For years I have had the frustration of not knowing how much water was left in my hydration unit without opening my pack and physically looking. CamelBak has come up with a solution to this problem. The CamelBak Flow Meter.
Some people don’t feel they need to know how much water they have. I have ran out of water while in areas that had no water accessible. This occurred because I was unaware of how much I had been drinking. The CamelBak Flow Meter lets me know how much water I have available and then make decisions based on this.
Here is what CamelBak says about their Flow Meter:
Convert any CamelBak reservoir into an intelligent hydration system with the CamelBak Flow Meter. The water gauge measures how much water you drink, and how much is left in your reservoir. Programmable to monitor personal hydration goals and easy to integrate with any CamelBak reservoir.
Now for my experiences with the Flow Meter.
A Quick Guide to Installation:
Unless you buy the CamelBak Omega Deluxe Reservoir with Flow Meter which is a reservoir with the flow meter already attached, you will need to install it on the drink tube. I’ll provide more detailed instructions on installing the Flow Meter in another post. For this post, just make sure you put the reservoir in place in your pack and make a mark on the tube where you will cut the tubing for the Flow Meter to be installed. Placing the cut tubing under hot water will ease in the installation of the Flow Meter.
Here is the rundown on what I have encountered using the CamelBak Flow Meter:
I have used this device while backpacking in spring and summer conditions as well as in the winter while cross-country skiing. I don’t use all of the functionality that the flow meter has, I just need to know how much water is left in the hydration reservoir.
My Flow Meter was installed on a 3 liter CamelBak Omega reservoir. I changed the Flow Meter to metric settings to match my gear. After filling the reservoir with 3 liters of water and setting the Flow Meter to 3.0 liters, I was ready to take it out for testing. This first test would be in the snow, cross-country skiing.
With the Flow Meter installed, I did not notice that any additional effort was required to get a drink. The flow rate appeared to be the same. While cross-country skiing, I found that the unit had a tendency to freeze. This was mostly due to me not drinking enough and not having the drink tube insulated. The water in the tube was slightly slushy, but still moved. While skiing I found that I was not drinking nearly as much as I thought I was. After 2.5 hours the Flow Meter showed I had drank less than .5 liters of water. Upon opening my pack and inspecting the reservoir, this was correct. I drank more water during the trip and after I was back at our car the Flow Meter info was checked against the water level in the reservoir. The level of water remaining was very close to the amount the Flow Meter stated remained.
While hiking in the high desert, the unit was invaluable in helping me stay hydrated. Again, I was not drinking enough. Water levels were checked against the Flow Meter and again, the amounts were very close. At the end of a twelve mile day hike, the amount of water that was remaining was close to what the Flow Meter showed.
If you let water drain out of the drink tube, the accuracy of the Flow Meter degrades. It appears that the Flow Meter works best when you are drinking through the bite valve. When I filled my cooking pot with water from the CamelBak by just squeezing the bit valve and letting the water drain, the accuracy was lower than when I just drank from the reservoir. Knowing this, if I filled my pots from the reservoir, I would adjust the Flow Meter afterward to match the amount of water in the reservoir. Since I was usually at camp when this was happening, it was not as big a deal as if I was moving on the trail.
When testing the accuracy of the device, I measured 1, 2, and 3 liters of water into the reservoir and then drank 1 liter of water each time. The Flow Meter showed the correct amount of water that was left in the reservoir to within a couple ounces. If I just let the water drain through the bite valve the accuracy was not very good. Again, it appears that the Flow Meter works best when you drink through the bite valve.
I did not blow the water out of the tube and back into the reservoir since it appeared that this affected the accuracy of the Flow Meter.
Some people think the Flow Meter is crazy and useless, and others think it’s great. I think it’s a great idea and use the CamelBak Flow Meter on every trip I take. For me, knowing the amount of water I have available is an asset. If I am near a stream or other water source, I can look at the Flow Meter and know if I need to stop and refill without having to open my pack. If I am in a region with no water, it helps me to manage my water intake so that I don’t run out.
It is accurate enough that I have not ran out of water prematurely. The Flow Meter has also helped me know when I was not staying hydrated enough. For me the peace of mind this device brings is worth the cost.