One of the first purchases I made after I took up cycling was a Camelbak Hydration Pack. At the time I was mainly riding on off-road trails and water was hard to find. A few weeks after buying the Camelbak I had to go back to the sporting goods store to buy a cleaning brush kit and some cleaning tablets. Then I had to go back to buy a reservoir dryer—a plastic device allows you to hang the bladder of the Camelbak upside down so it will dry faster. After a year of messing around with two different Camelbak Hydration Packs I finally gave up on them and just started carrying my drinks in the water bottle cages on my bike. A few weeks ago the folks at JetFlow Hydration Systems sent me one of their new Tomahawk Hydration Packs to try. If you are tired of messing around with Camelbak packs, but still need a way to keep yourself hydrated, then the JetFlow products are going to be of great interest to you! This product is not only for cyclists—runners and hikers will also find it to be a great addition to their normal gear.
JetFlow’s Tomahawk Hydration Pack is similar in shape and function to Camelbak products, but in terms of functionality there is no comparison. Instead of relying on an internal bladder (water reservoir) like the Camelbak, JetFlow allows you to use almost any plastic bottle instead. JetFlow has a complete list of compatible bottles on their Website, but the list includes almost everything you will find at a convenience store from a 16-ounce bottle of Pepsi to a 24-ounce bottle of Aquafina or Dasani water, or even a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew! The advantage is that you never have to worry about a moldy bladder or bad tasting water again!
If you’ve ever used a Camelbak Hydration Pack before you are familiar with the two major parts: an expanding bladder holds the liquid inside the pack and a long hose leads out of it and ends with a bite valve (the business end of the system). JetFlow eliminates the hydration bladder and lets you use disposable water bottles (or Gatorade bottles, soft drink bottles, etc.). When you get home from your run, bike ride or hike you can simply throw the disposable bottles away. Since the JetFlow system also works with many insulated bottles or Nalgene bottles you can just put these items in your dishwasher for easy cleanup.
You attach a bottle to the JetFlow system using what they call a manifold—a piece of plastic where the water hose and bottle adapter meet. The manifold also has a second hose that lets air into your bottle to release vacuum pressure. The manifold is built to accept a standard 16 to 24-ounce water bottles—if the bottle you want to use has a larger opening (like a Gatorade bottle) you can use one of the two included adapters to connect the bottle to the manifold. Once connected to the manifold you just place the bottle upside down in the backpack and you’re good to go. I tested the JetFlow Hydration System on several occasions. The first time was with a 24-ounce Aquafina bottle, then I switched to a 20-ounce thermos bottle I had. The water delivery was smooth and the product never leaked.
JetFlow makes several different hydration packs. The Drone can hold one bottle up to 1.5 liter bottles (48 oz.) and has 250 cubic inches of storage space. The Tomahawk (featured in this review) has a maximum capacity of two 1.0 liter bottles with 250 cubic inches of storage space. The Raptor has a maximum capacity of two 1.5 liter bottles with 600 cubic inches of gear storage. The Warthog is the biggest pack they offer—it has a maximum capacity of two 1.5 liter bottles with a whopping 1350 cubic inches of storage space and 14 organizational pockets.
The important thing to remember when looking at these hydration packs is not the design of the pack, but the way the water is stored inside the pack! This product has two big (and very important) selling points: ease of use and ease of cleanup. However, I do want to mention a couple of things about the backpacks anyway. These packs all come with an earphone / headphone access port on the top of the pack. You can keep your iPhone or MP3 player inside the pack and still listen to your tunes. All of these packs also have active harness suspension, an adjustable sternum strap, and reflective piping.
JetFlow hydration system products are new to the market, so they are not yet available at your local bike shop. The Tomahawk retails for around $55. The best way to buy these products is from the JetFlow Online Store. You can also find their products on Amazon.com and at your local Cabela’s store (but not their online store).