CamelBak has been around for a long time and actually originated the concept of hands-free, (i.e. backpack or waist-carried) hydration in 1989 with the ThermoBak. In fact, for many consumers we know, CamelBak has become the generic term for a backpack hydration system, for whatever that's worth.
Now, the hands-free hydration specialist has gone the way of bottles, but it's taken bottles a few steps further, not wanting to be just another sport sipper or Lexan schlep. The 24-ounce CamelBak bottle, which arrived in stores in May 2006, is tall, lean and a bit sexy really.
A number of the SNEWS® team members have been using these bottles – dubbed adult sippy cups by some -- for various endeavors for a few months now and, as a bottle for fitness or day-to-day uses, such as at your desk or in your car, and travel, this one is now an all-around favorite.
What's different about it? It comes in a whole slate of bright colors in clear Lexan (a hard plastic) that makes it attractive. It has a finger loop that is positioned more ergonomically than the loop on many other Lexan bottles (and mostly non-existent on sport bottles), so it's a cinch to carry. The kicker is, it incorporates the bite valve on CamelBak's other reservoir hydration systems, making it as good as leak-free, even in the changing pressure of an airplane (We've dribbled on way too many innocent seatmates from our leaking bottles in the overhead, sorry to say, but not any more with this bottle). The bite valve also flips down into a protected and locked position on the top, meaning it stays cleaner and more hygienic. And the rubber top on the valve slips off easily for super simple cleaning.
One more thing: The cap is a wide-mouthed two inches so you can easily fill the bottle with ice, but it is also a standard size so it then fits most other wide-mouth bottles – meaning you can use this cap and sipper top on your other bottles if you're so moved.
We love the fact we can toss it in a workout bag and not have it leak everywhere, and that we can trust it on our desktop, knowing an errant elbow won't spill it on our keyboard and kill our computer. We also really like being able to take a drink while driving without having to toss our head back OR dribble down our fronts while in nice clothes.
One real drawback: Its promo material alleges it fits in car drink holders. We say: Really? In several cars and trucks of different makes and models we've found this 24-ounce bottle sorta fits, but doesn't actually sit down into the holder, but rather kinda wedges part way down and stays a bit wobbly. Not sure whose car CamelBak tried for this (were they all driving Hummers?), but shaving a few millimeters off this original bottle would do the trick.
Now, for those hard-core users who normally take a wide-mouthed bottle climbing, backpacking or hiking: This ain't really the one, our testers said. It takes too much handling for using on bikes if you're even semi-serious or on anything but roads (OK for casual, urban touring, though). Like other wide-mouths, unless you have a pocket to stash it on your backpack, the loop would leave it dangling and swaying behind you, which many hikers and backpackers really hate (if you don't mind, go for it), although it does hang neatly and the loop does seem sturdier than others. Plus, the sippy valve structure makes it a bit heavier than others, so if you are shaving off the ounces here and there, this won't do it either.
One of our testers gave one to a friend who had to break up fights over it between her nephews, indicating the bright colors and smooth look is something that kids thought was cool too. But at 750 milliliters (a smidge over 24 ounces) this version is still too big for that. A smaller version (500 milliliters or just over 16 ounces) and a larger version (1 liter or about a quart) will be available in November 2006. So that should keep the kids happy.
All in all, for lifestyle and travel uses, this has become THE bottle at our desks, in our carryon luggage, and in our cars.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $12
For more information: www.camelbak.com