Hydration Packs

During your time out in the field, you are going to want to make sure that you have plenty of water. Where you are and what the weather is like will certainly influence how much water you bring. But nonetheless, a great solution to carrying a large amount of water is by having a hydration pack, also known as a water bladder.

A hydration pack is a type of hydration system which contains a reservoir, or bladder, commonly made of rubber or flexible plastic. The reservoir contains a capped mouth for filling and a hose that allows the wearer to drink hands-free. Most have hoses with a “bite valve” that opens when the user bites down on it.

Because you will most likely being doing field work and not taking a leisurely stroll through nature, packing only what you need for the day is a top priority. The benefit of having a hydration bladder is that it fits right in your backpack, so you don’t have to worry about carrying an extra pack or numerous water bottles. Once in you backpack, you can maneuver the hose in a way so that it is attached to your backpacks arm-strap. Then all you have to do is reach over and take a sip of water. No more stopping or slowing down to reach for your water bottle or to take off your backpack. Just grab, gulp, and go – the hydration pack really is an effortless, and convenient, task.  

Each hydration pack brand will have a different, yet similar, bite valve mechanism to get the water out of the bladder and into your mouth. Applying modest tooth pressure (not a big chomp) is usually all that is needed to get water flowing. In addition to that, most water bladders have a locking mechanism, either by switch or twist, which will prevent the bite valve from leaking or losing any water. In my experience you really won’t need this, but it is a nice addition to have just in case.

Another great reason to invest in a hydration bladder is that since water intake is simpler, you will drink more often and in turn, be more hydrated throughout the day. Besides the obvious reason of not being dehydrated (because who wants to be dehydrated), by drinking more often you are going to have more energy throughout the day. You are certainly going to need this added feeling when you are hiking and traversing all over the place taking notes and observations.

In addition to being hydrated throughout the day, an added bonus to having a hydration pack in your backpack is that the water is going stay cooler for a longer period of time. If you have water bottles on the side pockets of you backpack, they are going to be exposed to the sun and heat throughout the day and are going to warm up quickly. Having water in you backpack will allow it to stay cooler for a longer period of time, so when you go to take a drink in the middle of the afternoon, the water still is going to be refreshing and not grossly warm.

An important question is how big of a reservoir do you want and the answer to this will involve a few tradeoffs. Most brands sell a 1 Liter, 2 Liter, or 3 Liter water bladder and a helpful tip is that water weighs approximately two pounds per liter. In most instances, if you know you will be out in the field for the entire day, you will want somewhere around 3 liters of water. By getting a 3L water bladder, the likelihood of carrying extra water in a water bottle is reduced, so all your water will be in you backpack. If you are looking at a 2L water bladder, you may also want to carry extra water with you. Thus, your backpack won’t be as heavy carrying a 2L water bladder but you may still want to carry extra water with you somehow. A 1L water bladder is certainly not enough water and it is almost pointless to get this size knowing you will be out in the field all day. This size is really not recommended.

When it comes down to it, hydration bladders are pretty easy to use. You just fill them up, stick them in your daypack, maneuver the hose to your liking, and you are set for the rest of the day. Most are very simple to use and easy to fill with water. They really are a great replacement to carrying large, clunky water bottles around all day. Most backpacks today are even sold to be hydration pack compatible in some way; either as a simple as a hole for the hose or as complicated as multiple compartments and ways to thread the hose through the backpack shoulder strap. Ultimately, water bladders are highly recommended as they will save you time and give you energy throughout your days in the field.

Camelbak Antidote Reservoir

First thing to note is that the Camelbak Antidote hydration pack has a huge access port for easy filling. The access port is so big and convenient that you can stick your hand in it. Nonetheless, this feature makes filling this bladder simple and nearly effortless since the cap is easy to open and close and because there is an attached grab handle. Given the size of the opening, you can fill this bladder up quickly and really fill it to the brim (unlike some other bladders on the market). The lid also peels all the way back, allowing it to be out of the way during filling.

In regards to quality, Camelbak has a limited lifetime warranty, showing you how confident they are in their product. This bladder is quite durable so you should not have to worry about this bladder leaking. The heavier material also makes it less prone to puncturing compared to some of the other bladder brands.

The bite valve of the Camelbak is efficient and comfortable. Water flows easily through the hose and the locking mechanism is very intuitive. The hose itself can be detached easily and the reservoir is compatible with many other brands of hoses if you wanted to change this piece.

Besides the large plastic handle and opening, which again is an asset to filling up the bladder, the overall material is fairly light. When it is fully filled with water, it does not feel very heavy either. This aspect is great if you plan to be carrying a lot of equipment with you.

