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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bladders > Sea to Summit Pack Tap > Test Report by Kurt Papke
Test Series by Kurt Papke
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.
Key features as stated by the manufacturer include:
Initial InspectionOn 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.
SummaryI 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.
Field Usage Observations
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.
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.
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.
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
The 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.
||Terrain/ trail type
|January 21-22, 2012||Rincon Mountains, Saguaro National Park East Unit, East of Tucson, Arizona||Quilter
|Desert ridgelines||Mostly sunny, 29-65 F
|Feb 5, 2012
||Silverbell Mountains, Ironwood National Monument, West of Tucson, Arizona||Ragged Top
|Very rocky, little perceptible trail, strewn with cactus||Mostly sunny, 60 F (15 C)
|Feb 24-26, 2012||Organ Pipe National Monument, and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge near Ajo, AZ||Charlie Bell
|Basalt and granite rock fragments on a Jeep trail||Sunny, 50-80 F
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
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.
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