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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bladders > Sea to Summit Pack Tap > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Sea to Summit Pack Tap

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - November 4, 2011

Field Report - January 17, 2012

Long-Term Report - March 20, 2012

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 58
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 232 lbs (105 kg)
Email address: kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking background is a combination of the Minnesota area, where I have lived most of my adult life, and Southern Arizona where I moved a little over two years ago to Tucson for a new job.  I carry a lot of water on my hikes due to the arid climate and lack of water sources in the Sonoran Desert.

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Manufacturer
Sea to Summit
Pack Tap sizes
Photo courtesy Sea to Summit
Manufacturer website
http://www.seatosummit.com
Year manufactured
2011
Model
Not applicable
Color tested
Green/black (seems to be the only color for 4 liter size)
Size tested
4 liter (135 oz)

Also available in:
2 liter (67 oz)
6 liter (203 oz)
10 liter (338 oz)
Size measured
3.8 liter
MSRP
$24.95 USD from listed retailer (no pricing on manufacturer website)
Weight
From manufacturer: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured: 5.3 oz (150 g)
Note that the measured weight was taken after filling and draining the bladder, so the weight difference could be easily accounted for by residual water
Material - bladder
Mylar
Material - exterior
420 D ripstop nylon

Key features as stated by the manufacturer include:
  • One-handed operation with self-shutting valve
  • Security cap on tap
  • Multiple Hypalon® lash points allow you to hang or secure the Pack Tap in many spots
  • Can be rolled and squeezed into tight spaces, flexible and foldable
  • Fabrics used are very abrasion resistant
  • Double bladders will withstand significant pressure
  • Completely after taste-free: based on the same material used for wine bladders, food safe

Initial Inspection

On removal from the packaging I inspected the unit and could find no issues with material or workmanship, no loose threads, no plastic molding issues.  It seems quite durable on the outside: the ripstop nylon looks like it would take a lot of abuse.

The three lash points are easily visible in the photo above.  They seem very sturdy.  Also visible is a front strap for holding the unit while dispensing water, or perhaps hanging it from a tree branch.  What is not visible is a rear strap on the bottom behind the cap: this seems like it would be convenient for carrying or holding the bladder with the cap at the top of the bladder, perhaps for filling.

The unit has a zipper opening with pull cord on the zipper for access to the bladder.  I unzipped it and had a look: yes, definitely a Mylar bladder in there.  The bladder looked a little cramped inside the pouch, and I wondered if it would take the rated fluid capacity.  I don't expect to use the zipper opening often, there doesn't seem to be much reason to get in there other than to replace the bladder.

It wasn't immediately clear how to fill the unit, but on the backside beneath the carrying strap is a picture and instructions "Remove cap to fill" in English.  I managed to pry off the cap/valve piece and filled up the bladder to the brim, and replaced the cap, spilling some water in the process.

I left the bladder sitting in a sink upside-down for 24 hours and could detect no leaks.  So far, so good.  I drank some of the water that had been in the bladder, and could detect no aftertaste.

I drained about 1/2 of the water and timed a 1 liter (34 oz) dispense: about 24 seconds, a good flow rate.  When I let go of the valve it snapped back and shut off without shedding a drop.  By the way, water is dispensed by pressing on the valve opening, most easily with a thumb.  It is indeed a one-handed operation, if you do not count a hand to hold the unit up in the air, which would not be needed if it was hanging from a tree.

I then filled the unit to its utmost capacity, repeatedly blowing air into the bladder to fully inflate, then measured out the contents.  As shown in the table above it was about 5% short of rated capacity.  I refilled to the brim, and tried to get the cap on, and sloshed quite a bit out trying to do so.  Not easy to get the cap/valve assembly back on when filled without a bit of a spill.

Finally, I inflated the bladder with air by blowing in it as much as possible to see how well it would air dry.  Keeping bladders clean and reasonably clear of germs is always a concern, and air drying is always the simplest method.  After 24 hours there were still some beads of water on the inside of the bladder when I peered down into it, so drying may take a while.

