When I was asked what size I wanted to test I looked at my pack (High Sierra Karadon 65 L) and measured the hydration sleeve. It measured about 16 inches tall and 10 inches wide. I looked at the measurements of both the 2 L and 3 L and both were just a tad tall for my pack but the 2 L was way narrower. According to the website, the Windigo 3 L measures 17.4 inches long by 8 inches wide and the Windigo 2 L measures 16.8? long by 6.4 inches wide. I decided to try the 3 L thinking it wouldn’t matter of it stuck up just a smidgen. Turns out, it fits almost perfectly as can be seen in this photo. The top corners (blue) are barely visible.
I found that the retaining clip that holds the magnet to which the magnet on the bite valve stick can be mounted to either a vertical or horizontal strip of webbing. I first tried it on my left side and attached to the left shoulder strap on my pack but it made the hose stick out several inches beyond my shoulder. If I mounted it on the other side (across my right shoulder) it caused the bite valve to be backwards but then I discovered I could just undo the midline quick connect, twist the hose to a new position and reconnect and make the mouth piece face any direction. The sticking out part remained though so my solution was to mount it across my left shoulder but attach it to the right shoulder strap on my pack. It is not too tight and not to loose and I can easily grab it and get a drink. I did find I needed to twist the hose slightly to get it to lay flat on the magnetic retainer which in turn meant it wasn’t perfectly aligned when I placed it to my mouth. But it seems to stay attached to the magnet much better this way. Here is how it looks mounted this way.
Interestingly, it would not fit in the hydration sleeve of my much larger pack (85 L Gregory Keeler) and even the 2 L version would be too tall. However, I could just place it in the pack since I don’t put sharp objects in my main compartment. It is also too big for any of my day packs. I’m looking for a good pack to use with it when riding my bike or Elliptigo.
I wanted the 3 L over the 2 L because if I’m carrying water for a short overnight hike 3 liters will pretty much be all I need. Now granted, if I will be hiking very far I’ll probably go through more than 3 L, but I’m also testing a personal water filter (Lifestraw Go) and can use that when I’m near water. I will need to treat any water I add to my reservoir once I’m out on the trail. I’m currently using Aqua Mira for this but I may try one of the newer gravity filters. I’m also going to see if I can use the reservoir while biking. I have recently started going on longer rides and I’m finding my 2 water bottles are not enough. I even ran out one afternoon when I carried a 2 L bladder of water along with a 32 oz Gatorade. It was about 95 F and I was pushing pretty hard but I saw right then that I was going to need more capacity for fluids when riding in rural areas with no place handy to top off my water supply.
I’ve haven’t actually used the bladder yet other than get it adjusted to the pack I plan to use it with. So other then the manufacture specifications I don’t have any more to say right now. Here they are. It fails to mention it is PVC/BPA free but the packaging does as well as some of the literature on the website.
Easy open, wide-mouth top fill port
-USA-made, taste-free reservoir film
-Insulated drink tube
-High flow bite valve with push button shut-off
-Magnet bite valve retainer
-Mid-line quick connect
Update: November 18, 2016
The Mazama Windigo 3L Reservoir has worked really well for the applications I managed to use It for. This would be mostly for backpacking but I also used to on a kayaking trip and actually drank more water from it then than when hiking. I’ll explain below.
I had the bladder for a couple of weeks before actually trying it on an overnight hike. I loaded all my gear in my pack and filled the Mazama with my water. The plan was to use the water in the bladder while hiking and then use some regular water bottles for my overnight use. I took off fairly late in the afternoon but only need to hike about 2 miles to my campsite so everything was good. Or so I though. About a half mile down the trail I decided to get a drink from the Mazama but couldn’t get any water from it. I vaguely remembered seeing or reading instructions on how to turn the valve on but had forgotten exactly what was needed. I fiddled with it a few minutes before realizing I wasn’t going to get any water from it. I reluctantly turned around to go home and researched the problem. I couldn’t find anything with a quick internet search so decided to just call the manufacture. I purposely did not mention that I was testing the reservoir so that I would get normal treatment just like any other costumer. I wish I could remember whom I spoke with because they were most helpful and apologized that I had trouble. They also said they were working on an easier design. They made sure I had it figured out before saying goodbye. It was also nice to speak to someone who was intimately familiar with the product.
