Around the time our highly anticipated test pack shipments arrived, we were still blanketed under a good twelve feet of snow after a long and especially powdery winter. This meant we had to get creative, so the first part of our test was mostly spent on casual spring backcountry ski tours. While this wasn't what we'd anticipated, it did allow us to push the limits of our larger hydration packs' storage capacities. The gear needed for ski touring, even in the spring, is bulkier and heavier than your typical gear that would be carried while riding, hiking, or running.
After a few snowy weeks, we were finally able to start hitting the trails around the Lake Tahoe area in both Nevada and California. The majority of our testing was done while mountain biking and we rode as much as we could as the snow receded and our trails came back to life.
Our testers spent several weeks, riding, hiking, and trail running around the Tahoe area. We tested each pack in varying conditions for several criteria including: ease of drinking, ease of filling, comfort, storage, weight, and ease of cleaning.
Aside from the field testing, we spent some time in our laboratory okay, this reviewer's kitchen. Since we had noticed definite differences in ease of drinking from each pack, we decided to do a side by side time trial of sorts. This involved filling the packs up with one liter of water, hanging the bladders from the same height, then priming the tube. At this point, we'd start the stopwatch while simultaneously squeezing the bite valve at the point of maximum flow. Each model was timed from start to completely drained and times were recorded to determine the rate of flow for each model.
We performed side by side tests including comparisons for ease of filling the water bladders, this included accessing the bladder and actually filling it. To test cleaning, we broke out our cleaning kits and an assortment of dish rags, sponges, and towels.
Since manufacturer's claimed weights can be a little less than accurate, we also weighed each hydration pack on the same scale and recorded the results for you.
Armed with all of our test results and field observations, we hope you'll be able to make a more informed hydration pack purchase!