As previously mentioned, the access port is very large, which is an benefit during cleaning. Unfortunately, water does get caught in crevasses and other hard to reach areas so it is difficult to completely empty. On the other hand, the mouthpiece is easy to take apart, clean, and put back together. Overall, compared with other bladders, cleaning isn’t has simple and straightforward.

Due to the convenience of filling this hydration bladder up, the durability, and overall design, this water bladder is highly recommended. It is also one of the best value bladders on the market considering its size and limited lifetime warranty by Camelbak.

Camelback Insulated Reservoir

The Camelbak Insulated Reservoir is the Camelbak Antidote except with a versatile insulated cover. All of the specs are nearly the same as the Antidote Reservoir; however, I do want to touch on the insulated aspect and why this particular water bladder is a great choice if you will be out in the field all day.

First, let’s discuss the bonus of having an insulated hydration pack. As mentioned in the overall review of hydration packs, they will be able to stay cooler for longer periods of time since they will be inside your backpack and not in direct sunlight. However, water bladders will warm up due to the body heat from hiking and from the outside temperature in general. With an insulated cover, like this Camelbak, the heating up of the water is significantly reduced. Your water is going to stay cooler for a much longer period of time, well beyond the afternoon. For reinsurance, I claim this because this is the water bladder I used for my field camp. It was wonderful drinking from this throughout the day and having cool, refreshing water at hand. It really kept me going through the heat and long field days. You can add ice in as well so it stays colder even longer.

It also fits well in a backpack, so you don’t have to worry about it being too big because it is insulated. In all other aspects, it is very much similar to the Camelbak Antidote. There is even a little zipper area where the hose attaches to the water bladder for simple convenience to disconnect the hose. The design of this insulted cover also allows it be externally attached to a pack as well, so there is more room in your backpack if you wanted to do that.

If don’t mind spending a little bit more, it is highly worthwhile getting an insulated water bladder. The perks of having cooler water throughout the day cannot be described until you are out in the field, in the sun, on a hot late afternoon wishing you had a refreshing drink. Having the trusted and reputable Camelbak name, you now this product is sure to last and meet all expectations.

Platypus Big Zip Reservoir

The Platypus Big Zip is made of a very durable, high-quality clear plastic material. One of the standout features of this particular hydration bladder is the wide zip opening. To open this bladder, you first slide off the hard plastic cover, which also acts a convenient carry handle, and then unzip the top of the bag (like a Ziploc bag on steroids). This will open up the entire top of bladder, giving you plenty of room to add water. You then just zip it back up and slide the cover on, without having to worry about leaks.

As mentioned, the plastic wall is very sturdy and thick, making it less prone to punctures. The bladder also has a baffle welded in the middle so that when you fill it, it holds a flatter profile and doesn’t balloon outward in the middle.

The bite valve for the Platypus does make it harder to suck when trying to get water out, which is a downside to this product. The mouthpiece is also a bit larger compared with other brands. If you were interested in changing hoses, however, this bladder is compatible with most other hoses.

With how this bladder opens, cleaning it is very simple and in turn, it is quick to dry. You can even turn this bladder inside out. The convenient carry handle allows this bladder to be hung as well, so if you are outside and want it to dry you could just hang it up in a tree.

Overall, this is a solid choice for a hydration pack, although it a little pricey compared to other brands. A great aspect is that it easily folds and collapses as it is emptied, making it great to take on the go.

Geigerrig Hydration Engine

The Geigerrig hydration bladder, or hydration engine as the name says, it unlike most other bladders on the market. One distinct difference is the ability to keep this bladder pressurized or unpressurized using a double chamber – one for air and one for water. When pressurized, the bladder is extremely easy to drink from and even allows you to spray or squirt water. Really – there is no sucking involved with this bladder; all you have to do is spray water in your mouth or if you want to wash your hands, cool off, or want to share water, you can just spray the water out.

The quality of the bladder is great and it is even integrated with a nylon fabric that protects it from wear and tear. The reservoir is made out of tough thermoplastic urethane that withstands regular use, so essentially the plastic wall is relatively thick, significantly decreasing the chances of puncturing.

The top of the bladder opens wide for easy filling; however, filling this bladder in a shallow basin makes it a bit more difficult if you want a full bladder. Nonetheless, the flip top technology comes with simple instructions to show you how to properly close and seal the lid.

Another aspect that makes this hydration engine unlike most other brands is that it is extremely convenient to clean. In addition to cleaning it by hand, it can be flipped inside out and put on the top rack in the dishwasher.

A few caveats include being a bit more expensive and the pump adding some additional weight to the overall system. The mechanical bite valve is a bit difficult to work and there is no measurement system on the side of the bag either.

Of all the bladders on the market, this one is surely the most versatile and innovative, particularly in regards to the option of having a pressurized system. It has a sleek design and all the parts are easy to dissemble. In all, the Geigerrig is a solid, highly rated, well-constructed system.