The Best Way To Carry Water While Hiking

The Best Way To Carry Water While Hiking

When it comes to the best way to carry water while hiking, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It really depends on how much water you need and how far you plan to go. For shorter hikes and walks in warmer climates, a good reusable water bottle might be your best bet. However, if you are planning to be out for a while and need to carry larger amounts of water, then opt for a hydration pack.

Hydration packs provide more capacity for carrying water than regular bottles and are also comfortable to wear. They come in many sizes and styles, making it easy to find one to suit your needs. Water bottles are also convenient on hikes, particularly if you’re just going for a short stroll. Their capacity is limited compared to hydration packs, but they are lightweight and easy to carry. Plus, you can refill them whenever you come across a stream or water source.

Ways Of Carrying Water While Hiking

1. Water Bottles

Ways Of Carrying Water While Hiking: Water Bottle

A hiking water bottle makes it simple to stay hydrated while out on the trail. Even a brief outdoor adventure can leave you thirsty, so it’s a good idea to bring a drink with you. On a longer adventure, you’ll need it even more. The value of having a high-quality hiking water bottle in your outdoor gear cannot be overstated.


  • Usually cheaper thank hydration packs
  • A wide variety available on the market
  • Easy to refill


  • Limited capacity
  • Requires stopping for hydrating

2. Hydration Packs

Filling a Hydration Pack

Hydration packs are primarily made to carry water and facilitate efficient drinking. In fact, most hydration packs allow you to drink water without having to stop or even slow down; all you need to do is grab the drink tube that is attached to the built-in water reservoir and sip. When buying a hydration pack, prior to thinking about factors like capacity, fit, and added features, make sure the pack is made for the activity you plan to use it for.


  • Easier access to hydration
  • Weight and capacity
  • Helps in evenly distributing weight in the backpack


  • Usually more expensive
  • The connection between the reservoir and the tube can occasionally fail
  • More difficult to refill

What’s the Difference Between a Water Bottle and a Hydration Pack?

Filling a hydration pack

The best water bottles for hiking these days come in a variety of designs, including BPA-free plastic, aluminum, insulated, and some even have their own cool straws and filters. However, since you already know what a water bottle is, we won’t go into too much detail.

A hydration bladder, on the other hand, is a plastic bladder with a hose attached to it and a locking mouthpiece that doubles as a drinking straw.

The hose slides through loops on the shoulder strap, the hydration bladder slides into a pouch in your hiking vest or backpack, and the mouthpiece hangs out next to your face for whenever you need a sip.

1. Durability

Make sure that whatever you purchase is going to last a while because having high-quality, long-lasting hiking equipment is essential to keeping our landfills free of plastic. A good water bottle should last for years, whether it is made of aluminum or plastic, and the occasional dent won’t impair its performance. The main issue that might arise is that the plastic lid’s threading might stop meshing with the bottle’s lip, but replacement lids are frequently offered.

In the meantime, the mouthpiece and joints where the bladder and tube meet can leak due to the soft, pierceable fabric that makes up your hydration bladder. Although the individual parts are typically replaceable, you should take precautions to avoid placing it next to sharp objects in your bag or storing it with heavy objects on it in the trunk of your car or garage when it’s not in use.

Durability of Hiking Water Bottles

2. Ease of use

A water bottle appears to be fairly simple to use at first glance. All you need to do to drink is hold the spout to your lips. Once on the trail, however, stopping to search through your bag for a drink each time you get thirsty seems like a real hassle. As a result, you might not be as hydrated as you ought to be while hiking.

Although threading your hydration bladder’s tube through the loops on your backpack can be a pain, once you’re walking, the tube will be next to your mouth, allowing you to continuously sip without having to stop your stride if you choose. This is really the main appeal of this setup.

3. Hygiene

Although it’s likely that we’re all guilty of not cleaning our water bottles after each use, it’s a good idea to keep any drinking container clean to prevent bacteria from growing. After your hike, simply place your water bottle in the dishwasher to take care of that.

You should read up on how to clean a hydration bladder and think about storing yours in the freezer when you’re not using it to stop mold from growing. Hydration bladders are infamous for being difficult to clean and developing mold, though they are constantly getting better on this front.

Filling a water bottle

4. Refilling

Whereas we just mentioned that water bottles are easier to refill when you run out, hydration bladders are definitely easier to use in terms of drinking. You might need to stop and refuel if you’re on a long hike or if it’s a particularly hot day. That’s simple to do with a water bottle; just unscrew the cap, and there you are.

