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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bladders > Sea to Summit Pack Tap > Test Report by alex legg

Sea to Summit Pack Tap
Test Series by Alex Legg
Initial Report: November 2, 2011
Field Report: January 17, 2012
Long term Report: March 20, 2012

Initial Report


Tester Information:

Name:  Alex Legg
Age:  30
Gender:  Male
Height:  6'4" (1.9 m)
Weight:  195 lbs (88 kg)
Email address:  alexlegg2 AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country:  Tucson, Arizona, USA

Backpacking Background:

I grew up backpacking in the Rockies.  I hike ranges near Tucson, Arizona during winter, Colorado during summer.  I carry a light pack, mostly water.  I tend to camp with a tarp whenever possible to reduce the weight of my two person tent.  Primarily I do day hikes, but I am known to spend 5 days out.  Temperatures range from extreme winter to 100 F (38 C), and elevation from 2000' (600 m) to 14,000' (4,300 m).  I bag a mountain every weekend, and walk my dogs daily through deep sand and overgrown mesquite trees in our local washes.

Product Information and Specifications:

Manufacturer:  Sea to Summit
Year of Manufacture:  2011    
URL:  http://www.seatosummit.com
Listed weight:   4 oz (113 g)
Actual weight:  4 oz (113 g)
Listed volume:  4 liters
Actual volume:  3.25 liters
Size:  4 liter
Available sizes:  2, 4, 6, 10 liter
Color:  Green
Available colors:  Yellow, Green, Blue, Red
MSRP:  None listed


Product Description:

The Sea to Summit Pack Tap came to my door in its retail packaging and was shipped in a recycled box indicating to me that they are committed to green practices.  I personally like to see such actions taken by a manufacturer.  Noticing that the Sea to Summit's USA office is located in Boulder, Colorado, I would expect nothing less.  

Upon opening the box, I found two sheets of paper on top of the Pack Tap.  One of these papers was a packing slip with an invoice number and date, as well as shipping information and a brief description of what was below in the box.  The second piece of paper in the box was labeled "Tips to get the best from your Sea to Summit Pack Tap."  Four bullet points indicated some product description.  Under them, an internet address for a gear blog from their website was found.

The Pack Tap itself was in a clear plastic bag at the bottom of the box.  Upon reading the information that was enclosed, I found that the Pack Tap is comprised of a double-Mylar bladder with dispensing valve that can be operated with one hand.  The valve is covered by a dust cover cap that can be easily removed.  The bladder is enclosed in a sleeve made of 420D nylon, which has Hypalon lash tabs at three of the corners.

The manufacturer claims that the Mylar bladder is completely taste-neutral.  They explain that if there are residues in the bladder from juice or wine, it can be easily cleaned using the same effervescent tablets that are used to clean dentures.

                                                                         ( Pocket opening to Mylar bladder)


This Pack Tap is green and black.  There is a zipper on the back measuring about 8" (20 cm) that opens to a view of the bladder itself.  It is a shiny silver color, just like Mylar sheeting. There are Hypalon tabs at three of the corners to assist with strapping the Pack Tap to trees or my backpack.  I think a bungee cord may also be necessary to mount it to anything.   

The tap is located conveniently at one of the corners.  The dust cap remains attached while open due to a plastic ring that keeps it permanently fixed, which looks like it will help to keep it from getting lost.  Behind the tap on the back panel is a picture describing how to remove the tap to fill with water.  It is necessary to stick my finger directly into the valve, and pull.  I'm not too sure how much my camping companions are going to like the idea of my grubby hands stuffing into the valve that produces the water they are going to survive with.  I suppose hand sanitation will be important to some.


The Pack Tap can easily be folded into just about any form and stuffed into whatever space I have left.  It will be there for me to pull it out when I come across some of that rare water in the desert.  

Initial Impressions:

My first thought was that this is smaller than I expected.  4 liters sounds like a lot, but this is a relatively small unit, measuring approximately 11 1/4 in (29 cm).  I could probably attach this while full to the outside of my back pack and carry it without too much trouble.  That sounds great.

                                                                                (Valve opening instructions)

My second thought was how in the heck do I open the tap to fill it with water?.  I looked at the picture description on the back, and I was still just as confused.  It just seemed wrong to put my finger in the valve opening, and I couldn't get a good grip anywhere else.  I didn't want to break it by yanking too hard, so I looked online.  The manufacturer's website didn't offer much help, but surprisingly through a search engine, I found an old owner review on the yahoo group page used by backpackgeartest.org.  The report was from 2006, and in the description, the reviewer said it was easily opened by simply pulling it off.  I hesitated, then stuck my finger in the valve hole and pulled.  Much to my surprise the valve pulled right off exposing the entry hole for filling.  Thanks be to owner reviews!  

