By Jenn K.
This item was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of this review.
The Hydrapak Softflask is a collapsible bite valve flask to be used with energy gels or drinks. The flask body is made from a rubbery material (like a silicone type) that is soft and can be pressed or squashed to push the gel or liquid towards the bite valve. The bite valve is attached to the lid of the flask which screws on the flask body. The bite valve can be pulled off the lid for easy cleaning. The bite valve does not lock in place. However, it seems as though the only way the flask contents are expelled from the flask is by sucking on the bite valve. I pressed on the flask when it was full and no gel escaped from the bite valve.
It is recommended by the manufacturer to clean the Softflask with warm water and soap. Then leave the cap off to dry. I cleaned the flask prior to using it the first time with warm water and some soap. I let it dry overnight and only a few water droplets remained.
The flask was easily filled with the energy gel that I use for cycling. This particular gel that was used is not thick and is berry flavored. What was odd is that I could smell the berry flavor of my gel through the body of the flask when held close to my nose. I wanted to see how easily I could suck the gel out of the flask; and it was very easy. I would like to see how my thicker gels work in this flask and if I would need to add water to have the gel move freely out of the bite valve. I will find out by my next update on the Softflask.
Update: Hydrapak Softflask 8/9/12
The Hydrapak Softflask has been used the past month while road biking on both long and short rides. I used the Softflask for the first time on a short ride, just to get used to storing it and being familiar with where to store it is best.
I will say that I absolutely love the convenience of the Softflask. I just fill it up with my gel and off I go. With the Softflask I am not opening packets of gel while riding, getting my fingers/clothes all sticky, accidently littering gel packets or the rip-off tops, and money is not lost from buying individual packets. I always had an assumption that flasks were strange and I would call them baby bottles. But, after using a flask I discovered the convenience, cleanliness, and a cheaper way to enjoy my gel.
I have found that the Softflask works best when stored in my left rear jersey pocket. The flask is easy for me to grasp from that pocket while my bike is in motion. The Softflask is easy to grab while riding, it has not fallen out of my hands, and it is soft enough that when it is grasped it conforms to my grip. Also it can be squashed into my pocket, tossed in my gym bag and it does not leak. I cannot say that about my used gel packets that I used to have to carry until I found a trash can. I also like that after the gel contents are consumed the Softflask takes up less volume in my jersey. Initially when it is full and placed in my jersey the back pocket is puffed out and I can feel the flask against my back, but it does not feel hard.
I filled up the Softflask with 5 oz. of a thinner consistency gel (EFS) for a century ride this past weekend. By the end of the ride I consumed the entire flask. It was easily washed with warm water and soap. There was no need for me to use a brush as I was able to move the silicone body of the flask with my fingers to rub out the gel when soap and water was added to the flask. The bite valve is easily removed from the flask body and all three components were easily cleaned.
I like to use a thin gel in the Softflask, mostly for ease of getting the gel through the bite valve. I generally use the EFS Gel or a mix of the EFS and Crank Products Gel. I found that GU Gel and Hammer Gel products have a thicker consistency and work best when a slight bit of water is added to make it thinner.
During the next month I will be using the Softflask on my long weekend training rides and while biking from San Francisco to San Diego.
Final Update: Hydrapak Softflask 9/7/12
I have been enjoying the Hydrapak Softflask over the past month on my cycling adventures. During the past month I have logged over 800 miles of road and mountain biking. This includes one century in early August and completed a ride from San Francisco to San Diego California over the course of 7 days. I found the Softflask to be perfect for these long adventures.
This month I received the larger (8 fl. oz.) Softflask to review. This larger model is what I would say quite large, but ideal for rides over 150 miles. It is pretty much overkill for my century rides as the 5 fl. oz. flask provides me enough gel and nutrition for my ride. However, it is perfect for longer rides when I use more than 5 fl. oz. of gel. The other issue with the 8 fl. oz. size is that it tends to fall out of my jersey pockets that do not have a deep cut to them. So, I will stick to using the 8 fl. oz. ounce for my double metric and double century rides, and I will make sure to wear a jersey with deep pockets.
I like the convenience of the Softflask and I do not foresee myself in the future using single serve gel packets on long rides. First of all I save more money using the Softflask. There is no spilling when the flask is empty and can enjoy as much as I want and not worry about waste or gel oozing out of the package in my jersey pocket.
I also like that it is easy to suck the bite valve while I am riding and there is no ripping off a packet top or squishing the get out of a packet while I am trying the pedal. I am still using a gel that is a thin consistency rather than one that is thick that I have to water down so it easily passes through the bite valve of the Softflask.
Most of the gel can be consumed out of the Softflask. The Softflask can be easily pressed and scrunched to get most of the gel out. It also scrunches up well when stored in my pocket, in a pack, or during transport.
It has been fairly easy to wash the Softflask in warm water. Typically I just disassemble the valve and remove the lid from the flask. I then add some water to the flask body to remove any gel, and then I add a few drops of soap and squish it inside the flask with some water. There have been times that I have used a small brush inside the flask body for a more thorough cleaning. There have been times that I found it challenging to dissemble the bite valve. Typically I use a small pocket knife to dislodge the plastic piece from the silicone bite valve.
To be honest the Softflask is not cleaned after every ride. When I was on my coastal ride I kept refilling it with the same flavor gel over the course of the week, and then I just washed the flask when I returned home. There was no mold growth in the flask nor was there an odd smell. However, I noticed that the plastic of the flask body has become lightly stained from my gel.
I am very pleased with the Softflask. I am now hooked on using a flask for my big rides. The Softflask is a great addition to my cycling gear collection and I plan on using it in the future on my endurance rides.
The Softflask is available in a 5 and 8 fluid ounce size. The 5 fl. oz. size retails for $7.99 and is available in orange or blue accented colors. For more information please visit www.hydrapak.com.