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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bladders > Hydrolight Reservoir > Test Report by joe schaffer

Hydrolight Illuminated Reservoir

Test Report by Joe Schaffer

INITIAL REPORT - March 24, 2020
FIELD REPORT - July 8, 2020
LONG TERM REPORT - August 15, 2020

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 72
HOME: Bay Area, California USA

     I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year. For comfort I lug tent, mattress, chair and such. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day in the bright and sunny granite in and around Yosemite. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.

BD Spot Lite

Product: Hydrolight 2 L Illuminated Reservoir

Manufacturer:  Hydrolight Outdoor Gear, LLC.


Features and claims from website:    
    Slide lock, fold-over top opens wide for filling and closes to leakproof seal
    External capacity gauge tracks hydration intake or measures out contents
    Bite-valve self seals, features switch on/off tab to prevent leaks when not in use
    Temperature range (can be frozen - max temp 60 C / 140 F)
    Front handle
    Connection system disconnects drink tube (an auto shutoff valve prevents leaking) to remove reservoir from pack for refilling
    Ultra-durable, abrasion resistant PEVA & RF welded seams
    Dishwasher safe; reservoir turns inside out for easy cleaning and dryingpkg
    100% BPA & PVC free
Weight: 6.5 oz / 184 g
    Dimension: 15.75 x 7.75 in / 40 x 19.7 cm

Package includes:
    2 liter Hydrolight reservoir
    Leakproof slide-lock
    Easy-carry handle
    Flexible 36" drinking hose w/ bite-valve
    Versatile, adjustable woven nylon-strap and bucklelight
    Headlamp not included

Warranty: Manufacturer discretion.

Country of origin: unknown

MSRP: US $34.99

My Specs: 

        Weight: bag 6 oz (170 g)
                    hang strap 1/4 oz (8 g)        
        Width: 7 1/4 in (18 cm)
        Height: 16 1/4 in (41 cm)
        Hose: Length 36 in (91 cm)
        Hose OD: 1/4 in (6.5 mm)

Received:   March 23, 2020

My Description:
    The product endeavors to be a portable lantern from a hydration bladder. It is a water bladder with hose, bite valve, shutoff valve, hand grip, slide-lock closure; and a hang strap and a zippered pocket to hold a not-included lighting device.

    Two features appear unique to me. The bottom of the bladder has a zippered, watertight pocket about 3 1/4 in (8 cm) deep by about 7 1/8 in (18 cm) wide, which is the interior width of the bladder. This pocket is separate from the water compartment. It closes via water-resistant zipper tape of about 5 1/2 in (14 cm). The pocket is on the back side of the bladder, opposite the hose connector. The purpose of the pocket is to contain a headlamp or similar size lighting device in a manner keeping the device out of water's reach. Product claim is that water in the bladder diffuses the light, converting the bladder/lighting device duo into a portable lantern.

    The second feature unique to me, anyway, is the hard plastic grip handle quite near the top of the bag. This handle is attached to the side and does not hinge or move in any way apart from the material to which it is affixed. The handle is roughly 1 1/4 in (3 cm) deep and on the inside, tapers from about 4 1/2 in (11 cm) at the opening to about 3 1/2 in (9 cm) at its top. The depth of the grip is sufficient to accommodate almost two digits each of four fingers.

    The 2 L bladder has gradations impressed in the material on one side of the bag in increments of 8 oz and 0.5 L. Front side emblazons a logo impressed in the material.

    With stiff reinforcements at the top of the bag, the topmost reinforcing section of about 1 in (2.5 cm) folds over the next section of about 3/4 in (2 cm). This then leaves a spine with edges on both sides to serve as a track for the slide-lock component. This completely separate component slides over the fold to lock the folded top in place. The slide-lock is hard plastic with openings for hang cord. The slide lock is kept in company with the bag via a slightly stretchy 3/32 in (2 mm) somewhat flexible cord. At about 4 in (10 cm) in length, this cord is just long enough to allow the slide-lock on and off the bag. The cord can be removed from the bag, but not from the slide-lock. For whatever reason may be necessary, this cord would be easily replaced.

