Camelbak UnBottle 70 oz (2 L)
Owner Review by Sophie Pearson
June 21, 2009
Name: Sophie Pearson
Height: 5' 8" (1.71 m)
Weight: 180 lb (82 kg)
Email address: sophiep3 at gmail dot com
Location: Tampa, Florida, USA
I first started backpacking as a teenager in England. I did a
28-day trip in the Arctic, but most of my backpacking experience
has been weekend to 10-day trips, in a range of terrains and climates.
I am a volcanologist so I also do day hikes carrying loaded packs over
intense terrain. Nowadays I am generally in sub-tropical climates. I
am heading increasingly towards ultralight packing, and unless I am
sharing I use a bivy. I try to pack around 20 lb (9 kg) for long
weekend trips but have carried over 50 lb (23 kg).
The UnBottle is a hydration reservoir in a sleeve for insulation and protection. Clips on the sleeve allow the UnBottle to be attached to the outside of a pack.
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Size: 70 oz/2 L (also available 100 oz/3 L)
MSRP: US $35.00
Listed weight: N/A
Measured dimensions: 17 x 6.5 x 2.5 in (43 x 16.5 x 6 cm)
Measured opening diameter: 3.25 in (8.25 in)
Measured weight: 1 lb (0.45 kg)
The UnBottle is a hydration reservoir that is inside a sleeve. The sleeve serves two functions - it has clips to attach it to the outside of a pack, and it insulates the reservoir. The reservoir is similar to normal ones, i.e. a thick, rectangular plastic bag with a tube coming out of it, but has a bigger opening that is fitted into, and attached to, the sleeve. The opening has a large, circular, blue cover that twists into a black fitting that is circular except at the bottom where it is slightly extended. My older UnBottle is a plain, teal color, but the new design has some grey as well. At the top there is a grey strap that clips and is adjustable. On the sides there are four clips, one on each side near the opening, and one on each side near the bottom. In the middle of the front of the UnBottle there is a patch with the Camelbak logo on it. The back is plain, except an opening near the top where the tube comes out that closes with a hook and loop opening. The tubing fits onto a piece of plastic in the bottom of the reservoir at the front, inside the sleeve. The mouthpiece has a Hydrolock bite valve to minimize leaks. This simply has a small, tubular piece of plastic fitted at right angles to the valve. There is a hole drilled through it that sits in line with the tube to allow water flow, but when the plastic switch is rotated the plastic is solid and no water can flow. Mine is an older design that didn't come with a Hydrolock bite valve so I replaced the normal bite valve with one.
The back is plain, except for an opening with a hook and loop closure where the tube comes out.
The reservoir is a plastic bag with a connector at the front at the bottom that the tube attaches to.
The Hydrolock valve minimizes accidental water flow. When the hole is in line with the tube the water flows.
When the plastic switch is rotated the hole is not in line and nothing can come out of the tube.
I bought this bottle three years ago when I was on the way to do fieldwork in Nicaragua. Since then it has been up mountains and volcanoes with me, into caves and deserts, forded through 42 rivers in one day, on many kayaking trips, and been for uncountable walks in the woods. It has traveled at least 300 miles (480 km) over at least 100 days in Nicaragua, Ecuador and about 11 states all over the USA. Temperatures have been from below freezing up to 95 F (35 C), in every weather condition imaginable.
I love hydration reservoirs as I am not good at drinking water, and am not a particularly fast hiker so hate to ask people to stop so that I can have a drink. With a reservoir, drinking as I hike is so easy! The main reason I got the UnBottle was because I had a really cheap, supermarket reservoir that leaked in my bag and gave me quite a big headache one day. With the sleeve over it I thought that it would protect the bottle from punctures and damage, and also contain any leaks. I was right, and still to this day have not had a leak. The other reason I bought it was because of the insulation. As I live in a subtropical climate and most of my fieldwork is in the tropics, hydration is a big issue and everything gets really hot really quickly. I have never liked the taste of water, but hot water I find totally unpalatable. With this bottle the water stays a lot cooler and I therefore don't mind drinking it as much. Although it does warm up slightly over the course of a day it is still noticeably cooler than the water that is exposed sitting in the tube. In cold weather it also has the advantage that the water in the UnBottle hasn't frozen, and the tubing takes a lot less time to unfreeze than the entire 2 L of water.
The bottle that I bought had a Big Bite Valve. After sitting on it accidentally one day and drenching my shorts, I decided to buy a Hydrolock valve that could stop the flow. I bought the straight one and it lasted pretty well for over two years. Last month it fell apart as the yellow switch fell out totally, which means that the water does not even reach the bite part. There was no way to fix it so I bought a new valve, the Hydrolock that the new ones come with, that is at 90 degrees to the tube. I really like the fact that I do not have to worry about squeezing the valve by accident, and do not find that it affects flow. I would not go back to a simple valve for this type of bottle.
