I hate hydration bladders. There I’ve said it. You know you do, too. Not that they aren’t a great way to haul around water when tucked inside a useful shoulder-mounted system. It’s just that they are fragile, difficult to fill, and such a pain in the ass to properly clean and dry. Who wants a mouth full of germy algae? But I think you are going to really like the Hydrapak First Wave Tactical Reservoir.
Time and again, I’ve watched water pouring down a SWAT guy’s back and legs after something punctured his hydration bladder. Yeah, in training it is comical, but on a live call-out, it is serious. Other than a puncture, bladders sometimes split. The Hydrapak First Wave is constructed of 0.4 mm thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) with super strong RF-welded seams. First Wave’s TPU is 60% thicker than competitor’s models, so it is, essentially, fortified.
I received a 2-liter First Wave tactical reservoir to test. Given Hydrapak’s durability hype, I promptly poured in the water, folded the top, slid on the sealer, placed it on the floor, and stood on it (in the garage). I even bounced a little. It laughed at me. No bursting, no leaks.
The best feature of the First Wave is its large top-fill opening that makes it painless to dump in ice cubes and H2O. One step better, the First Wave turns inside-out for thorough scrubbing and drying. This fixes one of my main heartache with traditional bladders.
The slide closer has slots for hanging the reservoir from inside a pack. It is also tethered to the bladder so that it can only engage the folded top of the First Wave in the correct direction. If the outside of the reservoir is very wet, the slider may be difficult to move, but patting the mouth and slider dry before engagement solved this.
The First Wave comes with an insulated tube, on-off bite valve, and a cap for the mouthpiece. The tube has a thick rubberized coating that provides the insulation, unlike a nylon sleeve that can wear or fray. The tube also locks into the bladder and is easily remove for cleaning.
The 2-liter Hydrapak reservoir and its little friend, a collapsible 500 mL Tactical SoftFlask bottle, flew with me to California for my May hiking trip. Once through TSA screening, I filled the compact, empty SoftFlask with water from a fountain for the plane ride. That proved handy. It is made from the same thick TPU as the reservoir. An on-off ring, cap, and belt loop are standard issue.
The First Wave reservoir went with us on every stride of the forty miles my wife and I hiked. I stuffed the Hydrapak into my reliable Maxpedition Falcon II backpack. Because the bladder cleans up without fuss, fresh water accompanied us each day. And for the flight home, there was no damp reservoir in my luggage.
I highly recommend replacing your existing frail reservoir with a robust Hydrapak First Wave Tactical Reservoir. The 2-liter has an MSRP of $27.00. A 3-liter costs two bucks more. The 500 mL SoftFlask runs $20.00. Good pricing for these extra-tough water containers.