Geigerrig has created a hydration system that is very unique, challenges the status quo and bends the rules when it comes to water bladders and hydration systems. The Rig 500 Pack, Hydration Engine, and In-Line filter were all provided by Geigerrig for review purposes.
The Rig 500 Pack:
Factory Specifications: (in italics)
Fabric: Ballistic Nylon
Capacity: 500 cu. in. (dry capacity)
Weight: 2.65 lbs / 1.20 kg
Zippers: Heavy Duty, Size 8 Coil Zippers
Shoulder Strap: Ergonomic Fit, Terraced Overlay for Adjustable Tube Configuration and Power Bulb Configuration, Industrial Load Dispersement cut and padding
Chest Strap: Integrated slider chest strap
Additional Features: Plug & Play Reservoir Tube Connector, PVC Reinforced Compression Straps, Reflective Tabs & Zipper Pulls, Internal Storage Compartments and Organizer, Eco Rig Back Pads, Air Drive Ventilation, Heavy Duty Nylon Pack Handle and Vertical attachment hoops, removable waste strap.
At 2.65 lbs, the pack is anything but lightweight for its small size. Created of ballistic nylon seems to trade its weight for durability and ruggedness.
The main compartment has a sleeve for the water bladder which slides into the back wall of the pack (the one closest to your back as you wear it) and it also has two mesh compartments on the opposite side secured by zippers. The two hoses from the hydration engine have two access points to the outside of the pack located inside the pack at of both of the shoulder straps. This is a very streamlined and clean looking way to use the hoses. There are four different exits points on each of the shoulder straps so that you can customize just how much of hoses you want to be shown.
There are two mesh pockets inside the pack. Each of the interior mesh pockets measures out to be about 7 in. x 6 in. in size. If you can see in center photo below, my wallet fits very comfortably with much space to spare. Both of the pockets are mesh and do not protect from any sort of moisture or condensation from the water bladder. In the photo below, I placed ice in the water bladder and the condensation from the bladder soaked one side of my wallet. If you plan on keeping anything in these two pockets that can be damaged by water, I suggest placing them in something water-proof. Besides the water bladder and what you can fit in the small mesh pockets, there is not a lot of room to spare inside the pack for anything large.
Some the exterior features of the Rig 500 pack make up for the lack of space inside the pack. Two pockets on the front of the pack have a vertical zippered access. The smaller one is the perfect size for my iPhone and has an access point for your headphones. The pocket next to it is about twice the size of the “iPod ready compartment.” Each of these compartments are water proof, so rest assured your electronics are safe. The pack also boasts a removable hip belt as well as a sliding chest strap.
The pack also has two nylon reinforced compression straps that run across the front of the pack. The straps are long enough that you could lash almost anything that you wanted down to the pack.
The back of the pack has ample padding and ergonomically fits to accommodate your spine.
One of the necessities that I think every hydration system or pack should have is a clip for the hose on the shoulder strap. It keeps the hose in place and prevents it from flying around everywhere when you are hiking, mountain biking or whatever activity you are doing.
On one of the shoulder straps, there is an elastic mesh bag that your pressure bulb fits snugly into. You can slide this bag up and down the strap to find the most comfortable position to pressurize the bladder.
Because this mesh bag that holds the bulb cannot be removed, it appears that they hydration engine can only be used with a Geigerrig pack in order to accompany the bulb in order to keep it secure. For me, this is clearly a limitation as I am not able to take it along on any overnight trips in a larger pack because you are not able to keep the bulb secure on the shoulder straps with the mesh bag.
The Hydration Engine:
The Geigerrig Hydration engine is also (used exclusively by Geigerrig) the Ogwa Hydration reservoir. This reservoir, manufactured by Ogwa is “hosted exclusively” by Geigerrig.
Check this video for a quick overview of the hydration engine:
Specifications: (info from website in italics)
Capacity: 70 fl. oz / 2 L
Material: #15 Denier Polyurethane: This is a tougher polyurethane that minimizes any ballooning affect that may occur when the reservoir is pressurized for spraying. GEIGERRIG Pressurized Hydration Packs have a top quality Hydration Engine. The reservoir is Phthalate, BPA, and PVC free.