Depending on the type of pack and backpack you have, refilling hydration bladders may be a little more difficult. Nowadays, you can fill up the bladder by unscrewing a large lid on it, but you still have to take the entire hydration bladder out of your backpack, put it back in, and adjust the tube. Naturally, you’d have to empty your backpack in order to access your hydration bladder if you’re using a backpack without a pouch for it.

5. Insulation

If you carry water in a bottle in a side pocket, it will warm up more quickly, so on warm days, pack the bottle inside your backpack and use an ice-filled vacuum-insulated bottle. While a bladder of water in a pouch should remain cool, the exposed tube will heat up, so be ready for the first few sips to be warm.

The water can freeze in both systems, but the tube in your hydration bladder is much more likely to do so. In very cold temperatures, your best option would be to store hot water in an insulated water bottle.

Sipping from a hydration pack

6. Packability

Depending on the backpack you’re using, your storage options will vary greatly. Use a backpack with side pockets if you intend to carry water bottles because this is the most practical/accessible location to store them. On lengthy hikes, you will likely need to pack additional water bottles because side pockets typically only have room for two 1-liter bottles. Then, after emptying the bottles from the side pockets, you replace them with full bottles from the main compartment.

Use a backpack that is compatible with hydration systems if you intend to carry water in one; this is true of the majority of contemporary backpacks. These backpacks have a water reservoir sleeve either inside or outside. External sleeves are typically positioned between the main compartment and the backpanel, while internal sleeves are located in the main compartment of the backpack.

The water reservoir can be inserted into external sleeves rather than internal sleeves (see video below) even when the backpack is completely loaded. Additionally, because they have a fairly wide opening at the top, external sleeves make inserting the hydration system with the tube connected easier.

An internal sleeve has the drawback that the tube must first be disconnected in order to fit through the tiny opening that gives access to the main compartment. You should be careful not to twist the tube when putting a hydration pack into the sleeve because doing so will stop or slow down the water flow. Therefore, it might be wise to choose a backpack with an external sleeve rather than an internal one if you intend to regularly use a hydration system.

Packability of water systems

7. Taste

Water just tastes like water, so why bother with this one? Yes, if you’re drinking it out of a water bottle, but hydration bladders are notorious for giving the water a long-lasting plastic taste. There are several DIY solutions for this that involve baking soda and lime juice, but you should be aware that without a little work, your water might taste bad.

8. Maintenance

After a hike, water bottles can simply be thrown in the (recycling) trash, but hydration systems need to be cleaned and effectively dried. If you don’t, after the system has been idle for a few days, you’ll probably have a moldy reservoir and tube. Wide reservoir openings and various antimicrobial technologies are employed by manufacturers to stop the growth of microorganisms and to make interior cleaning simple.

The tube, which is difficult to dry and clean, is usually the biggest issue because mold spores eventually start to appear there. Even with the brush that is included in the cleaning kit for the appropriate hydration system, these are particularly difficult to clean (cleaning kits are usually sold separately). The whole hydration system being placed in the freezer is said to help keep it mold-free, so there may be one solution to the mold issue. Before putting the hydration system in the freezer, keep in mind that it should be empty and as dry as possible because too much water residue could lead to issues with ice splitting the tube.

Drinking from a water bottle

9. Price

Although both systems come in budget and premium price ranges, if you’re looking for a cheap hydration solution, a water bottle is the way to go. A bottle can be purchased for less than $10, whereas a hydration bladder can cost up to $30.


Water bottleHydration bladder
CapacityUsually 1L or lessCan be 3L or more
DurabilityVery strong and durable, provided you avoid using glass.Possibility of piercing, valve, joint, and mouthpiece damage
Ease of useStop, dig through your bag, unscrew the lid, take a sip, screw the lid back on, and close the bag.Drink without stopping
HygieneDishwasher cleaning is simple.more prone to bacteria and mold, and more challenging to clean
RefillingEasyIt is a hassle to constantly remove the bladder from the backpack.
InsulationFor extremes, insulated bottles work best.When it’s hot outside, the first sip is always warm, but when it’s cold outside, the tube may freeze.
Packabilitytakes up a lot of space in your backpack, and using side pockets makes it feel uneven.If you have the proper pack, it can sit in its own pouch and is comfortable against your low back.
TasteHas a watery flavor.Unless you treat it, it tastes like plastic.


