Tactical Torture Tests
What's a Wolverine Bottle?!
Wolverine Bottles are patented poly bags that are the brainchild of Smart Bottle, Inc. out of North Carolina. They own the patents on their product, which is a two-part bottle with a poly outer layer and a nylon inner layer. The "bottle" is actually a BPA-free bladder-style container that can be rolled, smashed, beaten, tossed around, and otherwise tortured. Each bottle has the same mouth diameter and threaded opening. This allows for easy interchanging of parts and components, like valves, caps, connections, etc.
When filled, the bottles expand to a stable square base with handles on the top and bottom and grommets on both ends. The grommets serve to hold the bottles either upright or inverted for easy storage or drainage. The bottles themselves are clear, but can be printed, monogrammed, or made up of other materials, like Mylar, for specific purposes. But these are more than just another container.
Utility, Utility, Utility
I gotta say, these bags do more than just hold water. As soon as I opened the box, I realized how many different needs could be met with a flexible, airtight, watertight, lightweight container with a variable flow control or interconnected setup, like a filter or hose. My wife lit up and took one bag for herself claiming it for a summertime margarita mix.
As I showed these off to the guys at work, I realized that my intended use was short-sighted. I started to realize that each person I showed them to saw them in a different light. Hunters saw the small 750-ml. version as a far more efficient and silent alternative to the traditional plastic water bottle. Campers saw the utility of a medium bag for a solar shower. Kayak enthusiasts saw this as a means for a buoy-like flotation device and water source on an otherwise cramped vessel. Some folks on social media saw utility in the collection of maple syrup. One friend thought it possible to use a full bag to start a fire using the refracted sunlight. Even my son came up with a new use as a rifle rest. And, believe it or not, I learned that a Wolverine bag filled with water serves as an excellent way to anchor a canine companion when you have no other way to drive a spike or set a line.
As new uses started popping up, I realized how valuable these units could be in a grid-down or survival scenario. Containers are bulky and rigid. Sometimes they're misleading in the amount of material inside. If they don't take up space, they take up precious weight.
The Wolverine Bottle manages to dodge the damage caused by overweight, conventional methods of moving and storing liquids, semi-solids, or even powders or grains. And, it allows for multiple, unintended uses that seem to be force multipliers. It's like the para-cord of bottles.
It would be easy to buy a set, set them aside, and hold off on using them until we really needed to fill the margarita orders on the back porch.
But we had other plans.
The Roll Test. Because you know it's going to tumble sooner or later.
These bags have no hard plastic with the exception of the plastic caps and threaded nozzles where they're joined at the top of the bag. This is great for compact travel, mobility, and easy deployment. But this can be a major weakness considering how often jugs are spilled, tipped over and jockeyed around in trucks or otherwise.
So, we decided to see how much these buggers could take. We drove the bug-out-vehicle with a 5-gallon bag in the bed. We went slow at first, then kicked it up a notch. We spun out about 1/4 mile down a gravel road with an elevated switchback - the "S" Curve as we call it - to see how much it would move around. Then, we hit the highway and put it to the wood for a few miles at freeway speeds. With nothing in the truck to huddle up to, this bottle managed to find a safe place and stay put.
It wasn't for lack of trying on my part, either. We hit up to 50 MPH on those back country roads, fishtailed a bit, and barely made it move. As far as the truck test went, it passed with flying colors. The Wolverine Bottle stayed put for the most part and managed to stabilize itself pretty well. Compared to a 5-gallon bucket, it slid around much less and didn't sway back and forth like you might expect. To aid in stabilization, we repeated the test but secured the bag to the bed-rail anchors using a section of twine and the brass grommets built into the bag. No movement at all.
As far as testing goes, it was a successful attempt. But here at Tactical Torture, we wanted to go a bit further. So, we figured a stop-roll test would be representative of an emergency scenario. On an ATV. We secured the bag to the front of a Yamaha 350 using rubber bungees. Then we sped up enough to make a rapid stop just before a large embankment with about 15' of drop to a gravel surface. The bungees held the bag securely without giving up the grommets or stretching the plastic.
Where's the rupture? Where's the loose grommet? The bag was completely intact.
We wanted to see some damage. So, we repeated the experiment without the bungees. The bag toppled forward as expected, rolled down the embankment, and wound up skidding to a stop on the gravel road below. Success! But did it leak? Nope. Punctures? Not one. This isn't the typical bag-drop scenario, but an emergency stop on an ATV or quick turn could easily send a bag flying from the cargo racks. The roll factor here held up without fail and the Wolverine bag managed to survive another hardcore test.
The Drop Test and in-line filtration
The bags boast a survival rate at a 7 foot drop for the 5-gallon bottles, a 10-foot drop for the 2.5 gallon, and a 15-foot drop for the one gallon bottles. Rather than duplicate this awesome review by James over at PNW Outdoor Reviews, we figured we'd share and take it a step further.
As James indicates, the smaller bags do an excellent job of holding up to the tests we put them through. But the larger bags do have a few weaknesses. This isn't a total loss, it just indicates that care should be taken when handling the larger volumes. The mass and displacement upon impact appears to attack any weaknesses in the heat-treated seams on the 5-gallon bags.
