Temps are dropping – here’s a review that’s been rattling around our files since last spring, just waiting for the gales of November!
Along with recently testing Platypus Hydrations’s new Duthie 12 hydration pack, I also got my hands on their Bite Valve and Drink Tube Insulator. As anyone that rides with a hydration pack in freezing temps knows, tube/valve freeze up is a problem. The Platypus solution to this problem consists of a tube insulator and an enclosure for the bite valve. Both of these items are retrofittable to your existing hydration pack.
The tube insulator is basically pipe insulation. You disconnect the tube from the bladder, slip this over the tube, and then reattach the whole thing to your bladder. What you immediately notice is that the Tube Insulator is HUGE. Its so big that it make routing the tube through the pack and shoulder straps a bit difficult. However, despite its size, it isn’t tight around the tube, which creates airspace. Because of this airspace, I was a bit skeptical that it was going to work all that well. After several rides in temps well below freezing I’ve found that it does indeed buy you some time. I did some side by side testing of an uninsulated platypus tube filled with water vs. one with fitted with a Tube Insulator (temps were in the low to mid 20s) . Not surprisingly, the uninsluated tube made it abougt 30 minutes before it was frozen solid. The insulated tube made it to almost two hours. If the insulation was a bit tighter around the tube it might provide even better protection from the cold.
The other part of this Insulator Kit is the bite valve protector. This consists of an enclosed capsule that fits around the bite valve that you pop open to gain access. As with the tube insulator, this thing is a tad oversized, and as with the insulation, there is a lot of airspace inside the housing. However, unlike the tube insulator, the bite valve cover really didn’t provide any advantage. My insulated bite valve froze through pretty quickly during my test rides. Furthermore, my side by side testing against an unprotected bite valve showed an advantage of only 10 minutes, which may or may not be worth the hassle of opening and closing the cover on the trail. Additionally, when retrofitting the cover to a bite valve with a shut off and elbow, which most hydration packs out there have, it leaves this area exposed to the elements. If possible, removing these exposed parts and running the bite valve directly on the tube would allow for better protection. Interestingly, Platypus sells an Insulator Hydration System as part of their non bike offerings that does away with the elbow/shut off, which allows the bite valve to be full enclosed within the cover.
In the end, I can see myself using the tube insulation during the winter months and leaving the bite valve cover behind. I think if you’re diligent about blowing the water out of your bite valve, you’re just as well off. Of course, you could go the extra step (or breath) and blow the tube out as well and then you wouldn’t need either but it is nice to have a little extra insurance out there on the trail.