For cyclists, the word Camelbak often evokes one of two thoughts–a nearly limitless sip of cool water in the midst of a long ride, or a heavy bladder system hunching the rider forward under its weight.
It’s not the fault of the Camelbak really, it’s got to do with personal preference. For many the hydration packs provide a quenching supply of fluids with a level of convenience impossible in the pre-Camelbak era. For some though Camelbak and its ilk are ungainly and difficult to use.
It is for the latter group that the new Camelbak Podium bottle will likely make the largest, ahem, splash as the company’s newest twist (another intended pun, read on) on water bottle designs has made the container-based ingestion of water significantly easier and less messy.
The water bottle doesn’t seem like it needs an overhaul, but Camelbak’s newest product proves that sometimes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should read “if it ain’t broke, look at it harder and figure out how to improve it anyhow.”
Water bottles tend to be a ubiquitous addition to most bicycles, and riders don’t tend to give them much thought–until the spray from some sports drink ends up coating the downtube on a particularly bumpy ride. That’s because water bottles have a pop-up nipple that’s prone to leaking and prone to disgorging the contents of the bottle across tubes and legs alike.
The Camelbak Podium deals with this with two clever mechanisms, the first being a rotating shutoff valve on the top of the lid that completely closes the flow fluids with a simple twist. The second is a bite-valve nipple that’s based on the company’s hydration-pack system which is much less prone to splattering. It’s also a joy to drink from and is much more comfortable to use than a standard bottle.
That said, the bottle isn’t without its detractors. Byron, for example, tested the bottle when it first came out and found that it was difficult to squeeze out fluid during a fast-paced ride. Hearing that, I took the bottle to my gram scale and performed some un-scientific tests with the Camelbak bottle and with “standard” water bottles. I picked a Calistoga Cycles bottle made by Specialized and filled both bottles to the top with water. I performed multiple tests of “squeezes” to each bottle, with eyes closed (so I wouldn’t watch the gram count) to the amount of pressure I’d exert on a regular drink from the bottle.
The Podium bottle produced across three “squeezes” 90, 95 and 93 grams of water. The Specialized bottle produced 93, 100 and 103. Clearly, just a bit more water is provided in a regular bottle, but not enough to offset the leaking and dripping of a regular bottle for me.
One thing that’s important is grip location, you’ve got to squeeze just below the indented grip-portion of the bottle’s neck–the top portion of the bottle will not flex at all due to the diameter of the bottle and the strength of the Podium’s top, which prevents the plastic sidewall from moving. This was the same with the “standard” bottle, but the constant drip of the valve plus a tad of flex would at least result in some water being produced when squeezed here.
The diameter of the bottle just below the neck is slightly wider than a standard bottle (we’re talking millimeters here) but it tapers down at the base to be narrower than a Specialized bottle and so fits in a cage without problems. Those with small hands might have a harder time holding the neck of the bottle compared to a standard bottle.
The next advance in water-bottles is related to something that the bottle is missing, and that’s the possibly cancer-causing BPA, a plastic additive that was recently blasted in some scientific reports and was then removed by most manufacturers. Camelbak’s new TruTaste(tm) which has the benefit of having not-yet being linked to cancer.
The company also lists as a benefit the fact that the bottles can be squeezed for a higher water flow rate, but that’s not really a feature so much as a comparison to the company’s straw-based Better Bottle, their Nalgene competitor.
The bottles come in two sizes, 21 and 24 ounces and are available in six color combinations, plus a Garmin-Slipstream pattern, which isn’t listed on the website. The 21 ounce bottle is $8.00 and the 24 ounce runs $9.00.