Review: Source Hydration Reservoirs: Ultimate Hydration System and Divide Hydration System
Source shipped us two of their newest hydration bladders and wanted us to check them out. I’m not gonna lie, as a long distance hiker, right off the bat I was a little apprehensive about them. I mean, there are only really 2 or 3 big bladder companies out there(think Osprey, Camelback, and Platypus), so how come I’ve never heard of these guys, and what could they possibly have to offer that the big 3 don’t? A lot, apparently. I will say that since this is a site about long distance hiking, I’m going to review the bladders in terms of how they will relate to someone on a long hike or a thru-hike. I will though, point out a couple of the pluses that crossover to my other endeavors as well, like day-hiking, mountain biking, and ultra-running. Let me start off by getting a picture of both of the bladders on here. The first is their Ultimate Hydration System, and the second the Divide Hydration system.
So let me start with their “Ultimate Hydration System” and the one thing that threw me for a loop as a long distance hiker. What they call their Widepac(TM) slide closure seemed seemed like it could be a problem for the average thru-hiker. What I was most concerned about was leakage. We used Osprey bags with a plastic screw top and if you didn’t get the threading right or didn’t screw it tight enough, you were in trouble, as Nicole found out the hard way. It would slowly leak throughout the many times we might set our packs down throughout the day with the added pressure of not sitting upright. Sometimes, we needed a break and are just too tired to care about how we lay our pack down on the rocky, rooty ground that the trail provides. My thinking was that with too much pressure pushing up against the bladder if we laid our packs down right on it, there would be a good amount of messy, infuriating leakage. So to figure out if this was indeed an issue, I did a weight test…I grabbed the heaviest book we have, our trusty copy of America’s Test Kitchen, placed it upon the filled bladder, and topped it off with a 10 pound weight…
The results are in, and…No leakage after an hour! The Widepac closure worked with flying with colors. Source claims the bag is 100% leak proof and I now believe it. This was really my main concern with the bladder, I just wasn’t sure that the flap closure would hold up to the rigor’s and frustrations that thru-hiking will put this bladder through. That being said, the fact that it doesn’t leak means that it is a great candidate for us hikers! The huge benefit of having such a large opening is being able to easily wipe and clean it out once in awhile so you don’t get that nasty grody tasting water, especially when the water we’re drinking on the trail should be some of the best tasting in the world. We don’t like using cleaning tablets. The less chemicals the better! The wide opening also was big enough for my hand where the Osprey opening was not. If you have a wife with small hands, it is fine but if not, make sure you get this Widepac!
The other features that Source throws on their bladders are wonderful, and almost impossible to find all on the same bladder for any other brand. Their bite-valve twists open and closed, fending off the all-angering un-intentional leakage from a crimped mouth piece. It turns 360 degrees instead of the usual 180. The mouthpiece also has a little plastic cover that easily clicks on and off, preventing your mouthpiece from getting nasty when it gets set down in the dirt, AND IT WILL GET SET DOWN IN THE DIRT! Nicole also had what we think were mice chew away at her bite-valve because there were chunks missing and little teeth marks. (I think she just sanitized it and used it anyway.) Those little critters won’t get through the cover.
There are also quick disconnects at both the mouthpiece and at the point where the tube goes into the bag. This serves a couple of purposes, one it allows you to easily clean and get the water out of the tube, and it also allows you to pull out the hydration reservoir without removing the hose if you have it running through your bag and to your shoulder strap. We all know this can be extremely annoying. The first reservoir I ever owned had this feature, and it was amazing…that being said I haven’t seen quick disconnects in use for a few years, so it’s nice to see Source is forward thinking. There are gaskets that prevent the bag from letting the water gush out of the bag when you disconnect the hose. On top of the mouthpiece guard and the quick disconnects they also throw in the more popular magnet attachment, allowing you to have your tube magnetically held to your shoulder strap instead of flapping all over the place and messing with your peripheral vision while you try and take in all that nature you’ve set out to see!
The other cool feature they have is their “UTA – Universal Tube Adapter”. This little rubber gizmo clips right onto the mouthpiece end of the tube after you disconnect the mouthpiece and allows you to fill the pack directly from the tube, backflowing freshwater back into the bag. As a thru-hiker, this could be useful for those few times you run into taps, hoses, or hostel rooms with running water. The piece fits right over the tap and fills really fast. This is extremely convenient for the day-hiker or trail runner, who keeps their pack set up for short excursions. All you gotta do is go over to the sink, clip on the “UTA” and fill up. I tested this using the Sawyer Squeeze, pretending I was filtering water directly into the pack. When the pack was out on the ground or a table, this works very well, but when inside a pack, with the added pressure of your gear pressing up against the empty bladder, it get’s a little more frustrating at the added squeezing energy it takes to force the water into the pack. But again, with the quick disconnects, I would just pull out the bladder and fill it outside, saving the adapter for those times you can fill up off a tap, having the power of higher water pressure on your side. For thru-hikes, the UTA’s added weight might not be worth carrying it but it depends on your system. I also wouldn’t suggest getting any more than a 2 liter size because that will last you an entire day. You could get a smaller size and be OK or refill sometime during the day which many hikers did.
The tube also had an “Insulated UV-Block woven cover. Keeps liquid cool and bacteria-free from the first to the last sip.” I hiked with it in the winter so I couldn’t really test out whether it kept the liquid cool but it didn’t keep it warm enough to not freeze in the freezing Wisconsin winter. This feature might be a little excessive for a thru-hike. Reduce your weight and get a regular tube.
As far as weight, the Osprey reservoir is 10 oz because of all the plastic used for closing it and for the backer plate which keeps its low profile shape. The Source Ultimate Reservoir package I thought was 11 oz. but I can’t find where I saw that number anymore. However, it is way lighter if you don’t want the covered tube and the UTA. The same reservoir without those is 4 oz. 4 oz and the price is nice at $29.
The other bladder they sent me was their “Divide Hydration System”. This is simply a reservoir with two chambers and two separate hoses to drink out of. If you like to have water and some sort of energy drink with you out on the trail, this is perfect. I myself would use this more for day-hiking or trail running, as my wife and I didn’t really have enough room to carry an energy drink powder with us on the trail. But to each their own, this hydration reservoir has the same features as the other one with the exception of including the UTA and the covered hose.
I hiked multiple dayhikes with these reservoirs before reviewing them, and they stacked up very well against some of the larger brands out there. I feel they performed better, putting all of the desirable features (magnetic clip, quick tube disconnects, mouthpiece cover) in one hydration system along with a sturdy flap closure that allows ease of access and outstanding clean-up. The material they use they also advertise as longer lasting and inherently cleaner, saying “A multi-layer Polyethylene film utilizing SOURCE’s Glass-Like™ technology, which prevents bio-film build up making the system virtually self-cleaning. SOURCE’s Glass-Like™ Film is 2000% smoother than standard TPU films, with virtually no difference from glass itself.” With all the good things I’ve seen in their bladder’s, I’m thinking I’m also going to order a pair of sandals from them, as they seem like a great, forward-thinking company that is truly trying to implement all of the best functional features for the outdoor enthusiast. As a final note I would encourage everyone to take a look at their website and consider their hydration systems for you next adventures, as I’m sure they’ll hold up for a long time, find them here. I’d like end by saying that I do not have any connection to the company other than the fact that they sent me these two bladders to try out and review.
Source Ultimate Hydration System 2L/3L – $55
Source Divide Hydration System, 3L – $45
Source Widepac Hydration System, 2L/4 oz – $29
Osprey Reservoir, 2L/10 oz – $34
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