Guest poster Jeff Hemmel says if you’re looking for a good water bottle, this is the one to try.
Ray’s recent post on water bottles exposed something interesting. Namely, there are quite a few fans of Camelbak’s Podium water bottle. The proof is that, in a world where cycling enthusiasts often get bottles for free or pick them up dirt cheap, people will actually pay a premium to trade up to a Camelbak.
Like a lot of people, I viewed the Podium with a little skepticism the first time I laid eyes on it. It was probably the whole “reinventing the wheel” thing. After all, a water bottle’s a pretty simple thing. Why throw a lot of tech at it? Even when I ultimately bought one, it was because I liked the bottle’s looks more than I bought into its hype. But after using it for a while I suddenly noticed my other bottles remained in the cupboard, while the Camelbak was on constant rotation.
One reason is the Jet Valve. Rather than a conventional bottle’s pull-up nozzle, the Podium features a medical-grade silicone “valve” that doesn’t drip or leak. Squeeze the bottle and the valve opens up. Stop squeezing and it clamps shut. No grabbing the nozzle with your teeth to pull it open while riding, pushing it against your chin or hip to close, and no sticky sports drink drips on your clothes or bike unexpectedly. Just grab, squeeze, and stick it back in your bottle cage. Should you want to more permanently close the bottle, like if you throw it in a gym bag, you can turn a rotary valve at the base 90 degrees to stop any flow.
Another reason is the 100% BPA-free, polypropylene bottle material. Camelbak calls it TruTaste, and claims it lets you taste your drink, not plastic. I’d say that’s true. You don’t get the nasty taste you get from cheap bottles. Podiums are also lined with HydroGuard, an antimicrobial embedded into the bottle walls that inhibits bacteria growth that could result in odors, discoloration, and deterioration. I’ll take them on their word on that one, as I’m pretty good about washing my bottles after every use.
That polypropylene material is also, however, exceptionally soft, even in the insulated version I picked up as my second Podium. I received another “name brand” insulated bottle as a gift, and it’s ridiculously hard to squeeze. That may seem like a silly thing to gripe about (what am I, some kind of wimp!), but when you’re looking to grab a quick gulp on the fly, it’s nice to be able to squirt your bottle without a second thought, rather than actually squeeze with concerted effort just to get a decent flow.
So what’s not to like? Some would say the price, although I’d argue an MSRP of $8 ($12 for the insulated Chill Jacket version) shouldn’t be enough to sway anyone from avoiding a Podium. I’d also note the Jet Valve design makes a Podium a little harder to clean. The top of the valve forms almost a small, tight cup, which is hard to get into with a sponge or bottlebrush. Camelbak says throw the cap in the dishwasher. The bottle itself, however, should be hand washed.
But that’s really the only bad thing I can say about it. Others agree. Loren Mooney, the editor of Bicycling, noted last year in an Editor’s Letter that she also thought the Podium was a gimmick, but quickly became a convert.
So yes, apparently you can build a better mousetrap…or at least, a better water bottle.