Then I thought about how the description I had read on the manufacturer's website mentioned straps that could be used to tie the unit onto a tree.  I found two small straps, one on the back side of the tap, and the other on the front panel opposite corner from the tap.  The small straps are about 4 1/2 in (11 cm) long, and could perhaps be slung over a small branch, but definitely not wrapped around a tree and secured into place.  Three of the four corners of the unit have Hypalon lash tabs, the corner with the tap being excluded.  The lash tabs are my answer to hanging the Pack Tap wherever I want.  I can use a handy bungee cord to help.

Next I decided to fill the Pack Tap with water to evaluate its ease of use and practicality.  I immediately noticed that it differs from a standard hydration pack that is carried in a back pack by not having a sufficient handle or area of strength to hold onto.  As the Pack Tap fills up, it becomes more and more difficult to hold on to.  When it was full I thought that it didn't seem overly heavy, and I liked how sturdy the 420D nylon felt with all the pressure of the water behind it.  I tipped the unit so that the tap was facing down as it would be while hung and awaiting use.  Immediately I noticed a small but steady drip, drip, drip.  That can't be good.  I figured I must have connected the cap poorly so I emptied the unit out to try again.  This time out of curiosity I measured the amount of water I was putting in.  3.25 liters is what made it overflow.  That is .75 liters less than what is written on the Pack Tap itself and what is advertised on the manufacturer's website.  Again I saw the drip, drip, drip.  Water was coming right out of the valve.  If it had been coming out from underneath the valve, I would have figured I had a bad connection, but since it was coming from the valve spout itself I realized it just leaks.  Very disappointing as I am planning on using the Pack Tap in arid desert environments where water can be miles (km) upon miles (km) away from my camp.

I contacted Sea to Summit in their Boulder, Colorado office via email.  I was contacted within a few hours given a return code and advised to return the product.  The email made me feel as though they were on top of things and eager to help.  They apologized and told me a new Pack Tap would be sent out as soon as they could inspect the faulty one.  I am hoping to get the chance to mail it out today.

Summary:

When I opened the Pack Tap I was excited and happy.  Upon evaluating it and testing its water holding abilities I am not quite as happy.  It seems like a nice sturdy design and a good concept overall, but lacks the ease of use and the water holding ability I had hoped for.  At the rate of the slow leak that persists, I would lose all my water for camp by the time I woke up in the morning.  When water may not be anywhere nearby, this is unacceptable.  I really wish there was some sort of handle to hold while filling it up.  I had never thought about how easy it is to fill my personal hydration pack until I tried to fill one that had no handle.

Sea to Summit's quick response to my concerns about the Pack Tap being faulty have left me feeling confident that they will get a replacement out to me promptly.  If the new one holds water, then I will only have one initial complaint.

Luckily its getting cooler around here and I can get outside more.  I will take the Pack Tap with me into the back country multiple times and put it to the test.  I'm anxious to get out and use it.  Nothing is more important than adequate water supply in the desert.  It looks like this will have good portability as well.  

This concludes my initial report of the Sea to Summit Pack Tap.  It will be fun testing it in the mountains!  I would like to thank Sea to Summit and Backpackgeartester.org for the opportunity to test this product.  





Field Report:


(Just as the sun came up in Saguaro National Park)



Sea to Summit Customer Service:

As I explained in my initial report, the original Pack Tap that I received had a faulty valve with a persistent leak.  I contacted Sea to Summit by email and they quickly responded requesting me to return the item.  The representative who contacted me expressed that he was shocked to hear of the faulty valve.  He told me that in his six years with the company, this was the first one that he had heard of to have this problem.

The new Pack Tap arrived promptly after I returned the original.  It looks exactly the same as the original and has the added benefit of being able to hold water!  I was pleased that Sea to Summit responded to me and solved the problem so quickly.  I had a good experience with their representative, and it was all pretty painless for me.

Field Conditions:
I have used the Pack Tap extensively during this test period, below are a few examples of the conditions where it was tested.

I took the Pack Tap on a 26 mile (42 km) round trip journey to the highest point in the Rincon Mountains just east of Tucson, Arizona.  The range is located in Saguaro National Park and the peak is Mica Mountain.  I used it as a reserve hydration bladder and to refill my personal hydration system that was stored in my pack.  The weather was awesome all day.  It was about 55 F (13 C) in the morning while at 2,400 ft (732 m) surrounded by saguaros, and around 35 F (2 C) while at 8,666 ft (2,641 m) standing in snow on the summit.

