I wish I’d had this on my trip to Big Sky.
Like a lot of people, I tend to get thirsty when I ski — particularly out west, where the air is dry. And like others on TheSkiDiva.com, I’ve had problems with my hydration pack freezing. Even though I have one with an insulated tube, sooner or later ice builds up in the bite valve and it’s impossible to get a drink.
Geigerrig saw this thread about the problem, and they sent me their Red Rig Hydration Pack for review.
Out of the Box:
The Red Rig isn’t big, but it’s beefy. It’s made of high density ballistic nylon that seems pretty much bombproof. Features include vented padding on the shoulder straps and back, a waist strap, an elasticized sternum strap with a built-in pealess whistle (cool!), and a stabilizing back plate inside that can double as a shovel, if needed (also cool!). Sliders and loops and grippers are big and easy to manipulate, and the whole thing seems very solidly put together. (The Red Rig is sized to hold its hydration gear and a few essentials—keys, hand warmers, a wallet—although Geigerrig makes other, larger models for day hiking and other activities.)
What’s most noteworthy is the way it works. Inside is a 70-ounce bladder that’s divided into two compartments. One connects to the water hose and drinking valve, and the other connects to an air hose that terminates in a rubber bulb. (And I really mean connects. Both hoses attach with sturdy click-in fittings that mean business.) Fill the bladder with water, squeeze the bulb to pressurize the system, and you’re good to go.
The positive pressure system means that the drinking valve sq““uirts water, instead of requiring you to bite down and suck. That can come in handy when you want to share a drink with a friend, human or otherwise, or even use the water to cool down or clean something. The bladder is easy to fill, thanks to a very wide mouth and a big slide-on seal. It’s also easy to clean, since you can turn it inside-out and run it through the dishwasher (top rack only!).
Since I was mainly interested in testing the setup under cold conditions, Geigerrig sent an optional Insulated Tube Garage. I found it a little tricky to install perfectly, but I was glad to see that it zipped closed over the drinking valve and had a zippered pocket to hold a hand warmer. They also provided a filter so you can get water right out of a stream or lake if needed, which I didn’t test (cool option, though).
On the Mountain:
I’m not crazy about wearing a pack of any kind on the slopes—or, I guess I should say, on the lifts, where the bulk makes me feel like I’m pitching forward— but I certainly found the Red Rig as comfortable as any pack might be. It stayed secure no matter what happened as the day went by, and at lunch we reconfigured it to fit my much-larger husband, with no trouble at all.
The good news is that on this cold Vermont day—in the teens on the mountain—the Red Rig performed like a champ. The bad news is that it took a little bit of doing to get it right.
We tested the drinking valve after every second run, or about every half hour. On the first test, we had a freeze-up. We skied to the base lodge and quickly dismantled everything, which revealed that ice had formed in the drinking tube near where it entered the Tube Garage. Taking everything apart to blow the ice out revealed another problem, and this one was definitely user error: the tube wasn’t fully inserted into the bladder.
Score one for Geigerrig, though. Thanks to the click-in fittings, no water had leaked into the pack. Tragedy averted.
We put everything back together, adjusted the tube so that less of it was exposed beyond the confines of the pack, adjusted the Tube Garage to help make that happen, and put a single hand warmer into the zippered pocket. For the rest of the day, we had water on demand.
The product manual leaves a lot to be desired. I felt that I had to figure out a lot of stuff on my own. The web site has a lot of videos, which are good, but I think they could use an out-of-the-box primer to fill you in on the basics.. Hopefully this will be resolved in the future.
I don’t know if this is going to continue in the future, but Geigerrig offers a sweet deal with each hydration pack it sells: a Mountain Passport that contains dozen of free lift tickets! Unfortunately, there aren’t too many for the east, a downside for me. But they’re in there for Alpine Meadows, Angel Fire, Brundage, Snowbasin, Monarch, Canyons, Homewood, Kicking Horse, and more.
The Geigerrig hydration pack is a sturdy, well designed item that’d be great for any kind of outdoor activity. Loved the whole idea that you can spray to get a drink, so there’s no germy mouthpiece or backwash and the pack doesn’t turn into a microbe factory (dishwasher compatibility also helps). Also loved the in-line water filter, which they say removes >99.9% cryptospordium and giardia. And once I got it nailed down, the water line didn’t freeze, either; a big plus.
Rating: Two ski poles up!