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Hydration Systems buying guide

“Hydrate or die!” Sure, that sounds a little dramatic, but it’s true: Our bodies need water to survive. Whether you’re on a long hike, playing soccer or doing anything active, drinking water will keep your body working efficiently and safely, and you’ll have more fun.


There are lots of ways to down the wet stuff, so here are a some buying tips along with a few of the Gear Guy’s favorite products.


The first thing to think about is what activity you’ll be doing most. For hiking or camping or hanging at the skatepark, a water bottle or canteen might be perfect. Just carry it in your hand or toss it in your daypack. If you’re doing something like cycling, snowboarding or kayaking in which you need your hands free, consider a hydration pack.


If you’re hiking or going to stay in one area, a bottle works great, and this is the cheapest option, too. A couple of buying considerations:

Weight: If you’re backpacking, get something lightweight. There are even special collapsible bags that weigh next to nothing.

Taste: Sometimes cheap water bottles and canteens can give your water a strange plastic taste or hold the flavor of something you had in the bottle weeks earlier. Usually those made of very hard polycarbonate plastic are best. Look for the words “taste-free” on the label or ask a shopkeeper in an outfitter store for help.

Seals: Make sure the top screws or pops on tightly.



Like a camel, these packs are equipped with a special bladder that lets you carry all your water on your body; you just drink it through a special straw. The pack stays secure on your back, so you don’t have to use your hands to take a drink.

Plan to spend $30 to $80 for one of these. When picking a pack, first think of how much water you’ll want to carry and how long you’ll be gone. Some hold as little as 30 ounces; the largest can carry up to 100 ounces or more. Most hydration packs have pockets and room for other stuff, and some are as large as a big daypack.

You’ll want the pack to fit snug and not slung low on your lower back, otherwise it’ll cause painful pressure and bounce around like crazy while you’re moving.


Most manufacturers offer hydration bladders separately rather than built into a special pack. These run as low as $6 and are cool and versatile because you can use them in your backpack and move it to your daypack for shorter trips.


This is probably the last thing you want to hear about (especially after having to clean your room, the dishes and Dad’s car), but if you don’t keep your bottle or hydration bladder clean you’ll risk getting sick. If you leave water in something for a while, it gets stale and can develop bad bacteria.

If you’re lazy, look for something dishwasher-safe. (It should say so on the label.) Bladder systems are notoriously tough to clean. The easiest are ones that have openings large enough for you to stick your hand inside. Some have detachable hoses, but to really get one clean, you may need to buy a special brush, which will cost you an extra $10 or so.

11 Comments on Hydration Systems buying guide

  1. Camelbaks are the best.

  2. I have a 2L and a 1.5L pack they work good.

  3. boneyfeetpro // December 9, 2008 at 3:51 pm // Reply

    Hey, “looking for a mountain bike”: you did spell CAMELBAK correctly, but you did mispell the word “Usually”…oops.

    Anyway, I’ve been riding with my CAMELBAK for over 7years, the same one at that, and if you are getting the waist strap caught in the wheels, then obviously its too long. So cut it, shorten it, do what it takes to make it safe. I ride technical and not so technical trails and nothing like that has ever happend to me or my fellow riders before….go figure.

    But I guess your point was to say that the Camelbak is a good piece of equipment to have for hydration while bike, right?

    Thank you

  4. i hava a 70 oz camelbak and it is great i use it 4 running when i go early in the morning it doesnt hurt my bak either i also use on bike rides and it works great b ut i also use a nalgene because it works great on campouts :)

  5. ijustgotbackfromcarycamp // October 19, 2008 at 8:16 pm // Reply

    hey i saw someone with a Camelbak yesturday! man I could have used one……

  6. looking for a mountain bike // October 4, 2008 at 11:54 am // Reply

    on the good side Camelbaks (yeah you spell it that way) are really durable and are lightweight even with it filled. But if you ride a bike with them the waist straps get caught in the wheels and usally have small pockets. Also NEVER get them at eastern mountain sports or should i say expensive mountain sports. Get them online at Ebay or something.

  7. Don’t buy Nalgenes. The plastic is toxic.

  8. Dont use nalgenes

    They breakdown and can be harmful to your body by releasing chemicals

  9. cheaper than dirt .com has a M.O.L.L.E. gear hydration system for $19.99

    5 stars from 33 customers! 2.5 liters! a opening big enough for ice cubes!

  10. boneyfeetpro // September 2, 2008 at 2:53 pm // Reply

    I like my camelback for mountain biking, but for running I have a waist pack that holds two16.9 oz water bottles. This is specially made for that size bottle and you don’t have to wash it, just recycle and you’re on your way. Next time out, you have two fresh and clean bottles ready to go.

    I like this one best for running because I already buy cases of water bottles anyway.

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