Hydromax: An alternative to the water bladder backpack

I was in a seminar devoted to training the new generation of law enforcement officers when the instructor threw out a question: “What differences are there between this generation of police recruits and ours?” There were the obligatory Generation X and Y references, but one observation stuck in my head: “These guys drink a lot more water.” I immediately knew that was true. I’m not sure whether this is attributable to successful marketing of bottled water, more emphasis on personal wellness, or some combination of this and other factors, but I do know that people today pay a lot more attention to staying hydrated.

Tactical types from 20 or 30 years ago wouldn’t have dreamed of carrying water with them during an operation, even though the gear they were wearing was hot and burdensome and they were frequently engaged in intense physical activity. We probably endured more heat casualties than we should have. Conventional wisdom in athletics, the military and law enforcement at the time was to deny water to build up a tolerance to dehydration. Now we know that there is no benefit to dehydration, and that it not only increases the likelihood of a heat stress injury, it reduces the physical and cognitive effectiveness of people as they deplete their water reserves.

Some tactical gear incorporates water bladders, and that works out well for people wearing rucksacks or tactical vests. Officers wearing more conventional equipment don’t want to wear a water backpack, and there is seldom room for a canteen on a duty belt. We know that even people who know better won’t hydrate as often as they should if they have to go someplace to get water. This is why military personnel in hot weather environments are often required to carry a canteen on a pistol belt or harness, even if they aren’t carrying a weapon.

The Hydromax hydration system isn’t designed for law enforcement, but when I saw it, it occurred to me that it would work for law enforcement officers almost as well as it does for football players.

Hydromax integrates with a football player’s shoulder pads and places a 32oz. reservoir of water between his shoulder blades. The player can drink with the same kind of bite valve apparatus that other water bladder systems use. The bladder is made up of two layers that are designed to survive violent impacts commonplace in sports like hockey, lacrosse and soccer. The armored outer pouch resists punctures and abrasion. The inner bag will expand up to eight times to prevent bursting.

The reservoir can be refilled in a few seconds from a supplied 32oz. bottle, without having to remove the equipment. A law enforcement officer could wear this on top of their body armor and not have to be burdened with external shoulder straps or an off-balance weight from a water bottle or canteen. There might be a little bit of a hunchback effect, since the body armor doesn’t usually take up as much bulk as football shoulder pads, but that’s better than a case of heat exhaustion.

We’re through the worst of the hot weather for this year, but a Hydromax setup might be a good purchase to plan for next summer, which isn’t likely to be any cooler.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer, and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in Northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia, and Oregon.

He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 300 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States, and is the author of The Truth About Cops, published by Hyperink Press. In 2005, Tim became the first editor-in-chief for Officer.com, moving to the same position for LawOfficer.com at the beginning of 2008. He now writes on applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He serves on the executive board of the Public Safety Writers Association.

Dees can be reached at tim.dees@policeone.com.

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