In Tape Op #82, I wrote about my favorite way of staying hydrated without fear of spilling water on my gear — the Bite Valve-equipped Camelbak Better Bottle ( Luck would have it that the tops of all five of my family's Better Bottles broke soon after that issue was published. To remove the silicone Bite Valve for cleaning, you have to twist it and pull, putting significant stress on a hinge that eventually breaks. Unfortunately, the top is the only component of the bottle that is unavailable as a replacement part. So I called up Camelbak's customer support (800-767-8725) and learned that Camelbak will be releasing a redesign of the top this year, and in the meantime, they will send you replacement tops at no charge. Being the Gear Geek, that wasn't good enough for me. Why settle for more tops that will eventually break? Well, two Camelbak Kids' Bottles that I'd purchased for my sons had lasted a year of rampaging abuse without failing. The Kids' top is simpler, with a Bite Valve that is also the delivery tube to which the internal straw is connected — a much better design and one that isn't overstressed when the Bite Valve is removed for cleaning. Hence, I asked the representative for five Kids' Bottle tops and uncut straws (since the regular Better Bottle straws are too short to work with the Kids' Bottle tops). I received them a week later. So far, no breakages, and I'm very happy with Camelbak's customer service. ••• Speaking of customer service and products that fail, I purchased a Kensington SlimBlade laser travel mouse ( a year or so ago. Soon thereafter, its too-small Teflon feet started to fall off. I called up Kensington's customer support (offshore) and spoke to someone who was reading from a script. Frustrated, I called back and asked for a manager but instead got someone else who was reading from the same script. Eventually, I was told that mouse feet are not covered by the warranty. Hmmm. So I asked the representative to read to me the portion of the warranty that stated this. Of course, he didn't have the warranty in front of him. I pulled out my copy and read it over the phone in entirety — no exclusion for feet. Unfortunately, the representative would not budge. That's when I looked up the phone number for Kensington's US corporate office and told my story to a number of people there; one of them finally promised to send me a new mouse. A week later, two new mice were on my doorstep. And a month after that, feet had fallen off those mice too — leaving me with three annoyingly unstable mice. Giving up on Kensington, I Amazon'ed myself a Logitech Anywhere MX mouse ( For the most part, I've been happy with it — enough that I purchased a second one. It's significantly heavier than the SlimBlade, even though I use it with a single Eneloop battery (it has slots for two AA batteries, but the second battery is optional). I'm living with its default button arrangement because I refuse to load Logitech's bloatware. (A mouse driver that's 60 MB in size? Heck, when I was a programmer at Digidesign, my Mac had a 40 MB hard disk, and it had a mouse that worked just fine.) I do like Logitech's tiny Unifying USB receiver over Bluetooth; the wireless link never fails, and there's no noticeable latency like there is with Bluetooth. Plus, with Darkfield Laser Tracking, the Anywhere MX even tracks on glass tables. -AH

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

Or Learn More