(Pack Tap taking in the view in Saguaro National Park)

I ventured back to the Rincon range two weeks later for a 3 day 2 night trip with one base camp.  It got down to 32 F (0 C) at camp in the early morning while making breakfast at 8,000 ft (2,438 m).  The Pack Tap went to the summit of two peaks, Tanque Verde at 7,049 ft (2,149 m), and Rincon at 8,482 ft (2,585 m).

The Pack tap served me well in the Santa Catalina Mountains on the north side of Tucson.  My favorite of the trips I did was to a back country area known as Cathedral Rock.  Luckily there was some running water to refill the Pack Tap during the course of the two day, 20 mile (32 km) trip.  I began at an elevation of 2,600 ft (792 m), and climbed as high as 7,900 ft (2,408 m) while the temperature ranged widely from the mid 30s F (0 C) before the sun came up, to the upper 70s F (20s C) in the middle of the afternoon.

I have started to use the Pack Tap to keep my dogs hydrated on our daily jaunts through the Tucson washes.  Elevation is generally between 2,400 ft (732 m) and 2,600 ft (792 m).

(Snow at the summit of Mt. Mica 8,666ft)


Performance:

I have used the heck out of this product.  It has gone on every hike, backpacking trip, and dog walking excursion that I have done for the past few months.  It will definitely remain part of my go to gear in the future.  

I have been using the Pack Tap as a water source for my two large dogs during our few mile romps through our local washes.  It's by far the most convenient way to carry water for the dogs.  As they lap up the water that I pour directly into their collapsible dog bowl, the Pack Tap gets smaller and lighter.  I can roll it up and stuff it in my pocket by the end of the walks.

It felt good on my 26 mile (42 km) day trip knowing that I had an extra 3.25 liters of water on my back and it felt good feeling the Pack Tap get smaller as the day wore on.  I was able to hang it up on tree branches and easily dispense the water with one hand whenever I needed a refill.  The water inside stayed cold throughout the day.  A few times I threw the Pack Tap to my hiking buddy who apparently has a lack of catching ability, and it fell on the granite and dirt.  We were both impressed by its durability and general strong feel.  I think it worked great as a supplemental water source for a long trek.
(Stopping for a refill in the Rincon Mountain district of Saguaro National Park.)

On my first overnight with the Pack Tap I felt fortunate again to have the extra water in the arid environment.  My main complaint is that when I did discover the only permanent water source in Saguaro National Park, filling the Pack Tap was difficult.  As I explained in my initial report, the Pack Tap has no handle on or near the fill spout, unlike most personal hydration bladders.  I feel that a sturdy handle would have made the difficult job of holding the Pack Tap while pumping a water filter so much easier.  I also noticed that if the tap has been recently used, it is very hard to get the valve off the fill spout to refill the unit.  I even had some difficulty when I resorted to using my teeth.
The Pack Tap was very helpful for around the campsite water.  It's nice to be able to pour some water into a cup and not drink out of my personal hydration bladder so often.  It also works great when I need a little water for some cooking or cleaning.  It seems a lot easier to me to open the valve rather than open a water bottle and pour.  
I was also pleased to find that the water inside did not freeze when the temperature dropped.  I believe that is due to the Mylar material that the bladder is made from.

Summary:
The Pack Tap is a great idea.  A collapsible water container that is durable and easy to dispense.  I'm not too happy with the difficulty I have while refilling the bladder, but it's not enough of a problem for me to stop carrying the unit.  In the Southern Arizona environment that I spend so much time in, adequate water is essential.  I literally carry nearly 16 lbs (7 kg) of water in my backpack for an all day hike.  As much of a pain as that truly is, it is necessary if I plan on surviving in this arid desert.  The Pack Tap is an ideal way to carry this water.  I am now curious about some of the larger units that Sea to Summit offers, I think maybe I could use them to stash water for some of my long journeys.  This concludes my field report, stay tuned for my long term report which is due March 20, 2012.  I would like to thank Sea to Summit and BackPackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item!

Pros:
1.  Easy to pack.
2.  Great extra source of water.
3.  Collapsible.

Cons:  
1.  Small opening makes somewhat difficult to fill.
2.  Lack of a handle near the fill spout can make it difficult to fill.
3.  Does not hole the entire 4 liters that is claimed by the manufacturer.

                             Long Term Report:              

(Looking towards Mt. Mica)

Field Conditions:


The Pack Tap has remained my go to water source for my daily walks of about 4 miles with my two dogs.  The elevation is between 2,400 ft and 2,600 ft (732 m and 792 m), and the temperature has been between 55 F to 85 F (13 C and 29 C).

