Staying hydrated is not an option; it is a requirement, and hydration packs have become the means of doing so. They allow you to carry the water you need, access it when you want, and do so in a comfortable and easy way. But not all hydration packs are created equal. It is important to select one that fits your mission or activity and is built to last through multiple deployments or seasons. In this review, we will see how the Mercury Luggage Sprinter with 3L Hydrapak stacks up.
Mercury Luggage Manufacturing Company has been supplying our military since 1946. Over the years they have supplied all five branches of the military and the Department of Homeland Security with a wide range of custom bags, carry cases, and luggage. In that time, their uniform bags, rucksacks, backpacks, and even camo portfolio covers have seen action in multiple theaters and numerous conflicts around the globe. Now they are using that experience and knowledge to provide vital water carrying systems as well, including the Mercury Sprinter with 3 Liter Mil-Spec Hydrapak.
The pack came just in time for one of the hottest days of the year. Over the next three days, I was able to put it through its paces and see if it truly is capable of not only providing you with vital hydration but doing so with comfort and ease.
Sprinter Hydrapak Specs
- 20” x 11” x 15” pack constructed of 1000 denier Cordura
- 3 Liter First Wave hydration pack
- Easy-access reservoir compartment with full zipper access from the top of the pack
- ½ size front accessory pocket, also with easy-to-use, full zipper access
- Easy to grip zipper pulls
- Detachable shoulder straps and waist belt
- 8 D-rings for gear attachment
- Hook & loop for attaching name tapes or morale patches
- LIFETIME WARRANTY
Mercury Sprinter Hydrapak First Impressions
As soon as I pulled it out of the box, I was impressed. It looked good and felt sturdy. The Cordura pack was thick and looked like it would survive some hard use. But only time would tell if that was true. But there was one questionable feature – the removable backpack straps. Although padded at the top, the majority of the strap was thin, unpadded nylon, and that was a concern. Would it be comfortable enough for long time wear? Only a field test would tell.
What impressed me most was the First Wave Hydrapak. First Wave is widely known for their top-notch water bladders, and this is one of their best – a 3 Liter Mil-Spec model. Over the years, I have tried a wide variety of water bladders, and have been disappointed more times than not. Sure, they carry water and fit in a variety of packs. But they are also prone to leaking, bursting, and sweating – all of which means you and your gear get wet while your water is lost. They are also notoriously difficult to clean. How is a grown man supposed to get inside a small screw cap opening to clean or dry such a device? Of course, let’s not forget the feed tube and bite valves – which combine all of the other negatives into one. But the First Wave was different, and it’s immediately obvious.
This bladder is tough. Tough enough that I believe their claim that it is unbreakable. If you do break it, do not worry, there is a lifetime warranty. The typical screw-top access has been replaced by a much more useful, full-length opening that is big enough to fit your entire hand into. You can even turn the bag inside out for easy, complete cleaning. No more skunked water! To close the bladder, there is a slide lock that securely seals the folded over top. Other great features of the bladder were that the slide lock is tethered in place, it includes directions for correct installation, and it has hanging points so the bladder can be secured in its proper position. Plus, the feed tube and bite valve were nothing to laugh at either. The tube is fully insulated, with a rubberized, coated sleeve, and the bite valve was heavy duty with a pop off cover (also tethered in place) and a twist-to-operate on/off feature.
Field Testing the Sprinter Hydrapak
Yes, the overall look and construction were impressive, but I still needed to see how it would actually function in the field. More than one piece of gear has been exciting while unpacking it, only to find a new home at the back of the closet when it performed horribly. As fate would have it, I was scheduled to spend the day in the field, and it was forecasted to be near 100 degrees the entire time. Horrible for me, but an excellent opportunity to test a hydration pack. I was going to need water (and lots of it).
The full-length opening makes it very easy to fill, and the handy slide lock quickly closes and seals it. Once filled, it slid right into the pack, and the feed tube was easily positionable thanks to the easy-to-access opening in the pack itself. So far so good. The pack then rode in my truck for the 3-hour drive to the assignment. Surprisingly enough, upon arrival, everything was just as it was at departure. No sign of leaking or sweating. In fact, it was as if there was no water in it at all. Good start.
Throughout the day, I drank from the bite valve, which was also easy to use and showed no signs of leaking, without difficulty. If you have ever used a bite valve, you know that many are hard to manage and often make you force the water out with a sucking action most would find unnatural. Not this one. Pop off the cap (which was never lost due to the tether), twist the valve to open and bite. Each and every time, it provided cool, wet, thirst-quenching refreshment. No fuss, no hassle, and no problems. As hot as it was, I drank a lot of water, and each time, refilling and emptying the bladder was as hassle-free as the first.
I put this pack through the paces. I even tried to make it not work. Nothing seemed to stop it. When it was time to go home, I even filled the bladder one last time, placed it back in the pack (which is black) and put the whole thing in the back of my truck (which is also black). For the next three hours it rode directly under the hot sun, and while I was enjoying some much-appreciated AC, the pack (and the water inside) baked in the truck bed. Arriving home, I did the unthinkable – I took a drink. Normally, I wouldn’t even think of doing this, but I was willing to take one for the team (plus I was still thirsty for the last three days under the sun). Shockingly, the water was still not only drinkable but even cool. Yes, the first mouthful was warm, but after clearing the tube, it was as cool and refreshing as the first drink of the day. Kudos Mercury and First Wave!
Oh, about those backpack straps. Yes, they are thin, and they could certainly use some padding. But they performed better than expected. Overall, the pack performed well and functioned as advertised, but I would recommend adding some padding to help on longer deployments.
All in all, the Mercury Luggage Sprinter Hydrapak with the 3L mil-spec bladder performed better than most of the packs I’ve tried. The backpack straps are thin and need some padding to truly make this pack one of the best, but that is a small price to pay for all the positives it delivers. It not only provides a convenient, easy to use means of transporting lifesaving water, but does so in a system that not only works but works well. It is easy to fill, easy to clean, and keeps water cool for extended periods – everything you look for in a hydration system. The only potential inconvenience is the lack of storage space. The pack does have a second, front carry pocket, but it is not designed to carry gear – just some essentials. It is good for a phone, keys, some pens and a pad, etc., but nothing bigger. It is certainly not a multi function day pack. If you need storage space and do not want to carry a separate pack, look at one of Mercury’s larger versions.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.