These little beauties, Roguepak, landed on my doorstep a while ago, but because of the lack of really big long runs of late, I’ve not had a need to use a bladder. But upon embarking on a recent training regime for Northburn, the trusty old bladder has had to come back into play, so this was a perfect opportunity to test these out.
The big claim that the website pushes about these bladders is that they eliminate the hassle of cleaning and drying bladders, which yes, it is an issue, but it’s more of a first world problem if we’re going to be honest. The theory is that you can just pile your way through these every so often without the need to clean them. Use them and then chuck them.
Now, I do admit that I have a little bit of an issue with this, as I believe that as a society we should try to reduce our footprint on earth as much as possible, so there is the moral dilemma around this. But on the plus side, these things are made of medical grade plastic and are 100% recyclable, meaning that they can be put to good use elsewhere.
But as an ultrarunner, I took a very different approach to why I think these bladders are brilliant. The cleaning thing is not a big issue for me, or I would have thought runners in general. It’s not like you use these bladders once and then throw them out. I’ve used mine multiple times, so here’s three reasons why they are great.
One of the biggest issues I see with current bladders are the ability to refill when you’re mid-race. If you’re doing a big 100 miler and you’re 100km+ into the race, you’re all over the place and generally the contents of your bladder can end up the same way – all over your pack.
This bladder has a remarkable filling system which I’m still trying to get my head around. As you can see from the picture below, the fluid goes into the tube at the top and that is literally it. The thing self-seals and boom, off you go! No messing about trying to get a seal on the top, finding out that you’ve folded the bladder seal the wrong way round at the top. Or when you’re at the top of a mountain, your hands are freezing and you’re struggling like buggery to get the seal back on. None of that crap.
To be quite honest, how the likes of the major hydration brands haven’t cottoned onto this yet is quite remarkable. This is bladder automation at its finest. Fill and go.
Another massive bug-bear of bladders I’ve found is that only certain sizes will fit certain packs, and it’s due to two things, the way the bladder has been shaped and designed, and that pesky seal at the top of it won’t fit inside/across your pack.
These bladders, like I said, are made of highly durable medical grade plastic and they compress down to the size of a small potato. That means they’re highly malleable and will fit any shape of backpack you can pretty much think of (within reason of course, you’re not going to stash 2 litres of water into a tiny pack). But here’s a great test. I use the Ultimate Direction AK vest. It’s tiny and lightweight. As the Roguepak is literally just a piece of plastic and you don’t have long black plastic rod that seals at the top, I could comfortably fit two litres of water into the back of this pack because it simply adjusts to whatever shell you place it in.
Not only that, but I had room to fit in a further 10 gels, a mobile phone, a snake bandage and an extra tube of Paw Paw cream, which as guys will know, is much required on hot humid days where you’re running for 7+ hours at a time! I’ve never got a 2 litre bladder in the back of that pack before and it completely changes the game in terms of being able to go lightweight on the run, yet still carry ample water.
On the face of it, these bladders look highly flimsy and as if they’ll break at the scratch of a twig. But check out the video test they did below. I also stashed my bladder in a tree when on my long run this weekend just gone. I was doing a quick out and back into the Jamieson Valley here in the Blue Mountains and didn’t require to take two litres of water with me. So I stashed the bladder on a branch on the tree, half thinking it would burst. Nope, these things are tough as old boots too.
The Final Verdict?
You can probably tell I’m a massive fan of these. The environmental footprint issue aside, these things really change the dynamics of running long and light. The one thing I think could be an improvement is to sell these bladders with a cap over where the tube attaches. Where I see a great use for these in training for big ultras is when you’re off doing the essential 50-60km+ runs and you need to stash water somewhere, or there is limited water. Because of the durability of these things, you can confidently place them in a tree or behind a bush, but they don’t come with a cap, just a drinking tube attachment. I’d love to see that simple addition so that as runners, we’re able to do some ‘stashing’ on our regular training routes.
The good thing is that these things are cheap as chips too when compared to bladders, which are horribly over-priced generally and yet so cheap to manufacturer. With RoguePak, you can grab 3 x two litre bladders for $12.95 US. I’ve been using the same bladder now for weeks and still have another three to get through, they look on the face of it to be highly cost-effective if you don’t plan on throwing them out too.
The only issue right now is that it looks like they’re only for sale in the US – I might have a word and see what we can do to bring some of these bad boys over to Australia and New Zealand if our readers are keen 🙂
Have a gander here if you’re interested: http://www.roguepak.com/collections/all