The JetFlow hydration widget is a little bit old school and a little bit new school. It pulls the dirty, moldy, bacteria-ridden hydration bladder out of your backpack and replaces it with a good old-fashioned water bottle you can toss in the recycling bin or dishwasher - but with much of the function of a hydration bladder intact.
Hydration packs are fickle, moody animals. They're super-friendly when you're out on the trail, keeping your whistle moistened and your water accessible wherever you wander. The minute you come home, though, their eyes go black and their demeanor changes. All you have at this point is a rotten cleaning job. And in two weeks, you have a moldy, parasite-infested fung-bag that you avoided washing since your last hike two weeks ago - pure evil.
JetFlow solves the cleaning dilemma by taking a step backwards. The JetFlow system allows a water bottle to function like a hydration bladder. The simple nozzle screws to the top of your water bottle, holds it upside down and delivers water through tubing. You get the same function of a hydration bladder, only with a water bottle that you can unscrew and recycle, or throw in the dishwasher. Most water bottles are considerably more straightforward to clean than bladders.
At first I wasn't too sold on this solution. It seemed both clunky and unnecessary. Plus several companies like Platypus and Hydrapak offer open-top hydration bladders that are easier to clean, kind of rendering the point moot.
Then I realized something: I have one of those convenient, open-top bladders and it's still a moldy mess hidden in some dank, forgotten corner of my garage. Half the time when I need a hydration pack, I just throw a water bottle in my backpack because my bladder is incapacitated. I'd say this solution makes some sense for those of us that simply hate cleaning out the bladder, or don't really like the taste of cleaning products that you just can't seem to wash out.
The JetFlow manifold, as they like to call it, works with a number of bottled waters and beverages. The system comes with two adapters, each of which is compatible with other sized bottles. Adapter number 2 works with Nalgene bottles and the like, so you don't have to be wasteful to take advantage of the system. One hose lets air in and the other attaches to a bite valve to let water out.
This system will likely be a little clunkier than a hydration bladder. Considering that bladders typically carry between 33 and 100 ounces of water (1 to 3 liters), the JetFlow system will probably cut your capacity. It says it can hold up to a 2-liter bottle, but depending on the size of your pack, that may be awkward or impossible. For those that tend to forget (or just plain avoid) cleaning their bladders, it could be a simple, effective solution.
The JetFlow system was originally aluminum, but JetFlow now plans to offer it in two separate plastic versions. The $29 Raptor system includes the manifold, both hoses, bite valve, air intake valve, two bottle adapters and the JetFlow bottle. The $39 Hornet kit includes all that and adds a plunger system used to clean the tubing. Both systems will begin shipping this April. A bladder from Camelbak or Platypus would cost about $30 to $35 retail, so this is competitively priced.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning