CamelBak is a name that is synonymous with one of the four basic elements of the world–water. Over the past couple of decades, CamelBak was the first to bring us outdoors folks the concept of hydration via a water bladder and hydration tube. Since that time, they’ve expanded their line to cover just about any outdoors endeavor you can imagine, whether it’s for military applicaitons, industrial use, for rescue work, or all of the fun stuff we do like hiking, snowboarding, backpacking, mountain biking, and so forth. But, now that the concept is fully entrenched in the minds of outdoors people, CamelBak has come up with a couple of more ideas to make working with water a little more high-tech, and it’s the first item which really got me hook line and sinker. It’s CamelBak’s new All Clear water purification system and it is based on Ultra Violet technology.
A little while back, we did a review on a UV purifier and we really liked the technology and the speed with which it did the job. For instance, if you use some of the more popular purification tablets today, it can take up to 4 hours to neutralize all biological water contaminants. With UV technology, everything is neutralized in just over a minute. The one niggle we had about that system we reviewed was that the glass bulb of the UV unit seemed fairly easy to break in the rough and tumble world of outdoors recreation since it just stuck out from the unit and was only covered by a plastic cap. However, CamelBak has come up with an interesting approach that makes the UV lamp a lot more secure while out and about. They have made the UV bulb a part of the actual lid assembly, so you simply slide the bulb into the bottle and then twist the cap shut. Once done, the water bottle acts as a protective shell to help prevent the bulb from being stuck or broke when dropped.
The benefit of using a UV system versus a filtering system is speed and overall effectiveness. First, when you want to purify your water, you don’t have to break out a special pouch with the filtering pump, hoses and the other gear. You simply fill up your water bottle, which is readily available, and just start the purification process almost instantly. The other speed aspect is that the UV process is much faster than the tablet method. Instead of waiting minutes or hours for a table to work completely, the UV approach to purification takes just a matter of seconds. Finally, as far as overall effectivness goes, UV treatment will take care of viruses as well. Almost all water filters on the market today will not treat for viruses unless they have some iodine component in their system, and there are some that do have that in place. For most filters, viruses are simply too small to be screened out by the filtration modules. And, if it’s a filter that does have an iodine component, you then have water that has that nasty iodine taste which you either have to ignore or use another method to get the taste out of the water.
CamelBak’s All Clear purification system is very easy to use, but if you forget something, the instructions are permanently written on the side of the bottle. You simply fill the bottle somewhere between the minimum fill mark and the maximum fill mark. Screw the lid assembly (with the UV bulb) into place, and then press the button to activate the bulb. It will run for about 80 seconds and the cycle will be complete. The cap is where the batteries are placed to power the unit, and it actually has a countdown timer on it to let you know how much time is left before the purification cycle is done. It is recommended that you turn the bottle at least a couple of times to agitate the water and make sure that all of it is thoroughly purified. That’s all there is to it! Bacteria, Protozoa, and viruses are all take care of in just over a minute. Right now, CamelBak is planning on brining two different variations of their All Clear system–one that takes 2 CR123A batteries, and another that will incorporate a rechargeable battery instead. I was told that the rechargeable battery would be a lithium ion type.
This is a great step forward for CamelBak, and also somewhat of a coup for them as well. Rather than having one entity take care of the hydration aspect and another to do the treatment, CamelBak has come up with an ingenius design that brings the best of the two worlds together into one system. And, using the All Clear system doesn’t negate the use of the hydration bladder system either. In fact, the All Clear purification bottle is actually an enhancement to a bladder system. You don’t have to drink from the bottle. Once the water is purified, you can simply pour the contents into your bladder and repeat the proces until the bladder is full, so you can keep moving on your expedition until you come to another watering hole. The two systems would work very well together out in the bush, especially in areas where the temperature are high and lots of water is required for daily consumption.
But, even so, the hydration system didn’t get ignored by CamelBak either. They’ve even come up with a new piece of technology that will be coming out in the near future with a couple of packs, and it can be retrofitted to existing packs as well. That’s their new Flow Meter. Yes, there are some tech heads out there that will find this new piece of high-tech kit very necessary, and it is actually interesting to see how they set this system up. The flow meter does just what it says. It measures the flow of water through your hydration tube, but it goes a couple of steps further. When you fill your hydration bladder, you can set the meter up so that it knows how many ounces are in the bladder that you filled. As you are out hiking or biking, the flow meter will keep track of how many ounces of water you have left in the bladder. It will show you something like 63/100 Ounces Left. Also, it has a timing mechanism that recognizes the pace of your drinking. So, based on the amount of water you have drunk over a period of time, the meter will also tell you how many minutes of water you have left at your current rate of consumption. No, I’m not kidding.
At first blush, my thinking was that this is a novelty more than anything. I’ve used CamelBaks for years and years and have never felt a pressing need to have a device that told me precisely when I was going to run out of water. Because, usually, I could just check to see how full the bladder was at the time. But, during my thirty hour drive home, I had a chance to think about all of the things I saw at the show, including CamelBak’s new Flow Meter. After some consideration, I can see where something like this device would be handy, and in some cases very practical to have on hand. I see the flow meter being an accessory for those fast-paced explorers who like to be efficient with their time each day. The Flow Meter would give them an idea of how soon they would need to stop to fill up the bladder without having to take the pack off and check every so often. Also, I can see it being a nice advantage for the adventure racer or expedition competitor when every single moment counts. I’m sure there are more things that I haven’t thought of where the Flow Meter would actually be practical rather than trendy, and it is an interesting piece of technology that helps to keep pushing the envelope in the hydration business. As mentioned, CamelBak will have packs coming out with the Flow Meters in place, and they will have kits available so you can retrofit the flow meter to your own pack as well. And, truth be told, novelty or necessity, I’m sure I will get one of these units because I am a tech-head at heart, and this certainly fits the bill.