Best DIY $7 Bladder Dryer

I recently got a new to me running pack for my as yet budding trail running fun, and it has a unique feature: a bladder sewn to the waist belt. Now I need a bladder dryer.

Bladder Dryer

Innov8 gave it a wordy title: The RacePro X Extreme 4. The whole thing weighs 6.7 oz and is a blast to run with. But after I used it the first time, I realized I had an issue. How do I dry the bladder? My inner DIY came out and I made this bladder dryer setup. Now it’s not pretty, but it works.bladder dryerbladder dryer

Here’s what you will need:

  • A pack with a bladder attached, or just a bladder.
  • A child’s cup from a restaurant. I used a PF Chang’s cup. Any small cup or thing you can make into an air funnel will work, but it needs to have two wide openings.
  • A razor blade. You probably have these just lying around.
  • A small fan, to provide the drying action. I bought this one because the USB will run off a battery pack, meaning I can leave it anywhere there is room.
  • A thick book. I used The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
bladder dryer
The Way of Kings is a very cutting commentary on war.

I placed the razor 1/4″ up, and began to cut the bottom of the kid’s cup off to make the exit of the funnel to the bladder dryer.bladder dryerbladder dryerbladder dryerFrom there insert the cup into the bladder like so:bladder dryer

Then set up the fan in front, and maybe use an old GoPro to prop up the funnel.bladder dryer

It will take a few hours to completely dry, but it’s pretty fast. A better fan would be faster. You want to have the fan a few inches away in order to maximize the air flow by the bladder dryer. Having it a few inches away allows the funnel to utilize the Bernoulli Principle. This is the same principle behind the Thermarest Speed Valve, that pulls more air from the surrounding atmosphere into the funnel as the air from the fan goes into the funnel. I have no way of testing this other than to put my hand by the side of the fan to feel the airflow, but it felt like it was working. After a couple of hours the bladder will be dry.

Merrell Boots With Vibrams New Arctic Grip Sole: First Experience

Recently Merrell announced that they are teaming up with Vibram and using their new soles called Arctic Grip. These soles are interesting because they purportedly offer unparalleled grip on even wet ice, ideally reducing slips and falls in the backcountry to nothing.

I caught up with a Merrell rep at my local REI, and tried on the shoes in question. Here are my impressions.

Arctic Grip Bottom
The bottom of the Merrel Overlook 6 ICE+ at my local REI. the blue specked lugs are the Arctic Grip.
Arctic Grip Top
The top of the Men’s Overlook 6 ICE+.

First, the shoe is Merrell’s typical quality, no sewn seams, good looking toe guard, a gaiter hook at the very front of the laces,  and all of the waterproof/breathable membranes in use are the Merrell proprietary M-Select Dry. My experience with the tech hasn’t been that great, but Merrel claims that it will retain 80% of its waterproofness up to 20 washes. The exact shoe I was looking at was the Overlook 6 ICE+ Waterproof. As the caption says, the blue specked lugs are the Arctic Grip lugs and they feel like a rubbery pumice stone. This immediately made me question their durability. The Merrel rep told me that the lugs have been tested to maintain traction for up to 250 miles. That’s the entire sole, Arctic Grip included. Now REI is carrying the shoes I mentioned and a few other models but I found that Amazon has more selection and a better price. I would recommend buying from there unless you want REI’s famous warranty. Anything Merrell that has the ICE+ designator on it is going to use the Arctic Grip sole. Further, a REI employee has told me that they don’t recommend wearing any hiking boot on concrete as the soles aren’t meant to be on such a hard and rough surface. I have never had an issue with this and regularly wear mine around town but I don’t know, and couldn’t find out how the new Arctic Grip lugs would perform on the surface, or how durable they would be.

In terms of performance, you can definitely feel that the new Arctic Grip soles work well. They are not a substitute for Cramp-Ons though. The promo video Merrell has out is a good example, but I feel that the slanting of the ice in it resulted in the melt water running off and thus a more even wear than what you might find in the wild. The video below has me trying on a pair of the Merrell Winter Moc’s. Note that I can MAKE them slip. I wouldn’t be able to do that with Cramp-On’s, but that in no way invalidates the grip that these soles have. I will be getting a pair for my deep winter hikes.

