The nice folks at ViaTerra Gear were kind enough to send me a Marine Neo hydration pack to use and review. I’ve been using it for a couple of months now and find myself in a position to offer my two cents on the product.
At the outset, I would like to mention that apart from the Marine Neo I have two other hydration packs. A Btwin 902 (read my review here) which I bought from Decathlon and a Mountain Walker hydration pack which I bought from a store in Leh after I forgot my Camelbak hydration pack at a lunch stop in Sarchu.
Personally, I think every serious rider should have two hydration packs. One large size which is capable of carrying stuff apart from water. And a small size for carrying just water and maybe other small stuff like a wallet. I used the large Btwin 902 hydration pack for my multi-day rides in Mongolia and Nepal mainly because I needed to carry my down jacket, rain coat and second pair of gloves. These are things I need to be easily accessible and didn’t want to dig into my luggage every time to find them.
The Marine Neo is a small size hydration pack and is excellent for day long trail rides where I need to carry just water and nothing else. The best part of this product is the HydraPak Shape-Shift 2 litre bladder. The nice thing about it is that it can be completely inverted to enable cleaning. There have been times when I have come back from a long and tiring ride and have dumped my hydration pack without emptying the bladder. When I go to use it the next time I see that the water in the bladder has coated the inner layer with slime which I now need to clean out. Doing that with a bladder that has a normal twist cap is troublesome. But in the case of the HydraPak bladder, all you need to do is invert it and wash it clean.
Another interesting feature of this bladder is the baffle (blue center line in the image above) running vertically through the middle of the bladder from the inside. When engaged the bladder walls get pulled inward and the shape of the bladder filled with water is more flat. This is quite similar to an air pillow with ribs that help it to stay in shape instead of blowing up like a balloon. This baffle reduces the volume of the bladder a little. If you want to use the full volume then you can disengage the baffle.
You drink water by biting on a bite valve which can be locked and unlocked by a twisting motion. There is also a plastic cap that covers the bite valve protecting it from dust and dirt. When riding on highways dust isn’t much of a problem. So you can leave the bite value uncovered to enable you to drink water while riding. But while riding dusty trails you will need to stop your motorcycle to remove the cap so that you can drink water. I tried removing the cap using my left hand while managing the handlebar with the right and it was quite difficult. I managed to remove the cap but couldn’t put it back on. In any case, when riding off-road, its best to keep both hands on the handlebar.
Another excellent feature of the Marine Neo hydration pack is the way the tube is neatly secured to your body when not in use. There is a magnet attached to the tube which can be positioned for adjustment. A metal plate is embedded into the front of the left shoulder strap of the hydration pack. When you wear the hydration pack the pipe dangles in front of you. You simply grab the bite valve and move it towards your left shoulder. The magnet finds the plate and locks into position. It takes some getting used to. But once you have adjusted the magnet properly, it works like a charm. No matter how much I thrashed my bike on the trail, the pipe stayed stuck to my chest.
Priced at Rs. 3,250, I think the ViaTerra Marine Neo hydration pack is excellent value for money. I would prefer it over my Camelbak and Mountain Walker hydration packs any day, mainly because of the bladder. It’s just easy to fill, easy to empty and easy to clean. Two litres is a decent enough size and it has a decent size storage compartment to keep small stuff. Perfect for a day long adventure.