Summary

I am excited to get this unit into the back country.  I am particularly interested to see how well it packs, and how convenient it is to refill water containers or bottles on the trail.

Kudos:

  • Excellent out-of-the-box quality
  • Easy valve operation
  • Good flow rate from the valve
  • Sturdy outer construction

Concerns:

  • Not easy to fill to the rated capacity, especially without spilling

Field Report

Field Use

Date
Location
Trail
Distance

Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
November 6, 2011
Santa Catalina Mountains, Coronado National Forest
Samaniego Ridge
4 mi
(6.4 km)
Mountain ridgeline, trail is steep, rocky, snow-covered
Part Cloudy, 45 F (7 C)
5000-6500 ft
(1520-1980 m)
November 10, 2011 Tortolita Mountains, Northwest of Tucson, Arizona Alamo Springs
6.6 mi
(10.6 km)
Rock, gravel and sand in canyon Sunny, 60F (16 C), dry 2700-3900 ft
(820-1190 m)
November 11, 2011 Dragoon Mountains, Coronado National Forest, near Tombstone, Arizona Cochise Stronghold
4 mi
(6.4 km)
Rock, gravel and sand in canyon, smooth granite boulders Partly sunny, 65 F (18 C), dry 5100-6000 ft
(1550-1830 m)
November 12, 2011 Silverbell Mountains, Ironwood National Monument, West of Tucson, Arizona Ragged Top
3 mi
(4.8 km)
Very rocky, little perceptible trail, strewn with cactus Partly cloudy, 60 F (16 C), dry 2400-3300 ft
(730-1010 m)
November 24, 2011 Sedona, Arizona Sedona
5 mi
(8 km)
Rolling hills in the state park and steep slickrock at Cathedral Rock Partly cloudy, 65 F
(18 C)
3800-4750 ft
(1160-1450 m)
November 25, 2011 Tucson Mountains, Saguaro National Park West of Tucson, Arizona King Canyon
7 mi
(11.3 km)
Sandy wash then steep rocky ridgeline Sunny, 70 F
(21 C)
2900-4700 ft
(880-1430 m)
December 11, 2011
Santa Rita Mountains, Coronado National Forest, South of Tucson, Arizona
Agua Caliente
5 mi
(8 km)
Very steep canyon trail, snow on the upper half
Sunny, 32-55 F
(0-13 C)
5000-7300 ft
(1520-2220 m)
January 15, 2012
Santa Catalina Mountains, Coronado National Forest Esperero
7 mi
(11.3 km)
Steep canyon
Partly cloudy, 60 F (16 C), dry 2700-4400 ft
(820-1340 m)

Field Usage Observations

Samaniego Ridge Trail

Pack Tap on Samaniego RidgeI've hiked the Southern section of Samaniego Ridge before, but the Northern section had remained beyond my grasp as it can only be reached by a difficult Jeep trail.  The Forest Service graded the trail last year, so thought I'd give it a try.  It had rained in Tucson two nights before, but it looked like most of the snow in the mountains had melted.

After a bone-jarring one-hour Jeep ride up Charouleau Gap I arrived at the trail head an noticed patches of snow on the ground.  Once I got on the trail the snow covered the ground, with the depth increasing to about 3 inches (7.6 cm) by the time I turned around.  Even with the snow, the air was dry, and I had to stop and refill my water bottle from the Pack Tap at the turn around point as shown in the photo at left.

It's a little hard to see at the top of the photo, but I hung the Pack Tap from a branch that was a bit low to the ground.  I normally would have just held it in the air, but I needed my right hand to snap the picture.

I found it quite easy to fill my 1 L Nalgene, though as can be seen it does have a nice wide mouth which makes it an easy target to hit, and it is very stable standing upright without support.

I found it quite easy to remove the cap and to engage the spout with my gloves on, though the gloves are very thin and have good dexterity.  As can be seen in the photo it was pretty chilly with snow on the ground, but all the plastic parts worked without problems.

