Saturday, October 24, 2015

Camelbak Podium Ice Bottle Review

I have been a long time user of Camelbak Podium bottles. It started when the quest for that "perfect" bottle that does not spill, do not alter the taste of the liquid, high-flow and no need for any biting of the nipple (valve) to start drinking. My first purchase of the Camelbak Podium (2x21oz)was the original bottle and I obtained the Podium Chill (4units of which 2x21oz and 2x25oz)aka insulated bottle a few years later. These bottles has been serving me since 2007 and they all has story to tell on their own. All surviving bottles (4 out of 6) is very much still functioning despite the scratches and broken valve. I lost 1x25oz Podium Chill coming down from Frasers Hill about a month ago. 
Latest Addition
Recently I received some of the newest products from Camelbak Malaysia and the Podium Ice (21oz, RRP RM110) was one of them. I thank Universal Fitness & Leisure (UFL) for this opportunity to review this as a user. 
In 3-color. I naturally go for the Blue bottle to fit my Colnago Dream Mapei livery.
The Podium Ice is the top of the range bottle for cycling that claims to be able to keep water cold up to four times as long. I believe this benchmark is against a non-insulated bottle. How this will be achieved is via the Aerogel insulation that keeps the liquid inside cold for longer. 
All the feature for the Podium Ice
The Podium Ice only comes in 21oz size instead of the other choices of 21+24 for Podium and 21+25 for Podium Chill. For the metric people like me, this simply meant the volume of 620ml (21oz), 710ml (24oz) and 740ml (25oz). Depending on your ride distance and availability of fuelling stations along the way, a 620ml will be good for up to an hour of activities and the typical 2-bottles setup will allow you to ride 2-hours before needing to re-fill. You may want to refer to my 2013 article on optimum hydration and electrolyte if you are looking for more guidance on this.
Nicer when compared to brochure
The Podium Line-up
Having own the many iteration of the Podium, I get to compare how each model changes in terms of build quality and finishing. My first Podium(Original) was bought back in 2007 and that meant the bottle has close to 8 years of service life despite having the valve bitten off by my son when he was 3 years old. 
From Left to Right : Ice (21oz), Big Chill (25oz), Chill (21oz) and Original (21oz)
The Chill 21oz and 25oz came about 4 years later when I bought them in Singapore during a race kit collection and that has been very much the bottles I've been using for my 4 Ironman races carrying enough liquid fuel (for dilution) for the 180km cycling. It has served me really well and has taken up many drops and bruises. Testament of how well built these Camelbak bottles are!
Close up of the bottle cap with Jet Valve
Do take note that the Camelbak Podium bottle cap did not change much between 2007 to 2011 where the valve (known as Jet Valve because water shoots out like Jet from these valve), the locking mechanism (twist and lock) and most notably the "Camelbak" brand is embossed on the top cover. You will see the exact same on these bottles pre-2015 and the reason for this comparison is to highlight the differences when compared to the 2015 (Podium).
Total change of the bottle cover
The Jet Valve has grown in diameter and noticeably larger than the older version. The twist lock too has became bigger assuming it will allowed gloved hand to able to twist it over easier.
larger diamter Jet Valve. Take note of the embossed "Camelbak" vs the printed on the Ice
One thing I found surprising is that the 21oz Ice is the same size/as tall as the 25oz Chill. Does this meant there is at least 4oz (or 120ml) worth of Aerogel that insulate the Ice, providing the 4x longer/cooler/colder retention? Maybe.
size printed at the bottom

Now, before we go to a small experiment I devised, the internal of the bottle cover remained unchanged that they actually looked almost identical saved for the two "indention" on the Chill bottle (it's a stopper for the twist lock on the older model)
Chill (grey) vs Ice (white)
Curiosity got to me and I interchanged the bottle cover to see how it will fit the 2015 (Ice) model. Happy to report they all fitted perfectly and remained leak-proof. So this is a good indication for replacement cover if you needed them. Also, the new Ice bottle cover (and I assumed the 2015 range) allow the Jet Valve to be fully removed for cleaning. No more dark yucky stains ;-) Compare this with the older pre-2015, you can remove the rubberised nipple but not the whole valve. I attempted to do it with both and managed to remove (and put them back). Honestly, I find no reason to remove them as long as we wash the bottle and valve properly after every use. 
Ice with Chill bottle cover
Ice with Original bottle cover. Yes, the rubber valve was bitten off.
Ability to Keep Cool?
The Ice is priced at RRP RM110 which is much more expensive compared to the usual Chill bottle that can range between RM65 to RM80 depends on sales. I do not know the RRP as the last I bought was back in 2011! So does the additional price paid justify the ownership of Ice? What I did was to freeze water in three different bottle. A non-insulated (which I used another brand as the Camelbak Podium original need a heavy scrubbing after years of non-usage/retirement), the Chill and the Ice. All of them are filled about half way with boiled water from the same source. Time started was 1030hours and I intended to leave it in there for at least 7hours or up till 1730hours. This setup is typical for me when I leave my water to freeze overnight before the ride the next day. From experience, I know the non-insulated will freeze within 3-4hours while the insulated will take that 7-hours to actually get 80% frozen/slushy. How long will it take the Ice bottle with Aerogel? My bet is never.  
Start!
 My freezer temperature was left as it is as to simulate real freezing condition.
Looking forward to frozen water later
After 7hours, I removed the bottles and as expected, the non-insulated has frozen over. The Chill has slight movement of water inside, indicating not fully frozen (expected as with every time I store them overnight in freezer) and the Ice has some ice forming in it. 
1730. You can see the non-insulated bottle frozen
 First the Podium Chill - not all frozen after shaking it more vigorously, the ice broke
Podium Chill
 And the Podium Ice has significantly more liquid vs ice
Ice
One sign of the Ice insulation working is that the Ice bottle has significantly lower level of condensation when compared to the Chill bottle. Meaning, the Aerogel is keeping the liquid inside cooler without it being lost to the ambient temperature despite being insulated.
Ice, Chill and Generic. You can see the level of condensation on the non-insulated vs the Chill and very little on the Ice
Closer look. Smaller condensation on Ice vs Chill

I then let the three bottles sits at the corner (room temperature) and checked when the ice in the non-insulated bottle melts. I will pour the content of the Chill and Ice out onto two separate cup to show the level of condensation. This will provide sufficient proof that the Aerogel is working to retain the temperature. So after almost 4hours later (9.23pm)...the Ice managed to make the glass frosted!
The condensation test after 4hours (from 5.30pm to 9.30pm) left in room temperature
Had to pour the water out else can't really show the condensation. Non-insulated, Ice and Chill.
 Looking closer...
Impressed?
From experience, the Chill bottle can or will retain the coolness of the liquid up to about 2hours (meaning it's still cool and not room temperature) which by then, you should technically finish all the liquid, assuming you are biking. What really makes the differences is the ability of the Ice bottle able to keep the liquid inside much cooler as it takes longer to lose the temperature. This meant even at your last gulp (as the Jet Valve shoots liquid out like..well...jet), you will still get a big gulp of cold iced liquid to keep your core temperature down on a hot day ride... and you have the assurance it will keep cold 4hours later even when left in room temperature.

Impressive Camelbak Podium Ice!

Note: This unit of Camelbak Podium Ice is courtesy of Universal Fitness & Leisure (UFL) the authorised distributor of Camelbak in Malaysia. You can view and purchase these at World of Sports, UFL Outdoor Bangsar and other authorised resellers. Recommended Retail Price RRP is RM110. Opinions and test/experiment is my own and you please offer any suggestion to better show the capability of the Aerogel. 
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