Hydration Bladder

About two liters of fluid should be consumed by one adult per day. On days with particularly high physical stress even more.
When walking, paddling, jogging or other activities outdoors, you can see increasingly people with hydration bladders.

Why using a hydration bladder at all?

Unlike other water containers (such as drinking bottles), hydration bladders have the following advantages:

  • Hydration bladders are deformable. This greatly facilitates the space-saving packing.
  • The volume of a hydration bladder becomes smaller the less water it contains.
  • The mass of water is distributed by the flat shape of the bladder on a larger area.
  • Hydration bladders have a low material weight.

These four points are providing another advantage:

  • Water can be transported more easily.

How? A hydration bladder can be placed in the backpack close to the back. This ensures much more comfort .

Disadvantages of Hydration bladders

Of course, a hydration bladder is not perfect. However, there are very good solutions that compensate for the weaknesses.

  • Hydration bladders are not very resistant.

The thin plastic skin of the bladder can easily do a lot … but not as much as a hard plastic bottle – especially when it comes to sharp objects. To protect the hydration bladder and thus to make it more resistant, there are protective covers.

  • Hydration bladders do not insulate.

At warm temperatures, the water in the hydration bladder warms up. It freezes in very cold temperatures. Remedy again brings a shell and, if available, an isolated drinking tube. In extremely hot or cold regions, however, that does not help either, as we experienced on our winter trekking tour in Sweden. The available insulation is designed for temperatures around the freezing point.

  • Hydration bladders are difficult to fill.

Some Hydration bladders have only one opening: above. This makes the complete filling – especially in small sinks – pretty much impossible. Much better, in this case, are Hydration bladders with an opening on the front or (even better) with two openings!

  • Hydration bladders are difficult to clean.

Especially with hydration bladders, which have only a small opening, cleaning is really difficult. For the simple reason that you can not get inside the bladder. Therefore, many hydration bladders have a large opening through which you can usually put your whole hand into the bladder to wipe the inside out. But even then you do not get to the seams. Nevertheless, the hydration bladder does not become a disposable product: it does not form a biofilm if you dry the bladder well after use.

In general, we also recommend only pure water. Here bacteria hardly find a breeding ground.

Hydration bladders with a drinking tube

Most hydration bladders are compatible with a drinking tube, through which water can be drunk directly from the bladder. This has the advantage that you have easy access at any time on the road.
The drinking tube is either permanently attached to the bladder or can be clipped on or off above a valve. This is how a hydration bladder turns into a hydration system.
In addition to the drinking tube, there are other differences between the models in terms of features and extras.
Before going into detail, there are a few general criteria that should be met by a hydration bladder (with or without a tube).

What you should consider when buying:

In general, you should make sure when buying a hydration bladder that it is tasteless. Water that tastes like plastic is simply not delicious – not even talking about a possible pollution! The liquid should in principle not come into contact with BPA or plasticizers. The material should also be antibacterial to prevent bacteria from settling inside the bladder.
Nonetheless, the entire system – including the drinking tube and mouthpiece – should be as easy to clean as possible. In order to clean the interior of the bladder, it is recommended to use hydration bladders with a large opening. Other openings may also be interesting, as the bladder can be filled better.
In addition, you should make sure that the hydration bladder is compatible with your other equipment, for example, a water filter.

So far so good. Now for the different types of hydration bladders. Bladders are best broken down according to the activity for which they were designed. And that’s what we did.
The models we mention by name are from the SOURCE brand. Why? We have been using the company’s drinking bladders for many, many years and have always been very satisfied. For this reason, we have never tried bladders from other suppliers. What does not mean that they have no good products in the range! With that being said – let’s start!

Hydration bladders for hiking and trekking

With the hydration bladder you have easy access to your water supply at any time during hiking or trekking – and without taking off the backpack! Another big plus of a hydration bladder, as already mentioned, in terms of comfort: The hydration bladder can be carried close to the upper back. Almost all backpacks have an extra compartment for the hydration bladder and a small opening through which the drinking tube can be carried. Different backpack brands have different compartment sizes, which in turn makes special demands on the shape and size of the hydration bladder. In principle, there are hydration bladders in different sizes, according to their liter number. On our trekking tours, we have hydration bladders for up to 3 liters of water.

As a small example of a classic hydration bladder for hiking or trekking, we would like to introduce you to the Widepac, which has accompanied us regularly and reliably for last three years.

  • Widepac

Product description

SOURCE Widepac 3L
SOURCE Widepac ©Christian Hein

The Widepac has a large opening for filling or cleaning. The hydration bladder is closed by a sliding closure. The drinking tube (94 cm long) can be removed from the hydration bladder and/or replaced. The orange mouthpiece can be disassembled into three parts for cleaning. By the way, the mouthpiece is protected by a cap from dirt and grime.
For drinking, the mouthpiece has to be rotated and the valve to be pressed with the teeth.
The Widepac comes in three different sizes (1,5l, 2l, 3l). The drinking tube length is the same for all versions.

