Right off the bat, the convenience of hydration packs jumps out at you. You may have doubts now, or at first, but once you've used one then you're stuck!
How Much Water Should You Be Drinking Anyway?
The US National Library of Medicine has conducted a study on water and hydration. Their recommendations are not that easy to follow, but basically the whole study says that drinking water is good and not drinking water is bad!
In one spot, under "III. Water consumption and requirements and relationships to total energy intake", the study states: "Water consumption, water requirements, and energy intake are linked in fairly complex ways." Water consumption and need equal energy.
So we rummaged around a bit and Camelbak, recommend that you drink at least 1 liter of water for every hour of activity.
But essentially use common sense, though. If it is hot and you are climbing a steep ascent, you are going to need more. If you are ambling down a gentle decline, less.
Now, too much (excessive) water intake is life-threatening, but the greater risk here is dehydration. So generally aim to be slightly over rather than under-hydrated.
But for the easiest barometer of how well you are hydrated, your pee should be light yellow...
The Benefits of Hydration Packs:
Ease of Use: You carry it on your back and the tube runs as close to your mouth as you can get it without becoming inconvenient. No matter what you're doing (hiking, biking, climbing, etc) there is no slowing down or stopping necessary. As long as the drinking tube to stays in place then it's a grab, drink, and go, go go!
Hydration Levels are Higher: Because it's more convenient and easier to drink from a hydration pack then you tend to drink more. Which means that you're better hydrated during and after the activity. This means, as an athlete, you perform better. #boom!
Everyone's Doing it: All of your hiking homies, biking buddies, and running regulars that are still using large, bulky plastic water bottles (disposable or not) will be envious of you. They'll want to be you. They'll buy their own hydration packs and hoist you on their shoulders in thanks and adoration. Okay, probably not, but you get the picture. You'll be the cooler one in the group. And better hydrate.
Choosing the Reservoir Size of a Hydration Pack:
Hiking hydration systems are split into different categories to match the specific type of activity and include:
34 to 70 fluid ounce (1-2 liters) hydration packs
If you want to go minimal but have hydration handy, then this is the size for you. Most usually likened to kids, short distance bikers, bike riding with a light load, etc.
Great for fitness walkers, cyclists (recreational), minimalist hikers, and trail-runners
70 to 100 fluid ounce (2-3 liters) hydration packs
This is the most common hydration pack size. This reservoir is best for those who are looking for a great combination of weight and load as well as a more than adequate reservoir of water. In many cases, the water won't need refilling except on occasion.
These packs are the workhorses and suit day-hikers, mountain bikers, climbers, cyclists (touring), skiers, snowboarders, and backpackers
100+ fluid ounce (3+ liter) hydration packs
These are the largest, big-boss of the hydration pack world - perfect for the long-distance hiker that is well-away from clean, natural water sources. These are for those users who will not want to stop and refill that often or if the water is scarce.
Of course, a 3-liter hydration pack is going to be heavier, but just because the reservoir is 3 liters doesn't mean you always have to fill it to the max!
So, Why Not Always Choose Hydration Pack Over Water Bottle?
Weight: Yup, the hydration pack is going to be a large, bulky piece of weight hanging off of your back or waist. Lugging around a sack of water gets heavier as time goes on. Of course, you're drinking the weight away as you go but, still...it's there.
The average cost of the hydration packs that we use and review at Hiking Hydration is somewhere between $50 and $100. A bottle of water could be, literally, free. Also, a hydration pack for hiking and camping is another piece of gear to wear.
However many hiking backpacks feature a hydration pack or provision to carry one, already built-in.
Cleaning and Sterilization
It's easier to rinse and clean a water bottle with your eyes closed than it is to clean a hydration pack, hoses, and mouthpiece with both eyes open and an extra set of hands.
Loss of Water
Lock valves sometimes won't tighten correctly. Hydration pack reservoirs sometimes fail or...puncture. Guess what? Water bottles don't.
You can easily look at a water bottle or give it a shake and know how much water you have left. With that hydration pack on your back then it's difficult to tell how much you're drinking (because it's so convenient to do so) and how much remains.
What to look for
A hydration pack must be manufactured in a durable material to ensure it is able to handle the difficult terrain and debris in the backcountry. In other words, your hydration pack needs to be able to take a beating AND also protect the bladder within.
So your hydration pack should have reinforced features or ripstop sections to give protection where needed. Hiking packs are constantly snagged on bushes and trees, so make sure the chosen bag has the ability to last the test of time.
Comfort and Fit
We find it very useful to have a hydration pack with one or more sternum straps to keep more secure to your back. This also helps prevent from swaying which leads to fatigue and more chance to get snagged.
Easy to Clean
Hiking hydration systems should be easy-to-clean and maintain. Most of the modern packs come with purpose-made cleaning instruments which are effective at cleaning the drink tube and making sure the actual bladder is free of bacteria build-up.
Cleaning tools can also be purchased separately if not included. Keep in mind that the quality of the water you're drinking is very important so a clean bladder is paramount.
Plus, the material of certain backpacks can include antimicrobial properties whicht the is useful for preventing or slowing the growth of mold or germs.
Most of the latest backpacks intended for hiking or similar outdoor activities come with a pocket or pouch to accept a detachable hydration system.
This makes it possible to lift out the water bladder and use for several different activities and provides quick water access via the drinking tube and bite valve.
Why use the fanny/waist packs
An alternative to the complete hiking hydration systems is the waist packs with an adjustable strap to fit around the waist and pocket or straps to accept a water bottle.
Waist packs are designed to be comfortable, practical, and lightweight and a perfect choice for the short hikes or cycle rides.
A preferred hiking fanny pack should include zip pockets (great for small essentials) and high visibility features.
When you are looking for a hydration pack, ensure it has enough capacity for what you are planning to do. If you are just doing short hikes on level ground, a lightweight pack will be fine.
You can often get backpacks that will double up as hydration packs, which is a great way to go - two birds with one stone n all that!
But do buy quality - leaking, uncomfortable packs are not good news.
Try them out for size and fit, take some stuff along to pad them out and make sure they have a decent warranty!
- 1 How Much Water Should You Be Drinking Anyway?
- 2 The Benefits of Hydration Packs:
- 3 Choosing the Reservoir Size of a Hydration Pack:
- 4 So, Why Not Always Choose Hydration Pack Over Water Bottle?
- 5 What to look for
- 6 Why use the fanny/waist packs
- 7 Summary