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.
Hydration Pack Features
Bite valve shutoff switch: Some bite valves have a twist to open and close them, while others have a switch to prevent water from leaking when it isn’t supposed to.
Tube portals: The backpack has a slit where you can thread the sip tube from the reservoir inside the pack to the outside. Many packs come with two portals, allowing you to hang the tube over either shoulder. A single, central portal is available in some packs.
Clips: For easy access, many hydration packs have a clip that attaches to the shoulder strap.
Quick-disconnect tubing: When it’s time to refill the reservoir mid-hike, some reservoirs have a drink tube that is conveniently detachable from the reservoir body. Simply press a button to release the tube, then remove the reservoir from your pack. In particular, if the tube is routed through a tube portal, this enables you to leave it in place.
Wide-mouth opening: Cleaning is simple thanks to the wide-mouth openings, which typically allow you to fit a hand inside the reservoir. If you select a reservoir with a smaller opening, you can buy reservoir cleaners or a cleaning set that comes with brushes for cleaning the interior.
Cold weather add-ons: There are several different winterized add-ons available, such as insulated reservoirs, reservoir covers, and bite valve covers. Although they add a little weight and bulk to your system, they can be useful.
The relative fit and profile of your backpack is the next factor to take into account. Examine the profile and length of the sleeve on your hydration pack. Is it large or small? Although they all have a slight variation, most hydration bladders have a similar shape. The dimensions are more crucial. The two-liter and three-liter bladder sizes are the most common, but some bladders are also available in even smaller sizes.
In general, 3L hydration bladders are advised. They are roughly the same price and weight as 1L and 2L bladders, but they provide space for 50% more water. You can decide whether to partially or completely fill your bladder. If the compartment in your pack is small, that is one reason not to purchase a 3L bladder. For instance, some smaller running packs will typically only hold a 2L hydration bladder. You can still use a 3L hydration bladder despite this; just don’t fill it all the way. Go bigger if you want something more versatile, but if you only need a bladder for one specific thing, figure out what size your pack can hold and buy that.
The profile of your bladder is another aspect of compatibility. While some bladders are narrow, others are wide. When filled, some become fat while others become flat. Examine your hydration pack before purchasing a hydration bladder. The majority of backpacks that are compatible with a hydration bladder will have a built-in sleeve. Check the sleeve to see if it is wide or narrow and then you can decide if it fits a bladder with a wide or narrow profile the best.
When it comes to insulation, water bladders come in two types: some are completely insulated by offering an insulation sleeve (into which the bladder slides), while others only have an insulated tube.
The insulated sleeves have the benefit of keeping your water cooler for a longer period of time. Insulated tubes, unfortunately, cannot guarantee that water won’t crust over and ice up in the tubes, but they will prolong the liquid state of the water. To add more insulation to the tube, we recommend purchasing a backpack that allows you to slide the end of the tube into it.
Hydration Bladder Opening
When choosing a bladder opening, you should think about how simple it is to fill, the surroundings in which you fill, and how simple it is to open and close. Bladder openings come in three different designs: fold top, zip top, and screw top.
The Fold Top design is the best when there is a need to fill up in streams or other outdoor settings where you must collect water from sparse, trickling sources. They work well when used at home under a standard faucet too.
Bladders with zip tops resemble those with fold tops. They look like sizing ziplock bags and have a closure that sits on top of the zipper. These are also fantastic options for filling up at home using a regular tap or in slow-moving streams. Despite being simpler to clean than screw top alternatives, fold tops require more effort to maintain because they cannot be cleaned by turning them inside out.
Screw Top bladders are the simplest to fill in shallow basins, but they do require a little more time to open and close. When filling, the screw models are held either horizontally or diagonally. In public restrooms and restrooms at campgrounds, where you don’t want the bladder to touch more surfaces than necessary, this is especially useful. Nevertheless, using manual brushes for cleaning can be difficult and uncomfortable. A cleaning tablet, however, works well with these.
Tips for Care
It’s crucial to take care of your bladder to avoid having to deal with a nasty bacterial colony. Daily maintenance is the simplest approach. After using it, empty it out, blow the water out of the tube, and allow it to air dry. We go over some advice for taking good care of your bladder below.
There are numerous videos online that demonstrate how to maintain and clean the reservoir. Use warm water and mild soap to clean it. If a bladder is dishwasher-safe, make sure to wash it from the inside out at a low temperature.
The inside-out method If you can turn your bladder inside out, do so and scrub it gently with warm water and mild soap (using a non-abrasive pad). If the bladder cannot be turned inside out, clean the interior with a simple cleaning brush. This is excellent for bladders with mouth openings that are just big enough for a brush.
You can use a variety of hydration pack cleaning tablets. Put the tablet inside the bladder after filling it with warm water, and then wait. Shake it vigorously, then dump and rinse. Make sure to carefully read the instructions because some tablets take a little bit longer to work than others. Use Polident, available at your neighborhood drugstore, to clean your teeth if you don’t want to purchase a cleaning tablet.
Make sure the bladder has had enough time to completely dry as this prevents the growth of bacteria inside.
The Hose: The hose can be kept in good condition by making sure no water remains inside it after use. Simply blow the water through to dry.
The Mouthpiece: Although every mouthpiece is different, there are numerous online videos that demonstrate how to disassemble your mouthpiece. Dismantle the mouthpiece, and if you discover any residue, remove it by using a small brush.
The O-ring: The quick-release port of many bladders has an O-ring that aids in maintaining a tight seal. To ensure that the quick-release system keeps working, the O-ring needs to be lubricated. This can be done by applying lubricant made of food-grade silicone on the O-ring.
Cleaning While On The Trail
Use mild (biodegradable) soap and warm water. Fill the reservoir, shake it, place it in the sun (the UV light from the sun kills bacteria), rinse, and dry. Use baking soda and water for a thorough cleaning if you have any on hand.