Monday, 30 August 2010


This is the first of several components that are meant to accompany the EscapePod™.

I’ve been using hydration bladders for a whole bunch of years. A few different brands. They all have their pros and cons. Just like water bladders in general. Personally I like that they allow me to carry a good sized supply of water. While carrying all that weight isn’t so fun, this time of year I drink a lot of water. Not to mention that sources of potable water are often quite a distance apart, even here where I live. Streams that flowed like a torrent in spring or fall, are sometimes a barely there trickle in summer. Being able to stock up is good. Having that hose right near my face, means I’ll probably drink more water over the course of a day. Also good. The strikes against them are that they can be a bit finicky. Refilling them can sometimes be a real nuisance. In winter that tube has a tendency to freeze up, but that can be overcome to a degree by blowing into the tube to push all the water back into the bladder itself. Another downside is that it’s often hard to gauge how much is left in the bladder. With a bottle that is in your hand when you’re drinking from it, it’s much easier to tell if you need to stock up on water. The Platypus bladders I had were a real pain since any sort of inadvertent pressure against the bite valve would cause water to come gushing out. If my pack toppled over and I didn’t notice it right away, a lot of water could leak out. The CamelBaks I have now have a shutoff valve that remedies that, but of course, you still have to make sure you actually engage that shutoff valve for it to work.

My big issue with them is invariably how to carry them. I’ve tried carrying them on my back, under a pack. That lasted a minute or two. Many packs have a pocket or area to put the bladder, inside the pack. That keeps all that weight near the back. That’s nice, but it take up a considerable amount of room in the pack, and having to refill that thing is always a real challenge. When you’re at home and you put the bladder in, and pack everything around it - great. Trying to wrestle a full 3 liter water bladder back into a full pack - yeah right. Having to half unpack your bag at a creekside, and prevent a bunch of stuff sacks from getting coated in muck or not roll down the embankment into the creek - uh, no. Not to mention, after having a bladder leak inside a pack, I’m still always a bit leery about it. Everything in my pack is in waterproof bags, but it’s still always in the back of my mind.

Carrying them on the back of a pack puts a lot of weight further from your center of gravity. Carrying them on the side of a pack works a bit better, but the load needs to be balanced. 3 liters of water on one side and nothing to counter balance that weight on the other side is noticeable. 

The other issue for me is that when I head off on a day trip, I then need to remove it from my main pack and find some way to integrate it onto a day pack set up. Preferably with as little futzing and fidgeting as possible.

I got an Emdom H2O Carrier. While it is a very nicely thought out and well constructed piece of gear, it’s just way too much for me. The basic idea was sound, so I decided to use it as a starting point to design something that would better suit me.
The front. I built this thing with three layers. An outer layer of 1000D Cordura, a middle layer of insulation (Radiantex. I got it for making cozies. There might be something better for hydration bladders, but it’s what I had), and an inner layer of 420D packcloth. I wanted to avoid as much as possible sewing through all three layers, so everything was sewn to the outer layer of Cordura, then the other two layers were added to form a sandwich if you will.
Inside of the back.
Outside of the back.
The elastic covering over the tube hole was sewn through the outer layer of Cordura, but the edge binding tape surrounding it was sewn through all layers.
Putting binding tape around the outside edge of something is tough enough, but around the inside edge of something is a real challenge. Brutal.
The center divider panel. I cut a hole through all three layers...
...and put a metal grommet on it. I usually button hole my drain holes, but opted to use a metal grommet for the first time. I’ve used grommet presses in sign shops before and they do a nice job of flanging the other side. All I had was a little grommet setter, a base and a die you tap with a mallet and it doesn’t do nearly as nice a job. Essentially splits it into several pieces and then very crudely bends them back. Oh well, it works and since it’s on the inside anyway....
Then I carefully sewed a piece of webbing over it, on the four corners, onto the outer layer of Cordura.
The zipper was sewn in between two pieces of 1½" webbing. 
I opted to take a piece of Cordura, double it and sew it over one of the pieces of webbing to form a protective flap over the zipper.
The two center portions attached and sewn to the back.
Double checking to see that all my measuring panned out properly. And it did. A full 3 liter CamelBak fit perfectly. The dimensions of it are 43 cm (17") high, 15 cm (6") wide, and 7½ cm (3") deep.
And that’s it completed. I opted to only put a tube hole on one side since I knew I would always carry it on the right side.

I also put two ladder locks on the bottom of the front since I was afraid that the weight of all that water might tend to pull it downwards. Or that as the water is drunk from the bladder, the connector straps which would have been tight when full, would then become quite slack, causing it to slide down. The idea was that I might put two straps on the right side of the EscapePod and run them through the ladder locks to act as a sling, should that prove to be the case. I need to get some time in with this thing to see how necessary that actually is.
And there it is attached to the EscapePod.

Mounted to the EscapePod™. You can see what I mean by the Slurp’mups sliding down a bit when the amount of water in it decreases and the tension of the straps consequently loosens.
This is it attached to the side of the Kifaru Express. Gotta remember to add a third female buckle.

Very happy with the way it turned out. 

I debated whether to add a means of wearing this separately with some backpack straps. I opted not to, but I’m still wondering whether I should have. Like the EscapePod, I will likely make more than one of these. One with lighter material, make some little tweaks here and there, etc. Maybe I’ll add that option then.

And it weighs  almost 200 grams less than the Emdom model it replaced.

Oh yeah, and I sewed the whole thing by hand. :-)

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