Hydration Systems Buying Guide
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Hydration Systems are devices designed with the single purpose of getting necessary liquids to the user as quick and as convenient as possible. Initially, hydration systems were designed for bikers because of limited hand availability. These devices have been popularized in many other outdoor activities and are a necessity for many military operations. Having a hydration system is much more effective and convenient than carrying around water bottles. Having a hydration system on or in your pack keeps you more hydrated because by the time you go for a drink from a water bottle you are already showing signs of dehydration. Also, when empty, hydration systems take up little space and are very lightweight.
How Hydration Systems WorkHydration systems consist of 3 main parts; the packaging, a polyurethane reservoir also known as the “bladder”, and the hose. The Bladder is usually an elongated, flexible, and removable water container that goes inside whatever pack fits your needs. These reservoirs range in size from 64 ounces (2 quarts) to 128 ounces (1 gallon). The hose is attached to the bladder and has some sort of bite valve at the end that allows the water to flow out by biting down on it. With the end of the tube just inches from your mouth the need for a water break becomes non-existent.
Pack Hose Bladder
Choosing your Hydration SystemChoosing the right hydration system is important. There are many different designs, styles, and sizes. You must also keep in mind the factors that contribute to its ease of use because nowadays hydration packs can be sport/activity specific. Such factors include how easy it is to clean or refill, and how you intend to carry and store It.
CleaningCleanliness is one of the most important factors when it comes to any sort of reusable water device. When water sits idle for an extended period of time or the container is not cleaned properly after use it is more susceptible to bacteria which can increase the chances that the user gets sick. Most bladders are removable which makes them easier to clean and also allows for them to be used in almost any backpack. The size of the access hole for filling the container also affects how easy it is to clean the bladder. An opening roughly large enough for the users hand to fit inside is ideal for cleaning. Some manufacturers offer bladders that are dishwasher-safe and or easily replaceable after use. Many prefer a bladder that is transparent making it easier to check the cleanliness of the bladder. Some companies also make cleaning tablets that clean out water reservoirs and water bottles.
Be Practical, Size does Matter
Understanding what activities you will be using the hydration system for is very important. For instance, a bicyclist may prefer a smaller lightweight hydration pack for less wind resistance. For long distance trips with no other water source you might consider a larger bladder. The mountain biker’s pack will be slightly different from the road biker’s hydration pack, as well as those used for winter sports and running.
SmallSmall sized packs are very important if weight is an issue. For running and biking a larger pack could be a nuisance. When all you need is water, it is a good idea to keep the pack small and to the point. Smaller bladders can be a good idea especially if you have a water filter and local water supply.
MediumMedium sized hydration systems are very useful for short day hikes and other activities that can be achieved in short periods of time. Another good aspect of medium sized packs is they can store other necessities such as food/snacks and emergency equipment.
LargeThe larger Packs are typically designed for backpacking or trekking for multiple days. These packs are hydration system compatible but some do not come with the bladder and hose.
Water Filter Attachments
Some hydration systems have quick attachments for water filtration devices. These attachments make refilling anywhere an easy task. In some cases if you intend to carry your reservoir on the inside of the pack it can be very difficult to take off the pack, dig into the pouch, retrieve the reservoir, and fill it with water. Not only do you have to hold the bladder in a position that it will not collapse and spill but you need two hands typically to pump the water. With a special attachment that extends outside of the pack to the filter the task of refilling the hydration system mid-hike has become extremely simplified. This device is also a great idea because it allows for the hydration pack to remain inside of the pack where insulation is much better.