Access: The reservoir uses an opening that extends along the entire width of the bladder. The top of the reservoir folds over once and is manufactured with a small rail for a plastic slide to run over to secure the opening.
The mechanism is easy to use and provides very easy access in order to clean out the bladder. My only problem with the slide mechanism is that it can easily be detached from the hook that secures it to the exterior of the reservoir meaning that is is very possible to lose the slide.
This top opening access allows the reservoir to be flipped inside-out so that it can be cleaned more easily and can even be placed into the dishwasher.
Valves: The Hydration system utilizes a couple types of valves that you most likely have not seen on any other hydration system that you have used. In partnership with Hydrapak, the drinking valve, aka the “Surge Valve” has multiple design factors that set it apart. With a little pressure, the soft rubber tip allows the water to exit in a comfortable and steady rate. The valve also twists 180 degrees in order to shut the flow of water on or off.
The valve is easy to twist if you are using either both hands or one hand and your teeth. I used the Geigerrig pack and hydration engine on a short bike ride and the best I could do was open the valve with one hand and my teeth. For this easy ride on pavement, this was not a problem, but I can see how it could prove to be problematic mountain biking when you cannot sacrifice one of your hands beyond bringing the valve to your mouth. The alternative is to leave the valve in the open position. This causes a small amount of water to leak each time any pressure is administered, which can be every jolt and bump on the trail. I have also found that if there is too much pressure in the air chamber of the bladder, when you put pressure on the bite nozzle for the water to exit, water will also leak from the seam where you twist to shut the water flow on and off. If you release some of the pressure, the water still flows at a good rate and the leaking stops.
For connections to the bladder, Geigerrig uses “quick release valves” that clip into the quick connect used for the valve ports on the bladder. A quick depression of the button on the valve allows you to remove the tubes from the entry and exits ports.
Pressurization: The Hydration Engine utilizes a two-chamber bladder in order to “pressurize” the water and allow it to stream out of the hoses. The bladder has an input hose and valve for the air, and an an output hose and valve for the water. The input (air) valve is at the top of the bladder, while the exit valve (water) is at the base of the bladder.
To push air into the air chamber, the bladder is equipped with an air bulb, very similar to that found on a blood pressure cuff.
If the bladder is fully filled with water, it takes only about five pumps on average in order to pressurize the chamber enough for the water spray. At the base of the bladder is another valve which connects to the hose with the “Surge Protector Valve” that you drink out of. Each of the chambers is made of #15 Denier Polyurethane, which is strong enough to minimize abrasion and wear and also minimizes the “ballooning” the bladder experiences when air in inside under pressure. Rather than pushing air into one single chamber to pressurize the water and possibly contaminate the water with dirty air, the hydration engine uses a separate chamber which air is pushed into. Once inflated, this air chamber places pressure of the chamber which holds the water and allows the water to exit under pressure. The air chamber’s exterior is coated with nylon to prevent the above mentioned ballooning effect as well as enable the bladder to slide into the pack easily (the sleeve inside the packs is also made of nylon). The only limitation that I have found with this design so far is that there is consistently about 250 mL left in the bladder which will not exit under pressure. This is not a large amount of water, however, in a 2 L bladder, this is about 1/8 of its total capacity. I believe this is due to the air chamber exerting a uniform amount of pressure on the water chamber which disallows the remaining water to exit the valve at the base of the bladder. To remedy this problem, all you have to do is release all of the pressure in the air chamber, and suck on the valve to remove the last amount of water.
WARNING: ALWAYS RELEASE PRESSURE FROM BLADDER BEFORE YOU ATTEMPT TO OPEN. (SEE VIDEO BELOW)
Geigerrig also offers a filter that can be integrated easily into the hydration engine to offer you a water purification solution while you are on the trail. Key to this filter is the pressurization of the water passing through the hoses. The water, having been pressurized, passes through the filter and out of the “Surge Protector Valve” at which point the water is then purified and safe to drink. All you have to do is fill your bladder in the closest body of water, pressurize the hydration engine, and you are ready to go.
