Plate Carrier and Backpack Hydration: What is the difference between hard and soft bladders?

Plate Carrier and Backpack Hydration: What is the difference between hard and soft bladders?

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At Qore Performance we make a new and unique product called IcePlate. It comes in two variants: IcePlate Classic and IcePlate Curve. Naturally, we get lots of questions about it. In this article we want to address one of the most common questions we receive: “How is IcePlate different from soft hydration bladders like Camelbak?”

This table provides a quick summary of the differences between IcePlate and legacy bladders from the competition.

Plate Carrier and Backpack Hydration System Comparison
Qore Performance IcePlate CamelBak ThermoBak Source Tactical Hydration Pack
Capacity (oz/L) 50-100/1.5-3 100/3 100/3
Max Cooling Power (Watts) 70-140 0 0
Empty Weight 12 or 24 oz 22 oz 18.7 oz
Plate Carrier Mounting Internal or External External Only External Only
Cooling / Heating Yes No No
Back Face Deformation Protection Yes No No
TotalDrain Technology Yes No No
Stackable Yes No No
Slimline, No-Bulge Packing Yes No No
Integrated Strap Loops Yes No No
On-Body, Anti-Freeze Cold Weather Design Yes No No
Dishwasher Safe Yes Yes Unclear
Pelican Cooler Optimized Yes No No
30% Storage Density Advantage vs. Bottled Water Yes No No
Requires Cleaning Kit No Yes Yes
Anti-Bacterial Design Yes No Yes
BPA-free Yes Yes Yes
Taste-free Yes Yes Yes
Quick Disconnect Capable Yes Yes Yes


Thermoregulation a.k.a "Cooling and Heating"

One question we are asked all the time at events is: "Why can't I just freeze my Camelbak?" The short answer is simple: Conduction (for more on Conduction, check out our article on Human Cooling Basics). Bladders don't have it and without it, you cannot be cooled or heated by the water you are carrying. Bladders require a backpack of some type to carry on your person. This pack blocks the conduction necessary for your body to conductively transfer heat to/from your bladder, preventing thermoregulation and leaving the bladder to serve just one function: hydration.

Other Key Differences

Conformal Geometry Matches Armor Plates

Plate Carrier Mounting: Internal

Plate Carrier Mounting: External

IcePlate TotalDrain Technology by Qore Performance

Back Face Deformation Protection

Armor Contour Matching by @angry.canadian

Hydration bladders are currently the most common hands-free hydration solution and generally range in capacity from 34 oz. to a whopping 102 oz. A variety of brands make bladders today, including Camelbak, Source, and Platypus. The basic idea is a soft resealable bag that can be stored in a backpack or other carriage system with a hose and valve for easy drinking. A backpack or other carriage system (which prevents conductive contact with the body) is required for a bladder because it takes a cylindrical shape once filled. Bladders have become the standard method of hydration transport for many industrial professionals, outdoor enthusiasts, and military personnel because they are easy to carry.

IcePlate conductively transfers heat to or from your body to cool you down or warm you up, depending on the climate

This soft bag construction means cleaning and drying bladders is difficult and can lead to moisture retention, yielding unhygienic residue. Freezing filled bladders or filling them with hot water is not recommended. Their soft construction can be damaged by warm contents and overfilled bags can burst when frozen. If you want a bladder of cold water it's better to add some ice cubes. When compared to a bottle, bladders give you mobility and capacity at the sacrifice of durability; a frustrating prospect for hard use. Many people feel that Source currently makes the best bladder on the market because of their balance of durability, modularity, and hygiene.

IcePlate stores more water in less space, preserving precious packing volume in backpacks

IcePlate is not a hydration bladder, it is high-tech thermoregulation tool that uses the magical power of water to help every human who sweats to realize their full potential. By combining the durability of hard plastic water containers (it’s constructed from FDA certified, BPA-free HDPE) with the convenience of a bladder with 50oz./1.5L capacity, placed directly against your body. Our proprietary (and patent-pending) TotalDrain Technology lets users drink all the water they carry, and IcePlate is also dishwasher-safe, making hygienic storage a breeze. IcePlate comes with a few extra unique benefits such as core temperature regulation and impact trauma protection. Designed to be 90% filled then frozen, IcePlate sits close to the body to regulate core temperature while providing ice cold drinking water as it thaws. IcePlate is worn using any plate carrier, compatible backpack or an IcePlate-specific carrier like the Comfort Harness or HiVis StayFrosty Vest. IcePlates fitted with our Quick Disconnect accept most hydration bladder hoses on the market like CamelBak and Source. 

For those wondering if their gear is going to work with IcePlate, stay tuned as we’ll be posting Plate Carrier and Backpack compatibility charts soon. This will be a fantastic resource for readers considering making the leap into the Ice Age with us!

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