The Pack Tap was easy to stow and remove from my day pack.  It doesn't fit into the hydration sleeve, so it definitely wanted to be at the bottom of the pack.

Alamo Springs

During this hike, and the next two, I was the mule for my hiking buddy, carrying the spare water to refill our bottles.  The air was quite dry, causing me to drink a lot of water.  I easily refilled my bottle from the Pack Tap en route.

Cochise Stronghold

Refill along the Cochise Stronghold TrailThis was a pretty good ascent out of the valley up to a saddle point.  My hiking buddy and I both refilled our water bottles at the summit.  As can be seen in the photo at left, the Pack Tap worked well with the more narrow-mouth bottles often used by cyclists.


Ragged Top

Ragged TopThis hike is a nasty scramble up a steep mountain in the Silverbell range, as one might infer from the name of the peak.  There are very few trees on the mountain, so I managed to hang the Pack Tap from a rocky crag to refill my bottle at the halfway point as can be seen in the photo at right.

Despite the fact that the Pack Tap was not completely vertical, I was able to fill my bottle without spilling a drop.  I was pleased with how well it hung from the rock - I had no problems with slipping.


Sedona

Pack Tap in SedonaOn Thanksgiving Day we knocked around Red Rock State Park in the morning, and Cathedral Rock in the afternoon.  The morning hike was along Oak Creek.  I was the "mule" on this trip and it was my job to keep everyone's water bottle replenished, which is what I am doing in the photo at left.

It was nice to be able to carry enough water for four people for a day's outing.  It cuts down on the number of packs, bottles, etc. that have to be organized and toted along the trail.

Agua Caliente

Hanging on an alligator juniperThis trail gains a lot of altitude in a very short distance, which makes me breathe pretty hard and lose a lot of moisture in a very short time period.  The Pack Tap did a great job of refilling my Nalgene at the top of the hike, but on the way down I saw the perfect hanging spot on this alligator juniper tree, so I had to take a picture of the gear as shown at right. (It is easy to see how this tree got its name, making it one of the trees I can always identify in the backcountry with the distinctive bark).

There is a moral to the story: there is not always a place to hang the Pack Tap when needed, and sometimes there's a place to hang it when you don't need to.  With one hand required to operate the spigot, I find I either need a place to hang the Pack Tap, or I need a bottle with a wide bottom and opening so I can use two hands (as I did in Sedona above) and not have to hang on to the water container being filled.

The Cap and Valve

Cap and valve assemblyThe cap and valve assembly are shown in close-up at left.  The Pack Tap is refilled by pulling the plastic valve off of the mating piece on the reservoir.  Every time I do this I have the feeling I am going to break it.  That fear may be totally unfounded, as it is still working fine after removing it many times.

On the plus side the valve itself has been very reliable.  I haven't had a drop of water leak from it.  The design seems very robust: the tab is pushed up by a finger which flexes the plastic beneath it pulling it away from the opening on the bottom.  There are no real "moving" parts here, nothing to wear or break, unless the whole piece is torn.


Summary

Good things:

  • No leaks after two months of use.
  • I was too lazy to empty and dry it out after most of my hikes, so I have had water in the Pack Tap for most of the last two months and I have detected no off odors or flavors in the water after extended amounts of time.
  • Stows easily in my pack.
  • Easy to operate the spigot valve
  • Fluid flows nicely vertical from the valve, it doesn't spray out horizontally at all.

Concerns:

  • Either two hands are required for use (one to hold, one to hold the valve open), or it must be hung from something.  There are times when I wished I had three hands.
  • I still worry I am going to break the valve when I take it off to refill.
  • The cap falls down and somewhat gets in the way when I am trying to fill a bottle.  This is visible on all the photos above showing the Pack Tap in use filling a bottle.  Not a major issue, more of a nuisance than anything.


