With backpacks becoming ever more popular among snowmobilers, it was just a matter of time before hydration systems would be available among the offerings.
Arctic Cat was among the first to offer a hydration backpack thanks to its association with bag maker OGIO, with whom the company has a private-label partnership.
For those unfamiliar with a hydration pack, the concept is pretty cool: a food-grade polyurethane reservoir can be filled with water or other liquids. Connected to the bottom of the reservoir is a flexible TPU tube with an end-valve that extends along the shoulder straps of the pack and rests near the user’s chest.
Taking a drink is as simple as using your hand to place the bite-valve in your mouth, then lightly biting down on the valve to open the flow of water into your mouth. This is easily accomplished while riding, which means you can satisfy your thirst whenever it hits, rather than waiting for a pit stop.
I’ve used hydration packs for years while riding dirt bikes and mountain bikes, where the ease and simplicity of drinking-while-riding makes their use a no-brainer. It never occurred to me to use one while snowmobiling, probably because I don’t get as thirsty while sledding as I do while biking.
That changed when Arctic Cat came out with the Hydration Pack two years ago. The 8 x 9 x 18-in. pack features a zippered compartment for the 2-liter reservoir; another large zippered compartment (with a zippered inner pocket); a medium-sized outer-compartment; and bungee system to cinch extra gear if needed. Adjustable padded shoulder straps complement the adjustable sternum strap, adjustable waist strap and lightly padded back to allow a customized and comfortable fit.
Over the course of a couple seasons I used the pack a half-dozen times while snowmobiling. Here’s what I learned:
– No more plastic water bottles that explode in the tunnel-mounted storage bag!
– Being able to drink water at any time while riding is truly enjoyable, especially during long rides with infrequent stops and/or during warmer conditions.
– I experienced no freezing/icing issues in temps that dropped into the upper teens/low-20s Fahrenheit. I always used room-temperature water in the reservoir and made sure to drink frequently to prevent water from freezing inside the drink tube.
– Unlike other hydration packs I’ve used, the reservoir in this unit features a large opening that eases cleaning.
– The extra storage space is just large enough to carry the extra stuff I like to bring on one-day rides, such as snacks, extra balaclava, extra gloves, decals, lip therapy, chemical hand warmer packs and such.
– I’ve used the pack itself, without the water reservoir, on several occasions.
– I’ve ridden with much larger backpacks for years, so I appreciate the smaller, lightweight dimensions of this pack
– Can be used year-round.
– High-quality construction (like all OGIO packs).
– Drinking from the mouth valve is easy when wearing my moto-style helmet, but a bit of a challenge with my full-face helmet.
– I haven’t yet figured out what temperatures/conditions will cause the line to freeze, but surely it will happen.
– If you drink water while riding, then you will have to make more pit stops. The people you ride with will tease you about the situation.
-Not an essential piece of gear, but one that I surely appreciate every time I use it. Its versatility for year-round use makes it a much easier to justify purchase. I’m glad to own it. Thumbs up.