Do I Need a Hydration Pack? Pros & Cons

by Jay | Last Updated:  Posted on July 21st, 2022

If you’re a runner, hiker, cyclist, or another form of fitness or outdoor enthusiast, you’ve probably contemplated acquiring a hydration pack at some point.


Athletes and outdoor enthusiasts use hydration packs to guarantee a steady supply of clean, safe water on hand when on the move.

While some may consider them unneeded, hydration packs can be useful when you want to keep moving while not worrying about running out of water.

What is a hydration bladder pack?

Hydration packs are plastic water reservoirs/bladders designed to convey water in an easy-to-drink format. Most hydration packs do not need you to stop to sip water, allowing you to keep more hydrated on the path.

The inbuilt water reservoir (also known as a hydration bladder) is linked to a convenient tube, allowing you to drink on the go.

Hydration pack types

Hydration packs are classified into two types: Hydration Backpacks and Hydration Waistpacks. Most hiking backpacks feature a built-in compartment to store and insulate your hydration bladder from the heat.

  • Hiking Hydration Packs: Hiking hydration packs resemble hiking backpacks, except for a hydration bladder. Most packs offer adequate cargo space to carry all you need for a short trek. Purchase a dedicated hiking backpack with a reservoir pouch for multi-day hikes.
  • Adventure Packs (cycling, winter sports, running): These packs are specifically tailored for their intended usage. Most of these packs are more adjustable and have a little more padding but less cargo space.
  • Hydration Waistpacks: Hydration waist packs are ideal for short day walks when you don’t want to deal with a hydration bladder. On short treks, it’s just not worth bothering with a hydration bladder. On short hikes, I use one of these Osprey Savu Packs (here’s the same model with a hydration bladder).

Is a hydration pack required for every run or adventure?

Probably not, but hydration packs have some significant benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s go through some of the reasons why you might want to use one and why you might want to avoid them for the time being.

Advantages of Using a Hydration Pack

While having water with you is a great advantage of utilizing a hydration pack, there are several other significant advantages to this equipment, including:

Constancy

The added stability that hydration packs provide is one of the main reasons individuals prefer to use them over carrying another water supply.

When running or cycling, a hydration pack with a stable center that keeps your water in place can help you maintain your center of gravity.

When hiking in rocky terrain, keeping your water close to your back and hips rather than in loose water bottles outside your rucksack can help you stay more steady throughout each scramble.

Simple access

Many water bottle designs strive to be as user-friendly as possible, but nothing beats the convenience of using a hydration pack when hiking, running, or cycling.

Hydration packs with water pouches include a hose and a mouthpiece, allowing you to drink from your water pouch anytime.

That means you don’t have to stop, free up your hands, or adjust your belongings to have a drink of water, which can be a game changer.

Access to potable water

Hiking in an area with few water sources or where you don’t want to stop for water?

A hydration pack will provide a consistent flow of safe, clean drinking water for as long as the water bag is filled.

Water is less likely to run out.

Most people use a hydration bladder on extended day hikes and overnight expeditions. Water bladders are much larger than water bottles. For example, a normal 100oz Camelbak bladder can contain about 3 liters of water. That’s enough for a 6-hour trek. You’d need to carry six normal water bottles or three large Nalgene bottles to transport the same quantity of water.

More comfortable

Hydration Packs distribute the water weight across your full back rather than just the lumbar region. Everyone has had lower back aches while hiking, and it’s not nice.

The Drawbacks of Using a Hydration Pack

Since you’re wondering, “Do I need a hydration pack?” you’re undoubtedly curious why some people choose not to use this gear.

Although the reasons for using a hydration pack are numerous, it is not always a viable alternative.

You may forget when it’s time to refill.

A hydration pack may not be the ideal option if you’re going on an all-day, multi-day, or overnight backpacking trip.

One major issue is that it is difficult to determine when it is time to refill your hydration pack unless you keep a close eye on it; if you are not paying attention, you may miss an opportunity to complete a water refill.

On the other hand, water bottles are fairly simple to inspect to determine whether or not you need to replenish your supply.

Still, many packs offer a level monitoring device that you may use to check water levels, so if you need to use one, opt for a hydration pack that has this capability.

Difficulty refilling

Another potential issue is the act of filling a hydration pack.

For some packs, you’ll have to take everything out of your bag to get to the water pouch, which is inconvenient.

If you need to replenish your water bottle throughout your excursion, consider a pack with a readily accessible pouch.

Water intake is more difficult to measure

You can effortlessly ration your water intake with a water bottle. Consume one 32-ounce water bottle every two hours. You can change your pace if you aren’t drinking enough. Because the hydration bladder is hidden inside your pack, there’s no way to see how much you’re drinking.

You never know when your hydration bladder is running low

Once again, it isn’t easy to see how much water is left in your pack. To verify how much water is left, you must remove your pack and physically remove your bladder.

Complete Cleaning

One final factor to consider when deciding whether or not to use a hydration pack is whether or not you are prepared to clean and care for your water pouch.