I will say the seams remained intact, but the point of connection between the sealed edges and the unsealed poly sheeting didn't make it.
If I had to offer up a suggestion, I'd say a single layer of 20-mil. reinforced poly sheeting on the outer layer of the larger bags might help to prevent the bag from blowing out under extreme drops. The smaller bags hold up to some pretty significant torture that we'll get into later. But the bigger 5-gallon bags might need some added reinforcement. This is definitely true if you intend to lob bags out of the back of a pickup to someone on the ground. Especially if your receiver tends to fumble.
With this in mind, we decided to sacrifice a large bag to not only demonstrate the failure point but also to see if we could patch it back up. So, we dropped it from about 20 feet in the air, using a pulley and suspending it by the brass grommets. It was a bit spectacular and the wreckage was worth every second of suspense as the bag was dangling and peering down at its own fate. We were hopeful that it might make it. But when the sides blew out we weren't too surprised. Total loss? Not quite. As it turns out, these bags can still hold water if patched back together.
We patched up our blown-out bag with a bit of duct tape and refilled it with water. There was a minor leak that we didn't catch with the tape, but it did provide a solid source for water - or even repurposed as a drip line in a garden or at the base of a young tree. But there's no reason to waste a perfectly good bag filled with water. A patched bag may not be ideal for your clean filtered water, but it would serve as a means to collect water to be filtered.
It's possible that a careful heat treatment on a broken seam could be repaired with a hair straightener or flat iron. This could potentially restore the bag to somewhere near its original state. That's much better than I could say for a poly carbonate bottle or an aluminum canteen with a crack in it.
That's what she said.
When it comes to water storage, size matters. But the real strength in these bags as a heavy-duty transport option that can hold up to severe abuse is in the small- and mid-size bags. They have the same layering and seam thickness as the larger bags, but with less available volume for water weight. So there's less of a chance that the mass inside the bag will act unfavorably on the bag itself.
We tested this out by dragging a medium sized bag for almost a half a mile - about 1,000 feet - on a rocky gravel road. We also did a few drop and toss tests without failure. And, we tucked them in and around the ATV racks and jockeyed them around a bit. Aside from a few side marks akin to Idaho pin-striping, these bags didn't suffer too much.
Eighty Second Airborne.
So, it became clear that these bags serve a purpose with hauling water, oils, foods, and other materials. But when I started looking at the adapters, I realized that I could create an air line to fill the bag. This is a bit off-the-cuff, but hear me out.
These bags have been proven to withstand heavy pressures, like trucks driving over them and such. But anybody who has stored water or fluids in a car over the summer or in winter knows what happens to the container. Massive pressure buildup. Most rigid plastic containers can withstand pressure changes and a small amount of expansion. These bags are QC tested at 15 lbs. for the seal strength.
We rigged up a simple set of fittings to the press-in connector provided and gave it a shot. The bag held air without a problem.
So we got to thinking. At 15 lbs., could you inflate a bag to generate enough of a fulcrum to tip an ATV back to its upright position? I ask because I've tipped an ATV and with one person it's tough to get it back up. By raising the fulcrum a bit, you stand a better chance. So would this hold up as an airbag to lift a wonky ATV? And what would it take to pop the bag?
In fact, the bag was able to withstand 85 PSI from an air compressor for an extended period. Definitely long enough to get it un-stuck, or serviced in a pinch. And even with a hand pump we were able to elevate the machine enough to either tip it, prop it up, or work on it, like if we had to change a tire or even drain the oil. No need to haul around a heavy jack if you have a bottle like this that weighs almost nothing and a small adapter that you can put in your pocket.
The prepper's Top Pick
All-in-all, these bags outperformed my expectations. Even the one we put a 12-gauge slug through could potentially be patched back together. For the space, there's nothing out there like it that compares. The price is reasonable, and there's enough ways to configure the bags for your specific needs.
My personal favorite is the individual bottle. It has become a new favorite EDC item as I can slip it in a coat pocket, backpack, and any cup holder you can imagine. Or, i can run a section of para-cord through the grommet and sling it to just about anything. I've refilled it 2-3 times daily for the past few weeks without any sign of discoloration, distortion, or damage. For air travel, road trips, job sites, or basic survival, there's just too many uses to turn a blind eye to the Wolverine Bottle.
Torture Tested and Ready to roll
Well, we dropped them, rolled them, put them under pressure and drove over them. And in the end, we finished one off with a 12-gauge slug. Still, these bags held up as well as they were advertised. Even the ones that we pushed over the edge have potential.
If you're seeing what you can do with these bags, don't hesitate to grab some for yourself. The bags and components we Torture Tested are listed below for your reference. Feel free to let us know how you put them to use!
Use Promo code "Tacticaltorture" for free shipping
Additional Information and Sources
For additional products, fittings, and usage information on the Wolverine Bottles, visit Smart Bottle at SmartBottleInc.com. We hope this information is useful to you in deciding how to better implement your own water storage needs. Please share, comment, and support us by following and reaching out.
If you have a product you'd like to see Torture Tested, let us know!