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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.

47 Comments on Hydration Systems buying guide

  1. CamelBak are seriously the best, I’ve used one since cub scouts

  2. survival guy // January 22, 2016 at 4:20 pm // Reply

    I use a life straw I am really into outdoor survival!

  3. I use a camelbak tac mule for small hikes, climbing, and biking. For longer hikes I’ll use an osprey daylite with the camelbak blatter in it im looking for a 30-40L pack and it needs to be open inside with 2 large pockets already have a 75L

  4. Zackattack // June 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm // Reply

    Thanks for the information !!!😃😃😃😃😃😎😎😎😎

  5. Camelbacks are great! Its much easier to run with them than to strap a Nalgene to your shorts!

  6. I have numerous CamelBaks of different sizes. I like the packs with no frills. What I mean by this is no or few pockets. The reasons for this is they are less expensive to purchase, you have the convenience of putting it in a daypack or a backpack or wear it by itself. You have the insulation of the pack and it protects the bladder from sharp objects. And last but not least, in the winter you can wear it under your jacket to keep it from freezing.

  7. My Camelbak is amazing

  8. This really helped!!!

  9. Off-Trail Monkey // October 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm // Reply

    Had a Camel-bak and Sierra blatter but opted to go back to my good’ole Nalgene bottle with a Nalgene Canteen as a back up. Works best for me and is the easiest to clean of any other option. Sometimes simplicity is the best; you just may need to try other options to realize it.

  10. randomscout // June 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm // Reply

    camelback mule !
    it got a ton of space too

  11. Hydro Help!!! // May 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm // Reply

    I need help finding a suitable hydration bladder for a camp at Haliburton Scout Reserve in Canada. Please help

  12. little curry // April 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm // Reply

    should i get this peeps

  13. pink mercenary // January 30, 2013 at 5:02 pm // Reply

    i love my camelbak

  14. Get either a 32 Oz. Nalgene or a Geigerrig Reservoir, you can pressurize it with an included pump and spray it.

  15. the badlands hydration pack is very good for hiking and camping and is not very heavy

  16. Camel-bak: I broke the hanger hook while on a BWCA trip; wrote to the company and they sent me a new system and said keep the old one. I’ m sold on customer service. A+.

    • Camel-Bak has never let me down either, they can take abuse and keep on pumpin’. It’s for this reason that I have had two while in Iraq and Afghanistan and have another that I use for backpacking, camping, and biking.

  17. I need a spare bladder for a hydration pack please reply

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // July 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm // Reply

      I highly recommend SOURCE hydration packs. They put on a special coating that keeps the water from tasting bad even if it has been in the hydro pack for a long time.(don’t worry, the coating isn’t toxic) and they have dust guards. I got my two liter pack for $16.99 at Cabelas. Which is pretty darn cheap for a good hydro pack! look on Amazon or ebay too!

  18. searchyS.O.S // July 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm // Reply

    Where can i find a really cheap,heavy-duty, hydration pack in Des-Moines, Iowa and surrounding areas

  19. I am looking at the camelbak lobo so that i have a small pack with a removable bladder. I currently use a philmont nalgene, two camelbak better bottles, the camelbak big chill and a platypus softbottle. I carry them in a small hydration pack without it’s bladder (it got a leak).

  20. attention. I am changing my name from Delta Force to Delta 8 because that was my squad’s name while I was a Spec-ops Paratrooper.

  21. A Camel-bak blatter is a great system for water, but if you like to add the flavoring then it’s a lot of maintainance work. If you do not clean & dry it properly mold can result. You’ll need the cleaning kit to do this ($15.00). For the sugar scouts, use a Nalogene bottle. Works great and is easy to clean; soapy water soak and wash or use the dishwasher.

  22. Delta Force // March 17, 2012 at 9:57 pm // Reply

    Camle bak rocks! had one while in Afghanistan.

  23. i am in the webolos and i dont know were to get a hydration system

  24. High sierra are really heavy duty and good for camping.

  25. The Badlands Hydration Pack is AWESOME!!!

  26. i cant think of a name // October 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm // Reply

    Coleman hydration backpacks are great, and they are only about $40

  27. Source hydration backs work very well. And they have dust guards.

  28. cammel brand is good, right?

  29. Reece's Pieces // July 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm // Reply

    The platypus is very cheap and affordable. they are quite difficult to clean unless you by the accessories, and mine has formed a slight yellowish/brownish tint after a week at tomahawk scout reservation.

  30. arrow of light scout // June 30, 2011 at 6:29 am // Reply

    field and stream ones are depindible and last

  31. Nick the Brick // June 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm // Reply

    are the camalbak ones hard too clean?

  32. cool

  33. what is a good one to buy with a little money 30-50$ price range

  34. cups and magnets // January 23, 2011 at 12:35 am // Reply

    i got the camelbak zoid and it works great. it holds 70 oz.:)

  35. high sierra ones are great

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