Nalgene Big Bore Tankers
By Raymond Estrella
June 07, 2008
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.
Web site: www.nalgene-outdoor.com
Product: CXC Big Bore Tanker
Year manufactured: 2007
MSRP: US $27.00 and $25.00
Volume reviewed: 3 L (96 oz) and 2 L (64 oz)
Listed weights: N/A
Actual weights: 6.4 oz (181 g) for the 3 L and 5.6 oz (159 g) for the 2 L
Dimensions listed: N/A
Actual Dimensions: 3 L, 17 x 7.5 in (43 x 19 cm); 2 L, N/A
Tube length: 36.5 in (93 cm)
The Nalgene Big Bore Tankers (hereafter called the Tankers or bladders) are hydration bladders made for hydration on the go. Nalgene says that they are "reliably tough and beautifully versatile for the die-hard adventurer". Hey, that sounds like me they are talking about…
The bladders are made of what Nalgene says is "CXC film built to pharmaceutical specifications". It feels like soft pliant plastic or silicone to me. They are just shy of being completely clear, they have some slight opacity. They claim that the "unique formula means zero residual taste or smell". The bladders are protected by an antimicrobial treatment they call Aquaguard.
This same Aquaguard is said to protect the thick, clear, polyethylene kink-resistant tubing used for the drinking tube. The tubing is quite strong and is hard to collapse by squeezing it. It bounces back immediately.
The bladder is filled by way of a bright blue, star-shaped 63 mm (2.6 in) BigBore Cap with same threads as the company's 32 oz (1 L) Wide Mouth Bottles. The cap is tethered to the opening with a spiral of plastic which springs back when pulled out and released.
The cap is surrounded by a hard plastic oval disk that is dished so that the top and bottom flare away from the bladder. The bottom, which sticks out farther, forms a grab spot to hold the Tanker while filling it. The top has an elliptical hole in it to allow a strap to be threaded though it for hanging.
At the business end of the tube is an articulated Bite Me valve, seen below. It will swivel 180 degrees with 0 and 180 (left and right in relation to the tube) being open, allowing liquid to flow through it. When positioned at 90 degrees (or straight with the tube) it is locked from any liquid transfer. The valve is a very beefy one, the most so of any in my experience. It uses a centered disk stopper so that any way I bite it I will get the same amount of flow.
A protrusion on the side of the Bite Me valve away from the swivel has a disk magnet set into it, as seen above. It pairs up to a magnetic clip (yes, they are both magnetic, the poles are reversed) that attaches to the strap on a backpack's shoulder pad. This is meant to keep the end of the tube from flying around loose. Here is how it looks attached to a strap.
At the bag end of the tube is something that I have never seen on a bladder before. The tube and bladder hook together with a quick-connect coupler like is seen with air and hydro pressure systems. It instantly appealed to the Tim Allen in me… (Woo-woo-woo)
The male end of the tube can be pressed into the female end at the bag where it squeezes past a spring loaded locking ring. Once the male end goes far enough to depress the internal spring loaded pressure trap, a groove allows the locking ring to snap into place. An O-ring at the end seals the two, keeping liquid from escaping. Here is a picture of them.
The dark grey button is pressed in to release the locking ring allowing the tube to be removed. As it comes out the spring loaded trap rises back up in the female coupler sealing off the bladder again. The female coupler swivels 360 degrees allowing the tube to be positioned at any angle. This allows it to be used in any configuration or pack that I can think of.
In late spring and summer of 2007 I used the tankers for a total of 262 miles (419 km) of trails, over nine extreme day-hikes. These hikes were either on sections of the Pacific Crest Trail from Anza to Silverwood Lake, or around the peaks of Mount San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. Temps were from freezing to over 100 F (38 C) on trails that ranged from sand to dirt, scree, shale, exposed rock and even mud. All had huge elevation gains, the highest point of which the Tanker was at being 11500 ft (3505 m).
They were used twice in 2008 but because of problems detailed below retired from active duty.