I won’t go into the shutoff valve design but it is basically a raised surface on the elbow of the drinking piece that has to be pushed forward to open. It does have a small arrow pointing in the direction it needs pushed but I failed to notice it. Now that I know where to look I see it ever time I look at it. Anyways, my problem was solved and I took off for my hike, this time rushing a little so I could get to my campsite before dark. I ended up tying the last knot for my hammock in the dark but all’s well that ends well. I did drink quite a bit while hiking, mainly because I was testing the reservoir. I really appreciated not having to stop and take off my pack to reach my water like it do with my water bottles kept in the side pockets on my pack. I found it easy to drink from the mouth piece but it takes a little more sucking force to drink from it than from a straw like you get at McDonalds. I repeated the same trip 2 more times during the next several weeks and was pleased with the Mazama. I usually ended up drinking about half the water. Since it was cool and I was hiking late in the afternoon or early the next morning it was not real hot and I was never extremely thirsty. I also ended up needing to get up and pee a lot on that first trip since I actually drank a lot more than I needed. I planed one more overnighter but we had so much smoke from forest fires I decided not to go for safety sake. I prefer to be able to smell smoke from a nearby fire. I also have asthma and was not going outside anymore than necessary. It was so strong I don’t think I could have differentiated between the ever present smoke and smoke that might mean I was near a local fire.
I also used the Mazama for one kayaking trip. I paddled 4 miles in about 4 hours. I paddled back to a small tributary and crossed a beaver dam to get into the stream but with the extreme drought conditions the lake (Guntersville) was down which meant I was paddling through low water at times. This and the weeds that grow near the shore made forward progress difficult in several places. I lost a sandal in the muck as I crossed the beaver dam but was able to dig it out with my paddle. I say all this to say that I worked up a good thirst and ended up drinking over half the water bladder (I estimate about 60 oz). I had filled it with ice (topped off with water) at home at around 11 AM just before heading out. The wide mouth made filling it from my refrigerator ice dispenser a snap. By the time I got home abut 5 hours later it was nearly dark and the ice was all melted but the water was still cool. It had warmed up to around 75 F for a few hours which coincided with the time I was working the hardest. I placed the reservoir behind my kayak seat and ran the hose around the side of the seat within easy reach. One thing I did notice was that if I went more than 30 minutes without a drink the water in the tube got lukewarm. The hose is insulated but it was probably warmer then normal in the kayak with its black floor (see photo above). I just took a few good swings before getting cold water. No biggie since I like to rinse my mouth when I get a drink. Again, it was nice to be able to get a cold drink anytime I felt thirsty. If I were going to be out all day I might take a styrofoam cooler to hold the bladder and just cut a small slot near the top to run the hose out of the cooler.
Final Update: January 23, 2016
I finally got to use the Mazama 3L on a decent 3 day 2 night backpacking trip but stormy weather did cause my mileage to be lowered. The trip occurred Jan 19 -21 and was along the Pinhoti Trail in east central Alabama. I started the trip with 3 liters of water in the Mazama Windigo and 1.6 liters of water in the 2 side pockets of my backpack. The plan was to use the Mazama water while hiking and use the other water while in camp so I would not need to remove the Mazama from my pack. Since we shortened each days hike considerably too about 6 miles the first 2 days and only a mile on the last day I had enough water in the bladder to last the whole trip with just a little left over. I didn’t measure it but there was about a cup full of water in it when I emptied my pack at home. The hiking was about as tough as any trail could be and I averaged about 1 mile an hour most of the time. In fact, I only managed 2 mph on the last day when lighting made me hurry along.
Using the Mazama Windigo on the trail was easy and I was able to get a drink anytime I wanted, something I often skipped when using side water bottles because of the aggravation of removing my pack. It also did not leak a drop during the entire trip and I had my pack stuffed tightly at the beginning of the trip. I found keeping the bite valve in my shirt pocket was easier than clipping it to the magnet on my shoulder strap so I just started keeping it there. The magnet does work so it was really just a matter of me being lazy. It I were in a tee shirt with no pockets I would have used the magnet.
Cleaning the bladder when I got home was also a no brainer. I simply dumped the remaining water and rinsed it with hot water. I then put more in and added a little dish soap, sealed it up and shook it vigorously and held it up to run some through the drinking tube. I then rinsed it out with more hot water, emptied again and dried the inside with a paper towel, making sure the drinking tube was also empty. I then placed the drinking tube down inside the bladder to hold it open slightly to let it completely dry
I was not sure I would like using the Mazama Windigo 3L due to earlier experiences with other bladders but that was mostly due to how hard they were to clean and especially how hard they were to dry. The big flat opening is a game changer and I will not likely use any other type bladder in the future. I also appreciate that Mazama is a small American company and makes their gear right hear in the good ole USA!
This concludes my testing of the Mazama Windigo 3L bladder. My thanks to Mazama and 4alloutdoors for making this test possible