Water pouches, unlike water bottles, are difficult to air out, making them vulnerable to microbial growth if not thoroughly cleaned.

Cleaning these packs is not difficult, but it must be something you are ready to do to keep safe.

You shouldn’t always use a hydration bladder.

I have awful impulse control when it comes to hiking/backpacking gear. I’ve bought more hydration bladders than one man could ever need throughout the years. Hydration bladders are fantastic, but they don’t always make sense.

Water Bottles are preferable for 1-2 hour and multi-day hikes.

I only use a hydration pack on lengthy day walks of 6-8 hours. This is because it’s considerably easier to grab a water bottle for a short 1-2 hour journey and to replenish a bottle on longer multi-day trips.

You never know when you’ll find a little water source while hiking. It’s a discomfort in the buttocks to empty and replenish your bladder.

When should you wear a hydration pack?

Hydration packs or fuel belts are ideal for carrying extra supplements like gels or salt pills and one or two small bottles. When running a marathon, a hydration pack is undoubtedly the way to go if you plan on carrying a lot more drinks.

Is a hydration pack necessary? That is entirely up to you.

Finally, only you can decide whether or not you need to utilize a hydration pack on your next walk, run, or hike.

To make a decision, consider the following:

  • Do the benefits described above outweigh the drawbacks?
  • For example, do I need to bring more than two water bottles?
  • Is there a decent place to get a water bottle refilled?
  • Is it necessary for me to have both hands free?
  • After reading today’s tutorial and answering these questions, you should better understand whether a hydration pack is right for you.

FAQs

How long do hydration packs keep water cold?

Hydration packs contain built-in insulation to keep your pack cool, but they won’t keep you chilly for long. Quality packs have higher insulation, which keeps your hydration bladder colder for longer.

Before putting my bladder into my pack, I always put it in the freezer for about an hour. The water is usually quite cold for the first few hours of a hike. I’m unsure if this procedure harms the bladder over time, but it works for me.

On a long hike in 90-degree temperatures, you may have to suck it and drink lukewarm water or sprinkle in some ice.

Is it okay to put ice in my hydration pack?

Adding ice to your hydration bladder won’t do much to keep your water cool, but it doesn’t mean I don’t use it. Unless you consume a lot of water in a short period, the water in the tube will be warm anyway. Also, because the tube sits on the exterior of your pack, it heats up quickly in the summer sun.

O, I fill my hydration bladder with ice on hot summer days. However, appreciate how the ice keeps my back cold on a sweltering day.

How to improve the taste of a hydration pack

First, you must determine what is creating the bad taste. For example, does your bladder have a plastic taste? Or is it the strange aftertaste mold/mildew leaves?

Don’t be concerned if it tastes like plastic. After a few refills and washes, you’ll notice that the plastic taste has worn off. It usually takes 5-10 days of use to remove that strange plastic flavor.

If it doesn’t work, add some baking soda or a teaspoon of lemon juice and stir it around before sucking some through the bite valve. That should take care of the problem.

If the bag tastes bad but not like plastic, you most likely have a mold/mildew problem (probably in the bite tube). In this case, you should thoroughly clean the reservoir with a cleaning kit and tablet.

What kinds of drinks can you store in a hydration bladder?

Although technically, hydration bladders should only be used with water, many people disregard this advice. A hydration bladder can be used to drink almost any non-perishable beverage.

A powdered drink mix is ideal if you can properly clean your bladder at the end of the day, which isn’t always achievable on multi-day walks. Also, mold will grow in a couple of days if the bladder is not properly washed.

How long does a hydration pack last?

If the inside of the bladder is clean, you haven’t touched it when filling it, and you haven’t blown water from the tube back into the bladder, the water will be good for a long time, maybe up to 6 months, but more likely 2-3 weeks.

Can you wear a hydration pack under a backpack?

Is it necessary to carry a hydration pack in a backpack? … Yes, as we demonstrated, upgrading your bag with a hydration pack is straightforward. However, there are plenty of other things to consider while at it.

How should you select a hydration bladder?

There are four major considerations when selecting a hydration bladder. First, you must consider your requirements, bladder size, weather, and price.

  • How Will It Be Used?: You must examine the type of activity for which you will most likely utilize the bladder. If you’re going to be running or bicycling a lot, you’ll want a bladder that isn’t too heavy. On longer all-day hikes, a bigger 3+ liter reservoir may be required.
  • Bladder Size: As a general guideline, drink 1 liter of water every 2 hours of hiking. You may need to drink a little more water on particularly hot days.
  • Weather: If you live in exceptionally cold or hot weather, you should consider purchasing an insulated bag. Insulated bags will keep your water warm in the winter and cold in the summer.
  • Price: Low-cost hydration bladders will eventually leak all over your pack, leaving you thirsty. It’s well worth the extra ten bucks to get a name brand like Camelbak.

Jay

Self assessed Germaphobe, specializing in everything water, water filters, health and nutrition. Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, I've acquired immense amount of knowledge when it comes to natural, biology, and everything about human anatomy.