    Hose attachment unit at the bottom of the bag is about 1 1/4 in (3 cm) at the widest part and about 1 3/4 in (4.5 cm) in length, not counting a 1/4 in (6 mm) margin around the edge for attaching the piece to the bladder. The piece is about 3/4 in (2 cm) thick. This piece is the female side of a quick-connect joint with the hose.

    One end of the hose has the male side of the O-ring sealed quick-connect joint. This joint works by pressing the female-side release switch, releasing the hose for extraction. The male side of the joint stays with the hose. The hose could be pulled loose from the male piece, but no reason to do that comes to mind except to repair the hose. Cleaning the hose can be done with the male piece in place. At the other end of the hose the bite valve attaches the same way as the male piece--interference fit over four ridges. The right-angle bite valve also has a shutoff valve, operated by rotating a wing. The wing is plenty large enough for one finger, and with some digital dexterity can be operated with one hand.

    Hydrolight holds two patents on the system and method for a portable lantern. In reading the document abstracts I can't discern the difference between the two, much as curiosity (given the cost of a patent!) compels wonder.
    For what might be an otherwise relatively nondescript hydration bladder, Hydrolight earns massive kudos for creativity with the light pocket. I'm very excited to test the product, and hoping my expectations prove reasonable. I always carry a bladder and a headlamp, so the weight/bulk to have a camp lantern from the two seems highly creative with no appreciable weight or bulk penalty. Product cost appears to be competitive with higher-end 2 L bladders that don't offer the dual-purpose.

    Though handles of some type are not all that novel, I find the Hydrolight's to be innovatively useful in design and compact for purpose. Holding a bladder in one hand while trying to fill it with the other has always been a challenge I find myself not particularly well suited to meet. I'm looking forward to seeing if Hydrolight's handle makes that clumsy task less so; and discovering if lugging the bag some distance will be easier on the fingers than wrapping cord around them.

    I've used folded/clamped closure bags before and found them not as watertight as screw lid-closed. We'll see. I don't routinely carry a loaded water bladder anymore. When I did, finding any amount of leakage inside the pack caused an unhealthy level of emotional response even absent severe consequence otherwise.

    Kinking hose can also set off a similar frustration response. This hose does a highly respectable job of resisting kinks. It is otherwise wildly unmanageable. I will handle this bag with sunglasses on! The quick-connect offers the advantage of not having to thread the hose in and out of the backpack, but the joint makes for moving parts and a considerably larger bulk. I'll be looking to see if any water finds its way out in the connection process. I once tried to fill a bag without removing it from the pack (due to inconvenience of threading the bite valve out and in) and the tropical juice gods extracted a high price for the malfeasance.

    Having retired bladders from trail use (though I'll dutifully test this one for hiking) some years ago, two reasons prevail in keeping a bag in my gear. First, for draining water through a filter. The process requires hanging the bag from a tree. So when the bag's empty, how easy will it be to refill it with the crimp-top opening? Second reason is to have substantial lugging capacity for camping up to a half-mile (1 km) or so from the water source. I and the fragile environment don't like multiple trips. This leads to the criticism of having only a half-gallon (2 L) of capacity, which in some circumstances could cost me chair time to make another trip; and in all cases means less water to manage campfire. I would prefer a 3 L bag; which is then also better for showering.

    My testing of the product will be for a camp light. The vendor's picture of it suspended in a tent looks interesting, but there's no way I hang four pounds (2 kg) of water inside my tent even if I didn't care about bumping into it, almost with every breath. (I hang out in pretty small tents.) Which raises the question of why tout the product for backpacking, yet illustrate it in a tent large enough to play basketball.
Testing will include how easily the headlamp can be extracted and reinserted, as I don't carry two headlamps and will often need it to rummage the tent when the bladder is outside.

    I'll assume absolute waterproofness of the headlamp pocket. I will not project that condensation may occur to short out the lamp; but I will declare notice of cacophonic miffiness if I'm left without a headlamp.

    I'm happy to learn things I can't figure out. In that light, a YouTube video of the vendor turning the bladder inside out for cleaning; and presenting the bladder for inspection after being run through a dishwasher would be helpful.

