Living in the mountains allows me the choice to do a lot of hiking about many slopes and gulches for my leisure time. On those slopes in the dry environments common to the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area I find my self in severe need of a large supply of water. I have owned four Camelbak packs of varied sizes, 2L and 3L. Looking for a bargain on Amazon, my latest hydration pack I selected was the BONL Emerald 3L Hydration Pack Bladder plus + Cleaning Kit.
Now that I have used it for a couple of months I have come to a good conclusion. Overall, I’m rather happy with it.
The BONL incorporates many features expected in the latest generation of water bladders. The bladder itself features a snap on tube, a seal-able bite valve, a fully opening top access, and a twist-off fill hole. The kit included a drying insert, a tube brush, and a bladder brush. My current The newest of my Camelbaks only include the snap on tube and the twist lock fill hole. I had to buy the drying insert brush separately.
My only complaint against the BONL is the design of the snap-on tube connector. In reality it is a combined snap-on and twist lock connector. It has an o-ring built-in that is good enough for normal backpack use. But, if you know me, you know I don’t use things in a normal way when I hike. Rather than a backpack, which is killer on my Scoliosis, I wear a tactical vest when hiking. Attached to my vest is a Camelbak, military bladder pack. It is rather tight-fitting, being it was meant for 2L bladders, but I now rely on 3L bladders. 2L of water wasn’t enough, I found myself empty in the last stretches of my hikes and drastically thirsty.
Considering that most people place bladders in a roomy pocket inside their backpacks, they don’t experience the pressures of compaction as I do in my undersized pack. I also orient the bladder so it drains towards my back to better empty it when I’m on the last drops. This leads to the abnormal compression of the tube connector, thus it leaks. The water feels nice on a hot day, and not so nice when hiking in below freezing temps. The Camelbak connector doesn’t leak in similar circumstances. The Camelbak is superior only in this manner.
Concerning the other features of the BONL, they are by far superior to my Camelbaks.
The fully opening top access is my favorite feature of the latest generation of bladders. I can now clean the slime much more efficiently than before. It’s too bad Camelbak has yet to include this in their product. It really makes life easier.
At first I wasn’t sure I was attaching the seal correctly. I sealed it and at the same time I inadvertently squeezed the bladder when it was full of air. I heard air escaping. After about fifteen minutes of fiddling around I discovered that the screw-on cap was not torqued enough. I was worried I’d have to return it, but it was working like a charm after tightening it.
The bite valve is a good design too. I don’t have to use my fingers to open and close it. I only need my teeth and lips. That isn’t really important, but its handy.
Price-wise, the BONL is a better buy. I feel as though Camelbak relies too much on brand awareness. The BONL link included here includes the cleaning kit, Camelbak doubles your cost above the cost of their bladder. Then add the leak proof valve they offer separately. The 3L Camelbak is close to $60.00 at that point. For $19.99 before shipping, the BONL is a great price. It’s even better with Prime. If you select the green bladder, it is $2.00 cheaper for some unexplained reason. That why I bought the green bladder.
I highly recommend this item, and if you choose it, you will be happy.