Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: Source - Storm WXP 3L hydration bladder

Here's a much loved but oft forgotten item in my survival, training and adventuring kit. This is the
Source Storm WXP 3L hydration bladder which has seen some pretty heavy use in the past, and I thought it was fully worth showing the light of day.

Ive covered some hydration systems in the past, such as the the Platypus PIB hydration pack and several hydration bladder carriers, such as the lustful Geigrrig Tactical Guardian (I'd love to get my paws on one of these) the 0.75L version that come in the Tactical Tailor Joey hydration pouch and the backpack style Platatac Bravo pack. This isn't my first Source 3L bladder, as I failed to follow the care-and-cleaning guideline of DO NO USE BOILING WATER ... they melt. Hot enough for your hands is hot enough. More on this later.

The bladder itself is constructed from a very special three layer, coextruded polyethylene construction with a very special low maintenance liner layer. Integrated Grunge-Guard™ antimicrobial surface. This  435 micron thick surface prevents bio-film build up, my being almost glass-smooth, (Source quotes it as being  2000% smoother than standard TPU films, with virtually no difference from glass itself. This reportedly improves the systems self-cleaning function.

The wide opening access at the top opens with a slide closure for easy filling, draining and cleaning. The fold and slide lock gives a strong, airtight seal. A retaining cord ensures clumsy finders don't drop it in the muck, or let it wash downstream. It also means that you can add ice, or powdered drink supplements.

I found all the seams, including those at the tube attachment point to be very strong and well placed to take any tension that the bladder is challenged with, so far.

The drinking tube attaches to be bladder with their propriety QMT™ Quick Mate Technology hose fitting, which offers push button convenience, no leakage, and click-in compatibility with USMC Miox filter system. Sometimes the clip can be a little stiff, but hardly much of an issue for me, as I rarely took these off, except to rinse. However, even at the tube tip the QMT is completely self sealing.

This means that even with a full reservoir you can change tubes, add valves or whatever, without worrying about drips or leaks. Great for fitting a full bladder into a pack that already has a hose run through it. Sometimes hydration tube ports can be a snug fit.

The drinking tube is 94cm (37") long, and contains its own valve built in. Again, no drips or leaks when changing the tip or feeding it through bags and gear. The tube cover both insulates and blocks UV-light.

This helps your water cool and bacteria free from first to last sip. I really noticed this when doing long stretches in the sun with this. the temperature gradient from tube-to reservoir was always delightfully small.

The very cool push/pull Storm Valve isn't a bite-valve, being a pull-open plug like on a sport bottle. It apparently delivers 25% higher flow than bite designs. The integrated valve has a twist-lock which will lock the valve in the "off" position, so you don't have to worry about inadvertent leakage. It is also set at 90 degrees from the tube, which apparently reduces the required tube length (for twisting it around to have kink-free drinking) by 25cm! It also rotates 360 degrees, allowing you to place the valve end on any side of your gear, and have access to it.

It comes with a dirt-shield cover, which is also dummy-corded on, and can be cinched with a dedicated slit, to stop it from dangling and rattling about when not used.

In addition to the Widepac wide opening access at the top, with its hanging slot,  the bladder also has a screw-top opening, which incorporates a carry-yoke. The yoke can be rotated to best suit your carry style, but allows even gloved hands to hold the bladder open for refilling without contaminating the reservoir.

The gasket screws down over the yoke to hold it in place, and is also dummy-corded to the wide-mouthed cap. I have had some troubles with the gasket winding loose, and this impacting on the seal the cap gets, but if its screwed down tight, all should work out well. 

Evacuating all the air from the bladder keeps it very quiet, no canteen-sloshing noise-disipline worries there, and the placement of the tube to the bladder means you pretty much get every drop emptying out, you can even set it to run continuously, using siphoning, to get regular irrigation, or when running detergent through it to clean it. The guys at Platatac recommended throwing it, washed but not dried into the freezer as a decontamination step, which is a far better idea than melting it with overly hot water, I have to say.

This particular bladder has seen me through camping, long haul drives, and three Tough Mudders, and it's going strong! I even inflated it and used it as a flotation aid when diving off one of the "Walk the Plank" high dives on Tough Mudder.

I'd love to try one of the Universal Tube Adapter  attachments, which lets you fill the pack from the drinking valve, from taps or bottles, without having to take it off your pack or out of a pack.

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