Field Conditions:
    1. June 23-29, 2020: Yosemite/Emigrant Wilderness, California, USA. 7 days, 15 mi (24 km); leave weight 35 lb (16 kg); 35-80 F (2-27 C), mostly sunny. 6,000-8,000 ft (1,800-2,400 m); 3 camps.

    AS A WATER BAG:I find it easy to fill (with well over 2 L) and certainly easy to carry. I can get the bag completely full with it sitting on end, which is much easier than trying to hold up one end of the bag by a cap fitting. If there's too much water, the excess simply bleeds off when folding the top closure, purging all air from the bag. The retainer slides on easily and having a stop at one end there's no fussing over sliding it too far or having to slide it back and forth to get it right.
The bag is watertight--I stuffed it full and left it on a rock for five hours with not a single drop seeping from the hose connection (with hose detached) or the top.

    The hose quickly and conveniently attaches and detaches; and with no leakage. The handle makes toting the full bag for some distance quite comfortable; along with not having to fiddle with an attached hose. At one site I carried the bag 1/3 mi (0.5 km) from the water source to the campsite with no difficulty. Though it is possible to tote the bag clutching the top retainer only, the handle is certainly more comfortable.

    I used the bag with a gravity filter. It will drain completely empty. It's not dry, of course, but I don't have to spend time shaking it out when packing up for the day. I can't reach inside the bag to wipe it out, but I've only ever had one bag where I could do that and it leaked. As with any gravity bag, a camper needs an accommodating tree to hang it. After the first drain, it became obvious that a refill required untying the bag from the tree and then tying it back up full, which can be a clumsy affair. I manage that better with a loop over an accommodating stob. I don't like the hurtful-looking strain on the hose connection, which aims up for use as a trail bladder and cannot be aimed down when used as a gravity bag. A length of paracord resolved that matter with little ado. Perhaps with some engineering ado, the joint could be fashioned to rotate so the outlet could be pointed in either direction at will.

    AS A TRAIL BLADDER: For full disclosure I should say that my efforts to update my methods some years ago to adoption of trail bladders did not work out. That bias may be evident in my impressions.

    I stuffed the one-third-full bladder into an REI Flash 65 pack that was already loaded. (Pack was mostly loaded at home and I can't bring myself to travel the pack with water inside it.) The bladder slid in OK, and actually went deeper than I'd need for the length of hose attending the bladder.

    I found the hose a little short. I had trouble reaching the valve and still keeping my eyes on the trail. I think one of the great advantages of a trail bladder is swigging without stopping, but I couldn't prudently do that. The hose is as wild as a miscreant beard hair, but it does not kink. It did seem to gain a lot of traction over my shoulder on the shirt fabric. The trail had several long stretches of heavily overgrown sticker brush, and an advantage of a short hose stuck to the shirt became apparent as the hose never got snagged in the brush.

    The bite valve is water tight--not once did I see a drop seeping from it. The shutoff valve will prevent any leakage, of course, but I don't like to have to rely on a second valve to keep dry and didn't. The shut off valve seems a little stiff to me; and in my mindless meanderings I can't figure out which way to turn it.

    AS A CAMP LANTERN: Since I always carry a bag and always carry a headlamp, the only weight penalty is the tiny bit of material and zipper to form a pocket to insert the headlamp. Great idea. With the
partially loaded bladder hanging from a tree, I found the process of inserting and removing the headlamp to be completely free of difficulty. The lit up bag is remarkably bright to look at. This was a no-fire outing, and with the bag lit up I had no concerns about wandering off and not being able to find my camp.

    But as a camp light, it only throws about as many lumens as starlight. Within a 15-foot (3 m) radius it's easy enough to see big things like a body or tree or boogey man, but something like a rattle snake would not show up. I can't come close to reading by it, which I don't often do at night outside the tent and I won't hang a water bag inside even if I could read by it.

    Other issues presented that I confess to anticipating. When the light's in the bag and I need to see something, like what I've got in the bear can, I have to fetch the headlamp from the bag. I couldn't get comfortable in my chair knowing I was burning up battery life, so I wouldn't leave it on; and most of the time I didn't want it on anyway. I wandered through a career mostly in the dark and see no reason to change that disposition in retirement. Then I didn't have the headlamp when I needed to see something. Ultimately I wound up never-minding the bag light and keeping the headlamp on my head.

