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Hydration Bladder Packs

Your Guide To Buying An Hydration Bladder

Hydration packs are manufactured principally to transport drinking water and make drinking simple and efficient. The fact is, with many hydration packs, you actually don’t have to stop, or even slow down, to take a sip of water; you simply grab the drink tube that’s attached to the included water reservoir (sometimes referred to as a bladder).

If you’re searching for a hydration pack, you first should make certain the pack is designed for the particular activity you intend to use it for, and then consider things such as volume, fit and added functions. This article walks you through the process and includes:

  • Types of hydration packs: First find a pack that’s created for the activities you actually do
  • Capacity: Be certain the pack offers enough space for your water and gear
  • Fit: Ensure that the pack fits your torso length and hip size
  • Features: Take into consideration extra features, such as bite valve on/off switches and quick-disconnect  tubing.

Remember that virtually all newer daypacks and backpacks that don’t come with a hydration reservoir are designed with an interior sleeve that can hold a reservoir. If that describes an existing pack you own or are thinking about purchasing, you can simply add a reservoir to it to make it a hydration pack.

Types of Hydration Packs & Bladders For Running

There are two general types of hydration packs: hydration backpacks and hydration waist packs. Within those two groups, there are packs made specifically for different outdoor activities, including hiking, running, mountain biking, cycling, skiing and snowboarding.

The common feature among nearly all of them is the included hydration reservoir that makes drinking easy on the move. A handful of packs (usually ones designed for running) include water bottles rather than a reservoir - this is because running with a large amount of water on your back might be difficult and could weigh you down.

Running Hydration Packs: These are designed specifically for running. While shopping, you’ll notice that some are called running vests, while others are running backpacks. 

Running Vests: As you might expect, these look like a vest and are designed to fit snug to your body. They are similar to a backpack in that they are carried over the shoulders and on your back, but they tend to be a bit lower profile, feature more pockets on the front of the shoulder straps, and don't have a hip-belt like most packs do. Many include dedicated spots for storing water bottles on the front of the shoulder straps. Most vests also accommodate a hydration reservoir (sometimes sold separately) for runners who like to sip from a tube.

Running Back Packs: These are a lot like a backpack that you’d take on a day hike but with running-specific features, such as a low-profile design, a simple hip belt (a few have no hip belt at all) and a bunch of pockets that are easy to access while you’re running. They sometimes provide more storage than the average running vest, making them a good choice for long trail runs, hikes and walks that require lots of extra food, equipment and clothing. Nearly every running pack accommodates a hydration reservoir for easy sipping on the go (reservoirs are sometimes sold separately, so check before you buy). Many also include pockets on the shoulder straps or sides if you prefer to use water bottles.

The benefits of using a hydration pack are significant. You can concentrate on what you are doing, keep your hands free and avoid the need to carry equipment in your pockets.

Hydration Pack Capacity: Make sure the hydration pack you choose can carry enough water and gear to meet your needs for the duration of the activity or event you are taking part in.

Hydration Pack Reservoir Capacity: Water isn’t light (1 liter weighs approximately 2 pounds), so really think about exactly how much you need to carry. If you are able to stop and refill along the way, and then purchase a hydration pack in line with that.

Here are some things to think about related to reservoir capacity:

  • 0.5 liter or less (16 fluid ounces or less): Packs with minimal water capacity are usually waist packs that include one or two water bottles. They’re best for lightweight pursuits like running or walking and events which are shorter in duration or when you have regular access to water and re-fill along the route.
  • 1 liter or 1.5 liters (32 or 50 fluid ounces): A good choice for minimalists, kids, and short-distance bike commuters, hikers and runners.
  • 2 liters or 2.5 liters (70 or 85 fluid ounces): These popular reservoir sizes offer a nice balance of reasonable weight and bulk while providing a sufficient quantity of water that in most situations will require only occasional refilling duting your activity.
  • 3 liters or more (100 fluid ounces or more): Made for the thirstiest of adventurers or those who don’t want to stop to refill. They’re also good for anyone exploring terrain where water is scarce.
  • Bear in mind that if you are taking part in an organised Ultra Event - Run, Jog, Walk etc, there might be a minimum amount if water you are required to carry at the start of the event. 

Bite Valve Shut-off Switch: Some bite valves twist to open and close; others have a switch to ensure water doesn’t get out when you don’t want it to.

Tube Portals On The Pack: This is a slit in the backpack that allows you to thread the sip tube from the reservoir inside the pack to the exterior. Many packs offer two portals so you can position the tube to hang over either shoulder. Some packs offer a single, centered portal. These also help to stablise the tubing.

Clips: Many hydration packs include a clip on a shoulder strap to keep your tube positioned for easy access to you mouth so you are not fiddling around with your hands to grab and position the tube.

Quick-Disconnect Tubing: Some reservoirs include a drink tube that easily disconnects from the body of the reservoir, which is nice when it’s time to refill the reservoir in the middle of your hike. You simply disconnect the tube with the press of a button and pull the reservoir from your pack. This allows you to leave the tube in place, which is especially handy if you have it routed through the tube portal of the bladder.

Wide-Mouth Opening: Wide-mouth openings usually allow you to fit a hand inside the reservoir, which makes cleaning easy. If you choose a reservoir with a smaller opening, you can purchase reservoir cleaners or a cleaning kit that includes brushes for scrubbing out the inside.

Cold Weather Extras: Assorted clod weather add-ons are often  available, these include insulated sip tubes, insulated reservoirs, reservoir covers and bite valve cover caps. 

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