Long Term Report

Field Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance

Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
January 21-22, 2012 Rincon Mountains, Saguaro National Park East Unit, East of Tucson, Arizona Quilter
20 mi
(32.2 km)
Desert ridgelines Mostly sunny, 29-65 F
(-1.7-18.3 C)
2700-5500 ft
(820-1680 m)
Feb 5, 2012
Silverbell Mountains, Ironwood National Monument, West of Tucson, Arizona Ragged Top
3 mi
(4.8 km)
Very rocky, little perceptible trail, strewn with cactus Mostly sunny, 60 F (15 C)
2400-3300 ft
(730-1010 m)
Feb 24-26, 2012 Organ Pipe National Monument, and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge near Ajo, AZ Charlie Bell
11.5 mi
(18.5 km)
Basalt and granite rock fragments on a Jeep trail Sunny, 50-80 F
(10-27 C)
825-1500 ft
(250-460 m)

Quilter Trail

This was a weekend backpacking trip to a brand-new section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail on the south side of the Rincon Mountains in Saguaro National Park.  It was an in/out hike, so the distance was spread equally over two days.  We were pretty sure we would have water at the Grass Shack campsite we were staying at, but I filled up the Pack Tap before I left just to be certain of having water.

Indeed there was great flow in the stream at the campsite due to the winter snows and recent rains.  I was a little dehydrated from the hike in so I drank the remainder of the water in the Pack Tap, then set out to filter water from the stream for the first time with this gear:

Filtering into the Pack Tap

Fortunately, as can be seen in the picture, there were some good-sized rocks along the stream bed that allowed me to prop up the Pack Tap for filling.  This worked pretty well, and I estimate I was able to get about 3.5 L (3.7 qts) before the water starting running out of the opening.  The experience did make me appreciate the ease with which I can filter into a hydration bladder, where the tubing connects right up to my filter and I can just set the bladder on the ground anywhere and never spill a drop while I fill it to capacity.  It would be nice if Sea To Summit would provide a fitting for the Pack Tap opening that would do the same.

Ragged Top (reprise)

Pack Tap on Ragged Top

Charlie Bell

Pack Tap at Charlie BellThis was a two-night weekend backpacking trip.  On Friday night I camped at Organ Pipe National monument in the park campground which had a water supply.

Saturday we drove as far as we were allowed up Charlie Bell pass into the Cabeza Prieta wilderness, parked our vehicles and backpacked into our campsite across the pass.  This was planned to be a dry camp, so I was carrying 6 L/qts of water, four in the Pack Tap, one in my Nalgene and one in another bottle.  It was a good thing I did as I consumed every last drop.

The photo at right shows my Nalgene getting filled at the campsite while the Pack Tap was still pretty full, hanging from a Palo Verde tree branch.  One thing I noticed this time, since I needed every last drop from the vessel, I needed to literally wring out the last bit of water from the bladder to drain it completely.  The outer fabric is quite heavy and stiff, which is a good thing from a durability perspective, but it does make it a little more work to get the last bit of water out.


Summary

I never did really use the side slots to tie the pack tap down, probably because I normally do not take stretch cords or rope with me to do these sorts of things.  I always carried the Pack Tap inside my pack, located right against the back panel so the weight was as close to me as possible.

The Pack Tap has a well-earned permanent spot in my kit whenever I need to carry large amounts of water, which is pretty often here in Arizona.  I have come to trust its reliability, ease of stowing in my pack, and large carrying capacity.  I really like not having to treat the vessel with "kid gloves"; I can fling it into my pack and not worry what I pack next to it, nor be concerned about accidental spillage or leaks.

Good Things:

  • Still no leaks after 4 months.  For me, nothing is more important from a water vessel than reliability.
  • The valve never failed despite repeatedly being tugged from the fitting to fill or drain the Pack Tap.  It must be made from some pretty tough plastic.
  • Easy to hang from pretty much anything using the provided strap.

Recommendations:

  • Provide a plug-in fitting for the opening to allow direct connection from a water filter as an option.

Many thanks to Sea to Summit and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of Sea to Summit gear
Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bladders > Sea to Summit Pack Tap > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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