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Hands-on Gear Review
Geigerrig Hydration Engine Review
Cons: Expensive, small learning curve, no measurement on bag
Bottom line: A pressurized hydration system offering innovative uses along with traditional one. Our Editors' Choice winner.
The Geigerrig Hydration Engine is the most innovative and versatile bladder tested. With its sleek design and pressurized system, it has (once again) won our Editors' Choice award. It has a variety of uses that no other bladder tested could even compare. The sleek profile is thin and narrow, which allows compatibility with all sorts of Backpacking Backpacks and Running Packs. The bladder offers you the ability to keep it pressurized or unpressurized with a double chamber - one for air, and one for water. When pressurized, it was the easiest to drink from and doubled as a sun shower and a great way to clean off your dog or dirty sports equipment before throwing it into your car. One of our caveats with this system is that when fully pumped, the water does slosh around quite a bit.
With its dishwasher safe technology, this was one of the two bladders that could easily be flipped inside out and cleaned right in the dishwasher! We also found that manual cleaning was easy with a simple brush. All parts were easy to take apart. It is more expensive than most other reservoirs, but not that much, considering its many innovations. It is a little heavy if you decide to carry around the pump. This comes in both the 2L and 3L size. We generally recommend the Hydration Engine 3L for $50, because it is not that much heavier, expensive, or difficult to use. For the best value in a hydration bladder, we recommend the CamelBak Crux Reservoir. If you are mostly backpacking or want to travel light, we recommend the MSR DromLite and the HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir respectively.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This Editors' Choice stands out for its innovative pressurization system. At first, it seemed contrived and complicated - only something a serious gear geek would buy. However, the more we used it, the more we learned that it could have a place in anybody's gear closet.
Ease of Use
This is by far the easiest hydration bladder to drink from. The pressure system really does spray the water without you needing to suck at all. The bite valve is smaller than the CamelBak Crux or MSR Dromlite, but because of the pressurized system, this didn't have a major performance difference (only when depressurized).
We found a huge benefit to this spray in that we turned our bladder into both of sun shower and a way to clean off ourselves, animals, and equipment off before getting into our (or a friend's) vehicle. We also liked the option of a shower after long days on the trail.
Initially, part of our skepticism with the pressurized system is it felt like it was solving a problem that didn't exist. All the hydration systems we tested were very easy to drink from. However, the benefits don't exist so much in how easy it is to drink from, but the variety of uses it fulfills when pressurized. That said, it is very simple to manually pressurize other bladders, but you can't do that while they're buried deep inside of big backpacks.
Our biggest caveats with the bite valve were that the on and off switch was pretty difficult to turn and actually got stuck when it wasn't cared for properly. That said, we preferred switch locks like we found with the CamelBak Crux instead. We were also surprised that this bladder did not have a measurement system on the side of the bag. This made filling more difficult when we were trying to be very specific with the amount of water we wanted to carry on trail runs. We would recommend any other bladder if you're interested in one with a measurement.
If you're not a fan of the bite valve, switch the tube and valve out with whichever you prefer. All quick release hoses in this review were compatible with this bladder.
Ease of Cleaning
This is the easiest bladder to clean. It is one of the two reservoirs manufactured by HydraPak that advertises as dishwasher safe. Not only is it easy to clean because of the huge opening, it is very easy to dry. This makes it a good option to use with sports drinks where the sugary residue breeds bacteria if you are not on top of it. That said, you still have the challenge of keeping the tubes clean if you are using sports drinks. Geigerrig claims that with the pressurized system, it actually keeps the tubes cleaner, which makes sense - but we didn't have a chance to test that claim. If you're not totally sold on a pressurized system to clean your tubes, look into the HydraPak Tube Brush for only $10. There are many kits out there you can find - just make sure the brush is long enough to fit at least 60% of the tube length.
We often used kitchen tongs to keep the bags open. This makes them easy to dry out after cleaning. Throwing in a tablet like the Hydrapak Bottle Bright might not be such a bad idea either.
Ease of Filling
This bladder is a flip-top variety with a wide-mouthed opening and a slide closure. To fill, simply slide off the closure and pinch the sides of the reservoir for an easy opening.
This scored in the middle of the road for ease of filling. In a deep kitchen sink, it is very easy to fill. In a shallow bathroom or camping sink, it can be hard to get the reservoir completely full and tricky to keep the bottom of the reservoir from touching the sink (only really important in funky campground bathrooms). If you want a bladder that turns horizontally for great top-offs, look into the MSR Dromlite or the wide-mouthed CamelBak Crux.
That said, we found this bladder excelled at collecting water from slowly trickling streams. You can literally unfold the top, place it on the substrate and allow the water trickle in - a great use if you're stuck in the middle of the woods. On top of that, Geigerrig sells two types of filtration systems that easily clip into the tube (such as the Crypto Filter and G4 125 FL Virus Filter), so you don't have to wait for iodine to kick in or work laboriously to pump water through a Water Filter. That said, it was a little more versatile for backcountry experiences. If you want a system that collects water more efficiently from trickling streams, check out the Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir.
Manufactured by HydraPak, this has a similar quality rating as other packs like the HydraPak and Osprey. However, it earned a little higher rating because it integrates a nylon fabric that protects the bladder from wear and tear. This is especially helpful when stuffing and pressurizing the system inside of a backpacking pack filled with many items.
Even with the additional compartment (with a nylon exterior), pressure valve, extra quick release, and tube, this is one of the lighter bladders tested. Weighing in at only 5.85 oz, we thought it was fine to bring on lightweight adventures. That said, if you add the pump, it becomes one of the heaviest by another ounce. It is not insanely heavy, but light hikers and backpackers will likely scoff at this extra features. Day hikers and mountain bikers will find the extra weight well worth it. If you're looking for a simpler option, check out the HydraPak Shape-Shift.
Of all the bladders tested, we thought this was one of the most versatile. It really does excel in most sports - especially day hiking, mountain biking, dirt biking, and any other activity where moving as absolutely light as possible is not essential. We found ourselves reaching for lighter options while trail running, but we also brought it along for unconventional activities. While SUPing and surfing, it proved to be a great solar-powered shower to rinse ourselves off.
This is one of the more expensive hydration bladders. At $50, is it between $20 to $3 more expensive than other bladders. Unless you're specifically looking for a pressurized system, there are many other non-pressurized systems with a better value. For example, the CambelBak Crux is our Best Buy winner with a great value.
While at first we were unsure about the value of a pressurized system, we are now believers. We love the versatility and creativity that we get with this system. We are always finding new uses, from pet cleaning to showering. We originally thought this would just be a product for gear nerds, but we think that its uses extend past the tech-obsessed outdoor user.
— Amber King
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