Have you ever had a Jeepin’ kind of idea that floated around in your head for a while….the kind that you know would be a hit with your friends and other Jeepers? Or maybe put another way, a better way to build the proverbial mouse trap? I think it is safe to say that some of us have….and more than likely the idea is still floating around in the back of your mind. But it doesn’t have to end like that….it really doesn’t.
Let me introduce you to Ken Damico and his improved mouse trap, the HydraTM Water System. Ken is the President and CEO of Rompalicious 4×4, Inc. I found a rather interesting bit of info on the Rompalicious web site when I was researching this review….1% of their gross margin, every year, gets donated to land-use organizations and local 4×4 clubs to help protect responsible motorized vehicle use of public lands. While this may seem off topic a bit, I believe this is something that warrants your attention. If more companies followed this ideology, what a difference it would make! Congrats and thanks for giving back to the land!
OK, back to the product review and the Hydra Water System. In a nut shell, it is an antimicrobial 2.5 gallon water reservoir, surrounded by a very strong ballistic nylon shell. It is specifically designed for JKs, TJs, and late model YJs. If you’ve ever seen a Camelback or Blackburn personal hydration system, think of the Hydra as a Camelback on steroids, about 2.5 gallons worth, and made just for your Jeep!
The beauty of the Hydra is its versatile mounting configurations (more on that later). It can be attached to the back of the rear seat, attached to the back of either front seat, and also hung on the back half of the Jeep’s roll cage. In fact, if you are so inclined, you can connect a pair of Hydras together and mount them “saddle bag style” on the roll cage. This provides you with 4 water bags attached to the roll cage.
Over the years, I’ve made a few extended Jeep trips which required our bringing water for drinking, cooking, and a shower (unless your friends didn’t mind you smelling bad). In the past, I’ve used 5 gallon Jerry cans, 6 gallon hard poly jugs, and even the big flat ATV type water containers. The ATV water containers are designed to lay flat in the bottom of the rear carry rack on the ATV. They lay nicely on the floor of the TJ too….and then, when you need water, you unpack everything that is packed on top of them (they were a great idea until I experienced that the first time on the trail). I’m not crazy about Jerry cans (I removed and tossed my dual Jerry can carrier as it put too much weight too far behind the rear axle) and hard plastic water jugs as they take up the same amount of room, full or empty. When not in use, do you leave them in the carrier (to get stolen) or store them in the garage (my garage space is limited)?
The Hydra, by design, is meant to be mounted where easy access is the norm and when it is empty, it can be quickly unclipped from its mounting straps, rolled into a compact shape, and stashed in an out of the way spot. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
The Hydra Water System comes with 5 attachment straps. Four straps are secured at attachment points on the nylon shell while the 5th is secured via a carabiner through a grommet hole. The attachment points allow the straps to be affixed in the horizontal or vertical position, depending on where you intend to mount your Hydra. I found the carry handle to be a nice feature. While carrying a bag of water under your arm isn’t too difficult, carrying that same back via the handle is much easier.
Each strap has a quick release on it and is fully adjustable. I like this feature as it makes for an easy removal and reinstallation when you want to service the Hydra. Leave the rest of the strap attached to the roll cage and just “clip” it back into position when you are loading and getting ready to roll.
The bladder, as I mentioned before, uses an antimicrobial material to reduce the possibility of growing green stuff. It has a nice large opening, about 2.5″, so filling it is not a problem. The hose also has the antimicrobial properties so you should be safe there too.
Slipping the bladder into the shell wasn’t all that difficult even though 2.5 gallons of bagged water does kind of slip and flop around a bit. Lay the shell on a hard, flat surface (I used my driveway). Start by gathering the bottom corners of the bladder together and place the bladder several inches into the shell.
Lift the end of the shell and let the bladder slide into the shell. Feed the tube through the hole in the bottom of the shell. When the bag is fully in the shell, close the zipper. You got it!
Rompalicious Hydra Water System
With the Hydra now filled with water, it was time to try it out inside of my TJ. My Besttop seat covers have been providing me with a water system, of sorts. What doesn’t fit in the pocket on the back of the seat goes on the floor behind the seat. Pretty impressive, eah?
To mount the shell on the back of the front seat, I didn’t need both upper straps. I removed one of them from the shell and then took the free end of the remaining top strap and fed it into the other top attachment point. With the top of my TJ’s seats being quite tapered, one strap was long enough and had a bit to spare.
