Why Drink Bladders?
The Advantages over Drink bottles are;
- Volume: You can easily carry sufficient water for your hydration requirements.(per/hr)
- Balance: Bladder’s empty from the bottom, so when carried in the correct position, your pack balance is maintained despite the contents.
- Ease of drinking: Regular drinking is easy with the delivery hose right there in easy reach. (*2)
- Temperature Control: Your water stays relatively cool inside your pack. (Insulation kits are available for hot climates.)
- Hands Free: Apart from nudging the hose in to your mouth, both hands are free to support you.
Choosing a Drink Bladder
The First step is to work out how much water you need to carry for your Individual requirements, which will help you get the correct capacity bladder.
- Get familiar with the Signs and Symptoms of Inadequate Hydration, in particularly the Urine Output Chart.
- While exercising, drink until you feel the urge to frequently pass Urine – monitor the colour, once you reach the hydrated range reduce your intake to maintain it.
- A good figure to aim for, once in the correct range is 250ml per hour – (sipped over the hour.)
- You can also find online water consumption tools, but I don’t find them as useful as reality.
- Consider the climate you are mostly walking in. I hike in a temperate climate where the difference in consumption Summer and Winter is minimal.
- There does seem to be a general correlation between higher body weight/ muscle mass using more water (typically males or athletic females: more muscle generating more heat) versus lower body weight/ less muscle mass, using less water.
- As a general rule I recommend a minimum of 2 litres capacity for Women and total of 3 litres capacity for Men. ( Personally I prefer the 3 litre capacity, because even if I don’t drink it I still have a reserve supply for the unforeseen.)
- Colour: Clear colours seem to allow “stuff” to grow in the drink lines while darker colours don’t.
- Shape: What shape will most easily fit the bladder sleeve configuration you have in your pack. Most are long and narrow, although Camelbak do have a ranger of different shapes for different applications.
- Hose length: Does your drinking hose easily reach your chest with out being tight, (in correct position in your pack) or can you install and extension
- Hose connection: fixed or removable – as you will see below, removable is a real bonus
- Filling Cap: Most have large wide mouth filling, some seal better then others. If you are using a water purification pump, you can get bladders with compatible entrance thread to make the process way easier. If however you are using a UV Sterilisation Pen, you will need to carry a separate hard bottle, as you cannot use the Pen in a Bladder effectively.
How to Carry a Drink Bladder
A Drink Bladder is best carried;
- Close: Inside the main compartment of the back, as close to your back as possible.
- Centred: Along the centre line of the pack over your spine.
- Low: With the hose end of the bladder touching the pack base so the load is over your hips.
Most modern packs already have a sleeve sewn into the correct position on the inside of the pack, along with a side or lid hydration port.(*3)
If you have and older pack, that doesn’t have a inner sleeve or hydration port, its pretty easy to install and alternative sleeve with a few sewing tools and materials.
Drink Bladder Maintenance
When you are using your bladder daily, always empty it every couple of days and rinse with fresh water before refilling.
When you are not going to use it for a while;
- Empty it
- Drain all the water from the hose, remove soft bite, open bladder so the sides don’t stick together and hang up in the shade to dry.
Bad Taste and Algae
Occasionally every bladder will develop a bad taste, the reasons are varied, including;
- You have previously used flavour in your water and not rinsed it
- The bladder has been hanging around your house after a trip wet or in full in a hot car.
- Its a cheap one made of cheaper brand plastics.
- Algae “wildlife” is growing in the hose.
The best method to remove it is;
- Fill the Drink Bladder with clean water.
- Add household bleach (at the bottle dilution) or 2 Tbsp Baking soda.
- Open the tap, remove the soft bite block and let the water fill the hose and leave over night.
- Empty, rinse with clean water and use a hose brush to kit to clean out the hose.
- Hang up to air dry. (the residual bleach taste will clear after a short time- not dangerous as its used in water purification also.)
- If the taste is unchanged, consider upgrading to a better brand of Drink Bladder like Camelbak, ( i have never had a taste issue with this brand)
My Drink Bladder Pick
I first discovered the benefits of drinking Bladders when hiking in the mid 90’s, since then I have used a wide range of popular New Zealand and Australian brands, looking for my ultimate. I found finally found this in the Camelbak range. (starting with the Antidote, now superseded by the Crux.)
Unlike all the other Drinking Bladders I have tried, the features of the Camelbak Crux that makes it my all time favourite include;
- The quick link hose connection system, which allows you to disconnect the hose from the bladder,(full or empty) so you can: 1) refill the bladder with out un threading the hose form the hydration port and pack harness. 2)Add extension hoses(i.e.: different hose lengths for different applications. 3) remove the hose for ease of cleaning.
- The Crux has a much improved in line rotary tap, easy to use in all environmental and weather conditions. (*4)
- The blue colour of Camelbak drink bladders seems to be the best so far at inhibiting “stuff” growing inside the clear bladders from other brands,
- The large screw top opening, is immune to bursting and leaking, as well as making it really easy to fill and clean
- The opening incorporates a handle, that is really comfortable to hold the bladder open during filling.
- The Crux has a partitioned bladder, that stops the water moving around or “sloshing” particularly when you are moving fast like running.
- A Life time warranty which they do stand by (yes I have had to test it once, and they did stand right by it.
- Drying props that fold out of the handle and help keep the bladder open while air drying.
- Camelbak (I am not affiliated or paid by Camelbak – I just love their drink bladders!)
- Sweat rate calculation
(*1) Drinking bladders are also called Drinking Reservoir Camelbak’s(a popular brand of Drink bladders often used generically to describe all.)
(*2)Those using drink bottles, tend to carry the bottles out of reach on the sides or back of their pack, which in turn discourages adequate water intake as the pack has to be dismounted for every drink. (empting one bottle before the other also affects pack balance.)
(*3) A hydration port is simply a hole or “covered tunnel” in the fabric of your pack that lets the drinking hose exit in your pack in when its closed, in the right place that it can be fitted to your pack strap for easy access.
(*4)While Camelbak taps are designed only for use during transport, (drink bladders can be wonderful at filling your boot with water with out a tap) I prefer to dispense with the bite blocks and just use the tap, so i can vouch for the new Crux taps robustness – its now been operated more times then it was designed and has outlasted the previous taps.