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Reviews > Hydration Systems > Bottles > Blue Desert SmarTube > Test Report by Leesa Joiner
SmarTube Drinking System
October 16, 2007
Field Report January 8, 2008
Long Term Report February 15, 2008
Height: 5' 7" ( 1.7 m)
Weight: 160 (72.5 kg)
Location: Southwestern Maine
My camping, hiking and backpacking experiences include trips varying in length from one-day hikes to two-week trips. Most outings involve my three children, while my style isn't as 'high adventure' as some, I do enjoy the time we spend outdoors. I guess backpacking with three children could be considered adventurous in itself.
In the past, my load was super heavy - think pack mule. Now that the kids carry all their own gear, plus the two oldest help carry the food, etc, my load is lighter. I still go for durability over weight when selecting gear. While enjoying the outdoors, I spend time hiking, geocaching, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and camping. I spend almost as much time outdoors during the winter as I do during the summer.
Year Manufactured: 2007
Listed Weight: Not Listed on website
Weight measured: 2 oz (56 g) (just the tube, no cap)
MSRP: Not listed on website
SmarTube is a very simple, yet useful piece of gear. It consists of a piece of tubing, with assorted adaptive 'bottle caps' that attach at the end of the tube. Those caps then fit on a variety of common water bottles. At the other end of the tube, is a bite valve. The idea behind the SmarTube, is the idea that the user isn't locked into one hydration system. The tube is easily transferred between bottles.
In the package, I received the following:
* 40 inch (1 m) length of tubing, with spring - the spring provides protection to the tubing.
* Grip clip tube holder - to attach tubing to clothing, etc
* Bite Valve - allows user to drink, hands free
* Piece of hook and loop fastener- attaches tubing to shoulder straps, or other parts of backpack
* 28 mm cap (1 in) - fits standard, small water bottle
* 30 mm cap (1.2 in) - fits larger sized water bottle
* 63 mm cap (2.5 in) - fits large mouth Nalgene type water bottles
28 mm 30mm 63 mm
The SmarTube came with simple use and cleaning instructions. It arrived in good condition, and as expected from information on the web site. The web site provides plenty of pictures that show each feature. The company doesn't state a guarantee, but 'stands behind their products'. Hopefully, that is enough, if a problem develops.
I had the opportunity to attach it to a Nalgene bottle, bike bottle and two different commercial water bottles so far (one from Poland Spring/Nestle Waters, and the other Dansani). It fits easily in my pack, and the tube slides easily through the cut outs on my pack. The tubing is easily long enough to reach from the side pocket of my pack to my mouth.
I am looking forward to testing the SmarTube, looking at durability, effect of cold weather on the tubing and ease of use. While snowshoeing, if the temperatures are low enough, will water freeze in the tube? Will ice block the tubing? If the temperatures are extreme, will the tubing become brittle? How easy will it be to clean - the thought of nasty germs growing in the tube could be a real turn off! If it's a pain to clean after use, it would definitely lose some of its appeal. Right now, its adaptability and ease of use are the things I am looking forward to. In order to give this a fair test, I plan on using only water I know to be clean and clear. On occasion, I do drink from a secluded water source, but won't use the SmarTube in those instances. I plan on taking the SmarTube on all upcoming trips - both the 3 overnighters I have planned during the next two months, and on my more frequent day trips. Our temperatures are dropping quickly, and I am looking forward to testing this further in the winter. Right now, our daytime temperatures are in the low 60's, (15 C) with overnight temperatures below the freezing point.
So far, I am pleased with the SmarTube and am looking forward to testing it. I like that the directions are easy to follow, and that all parts seem to fit together as intended. Please check back in two months to read my Field Report. Pictures are taken from manufacturere's web site.
January 8, 2008
I have had 5 opportunities to use the SmarTube while playing outdoors. Four of the times were hiking and camping, the last time was while snowshoeing. While hiking and camping in the White Mountains of western Maine I used the SmarTube with my Nalgene bottle. The trails were mostly rough, with a lot of downed branches and leaves. We did not climb much, so the hikes were not very strenuous - although working to keep from slipping on leaves, or tripping over a branch was tiring by the end of the day. The temperatures during the day never climbed above 50 F (10 C). I can't say I ever worked up a sweat, but I was warm enough to just hike in a long-sleeve t-shirt.
I started with a full bottle of water in the morning. I attached the SmarTube with the 63 mm cap once we had camp set up, then hiked approximately 10 miles (16 km) during the first day. The tubing made it very easy to drink water at regular intervals, without stopping. I found that I drank more water than usual, which is something I need to do. Upon returning to camp, I refilled the bottle and drank most of it before bedtime. I again refilled the bottle and left it by my sleeping bag. In the morning, the water was cool, since the temperatures were only in the mid 40's F (4 C) overnight. This was not something I would probably do in warmer weather, since the thought of warm water sitting overnight in the tubing is a bit gross to me.
