by Joe Clark

First published April 1993

Using the stern-sounding slogan "Hydrate or Die," a Texas company is promoting the use of glorified colostomy bags as a space-age water bottle for outdoor sports. The CamelBak consists of a 2L plastic bladder with a long tube; the bladder slips inside an insulated carrying pouch and slings across your back. If you need a drink, you just bite down on a valve at the end of the tube and voilà, instant icewater, Gatorade, coffee, banana daiquiri, etc.

Designed as a convenient way to maintain hydration over long periods, the CamelBak caught on first with bicyclists, who find the handsfree system more convenient than reaching down for a water bottle. (CamelBak sales quintupled from 1991 to 1992, and by February 1993 sales had exceeded levels reached in all of 1992.) CamelBaks were used by U.S. troops in Operation Desert Storm (with a reflective mylar overlay), and in keeping with that tough-guy image, CamelBak maker FasTrak Systems offers a fabric overlay for the CamelBak in a camouflage motif.

The standard model, the ThermalBak, is complemented by the HalfBak, with a 0.95L capacity, and the IceBak, which lacks insulation on the inside surface, letting cold liquids cool you down or your body heat melt ice. Inventor Roger Fawcett receives many requests for a model with two compartments-- "so that they can carry vodka one side, tonic the other, know what I mean?"-- but hasn't come up with a workable prototype.

UPDATE: After living with the CamelBak for three years, I now could not cycle without it-- once you're accustomed to a certain level of hydration (i.e., the proper level), you can never go back. But the CamelBak has real defects:

FasTrak Systems has invested a mint into expanding the CamelBak franchise with new variants. Perhaps Fawcett et al. ought to have perfected the main product first.

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