Here are the manufacturer specifications: (in italics)
- Filter Size: In-Line Portable Water Filter. 5.5 inches Long X 1 In. Diameter. Easily carried in our hydration packs.
- Filter Capacity – Gallons: Rated to Filter Up To 50 Gallons – Your Hydration Pack now gives you a much greater range. 50 gallons!
- Weight: .06 Kg
- Tested and Certified: Removes >99.9% Cryptospordium & Giardia – Your hydration pack now protects you when you need to refill in the field.
- Filter – Coconut Shell Carbon: Activated Coconut Shell Carbon reduce waterborne chemicals, improves taste and eliminates offensive odors.
- Filter – Mirigard Antimicrobial Technology: Suppresses the growth of bacteria, algae, fungus, mold and mildew within the filter media.The Geigerrig filter is tested and certified to remove the EPA requirement of >99.9% of Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
Still want to know more about Geigerrig gear? Check out these extensive reviews by two of our other writers on other Geigerrig products.
This pack and hydration system has a lot to offer and changes the way that hydration systems work. I am excited to see how it works on the trail and I will have an update in about an month from now.
Update: December 11, 2011
First, I want to apologize for the time since my initial review of the Geigerrig Rig 500 Ballistic. I have been able to use the pack in a variety of activities since then and want to update you on some observations that I have made.
A recent day trip with my wife and new hiking buddy Bo emphasized a few specifics about the Geigerrig Rig 500 Ballistic.
- The plastic slide clip that closes the top of the bladder easily disconnects from the bladder itself making it easy to lose/misplace. Without the slide, the bladder becomes pretty much useless. I had a little scare a couple days ago but luckily found the slide clip at the bottom of the pack. In summation: DON’T LOSE THE SLIDE CLIP.
- The pressurized water stream is perfect for pets along the trail. Whether you need to fill up their water container or give them water straight from the hose, the Geigerrig hydration system makes it easy. Bo didn’t complain and neither did I.
It was great not having to remove my pack or take out a water bottle to fill his bowl. With other water bladders that I have used, this is not possible to do with the ease that the Geigerrig hydration system provides.
- As I mentioned in my initial review of the Geigerrig Rig 500, there is not much room to spare in the interior of the pack with the water bladder full. Don’t count on putting much more than a few small items like a wallet keys and phone in the two exterior pockets. Stuffing these exterior pockets full compromises the space in the inside of the pack as they both compete for the same space on the front compartment of the pack. I am still wary of placing anything of value or electronic inside the pack without it being in some sort of waterproof casing.
- If you have ever used a water bladder in the past, you will know how easy it is to forget and leave water in the bladder for an extended period of time after you use it. This often leads to mold buildup in the bladder and most of the time you don’t discover this until you are minutes away from heading out the door on your next excursion. While the Geigerrig Hydration Engine is not immune from this problem, it is reversible and dishwasher safe. If you are like me, this is perfect for cleaning after all of those times I forget to empty the bladder and am welcomed by science fair caliber mold inside the bladder needing to be cleaned.
- The hoses that the hydration system uses are unlike hoses used on many other types of water bladders. The quick release valves have made it difficult for me to eliminate the remaining water that is in the hose after use. While I have not had any issues with visible mold, it doesn’t help my peace-of-mind allowing that small amount of moisture to remain over an extended period of time.
- They hydration engine usage is limited to the size of the pack. The Geigerrig Rig 500 Ballistic hydration system is reinventing the way that you can stay hydrated while you hit the trails. I still wish that the engine could be used in other packs, but it makes hydrating on the trail so easy that I am content to wait and see if Geigerrig creates a more versatile model. Find what activity you most need this great hydration engine for and purchase the Geigerrig pack that corresponds to your activity.
- The Geigerrig Rig 500 Ballistic hydration system is a luxury, not a necessity (for now at least). Once the hydration system becomes compatible with other non-Geigerrig packs, then I would easily make this my next purchase.
Thanks to Geigerrig for the opportunity to review this awesome gear!