The other issue I had with the valve is cleanliness. Putting the UnBottle, or even my pack, on the ground it is impossible to stop the mouthpiece getting dirty. I used to brush it off but would still always get grit in my mouth. It worried me too about hygiene, especially on trails that are frequented by horses! I recently bought a bite cover from Camelbak and that has totally solved the problem. It makes it slightly more bulky but is definitely worth it. I also found that there would be some drips when I finished drinking that would go down my shirt, but with the cover over they are contained.
The mouthpiece would always get dirty so I had to buy a cover for it.
The biggest issue I have had with the bottle is trying to keep it clean. As I don't like the taste of water I frequently add a water flavor to it, and have found that the tube especially is very prone to mold. I have never been good at washing up or unpacking my pack straight away, and sometimes the bottle would sit there for a week or two, which I'm sure didn't help! I bought the Camelbak cleaning kit and managed to get the nastiness out of the bottle itself, which is not too hard as the opening is so big. Even after lots of scrubbing there were still black spots in the tube and mouthpiece. When the bite valve fell apart I took this as an excuse to replace the tube as well as the valve. After two uses, one of which was for 4 days so it had flavored water sitting in there all that time, there is no sign of mold. I have found that I really need to take it apart to clean it enough though. I remove the tube and run water through it, and pull the reservoir out of the sleeve part-way to give it a good scrub. The reservoir now has a yellowish tint and a slightly greasy feel, but the water tastes fine. Occasionally it takes a minute to get the water to flow out of the reservoir and into the tube, but it always does eventually. I do find it a real pain to clean though, and that has put me off using it for day trips or kayaking trips when I am not so bothered about easy hydration, or the water staying really cold.
Both the mouthpiece and the tubing got filled with a black mold that is impossible to get rid of. The yellow switch also started falling out so it leaked.
The reservoir now has a yellowish tint and a greasy feel when it is wet.
I like the size of the opening, and its irregular shape. It is really easy to fill, even when it is sitting in my pack (I have to take the mouthpiece off to fit the tube through the hydration port of my big backpack, so often will just fill it in my backpack). I find that it takes more like 1.5 liters unless it is lying totally flat with the opening held up in the air, which I can rarely do. 1.5 liters is about what I drink during a day of hiking though, and then I use my packed water when I get to camp. The irregular shape of the opening gives me something to grip when I am twisting the cap. This is useful normally, but vital when I have drunk all of the water out of it, because then there is nothing in there and it is a vacuum, so it is really tough to open it. Sometimes it can take me quite a while to unscrew it, or I even have to get someone to help me. The cap also has a little piece of plastic that feeds through the plastic opening on the sleeve, meaning that it can never be lost. The blue of the cap then twists inside a black ring in the cap that the plastic is attached to so that it can all move freely. This is a nice idea, but sometimes I find it gets in the way a bit. I still worry that the little piece of plastic might break too as it looks very flimsy, but so far it hasn't.
The opening is nice and large, with a blue twister in it to unscrew the cap, although it is tough when it is empty.
As I have hydration sleeves in my backpacks, and prefer to keep my water, my heaviest thing, close to my back, I like to keep the UnBottle inside my pack. This means that all the hooks and straps are superfluous. I was thinking of cutting them off, but they are well attached and might come in useful one day! They catch on the edges of the hydration sleeve in my backpack, which is a pain, but other than that I don't think they make too much difference. One of my friends has the same bottle and he uses the hooks to attach the UnBottle to the outside of his pack and swears by it. It does look like it works well, but I just don't want to do that. Apparently they can also be used to attach the UnBottle to kayak webbing or a Personal Floatation Device (PFD). I don't have webbing on my kayak and normally keep my PFD strapped to my kayak rather than wearing it, but I think that could be a nice use for it. The adjustable strap at the top I use to hang up the UnBottle to dry it, and to hang it when we are in camp. I have never adjusted the strap, but I like being able to buckle it as that means I can attach it to a long branch, or around my hammock straps.
The UnBottle is a well designed, insulated hydration reservoir that can be attached to the outside of a pack or kayak. It helps to minimize punctures and leaks and appears very sturdy. Other than needing to replace the valve and tube because of damage and mold, it has lasted really well over many uses in the last three years, and will continue to go with me on all of my backpacking trips.
Allows easy access to water, even when moving on the trail
Keeps liquid cold
Sleeve protects reservoir from damage
Contains any leaks
Perfect size for me for a day's hiking
Strap at the top is great for hanging up the bottle
Hydrolock bite valve stops accidental flow of water
Big reservoir opening makes refilling and cleaning easier
When empty it is very flat so easy to pack
Hard to clean thoroughly
Tube and mouthpiece prone to mold if using flavored water
Adds slightly to weight of reservoir
Clips make it harder to fit in hydration sleeve, and I don't use them
Hard to unscrew cap when all the water has been drunk
Read more reviews of CamelBak gear
Read more gear reviews by Sophie Pearson