Review: Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir and Insulated Delivery System

Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir
RRP: £34
Weight: 21g (2 litre)

I switched to using hydration bladders over bottles about 10 years ago and despite the faffing involved with cleaning and drying I wouldn’t go back. I drink more, find the reservoir is more comfortable in my rucksack, and they are generally easier to fill from streams than bottles. In recent months I’ve been testing a 2 litre Osprey reservoir and as it’s been winter, the optional insulated tube and bite valve cover that goes with it.

The resevoir is made from BPA and PVC-free flexible thermoplastic polyurethane, which despite feeling thin appears to be very robust and doesn’t leave an unduly plasticy taste after the first few uses. One of the best innovations is a rigid plastic back which means the reservoir can be slid into a compartment or just down inside a rucksack much more easily than other, flexible bladders. As I don’t always remember to pack my water first, I’ve previously spent time jamming full bladders into almost full packs which is awkward and can sometimes cause a quick release valve to do just that, causing a leak at the bottom of the pack.

Osprey Hydraulics reservoir, shown with insulated delivery system fitted

The other main difference is the wide neck opening which has a dry-bag type fold down seal, which is then fully sealed with a plastic sliding top. A rigid handle is incorporated at the top which allows easy holding whilst filling and sealing the bladder. The seal has worked very well and shows no sign of wear. The neck opens fairly widely; not as wide as some Platypus and Source models, but plenty to allow easy filling from streams and easy cleaning with a brush. This neck design allows the bladder to be held open and dried out using kitchen tongs although Osprey sell a dedicated cleaning and drying kit.

Two other features that worked well are on the tube. Instead of having a quick release valve at the bottom of the pack (and therefore meaning you have to push your hand down into the pack to work it) the tube is in two sections and the release valve sits at the same height as the bladder handle. This makes it much easier to remove the bladder for re-filling while keeping the rest of the tube attached to the pack.

The second feature is more controversial. A small magnetic clip which is attached to the tube, with a second magnet to fix onto the sternum strap, or elsewhere on the pack. This means the tube would always be to hand and is usually kept out of the dirt when the rucksack is taken off. However this strong magnet can affect compass readings and polarity, so we would not recommend using it. It’s a shame as it otherwise would work really well; users with pacemakers also need to check that it is safe for them to wear a high energy magnet in the chest area.

The bite valve requires unlocking with a quarter turn, this is slightly fiddly and I found it difficult in gloves and impossible with winter mitts. The lock does appear to stop any leaks and the bite valve has a soft, pleasant feel and releases a decent flow of water with minimal bite pressure so hopefully I won’t bite through it as fast as I have with some systems.

These reservoirs are available in 1.5l, 2l, 2.5l and 3l sizes and fit with most makes of pack with a bladder sleeve.

Pros: Rigid back, release valve position
Cons: Fiddly bite valve lock, we don’t reommend using the magnetic attachment as it can affect compass readings

Insulated Delivery System
RRP: £22 (usually availble at a lower price)
Weight: 13g

About 5 years ago a group of us spent a whole evening in Chamonix wrestling with coat hangers to fit our hydration tubes with newly bought 3 Euro neoprene sleeves. Once fitted, these basic items were going nowhere and mine has proved its worth in keeping the tube from freezing on many winter Scottish walks. However, on the occasions when the temperatures are really low even blowing the water back down the tube after each use doesn’t stop the bite valve and sometimes the whole tube from freezing up. In these conditions I’ve had to revert to bottles.

Osprey’s insulation system is a bladder tube, thankfully already threaded into a foam padded sleeve that extends right over the bite valve and is sealed with a zip. The material is reflective so should keep water cool in hot temperatures as well as preventing freezing in winter. In my experience it still froze on one very cold day on the Cairngorm plateau.

The insulated tube is designed to fit at the quick release point and replaces the longer, external section of tube. It does not however come with the plastic fitting that clicks into the quick release valve. Instead you must take this off the existing tube which is easier said than done. A quick chat with Osprey customer services advised that washing up liquid would help; it did but this still involved an ungainly two-person tug of war. Whilst the insulation has worked well in some fairly knarly Scottish winter conditions, keeping the water flowing, the zip around the bite valve is fiddly to undo without taking gloves or mitts off. If the bite valve is not closed fully and the zip area gets wet this can also freeze. As the bite valve really needs locking with bare hands its not really a problem, but it does add a bit of faff to the procedure. The insulation could also do with being a tiny bit longer – the padding is shorter than the silver thermal outer by about 6cm which left a short section of tube at the top of my pack exposed unless I made sure it was tucked in.

The magnetic clip provided with the non-insulated tube is not compatible with the the insulation system. Instead the insulated tube comes with an elasticated strap attached to the bite valve cover, and a plastic clip. Initially I thought this clipped into the sternum strap and was confused that the buckle wasn’t compatible with the couple of Osprey packs I had to hand. Another call to Osprey customer services (they really are very patient!) revealved that this should be threaded onto any sternum strap or elsewhere on a pack which is a useful feature, keeping the bite valve where you need it and making this system useful with non-Osprey rucksacks.

Pros: Keeps water from freezing in all but the coldest conditions
Cons: Fiddly zip, difficult to assemble, bite valve can still freeze, high RRP

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Walking can be dangerous and is done entirely at your own risk. Information is provided free of charge; it is each walker's responsibility to check it and navigate using a map and compass.