The three other overnight trips had similar hiking conditions, other than the weather. The temperatures had dropped to the low 40's F (4 C) during the days, and below freezing at night. The SmarTube's performance was still the same. The cold at night did not affect the tubing - it was in the tent with me wrapped in a fleece pullover. As much as I wanted to see how freezing would affect it - I didn't want to wake up to frozen water. I found that the ease of use, allowed me to drink more water and stay better hydrated. I found there to be no unusual tastes associated with using the SmarTube. I tend to be very concious of 'plastic' - and the tastes sometimes associated with it.
On my last trip, I used the smaller, 28 mm (1 in) cap with 2 plastic bottles that I placed in the side straps of a small daypack. I spent the day snowshoeing. We had received about 30 in (76 cm) of snow in a very short time and I was anxious to get outside. Because of the frigid overnight temperatures of -10 F (-23 C), there was a bit of crust on top of the snow. When first starting out, I thought it would be an easy trip. After a short time though I found that I could stay on top of the snow for a time, then I would break through. Underneath the crust, was light, fluffy snow. Of course, this meant that I would sink down into the snow and have to scramble out and back up onto the crust. The temperature rose to 0 F (-17 C), but it was very bright and sunny, with no wind, so it didn't feel that cold while I was moving. I ended up not going as far as I had hoped, only approximately 5 miles by the end of the day. It was definitey a good workout! I ended up drinking two - one liter bottles of water on that trip. The water didn't freeze solid, but I had to shake the bottles occasionally to break the top coating of ice. Amazingly, the droplets of water left in the SmarTube didn't freeze. I did feed the tubing up inside my jacket, but there were a few inches exposed at the top and bottom.
I am very impressed with the SmarTube - it is easy to use - which encourages me to drink more water. There is no taste from the tubing, which also encourages me to drink more water. The bite valve releases an adequate amount of water at a time without having to 'bite' too hard. I find that cleaning it is simple enough, I run water through the tubing, then lemon water. I hang it to dry as much as possible. In between uses, I store it in the freezer. I am sure to let it thaw before using it again.
My only somewhat negative comment is how difficult it is to change caps. I understand the fit needs to be tight to prevent water from escaping through a space around the tubing, but it is extremely difficult to insert the tubing into the caps. I'm not sure if it will get easier as the product is used more. This is something that I will watch over the next few months.
I will continue to use the SmarTube over the next few months, mostly while snowshoeing. I am looking forward to seeing how it holds up to frequent use. Please check back in two months for my Long Term Report.
Long Term Report
February 15, 2008
Over the last few months, I have used the SmarTube on many occasions, while hiking and snowshoeing. Most recently while snowshoeing in some fairly cold temperatures. The SmarTube has held up very well, and has not caused the water to taste 'off'. I had some concerns about that before and during early testing.
On a recent snowshoeing trip in western Maine, the temperatures were in the low 20's F (-6 C). I carried the water bottle in an outside pouch of my pack. I left the tubing from my water bottle on the outside of my jacket. The water in the tube didn't freeze completely, but the water was so cold, it was hard to drink. I ended up with an 'ice cream' headache the first time I took a drink. I quickly took off my jacket, and ran the tubing inside the jacket, up my side, and along the front of my shoulder. The water was still very cold, but it was easier to swallow. The terrain was a little rough - hilly, with areas of frozen snow, and also some powdery areas. It took a bit of effort to keep from slipping and sliding, which in turn made me thirstier than usual. By the end of the day, I had drank two quarts of water - which is more than I usually do, but the SmarTube made it easy to keep sipping away. I had two bottles of water in my pack, wrapped in my spare fleece. This was enough to keep the water from freezing.
I spent one day out on a frozen lake snowshoeing and again used the SmarTube with great success. It was cold like the last time, so I just kept the tubing inside my jacket and it worked well. The surface of the lake was covered by about 3 in. (8 cm) of snow, which was not hard packed in most places. It was an easy trek and I didn't drink as much as the last time. Again, the water bottles stayed in my pack, wrapped in a fleece.
I have also used theSmarTube on three other snowshoeing trips - all in temperatures at or just above freezing. They were in the 6 - 8 mi (10 - 13 km) range, over fairly easy terrain. The SmarTube worked well, and allowed me to drink while I continued on the trails.
Between uses I rinse the tubing out, rinse with lemon water, let it drip dry and then store it in the freezer. I am careful to let it return to room temperature before using it. I find that the tubing is still hard to manipulate through the hole in the different caps. It has not been a huge issue - as I tend to use the larger cap more than the others. That allows me to leave it attached. In a way, I am glad that it hasn't loosened up - as that would allow for leakage.
I enjoyed testing the Blue Desert SmarTube- it works well, without a lot of fussing. I am very impressed with how well it has held up. It is a very simple design that works as intended. My only suggestion for improvement would be to figure out a way to make it easier to change the tubing, without increasing the chance of leaking.
My thanks to BlueDesert and backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test the SmarTube - I will continue to use is for a long time to come.
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