Review: Drinking System

Sunday, 12 March 2006 15:33 | Written by 
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ImageFor long distance races, most paddlers (in South Africa at any rate) use drinking systems comprising a plastic bladder, a rubber tube and a clip. In order to drink, you’re obliged to stop paddling momentarily in order to insert the tube in your mouth and to undo the clip. And when you stop drinking, you have to pause again to fasten the clip to prevent your juice from draining into the sea.


Clearly you want to minimise breaks to your rhythm – so most paddlers leave the tube in their mouths for extended periods.  And therein lies a problem...


The Problem 


Some elite paddlers who take part in many long distance races have been warned by their dentists that this practise is not good for their teeth for two reasons:

  • The rubber tube wears the enamel off front teeth.
  • The constant trickle of sugary liquid encourages cavities to form.


Clearly there’s a need for a better solution. From a dentist’s perspective, you want: 

  • Not be gripping a pipe with your teeth for long periods
  • To reduce the amount of time that liquid is in your mouth – so you want to be taking distinct drinks at intervals instead of sipping for extended periods.


From a paddler’s perspective, you want: 

  • Liquid on demand, and
  • Not to have to stop paddling to get it.


(A) Solution


I was recently sent a drinking system to try by a company in the US, J&J Canoe. Their website address is:


The system, as sent to me, comprises: 

  • Some clear plastic food-grade tubing
  • A 12” piece of ridged tubing with a connector at one end
  • A bite valve incorporating a one-way check valve to prevent the liquid flowing back into the bladder.
  • A Nylon Neck Strap with Velcro (w/ wire insert)


Using the J&J Drinking Kit


I’ve used it on several occasions and have grown to like it. It does take a little getting used to but once adjusted correctly works very well.


I use a Tripper type PFD with a bladder that fits into a back pocket. A rubber pipe is run through a series of Velcro straps to the front of the PFD. I simply connected the J&J drinking system to the existing pipe as shown in the photo.


Front view showing bite-valve, tube & neck-piece


Take a drink!


The first time I used it I adjusted it incorrectly and I couldn’t reach the mouthpiece without using my hands. But even then it was still better than my old system because all I had to do was put the mouthpiece in my mouth – and I didn’t then have to undo a clip to start drinking. And when I stopped drinking, I simply spat the mouthpiece out.


The second and subsequent times though, I had the mouthpiece at the right height. When I wanted a drink I simply stretched my neck, reached the mouthpiece and drank. Perfect!


The only minor problem was that with my set up the tube tended to tilt to one side. With a pipe leading directly a bladder located in the centre of the ski though, this wouldn’t happen.


What I like about the system:

  • It worked well – I didn’t have to stop paddling to have a drink
  • It can be incorporated into your existing drink tube (at least the ones commonly used here in SA)
  • Even if the tube comes off the neckband, it still works better than the plain pipe/clip because you don’t have to fiddle with the clip to fasten/unfasten it.


What I don’t like:

  • The area of Velcro is small so the tube is not held very securely.
  • Some people might find the mouthpiece location in front of their face irritating.


Where to get the system (and a range of bladders/containers and other accessories): J&J Canoe, New York, USA

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