Field Conditions:

    2. July 8-15, 2020:Yosemite/Emigrant Wilderness, California, USA. 8 days, 25 mi (40 km); leave weight 39 lb (18 kg); 45-80 F (7-27 C), sunny. 6,000-8,000 ft (1,800-2,400 m); 5 camps.

    3. July 23-30, 2020: Emigrant Wilderness, California, USA. 8 days, 23 mi (37 km); leave weight 35 lb (16 kg); 45-85 F (7-29 C), mostly sunny with several T-storms. 7,150-8,400 ft (2,200-2,600 m); 6 camps.
    4. Aug 9-15, 2020: Tahoe National Forest, California, USA. 7 days, 8 mi (13 km) mostly trail; leave weight 35 lb (16 kg); 50-85 F (10-29 C), sunny. 7,000-7,400 ft (2,100-2,300 m); 3 camps.


The gradations on the bag could be useful, though in most lighting conditions I can't see them. When the bag is full, it will easily reload two 1 L (qt) bottles with almost half a liter (1/2 qt) to spare. A couple of laundry pen marks should do the trick, and then I'll know when there isn't enough water left to fill a bottle. Not a big deal, but as adding any water to the bag requires taking the bag down and opening it up, it could be handy to know whether what's in the bag is enough before starting.

    I have marginally lighter bags that don't have the features of this bag. Although I was skeptical of the value of the tote handle and detachable hose features, I've come to believe they earn their keep.
With the handle and no hose dangling in the way, I can even grasp this bag and a gallon (4 L) jug in one hand, leaving the other hand free to swat mosquitoes or balance a 1/2 gal (2 L) bowl in the other.

    In 30 days of using the bladder I've had only one issue, and that can only be a fault laid at my feet. Somehow I managed at the last camp to drag the bag over a rotten log. A handy stob for hanging the bag put the outlet above eye level for me. I could not get the hose to connect, though in trying hard enough I got it almost all the way in. However, no water would flow. Finally it occurred to me that I may have fouled the opening. I took the bag down and sure enough, the hole was sealed tight with wood debris. I picked at it for several minutes with a small twig, flushed it vigorously with the gallon (4 L) jug several times and finally got it cleared out. I think I couldn't clog the spout that way again if I tried, so nothing to note regarding product performance.

    Not yet rising to the degree of an issue, the hose suffers from being folded. In use the hose does not kink.
I like to carry the bag in an outside pocket for ready access, which requires bundling the hose to fit. It won't stow without kinking and the kinks have memory sufficient to make me envious. So far the water flow is not so restricted as to fuss over it.

    The Hydrolight works fine as a trail bladder; I just don't like trail bladders. I didn't find anything in the Hydrolight to suggest it is any more or less useful than others I've sampled. Disconnecting the hose is easier than threading the hose in and out to extract the bag, but that leaves a hose full of water in the pack. I suppose blowing the water back would drain the hose, but then I'd get light headed and fall down and break a hip.

    Regrettably, I find the lantern attribute not practical. It's too dim. It occupies my only headlamp. When the bag is full and hanging I can't stuff my headlamp--small as it is--back into the pocket. (The vendor only claims 2 L (2 qt) capacity, and filling it only to that level does make inserting my headlamp easier. But, I don't want to call it a night with less than a full bag to start.) I'd have to say it does not illuminate well enough to endure the impracticality of using it as a lantern.

    Perhaps the true testament to the bag is that while I have several others, this one has taken first chair as the go-to tote bladder.

Total testing days: 30

SUMMARY: Good water bag; works fine as a trail bladder; not very bright or practical as a camp lantern.

Quick shots:
    a) easy to carry
    b) water tight
    c) simple conversion to camp light (bag not full)
    d) not very bright as a lamp

Thank you Hydrolight Outdoor Gear and for the opportunity to test this product. This report concludes the test.

Read more reviews of Hydrolight Outdoor Gear gear
Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bladders > Hydrolight Reservoir > Test Report by joe schaffer

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