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2017 Appalachian Ultralight Thru-Hiker’s Pack

As many of you may know, we were recently sponsored by Appalachian Ultralight, a maker of a few different kinds of ultralight gear.  We got to chatting, and Cody ended up sending me a prototype for his 2017         Thru-Hiker’s pack. There are going to be a few differences between mine and the finished version, but only in fabric. and I think it’s the right way to go. The Robic is stronger, although a little heavier. As a result the finished model will be around 0.5 OZ heavier than the one I have which comes in at 14.33 oz for a large 45 liter, but will be more durable.Thru-Hiker's pack

The total weight for the Final Robic should be 14.8 oz or so for a size large 45L.
The Thru-Hiker’s pack is available in 30 and 45 Liters, and the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack will be offered in the same sizes. I asked for a 45 Liter size Large pack, and it fits really well.

Thru-Hiker's pack
The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack will have a bucket bottom.

The new 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack has a bucket bottom, designed to help to protect the mesh of the water bottle pockets. The 2016 model’s pockets were flush with the bottom, which could result in the mesh tearing when the pack is set down and either scrapes or gets caught on something.

Thru-Hiker's packOne 1.5L Bottle

Also the new pockets are taller. Now they can fit a 1.5 L Smart Water bottle, or 2 of the 700mL per pocket.

The new roll top system is a now a compression system. The line-loks are compressed by Lash-It pull downs sewn into the bottom of the pockets.

Thru-Hiker's packTwo 700Ml bottles

The back pad of the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack is actually supplied by you. The Gossamer Gear SitLite pad is just a bit too small, but a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Mattress will fit perfectly. Everything is held rather securely by a series of straps on the back of the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack.

Thru-Hiker's packThe 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack uses straps to hold the hiker’s sleeping pad as a frame.

Another thing that has changed is the zig-zag webbing under the back pocket. It now uses three shock cords attached to three clipping line-loks on the top, and lark’s headed to the bottom three attach points. The three shock cord attachment points are for your wet gear or a quick stow point for what ever you need.

Thru-Hiker's pack
Grid attachment points for your wet gear, and the back pocket for daily use items.

The back pocket is pretty ample, in there are my cook kit (the red bag) my funnel, first aid, gravity filter system and a stake bag.

Thru-Hiker's pack
The shoulder straps have two daisy chains, and the sternum strap is a knotted string and mitten hook.

The shoulder straps are nice and wide, with two daisy chains down either side. I really like the shoulder straps even though the padding is a little thin. I wore this thing without the waist straps for about a mile today and it never got uncomfortable. Surprisingly the sternum strap is rather robust, and holds the straps tight across my chest.

Thru-Hiker's packThe waist strap .

As 45L packs go, The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack is big and light. The pack is close to the 54L CDT that I had custom made with a roll top. The main reason is that The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack adds up to a 40L main body, the pockets added to that makes the pack I got closer to 50L than 45L. To be totally honest, I am pretty happy about it. The CDT can handle my winter gear with room to spare,  and The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack weighs close to 10 OZ less!!

Thru-Hiker's pack

Thru-Hiker's pack

  • It’s very light for it’s size.
  • Cody makes great use of minimalist design throughout the pack.
  • The pockets are deep and big.
  • The shoulder straps are very comfortable.
  • There is no hole for a water bladder.


  • Due to the nature of the compression roll top Line-Loks, you can’t use this like a traditional roll top.
  • The Lash-it used in the compression roll top is in the pocket, and it can get in the way.
  • The mitten hook sternum strap is awkward to use, even though it works well.

Mile Hike Guys is sponsored by Appalachian Ultralight, but we are under no obligation to give their items glowing reviews. All the opinions contained in this review are those of Ricky and no one else.