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Field Tested: HydraPak Expedition 8L

There’s no shortage of ways to haul water, but most water carriers do only that: they hold H2O, and their sole feature is the handle you use to tote it around. HydraPak’s Expedition, however, promises to be more of a multitasker. Its cleverly-designed cap and an assortment of attachment options turn this jug into a solar shower, filtration system, hand-washing station, and drink dispenser. That versatility caught my attention because I’ve got limited cargo capacity on my rig (a Toyota Tundra fitted with a Four-Wheel pop-up camper). Every item I pack has to serve a valuable purpose, and if it can fulfill multiple functions, even better. The $60 Expedition seemed like the Swiss Army knife of water jugs—so, keen to find out whether it could make good on that claim, I took it along on a 10-day trip in Utah’s canyon country.

This 8-liter bladder is made of thick nylon TPU that’s black (to exploit the sun’s rays for water-heating purposes). It’s also free of BPA and PVC (two chemicals that you don’t want in your drinking water). All seams are welded instead of stitched, which HydraPak says makes the bladder more durable. I can attest that those seams—and everything else on the Expedition—seem impervious to hard use. Utah’s abrasive sandstone left no scuffs, and intense heat didn’t soften the seams. To get warm water, I’d sometimes set the jug on my truck’s hood (so it’d be heated from below as well as above) and nothing melted.

The carrying strap is a strip of plasticized webbing that fits comfortably in my hand, and welded daisy chain attachments let me hang it from a branch or roof rack (I used a short tie-down made of nylon webbing, which worked great). HydraPak claims that internal baffles let the Expedition stand on end when it’s full, and although I was able to make it do that on my kitchen floor, I never could find a spot in camp that was smooth enough to keep the jug from toppling. That was okay, because standing it up that way didn’t usually offer me much benefit beyond keeping it out of the dust.

Its standout feature is the Plug N Play cap, which accepts the various attachments that make this jug so versatile. It’s like two caps in one: there’s an outer, wide-mouth opening (for filling it) and an inner dock where you can insert a spigot.

The Expedition comes with a dispenser that looks and functions like a beer keg tap (you press the lever with your thumb, and water runs out the tube). It’s handy for filling your cup or rinsing dishes. Washing hands required a buddy’s help since one hand has to keep squeezing the spigot to keep water flowing.

Turning it into a shower requires a separate $18 accessory which will hit the market in August 2018. That 1-inch showerhead hardly delivers a drenching cascade, and that has pros and cons. It’s good for conserving water: two adults and one child could shower (and even wash hair) with the Expedition’s 8 liters. But I did find myself wishing for a more generous flow, especially on cool evenings, when body parts that weren’t directly in the flow of warm water got chilled. And I had to scrub myself one-handed because holding the tap open required my other hand (that’s also good for water conservation since the system prevents water from running out inadvertently).

For filtration, you need to buy Katadyn’s $95 Vario, which threads into the wide-mouth opening. I didn’t get to test that feature, but it’s the only time I might wish the Expedition would stand up more reliably: with the filter fitted on top, the jug will topple unless you hold onto it; yet you’ll need your hands to operate the pump and manage the intake tube.

The Expedition system may have a few small imperfections, but I like it. It’s serviceable and durable—even waterproof (to my surprise, that 2-in-1 cap never leaked). I’ll continue to make room for it on future trips, and that’s the real proof of its worth.

To learn more, visit their website here. 

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