I took the Pack Tap on a three day, two night trip to the Rincon Mountains in Saguaro National Park.  The elevation ranged from about 3,000 ft to 8,482 ft (914 m and 2,585 m) on top of Rincon Peak.  The weather fluctuated from about 25 F (-4 C) in the early mornings at high elevation, to around 80 F (27 C) mid day at lower elevations. 

The Pack Tap also accompanied me on a 3 day 2 night trip along a portion of the Arizona trail from the Mexico border to the town of Patagonia.  I started at around 5,600 ft (1,707 m)  and got as high as about 8,400 ft (2,560 m) in the Huachuca Mountains.  The temperature ranged from 40 F (4 C) before the sun came up in the mornings, to around 75 F (24 C) by mid day.

(Happy Valley campsite in the Rincons)

Performance:
I have continued to use the Pack Tap extensively throughout the long term testing period.  It is now almost always in my truck to serve as an emergency water source for myself and my dogs.  The dogs probably benefit the most from this as the Pack Tap keeps water tasting good and from getting too hot compared to storing water in the plastic gallon jug that was ever present in my truck for years.  It has seen a great deal of terrain from the Sonoran Desert floor, up to the peaks of numerous Sky Islands throughout Southern Arizona.

I have stuffed it into and strapped it onto numerous backpacks for many trips.  The Hypalon tabs are strong and have not gotten stretched out.  I am impressed how the straps that I hang the Pack Tap from have not begun to fray in the slightest.  I have hung them on thorns and splintered branches and they are holding up to the abuse.  I have dropped it, tossed it and basically beat the heck out of it to test the strength and durability of the construction.  Much to my surprise, I have not been able to create even as much as a scratch on the surface of the Pack Tap.  If I were to wash off all the dirt, it wold look as nice as it did the day it showed up on my doorstep. This is one tough piece of gear, and that is exactly what I need.

I still wish that the opening was a little easier to get into, and that it was a little bigger.  I also would like to see some sort of handle similar to that on most personal hydration bladders to make it easier to fill, but these minor complaints have been far outweighed by the durability and practicality of the Pack Tap.  I would probably have to play baseball with this thing to break it, and that makes the minor complaints I have hard to care about.

It dispenses water quickly, even quicker if I give it a little squeeze.  The valve is tough and has not been compromised by anything other than my dirty campfire hands.  The dust cap is made from very strong plastic and is showing no signs of wear.  The cap is a bit annoying while trying to dispense water, but I think the benefit of having it there while hiking in the dusty desert makes it a worthwhile asset.

I love that I can collapse the unit when it is empty and stuff it into my pants pocket or any available space in my back pack.  I am also impressed by how much water I find in the unit when I squeeze it out.  Sometimes it will appear empty but I can still squeeze a sizable drink out for myself, this has made my day more than once.  The Mylar liner has kept my water both from freezing in the cold and from getting too hot in the heat.  I suspect it will be more difficult to keep it cool in the dead of summer in Southern Arizona, but as of now, I am very pleased.

Summary:

It has truly been a joy for me to test this product.  Every so often, I find a piece of gear that makes me wonder what I ever did before I had it.  The Pack Tap has proven to be just that sort of gear!  In the desert where I spend so much of my time, water is the most important thing to carry.   Prior to testing the Pack Tap, I used to carry 2 liter soda bottles full of water for my extra sources.  Although the bottles were lightweight, they lacked the ability to be packed easily as they do not collapse.  They also lacked the insulation of the Pack Tap, and the durability.  I have lost water in the past while I was deep in the back country due to dropping my 2 liter bottles and watching them explode all over the desert floor.  Nothing makes my heart sink quite like that.  The Pack Tap can not only be dropped, but it can be thrown quite hard to the ground with no breakage of any sort.  The Pack Tap has never leaked while on the trail, regardless of how much stuff I had slammed against it in my pack.  It is just a real dependable item that I enjoy a lot.  I will most likely purchase one of the larger Pack Taps that Sea to Summit offers so that I can stash large quantities of water for my longer excursions.

I would like to thank BackPackGearTest.org and Sea to Summit for giving me the chance to test and report back on this very cool piece of gear!  It has been fun, and I will continue to use the Pack Tap regularly.

Pros:

1.  Extremely durable
2.  Well insulated
3.  Collapsible

Cons:

1.  Small opening that is somewhat difficult to get into.
2.  Lack of a handle that would help make filling easier.


Read more reviews of Sea to Summit gear
Read more gear reviews by alex legg

Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bladders > Sea to Summit Pack Tap > Test Report by alex legg



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