There’s a lot of different types of hands-free hydration systems out on the market now – with the grandfather of them all being the well-known CamelBak. Of course there are plenty of companies that design special backpacks with the purpose of hydration in mind, and they can come in a wide variety of forms (over-the-shoulder pack, “fanny pack,” under-the-bike-seat pack, etc). But the common theme of these specialty hydration “vehicles” is that the method by which they deliver water is always the same. A soft, polyurethane bladder is connected to a tube that is secured somewhere close to your mouth, usually via a shoulder strap of some sort. The great part about this system is that you can easily chug H2O while biking, running, hiking, climbing, etc, without ever having to break form, change stride, or take both hands off the rock. It’s multi-tasking at its finest! But for all it’s efficiency, there is one major drawback – it doesn’t take long before those bladders (and tubes, and valves), get pretty nasty. And despite all of the conventional cleaning methods (tablets, wire brushes, and even bleach solutions, yikes!), keeping them mold-free is still a pain, no matter how hard you try. The problem is, there’s never been a better alternative…until now!
That’s where the Jetflow Hydration System comes in…Why not use a regular bottle and just turn it upside down? This innovative idea was developed by a group of outdoor athletes from Utah who were set on improving the age-old moldy bladder rig – what started out as an “unimaginative heap of bits that worked better than it should have” turned into a sleek and brilliant product that functions based on simple science. In fact, “simple” is one of their main claims – “simple to use, simple to clean, and simply better-tasting than the competition.” When these guys contacted me about a review, I was intrigued by the concept, and psyched to try it out. While the system can be fitted to any ordinary hydration pack, the Jetflow folks were gracious enough to provide me with a Tomahawk Pack along with the Jetflow kit. The pack can accommodate one 1.5 L bottle OR two 1 L bottles, and contains 250 cubic inches of gear storage space. And even though I get tired of saying it, I am required to disclose, so here goes: in no way are the opinions in this review biased towards Jetflow because I got my items for free!
Cragbaby and I took our Jetflow out for a test last week on a morning hike at McDowell Nature Preserve. The verdict? We’ll definitely be using it again! Here’s the breakdown of
my our opinion.
What We Liked:
Bite Valve: My other hydration systems have always had an on/off switch on the valve that must be operated by hand. Keep it open and the hose tends to drip. But keep it closed, and that’s one extra hand movement I have to do EVERY time I drink. It might sound lazy, but I’m not the most coordinated mountain biker in the world – it can make a difference! The on/off of this system is controlled by biting the mouthpiece – so if it’s not in your mouth, it’s not on, which means no leaking!
Use Any Bottle: While you of course can pour anything you want to in a conventional soft bladder, the hard-to-clean component means you’ll be tasting whatever that non-water liquid was long after it’s gone. But with this system, you can use a reusable Nalgene bottle one day for water, and a PowerAde bottle the next day – if the hose tastes like PowerAde, just run it through the dishwasher once. The kit comes with several different adapters, so virtually any type of bottle can be used.
Easy to Clean – ALL parts of the Jetflow system are dishwasher compatible! No more pretending you don’t see that funky-looking brown stuff at the bottom of your bladder…
No Vaccuum – If you’ve ever tried to open up a soft bladder that has been sucked dry, you know it can sometimes take a burst of extra-human grip strength to twist off the top of the bottle (and this is coming from a climber…) Because the Jetflow uses regular bottles, this problem is eliminated.
(For a better and more in-depth explanation that what I could give of how the system works, click here. )
TWO Hoses- The science behind this set-up operates on two tubes coming up from the manifold at the base of the pack, and secured to both shoulder straps, although only one tube has a mouthpiece (the other is a jet valve that maintains equilibrium as you drink and keeps the bottle from crushing.) It didn’t cause any problem, but having a hose on each side felt a little odd at first. (Cragbaby meanwhile is still insisting that the other tube is “broken.”)
Noisy Little Sucker – Not a negative unless you are using your Jetflow while you practice your ninja skills, but sucking on it does make a weird sound, especially towards the end of the bottle. Again, not really a problem – and if this was C’s post he’d probably put that tidbit in the “What We Like” category, because he thought the noise was hilarious…:)
And while I was instructed to focus my review on the hydration system, here’s a quick word about the backpack. Though it seemed durable and well-made, I found the storage capacity on the Tomahawk pack to be pretty small. (It held keys, cell phone, and camera just fine, but the trail food and field guide was almost too much…) In all fairness though it wasn’t the pack’s fault – it was probably designed more for one person’s afternoon bike ride or long trail run. The Raptor pack is probably better suited to a nature outing with a toddler, especially one that includes a picnic lunch – and it’s only $15 more. Cragbaby, on the other hand, was THRILLED with the compact size of the pack, and claimed rights to it almost immediately! And ironically, it was a pretty good fit! With the straps tightened down all the way, they were only slightly too wide, and the chest strap (well it was more of a waist strap for him…) kept it pretty snug on him without seeming uncomfortable. I did have to unhook the tube from the first two snaps so that he could drink it, otherwise when he pulled the tube to his mouth, the angle was so much that it kinked up the hose and blocked the water from flowing. But other than that, it was actually a pretty decent pack for a little guy! He carried it with pride for the majority of the hike, and even wore it all evening after dinner “to show Daddy.”
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to think that the Jetflow system could revolutionize the way we drink water. It’s simple, easy to use, and not to mention more sanitary and environmentally friendly (provided you reuse your bottles) than it’s polyurethane counterparts. My guess is that we’ll all be hearing a lot more about this company once the word gets out. A very well-planned and well-executed design, I would highly recommend the Jetflow to anyone looking to improve their hydration strategy. What is your or your family’s hydration strategy when it comes to morning, afternoon, or all-day adventures? Has anyone else tried this product?