away some of the excess blue plastic, this Platypus valve is easier to work than the Camelbak. It is difficult to understand how the shutoff valve cleared product testing “as-is”. *
Despite the minor inconveniences faced in getting a working shutoff valve, i like the switch to Platypus. Camelbak has changed their design since my last purchase years ago, moving all their bladders and hoses to a “quick disconnect” system. I do not like these. For me they are trying to fix a problem that does not exist and adding in more parts that can and will fail.My old Camelbak 3 liter weighs 7.55 ounces and my new Platypus 3 liter weighs 3.7 ounces. Platypus wins!
**UPDATE: the Camelbak shutoff valves DO fit the Platypus tubes. These are cheaper, available off the shelf at your local hiking store, and work much better with no modifications. My current set-up: Playtpus Hoser 1 Liter bladder with Camelbak shutoff valve as my drinky bladder. 2 liter platy closed with platy cap to re-fill. The 1 liter size makes it much easier to monitor your intake and not drink more than you intend. The smaller 1 L size is also super easy to flip up out of a backpack and re-fill without having to remove all your gear.
A final anecdote from the last hike. After all of my careful planning and thinking about gear, all the time spent going through my gear again and again, and all the time weighing gear – i forgot to pack a spoon. I ended up using the handle of my toothbrush to stir my food (oatmeal breakfasts – custom dehydrated bean mix dinners) and just made the meals thinner and drank them. Perhaps i need to make a checklist? My dad was ribbing me about it and saying “maybe you need to get another spoon!” The saddest part may be this, i have 4 hiking spoons…
I ain’t perfect. Live and learn. Adapt and evolve!