Hydration Backpack | What’s The Best Way To Carry Water While Hiking?

hydration backpack
Hiker Drinking Water During A Hike

What Exactly Is A Hydration Backpack?  

A hydration backpack is a pack used for hiking which may have its own drinking system or it can literally be any backpack which can carry a form of  water or fluids.  All hikers should be aware of how vital it is to stay hydrated during the course of a hike, because dehydration can happen quickly. Even if you hike is just for the day. You may wonder; which is the preferred way to carry water while you’re on the trail? Let me explain the various ways and then you decide what works best for you.

Hydration Bladder Backpacks

Some backpacks have a hydration water system built into the hiking bag. These packs have a water bladder with tubing which allows you to drink over your shoulder as you continue to hike. Typically, most bladders have a large carrying capacity of 2-4 liters and don’t take up lots of space when empty. Backpacks with bladder systems carry the water close to your back, because it helps balance the weight. It also allows water readily accessible for sipping frequently as you keep moving. This is the ideal way of insuring that you drink enough because it’s so handy.

Hydration Backpack – A 2 Liter Bladder

Drawbacks Of Using A Drinking System

Hydration backpack bladders can be difficult to judge how much water you have left without removing the bladder because they have no gauge. So, the hiker is left wondering how much they have drank and how much is still available. You really don’t want proper hydration left to guesswork.

Refills Can Be Tricky

After consuming the amount of water in your bag, you must remove the bladder in order to refill it when you find a water source. Filling it back up can be a challenge because it may be time consuming trying to fill the bladder enough from a slow moving creek.  I like to use the scoop and funnel method to refill the bladder pack because it’s quicker and those tools are lightweight to carry in your hiking bag.

A Hydration Backpack – Carrying Your Water In Bottles

The capacity of a typical 1 liter Nalgene water bottle is 33.8 oz. and weighs 2.2 pounds when filled. This means with only 2 bottles, you’ll be carrying over 4 pounds.  The goal is to consume 6 to 12 ounces of water or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes so that you stay steadily hydrated. That means with two bottles, you would be good for about 2 hours before you needed to replenish your water supply.

Nalgene Bottle

Convenience is Key

Your empty Nalgene bottles are rigid and will take up room in your hiking bag. Carrying water in bottles, since heavy items are carried close to your back inside a backpack, your water would be hard to access. You may not drink as much as you should if it’s inconvenient to get to. Most hiking bags have mesh side pockets specifically for water bottles, which makes it easy to grab one without taking the pack off. I like this feature, but it may not be ideal because the weight could throw your balance off.

Hydration Backpack – All Water Bottles Are Not The Same

Classic sports bottles, as previously mentioned, are hard plastic but they are nearly indestructible. They will last for years and can also hold hot liquids. Another version is a soft flexible-type bottle similar in texture to a hydration bladder. These are reusable, they pack down small when they’re empty, and stand up like a normal bottle when full.  However, a couple of drawbacks are that they are less durable, and it’s not recommended to carry hot liquids in them.

Why Not Re-Use Disposable Drink Bottles?

As an avid hiker, I’ve been known to reuse my Gatorade bottles, but I have since learned that reusing plastic bottles is not safe or sanitary due to the plastics used to make them.  The components break down with heat and soap, resulting in harmful chemicals leeching into the liquids you refill them with. That’s just not cool. Water pouches that are collapsible are safer, but should be cleaned between uses.

hydration backpack

Staying Hydrated Safely

Your hydration backpack can carry all the water you need for a day hike or a weekend of camping and beyond.  The best way to determine how you should carry water is by the length of time you are hiking. For lengthier trips, make sure your map indicates water sources on the trail or in the wilderness. Take the time of year into consideration because there may be times a creek is dried up due to lack of rain.

Hikers Should Keep It Clean

While trekking you may collect water from a lake, stream or pond. Always use a filtration device, drops or tablets in the water before you drink to insure what you capture does not make you sick. Whenever available, choose moving water because stagnant water is a likely breeding ground for more bacteria and parasites. You want to enjoy your hike not be ill.

Hydrate For Health And Happiness

Spare yourself headaches, nausea and muscle weakness during hiking by staying hydrated through every hike. Water is vital for life so make sure you take along a liter for every hour you are hiking unless you know for certain that you will have access to water along your path. Happy hydrated hiking!

Drawbacks Of Using A Drinking System



We love the great outdoors, backpack hiking, fishing, camping and experiencing nature's beauty.

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