Low-end product review of the month - Camelbak Hydrobak

I got a gift card from Dick's Sporting Goods for my 60th birthday and this is what I got.
Dick's lists it for $29.99 and manufacturer's MSRP is $30 so not much of a deal although I think I might have paid $24.95. Can't remember.

This unit is the smallest capacity they make at 50 oz except for the kid's models. Great entry level hydration pack for a beginner like me! ;-)
Overall I am completely satisfied with the Hydrobak. It works great and looks great. The mouthpiece is easy to drink from.
The capacity is good for a 1 to 1-1/2 hour ride depending on the person, intensity and temperature of course.
Now that my rides are running 2-7 hours I find that carrying an extra 20 oz on my bike and maybe stashing a bottle of G2 in my fanny pack is a good workaround until I get to a store.
The only storage on the unit is a zipper pocket on one side maybe big enough for a set of keys or a cell phone.
The black handle around the reservoir cap makes refilling the reservoir easy.
The only negative I found with the unit's design is the reservoir cap itself. It can get very tight and therefore very difficult to remove. I have pretty strong hands and it can take me a lot of exertion with both hands to remove it. I can't imagine what a person with weaker hands would have to do. I find that you don't have to tighten it all the way to have a water proof seal and that helps with removal.
The other thing was that the cap is fastened to the handle by a thin strip of plastic. I assumed it was more durable than it actually was and didn't pay much attention to keeping twists out of it. It eventually broke on me. The main purpose of it, I suppose, is to avoiding losing the cap when it is removed for drying the reservoir. I find that if I stuff the detached cap in the zipper pocket, that serves the purpose pretty well. So be careful with the cap. Don't let the plastic strip twist and it should last.
Okay, I've saved my biggest gripe for last. And that is, as it frequently is with me, with the documentation or lack thereof. Especially since this is marketed as an entry level/beginner's product you would think they would be especially concerned with instructions. In a day when even a can of soup has instructions (open can, pour into pan, heat) I think this is inexcusable. It was a source of a lot of frustration for me initially. First of all I didn't know whether or not you were supposed to remove the reservoir from the pack to fill it. You don't. This may seem obvious to more seasoned cyclists but it certainly wasn't to me and I didn't have anyone more experienced to ask about it. Then, the first time I used it on a ride, it stopped flowing on me. It was in the winter but the temperature was just at 32 degrees so I really didn't expect it to freeze up. I kept fooling with it and sometimes it would work a little and then quit. I eventually gave up very frustrated. Later, I figured out what that little yellow plastic thing is near the mouthpiece. It's a shutoff valve! Apparently with me fiddling with the mouthpiece it had got partly shut off and sometimes it worked and sometimes by handling it, it got turned on again. How is a rank beginner supposed to know about this? They don't even list it as a feature on the packaging! Incomprehensible!
Having got that out of the way, I love this thing. It's a great buy and the quality is great. If you're just starting out and are going to doing rides under 2 hours and/or you're short on cash, I can't recommend the Hydrobak highly enough. If you're sure you're going to be riding longer and you have the bucks, get one of the 70 or 100 oz capacity ones.

Posted in |