It is no secret that staying hydrated is important. Drinking water is the first cure to most outdoor illnesses, or at least a way to lessen the pain, and it’s definitely a key component to keeping your body healthy and active. When life boils down to the simplest necessities, water is still at the top of the list.
Drinking water in the outdoors, especially while you are being active, is not always easy. Many years ago, in the early 1990’s someone figured that out and decided to make water accessible and put it right in the backpack. With just a flick of the wrist and some suction, water became easy to drink. Brilliant! Since then, hydration packs have exploded on the market. Camelbak is probably the most well known brand and has almost become a synonym for “hydration pack,” but every backpack, waist pack, or water bottle manufacturer has come up with their own versions. Some have locking valves, others have bigger openings to fill up the bag, but in the end, they all get the job done.
Valves: a locking valve is not essential, but it’s nice because it keeps the water from slowly drip, drip, dripping onto you as you hike or bike. Yes, it’s an additional piece and it breaks more easily than a simple bite valve, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Insulation: Anyone planning to use their hydration pack while participating in snow sports should consider getting one with an insulated hose. Nothing is more spirit-crushing than going to take a sip of water when you’re dehydrated and exhausted and discovering that it’s all frozen.
Opening: Get a hydration pack with an opening that is big enough to get your whole arm through. The reason for this is that if you need to clean it, doing it with a brush is a frustrating experience. A big opening makes it easier to fill up with water and easier to clean.
Screw cap: Almost all hydration packs have a screw-on cap, just check to see that the threads line up well and that it seals properly. If you’re going to put it in your backpack you want to make sure it won’t leak all over your dry clothes, book, headlamp, sleeping bag, etc.
Backpack: Find a hydration pack that fits comfortably and still has room for other items besides the bladder. Also check that the bladder fits well into the pack and is easy to get out if you need to fill it back up.