You’ll enjoy owning a hydration bladder if your top priorities are comfort, ease of use on the trail, and staying hydrated. Although it requires a little more work to maintain and refill, you’ll probably drink more water overall, especially if you treat it to remove the plastic taste.

The traditional water bottle, on the other hand, may take up more room in your pack and hold less water, but it is less expensive, more sturdy, simple to clean and refill, and more resistant to extreme temperatures. If you’re still on the fence, look into soft water bottles, which are extremely packable and made of a material similar to a bladder but lack a tube. 

Water bottle vs Hydration pack

Hydration Tips

  • Drink frequently: To stay hydrated all the time, take numerous small sips of water as opposed to chugging it infrequently.
  • Don’t forget to snack: Electrolyte loss from sweating can deplete your energy. This typically isn’t a problem if your activity lasts an hour or less, but if you’re out longer, it’s crucial to make up for the loss. Foods with calcium and magnesium, as well as salty and savory snacks, can be beneficial. Additionally, think about bringing an electrolyte replacement sports drink for a prolonged, high-intensity activity.
  • Drink more at altitude: Any activity can cause dehydration when performed at a higher altitude. At higher altitudes, you may not feel as thirsty or tempted to drink, so it’s crucial to hydrate frequently. Related article: How To Train For High Altitude Hiking
  • Drink even in cold weather: Even though you might not feel like drinking cold water on a chilly winter day, staying properly hydrated is just as important in cold weather as it is in hot weather. A hot beverage that you can bring with you can help you stay hydrated.
Plastic Water bottle for hiking
  • Pre-hydration: This is usually not necessary. However, you might want to consider consuming 16 fl oz of liquid two hours before you engage in a sustained high-exertion activity.
  • Rehydrate: Drinking helps you recover from exercise and restores your fluid levels to normal. You can do this by simply drinking a glass of water when you get home, or if you want to be more precise, you should consume 16 to 24 ounces of water for each pound you lost while exercising.
  • Plan your route: When planning a run or bike ride, keep in mind that water weighs a lot (16 fl. oz. is just over a pound), so choose a route that will pass by a water fountain where you can rehydrate or fill a bottle. In more remote areas, either bring along a water treatment option for refilling from a lake or stream along the route, or carry enough water to last the duration of your outing.
  • Wear sun protection: Apply sunscreen or wear clothing that protects you from the sun before going outside because sunburns can hasten the process of dehydration.
  • Set a timer: If you frequently forget when you last had a drink, program a timer on your watch to sound an alarm roughly every 20 minutes as a reminder to take a sip of water.

Preventing Dehydration

When more body fluids are lost than are being taken in—typically through sweating—dehydration happens. You run the risk of dehydration if you don’t counteract this by drinking water.

The early signs of dehydration are having a dry mouth or feeling a decrease in performance. The warning signs listed above indicate that you need to drink more water. More severe signs of dehydration include:

  • Nausea and Headaches
  • Stumbling, grumbling, mumbling and fumbling
  • Urine that is dark or brightly colored. (Note that urine color isn’t as reliable as other symptoms because some foods and beverages, such as those containing B12 vitamins, can make urine bright yellow.)

Simple water consumption is the cure for dehydration. When you start to feel thirsty, drink. Instead of chugging large amounts of water once your thirst becomes unbearably strong, try to take frequent small sips.

Preventing Overhydration

Overhydration, also known as hyponatremia, is the opposite of dehydration. This is a relatively uncommon condition that primarily affects endurance athletes like triathletes, ultrarunners, and marathon runners. Because of the diluted sodium levels in the blood, hyponatremia impairs cell function. Hyponatremia may, in the most severe circumstances, result in coma and even death.

Fatigue, headaches, and nausea are symptoms of hyponatremia, which is why some athletes mistakenly drink more water to try to treat the condition.

Preventing overhydration: Instead of preventing dehydration, compulsive drinking can cause hyponatremia. The key to avoiding overhydration is to keep an eye on your fluid intake.

Don’t overdrink: Keep your fluid intake to 10 fl. oz. every 20 minutes or so, and avoid drinking more than you perspire. It’s obvious when you gain weight while exercising that you’re drinking too much.

Maintain a healthy sodium level: By consuming salty snacks or a sports drink, you can maintain a healthy sodium level.