  • drinking

Drinking from the Widepac is easy. The mouthpiece with rotary and biting valve can be operated intuitively and without any prior knowledge and you do not have to suck like crazy for water to come.
The tube has the appropriate length to stow the hydration bladder in the backpack and still be able to easily lead the mouthpiece to the mouth.

navigation with a GPS
Hydration bladder inside a backpack ©Jarno Hein
  • fill and refill

Due to the large opening, the filling is uncomplicated. On the way we refill our hydration bladder mostly through the drinking tube, so we do not have to unpack the complete backpack to get to the bladder. The hose of our water filter fits great in the drinking tube of the Widepac. But first, the mouthpiece must be deducted. This is especially the first few times relatively difficult.

  • Cleaning

Through the large opening, the hydration bladder can be cleaned well. Theoretically, you can enter with your whole hand to wipe out the bladder. As a rule, we simply pull our Widepac over a bottle after a tour and let the moisture dry out. We never had a biofilm or similar in three years of use.
The mouthpiece can be, disassembled into its parts. Only the removal from the drinking tube again requires some finger power.
The drinking tube can easily be removed from the bladder. So far we never cleaned the drinking tube. We just shake out most of the moisture. This is best done by turning the hose. Then we simply hang the hose over a latch or clothes horse so that the remaining moisture can evaporate.

Conclusion: We see the Widepac as a classic hydration system. It is reliable, leakproof, easy to use … and without many extras.

Hydration bladders for paddling

Whether in a kayak or a canoe – a backpack is rarely worn here. But usually a life jacket. Many lifejackets have an extra compartment for a hydration bladder on the back. So that the hump is not too big, the tray is relatively flat but quite wide. Exactly for this form, there are specially designed drinking bubbles. While there are drinking bubbles for hiking for different numbers of liters, drinking bubbles are designed for paddling up to 2.5 liters. More just does not fit in the back pocket (and in our experience, that’s enough).
Of course, the life jacket is not the only way to take a hydration bladder on the water. It can also be mounted in the boat or on the deck. If the hydration bladder is not on the body, the hose may need to be a little longer to still get the drinking water. So that the hydration is better protected outside the life jacket, better insulated and easier to attach, there are cases or pockets.

A combination of hydration bladder and case is the Durabag Kayak.

  • Durabag Kayak

Product description

SOURCE Durabag Kayak 2,5L
SOURCE Durabag Kayak ©Christian Hein

The Durabag consists of a hydration bladder, which is stored in a matching bag.

a) Hydration bladder, tube, and mouthpiece

The hydration bladder has two openings: a large opening, which is closed with a slide and a standardized wide-mouth opening on the front.
The hose is 140cm long and sheathed. It is attached to the bladder via a pressure seal. The mouthpiece can be disassembled into three small parts.

Summary Hydrating bladder

  • Hydrating bladder (2.5l)
  • 140cm long jacketed hose
  • Openings at the top and front
  • disassemblable mouthpiece

b) Case

The hydration bladder is packed into the bag via a large zipper opening. There is a matching cut-out in the pocket for the front opening of the hydration bladder so that the screw cap remains accessible from the outside. The hose can be made through three different openings in the bag (two at the top and one at the front). On the back of the bag is equipped with three Hypalon stripes (non-slip).
On the bag are two carrying handles, one of which is provided with a reflective material. The other can be opened by a plastic buckle (which can also be used as a whistle). In addition, there are three strap loops with which the bag can be attached. There are also two small mesh pockets on the sides. A rubber band is stretched over the front.

Summary Case

  • two openings
  • Carrying strap with whistle
  • Carrying strap made of reflective material
  • three small belt loops
  • three possible openings for the hose
  • non-slip material on the back
  • two small side pockets made of net material
  • Rubber bands on the front
  • drinking

The Durabag Kayak makes it easy and fast to get drinking water. The mouthpiece with rotary and bite valve can be operated intuitively, just like the Widepac. Absorbing the liquid does not require much force.
Due to the long drinking tube, the Durabag does not have to be in immediate reach. Extremely practical! In addition, the length allows fellow travelers also easy access.
The water in the Durabag remains pleasantly cool. Also, the hose is well protected against UV rays and wear. The only drawback: the mouthpiece has no protective cap. This can be retrofitted.

sharing water in a Kayak
sharing water in a Kayak ©Christian Hein
  • fill and refill

The point that thrills us the most!
Through the front opening, the hydration bladder can be filled without having to be removed from the bag in the first place. Thanks to the handles, the Durabag can be held with one hand during filling. The lid is also easy to close with one hand. It is also nice that the lid is attached by a ribbon to the bag and can not get lost. Through the carrying handle, the full hydration system can be easily transported. Due to the small plastic buckle on the upper handle, the Durabag can also be attached directly to the tap – or hung up to dry.

  • Cleaning

The bladder of our Durabag is cleaned in the same way as the Widepac: Through the large opening. Again, we had no problems with bacteria, biofilm or alike.
The mouthpiece itself is also easy to clean, but cannot be removed from the drinking tube

  • Others

The Durabag Kayak fits perfectly in our life jacket and can be easily mounted on or in a kayak. Inserting and removing the bladder from the bag is easy and quick, without frying.
We did not use the small mesh pockets as objects could fall out in case of capsizing.

Conclusion: The Durabag Kayak is a well-thought-out hydration system for touring by kayak or canoe. Due to the many extras, it is particularly versatile.

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