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Camelbak Podium: The Best Water Bottle Ever?

May 1, 2014
Camelbak Podium

Mountain climbing is thirsty work.

Water bottles. If you’ve ever cycled further than around the block, run a race, swam a swim or joined a gym, you’ve probably got a cupboard full of the things. I sure have.

But not all water bottles are created equal, and the Camelbak Podium is so much better than any other I have used (and I’ve used a lot), I thought I’d sing it’s praises.

So what’s so great about about this bidon you ask? Well lets start with what’s not great about it, it’s expensive. That’s the only negative I can can think of at the moment. The black one above cost me $10 on special. That was great deal because they normally retail between $18 and $25 for the 610ml and 710ml variants and up to $30 for the insulated 750ml Big Chill.

That’s a lot of moola for a plastic bottle! After my temper tantrum had subsided I would cry like a little girl if I ever lost one of mine.

So let’s ask that question again… What’s so great about it?

Camelbak Podiums

Old, oldish and insulated variants.

Two features stand out for me; they don’t leak and they don’t taint the contents. Those are the biggies, we could leave it right there, but I’ll go into more detail because I really like these bottles.

The valve on the top has a rotating lock. When locked (providing you have screwed the lid on properly) it will not leak. This is great when full bottles are being transported. I often carry one in my backpack with a camera, a phone, a wallet – all the things you don’t want to get wet. If you can keep your bottles separate that’s a better way to do it (avoids operator-error), but I’ve never had a problem.

Even when unlocked the valve doesn’t leak when the bottle is on it’s side. I keep one beside my bed that is constantly getting knocked over or kicked around the room, the carpet has never got wet.

Many cheap bottles taste of plastic. I don’t know if that’s going to give me cancer or not, but it’s not an issue anymore because I’ve simply stopped using them. I don’t like the taste of plastic!

TIP: Rinse-out and store your empty water bottles in the the fridge to avoid mould. For long time storage pop the rubber top off and clean around the little flexible valve before drying everything thoroughly. My mountainbiking friends have various routines involving bleach and baby-bottle tablets to try and clean their manky hydration bladders and hoses. Eeeew, gross – they never taste the same! I keep mine in the freezer. Eight years without a single wash and it’s as good as new.

The Podium is made from 100% BPA-free polypropylene. I don’t make a habit of storing them full, but after two weeks in the fridge water has remained totally tasteless. Impressive.

The bottle itself is so well designed. It’s squishy enough that a light squeeze propels liquid through the nozzle at a rapid rate, but not so squishy that the bottle is propelled from your bottle cage when you’re doing a Sarah Walker down the steps outside the library. The recessed area helps retain the bottle in that scenario and provides a secure grip as well. I’ve dropped a few bottles in my time but never one of these, those raised notches lock your thumb and index finger securely in place.

Camelbak Jet Valve

Most of the clever stuff is in the cap.

With the lid removed the opening is large. This makes for easy cleaning and easy access if you like stuffing in ice-cubes like I do. That ice will take a couple of hours to melt in the double-walled “Chill” version above. A cold drink is just heavenly two or three hours into a hard ride.

The nozzle is covered by a soft rubbery cap. It’s removable, washable, and comfortable against your teeth or lips. You don’t have to bite-down to get the water flowing like on a hydration pack, it’s purely for comfort. No more chipped teeth when you hit a pothole mid-drink either.

TIP: I purchased a black pair because the price was too good to refuse, not to match my bike. I value seeing how much water is left without having to pick them up and will stick with transparent styles or light colours in the future. Plus, on sunny days the contents heat-up faster.

Have you ever taken a big swig from a traditional bottle then winced in agony as the nozzle vacuum-seals itself to the tip of your tongue? It’s somewhat distracting and downright dangerous sucking face with a rattlesnake as you career down Albany Hill at 80kph. That won’t happen with the Podium, the clever jet-valve lets air in almost as fast as the liquid is expelled.

So there you have it, the world’s longest review of a plastic bottle. To the 10% of you who made it this far without nodding-off, thanks for your perseverance!

If you’re in the market for a bidon or two give the Podium a try, you won’t be dissapointed.

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