Choosing Hiking Hydration Packs

Hiking Hydration Packs
Hydration packs have been around for quite a while.  They started among motocross riders and mountain bikers, but their popularity spread as soon as it was shown that athletes that used these devices performed better and stayed better hydrated than their counterparts.  Hiking hydration packs have the added advantage being situated inside your backpack that you are already carrying.

What are the Advantages:

  • Ease of Use: Instead of carrying all of those bottles of water, you can fill up your hydration pack, throw it on your back and away you go.  No more taking out and putting back water bottles into your backpack pockets.  You simply position the hose and get a drink when you need it.  It is extremely easy to use.
  • Performance Enhancement: Because it is so easy to re-hydrate, people tend to drink more.  By staying hydrated on the trail, you perform better.

Types of Hiking Hydration Packs:

  • Hydration Pack only: These are just the pack with a reservoir.  There may be a few small pockets, but these are mainly sized to carry just your water.
  • Hydration Pack with Storage: These range in size up to about 2000 cubic inches.  These are designed to carry your water as well as other items that you might need on a day hike: clothing, GPS, Food, Sunscreen, Big Screen TV (Well, not the TV.  I did say 2000 cubic inches).
  • Backpack with built-in Reservoir Storage: This is the opposite of above.  Instead of a Hydration Pack with Storage, this is a Backpack, meant to store all of your gear, with an added pocket for a bladder, which is normally not included.

Sizes of Bladders/Reservoir:

  • 1 Liter: These are good for kids or for shorter hikes.
  • 2 Liter: A popular size.  It balances out weight and size.
  • 3 Liter: It is large enough to take care of any hike at higher elevations, longer hikes, higher temperatures or where water is scarce.   This is probably the most versatile of the three sizes, because if you are going on a shorter hike, just take the amount of water that you think you will need.  When you consider that 1 liter of water is approximately 2 pounds, it helps to take a lesser amount.

Design Consideration:

  • Winter Hydration Packs: Some packs have components that will resist freezing.  There are also kits available to add to existing non-winter packs that will insulate them.
  • Opening Size: In order to fill a reservoir, it is important to know how they are filled.  Some Hiking Hydration Packs have larger refill openings.  With these openings, you can put in ice.  These can be a lot easier to clean as well.
  • Bite Valve: The bite valve is how you turn on the flow of water and take a drink.  Some bite valves will have a trickle of water come out, while others will gush.  Also, find out if the bite valve has a shut off knob to prevent leaking.
  • Drinking Tube: Make sure that the drink tube is detachable.  This will help you be able to get more of the water out after use.
  • Drinking Tube Slits: Every pack comes with at least one slit in the cover where the drinking tube will come out.  Try to find a pack that has two slits, one on each side of the pack.  This way if you find that you prefer the tube to come over your left shoulder, you can change it.  If the pack has only one slit in the center or on just one side, it may be uncomfortable and at that point, you cannot change it.
  • Fit: Try on the pack and make sure that it is comfortable and will stay in place.


Every hydration reservoir and sip tube must be cleaned between every use.  This is to prevent any mold and mildew from forming in the components.

After use make sure that both parts air out and dry completely.    By doing this, it will inhibit the growth of mildew.  There are cleaning kits available to assist in this process.  They can include; Brush sets, Cleaning tablets, and reservoir dryer hangers.


You should never store your reservoir folded.  Always lay it flat or better yet, hang it up and keep it propped open.  If a reservoir is folded, this can crease the plastic and increase the likelihood of cracks as the unit gets older.

Hiking hydration packs can be a great addition to your outdoor gear.  They take the burden out of carrying water.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.