For securing the bottom of the Hydra’s shell, I left both of the already attached short straps on the attachment points as shown above. I took one of the long straps and put another male end on it. This provided sufficient length and allowed easy adjustment.
As you can see in the above photo, the lower strap will not interfere with the passenger’s seating comfort. The strap rides low across the seat. The seat can still be adjusted without any problems.
A view from the rear with 2.5 gallons of fresh water mounted and ready for travel. I’ll admit that during my first “install”, I had the Hydra riding too high on the seat which made the lower strap too short. A quick call to Ken to inquire as to what I was doing incorrectly yielded a prompt answer to my question. Ken later contacted me to ensure his answer was indeed the solution I was looking for. Nice customer service!
Rompalicious Hydra Water System
With the successful installation of the Hydra on the back of the seat, it was time to mount it on the rear section of the roll cage.
A portion of the Hydra’s shell that wasn’t used during the seat application is used for the roll cage setup. I unzipped the heavy duty zipper that opened up the “flap” on the stop of the shell.
The flap is wrapped around the roll bar and then zipped closed. The remaining straps are attached to the roll bar at appropriate places to stabilize the Hydra. If I remember correctly, the newer TJs have their sound pod oriented forward of the center roll bar. On my TJ, the pod is placed facing rearward. I didn’t use the 5th strap (that attaches through the grommet hole) as I couldn’t see much need for it in my setup. Between the straps for the Hydra and those for my nets, I was running out of room in that corner anyway.
Rompalicious included an application guide in the Hydra box….I think it was put there for those of us that practice the Jeeper’s credo….”If all else fails, read the directions!”. It showed that you can take a pair of Hydra Water Systems and zip the flaps together to form a saddle-bag configuration. This allows you hang a pair of Hydras on each side and yields 10 gallons of water for those extended trips. Add a pair on the back of your front seats and you have 15 gallons. And if you opt to put a pair on your back seat, you’ve just upped your H2O capacity to 20 gallons. So….when the guy on the trail pulls up next to you and says “Got any water?”, you’ll know what to say!
The Hydra’s 36″ quick disconnect hose can be obtained with either a bite valve or a drain valve. I heard that a shower head valve was in the makings too (keep your trail mates happy and take a shower!). The bite valve has a strong magnet molded into it…..I was impressed with its holding power. Makes it easy to stick to the roll cage (over your shoulder) for handy access.
I mentioned earlier in the review that I had used hard poly water containers during previous Jeep trips. Here is a pic of an empty Hydra Water System and an empty Rubbermaid water jug. Any more info needed?
Rompalicious Hydra Water System
I almost forgot to show you the quick disconnect hose. The valve on the bladder seals itself when you remove the hose from it. If you have liquid in the bladder, you won’t lose any when you switch from the bite valve to the drain valve. (extra hoses with valves available separately)
During the e-mail exchanges that pre-dated this review, I got a chance to learn a little bit about Ken and Rompalicious. I’ve yet to meet him face to face but I look forward to the opportunity. He’s just one state away from where I live and so I’m pretty confident our paths will cross at some point. Ken’s story includes a very bad motorcycle accident, a spring break at Moab in a friend’s YJ, and roaming the remote areas of New Mexico in a TJ that didn’t have enough fresh water capacity (in that order). When all was said and done, Rompalicious was the end result and with it the Hydra Water System.
If you haven’t stopped by the Rompalicious web site, please do. The company is expanding their line of products to include Warn, Rancho, Trailmaster, and ARB, to name some brands I saw while browsing their web site.
The HydraTM Water System is a pretty neat idea. It is simple to maintain, versatile in its design, and a MUST have if you wheel in the desert southwest as I do. In the 115+ degree desert heat, it could mean the difference between making it out and being a statistic. If you aren’t lucky enough to share my part of the country, you still need water on those excursions. Did you know that a 4.0L cooling system can be completely refilled from a single Hydra except for just 2 cups of water? I know smart folks carry a spare radiator hose and/or a hose patch kit. Got a couple gallons of water to fill that thirsty radiator?
As with many of my write-ups and reviews, I’ll try to provide an update after I’ve had some trail time with the Hydra Water System.
Remember to TREAD Lightly!