The story is legend among outdoor gear geeks. In 1988, during a bike race called the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred, a parched rider named Michael Eidson had a vision of something that would become the CamelBak hydration pack.
He designed a water-carrying system using a hospital IV bag held in place by a tube sock. It sat supported above a bike jersey pocket, and a drinking hose clamped with a clothes pin came up and over Eidson’s shoulder to offer hands-free H20.
What today is a common piece of gear was back then a wild invention. It launched commercially in 1989 and gained popularity as riders around the country were exposed to a new way to hydrate.
Twenty-five years later, CamelBak is a major brand in the bike and outdoor industries. I have personally consumed probably thousands of gallons of water through a CamelBak hose on adventures around the world.
For this column, I have tested CamelBak gear and covered the company for more than a decade, including its hydration packs, reservoirs, bottles and a UV water-purification system.
I once was allowed to snoop around in the company’s R&D lab to see prototype products like a military-spec water bladder made to be impermeable to chemical attacks. There was a comically massive CamelBak reservoir in the lab that could hold 10-plus gallons of water and hydrate a small crowd.
This year, CamelBak unveiled a pitcher called the Relay made for home or office use. It has carbon filters to remove chlorine and other chemicals to improve taste. I use it every day in the GearJunkie office.
Beyond its products, CamelBak operates a “Ditch Disposable” campaign that works to diminish the use of throwaway plastic bottles. The company cites it has discouraged the use of millions of disposable bottles by offering free filtered water at music festivals and events.
CamelBak is headquartered in Petaluma, Calif. Its reservoir-manufacturing facility is in Mexico, where it owns the facility and employs the staff.
The next time you sip from a drink hose remember the IV bag and the tube sock. You can thank CamelBak for the upgrades and the product innovations along the way.