Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Dromedary bags, reliable water storage
I have a 4L Dromedary (not Dromlite) that I've used for years without a single leak. I bought it in '95 or '96 which, I believe, was years before they came out with the Dromlite versions. They had a voluntary recall a year or two later (nothing to do wtih leaks) so the bag I currently use was probably from '96 or '97. It's been on a thruhike of the AT, 700 miles on the PCT, and a host of other trips around the world.
When I bought MSR's first bite valve option for the bag in '99, it leaked at the cap end immediately and I returned the bite valve. When I saw a new design, I bought that and that leaked at the cap end as well - back to the store it went. Finally, a few years ago, I saw yet a third design (as best I can remember) and that has proven to be a winner. No leaks.
I do have to be careful not to pull the bite valve off the hose but even that takes force and isn't really an issue. I now use a film canister over the bite valve to protect the valve from dropping on the ground and find that works great. Somehow, perhaps because it's bigger and more visible (better reminder?), I no longer seem to pull the bite valve off the hose. Also, the bite valve part needs periodic replacing. It starts to drip every now and then but with the film canister cover, it's not enough to be annoying or worry about losing any significant amount of water.
So, with the regular cap, I've never had a leak. With the bite valve, once I found a design that didn't leak, no problems.
As for filling it, I find the first 3.5 liters are easy enough to handle. It's that last half a liter or so that gets difficult. I usually put the first 3.5 in through the wide mouth opening. I then close the wide mouth and use the narrow opening for the last bit of water.
To prevent the sound of sloshing from driving me crazy, I squeeze all the remaining air out through the flip spout. If I'm using the hose, I hold up the hose so all the air goes into the hose and then squeeze out the air.
I did once test a Nalgene lid on the bag to see if it would work in an emergency and I wasn't happy with the results. It leaked very easily, I think because the Nalgene lids are much less flexible than the Dromedary lids.
Before I relied on it, I also tested the Dromedary by filling it 3/4 full or so and making sure the lid was tight. I let it sit until I was sure the entire exterior of the bag and lid were completely dry and then squeezed and tossed it around a bit. I was pretty rough with it. Not a single drop came out and as far as I can tell, it's been water tight ever since.
I have never talked with anyone who has ever had a Drom... bag leak. I can't say that about any other brand of hydration system bag I've heard of. That said, the Dromedary bag isn't light. If you decide to go with them, fill them with water and then play catch with them, roll them around, squeeze them, etc. If they leak, take them back. If not, you probably will have convinced yourself that they are reliable.
I continue to use my Dromedary bag because it is what I have. For hikes where water availability is not a problem, it's overkill. There are lighter options out there. For times when water is a big concern and I need to carry a day or more's worth of water, I like knowing that I have at least one foolproof stash of water with me just in case.
October, 2006 update
I lost my bite valve to a pickup truck while hitching along the Appalachian Trail this past spring. When I went to replace the bite valve, I found that my old style valve was no longer available but MSR now has a valve to use on the Dromedary bag. I bought one but unfortunately, my new valve started leaking badly due to a split in the material within the first week of use. When I brought it back to REI, I realized the replacements came in pairs. The only reason I can think that they would come in pairs is if they are designed to break. I'm disappointed in MSR.
Last updated, October 24, 2006.
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