I bought the Nalgene Big Bore Tankers expressly to use on the extreme day-hikes (or fastpacks) that my brother-in-law Dave and I started bumping up in spring of 2007. I had been breaking 20 miles (32 km) a day for years, but that year we seldom were below 25 miles (40 km) with most at 30+ miles (48+ km) and lots of elevation gain involved to make them harder.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
While I have used hydration bladders off and on for many years, I still liked bottles more. But the need to have a lot of water with me (we were doing hikes in very hot and dry areas) and be able to drink it on the fly so as to waste as little time as possible made me turn back to bladders. I was very unhappy with the leader in the field as their blue reservoirs retained odors and taste. When I saw the Tankers at an outdoor show during the winter and looked at the materials and construction, I bought two of them as soon as I got back home.
I loved the material they are made from. It feels soft yet is pretty tough. I set it on rough granite boulders at creek sides many times while filtering water for the next stretch of hiking. I carried them almost exclusively in either an Osprey Talon 33 or Talon 22 pack. These packs do not have frames, just a foam back panel. The Tanker would slide into the space between the pack body and the back panel. Depending on how much gear I had in the pack it could put quite a bit of pressure on the Tanker.
I also froze it many times. As many hikes were in high temps I would freeze 2/3 of my liquid before the hike. I would top it off the morning I left and have cold drinks for half the day. And while I carried a half-strength mix of GU20 in it most of the time, it never retained any residual flavors.
The first thing I did was to cut the tethers off the caps. While I suppose it is a good idea to keep it from getting lost or dropped in the dirt it is a major pain in the posterior for me. I do not understand why they did not do it the way they do for their good old Nalgene bottles, which I have about 10 of. They just flip out of the way, not springing back in the way of filling or filtering.
One thing that I did like was the built in grab edge under the cap. This makes it much easier to fill than having to hold the threaded opening. I also realy like the hole above the cap. My packs have a little strap with a Fastex buckle that attaches through this hole to keep the bladder at the top of my hydration space, not slid down into the bottom of it. I think all bladders should emulate this.
The magnetic holder seemed like an great idea to me. I have (or had) packs that do not have hydration tube routing loops on the shoulder pads. The thought of a magnetic keeper that would keep the bite valve from flying around was great. Just one problem though. The clear kink-resistant tubing is very thick. I guess that is how is resists kinking. It also resists conforming to the shape of my shoulder strap. It would pop off all the time as I walk. After the third time using it I tossed them on the shelf where they sat until I wrote this review.
Another selling point for me was the cap being the same as Nalgene's standard wide-mouth bottle. My filter fit these bottles perfectly so this would make it easy to fill solo. And this proved to be the case everywhere I was able to find water on my journeys.
Where I could not, I had to bring extra water. I could load my pack with the 3 L Tanker and carry the 2 L inside. Because of the quick connect hose I could easily unplug the one and plug the other one in without having to reroute my tube. I thought this was just the cat's meow.
But the quick connect proved to be its downfall too. One day this spring (2008) as I was leaving our office where I met Dave for the hike, I saw a puddle under my pack. I pulled out the Tanker to find it leaking at the connection. I unplugged it and plugged it back in thinking it may have not seated well. Nope, still leaking. I took it to the sink to see if something had gotten in it. Nope still leaking. I looked at the O-ring but could not see anything worn on it. I tried swapping tubes with my other unit. No go.
Now I was running late and not very happy. I grabbed another brand of hydration bladder and went to exchange the GU2O that was in the Tanker. Ahhh, I could not easily pour the liquid from the big opening of the Tanker into the little opening of the other bladder, and the bite valve does not pull out of the Tanker without a vise. I got tired of watching it leak and cut the end of the tube off with my knife and drained the contents to the other bladder.
Because of this experience I stopped using the Big Bore Tankers. I am worried that it will happen in the middle of a hike leaving me up a creek without a paddle. Or at a creek without a functioning bladder…
Read more reviews of Nalgene gear
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella