If you are an avid adventurer, than choosing a hydration pack to fuel you is a pretty straight forward choice. However, there are a lot of options out there. Packs come in every size from small bladders to massive bags that you wear across your back. However, depending on what you want to do, it is important that you choose the proper bag option. Some activities require you to pack lighter to be more efficient, others require a lot more physical strain so they require you to be able to hold more water. No matter what you are into, a good hydration pack can help you go further.
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Hydration packs primarily only come in three sizes.
- 1 Liter
- 2 Liter
- 3 Liter
The most common are the two liter packs as they provide a good middle point between not enough water and kind of heavy. One liters are great if you want to keep things light and still have around the same amount as a water bottle can hold, but if you are into a range of different activities, typically you just want to stick with the two liter packs or bladders. Essentially, so much more important than size is how you will be carrying it on your adventures.
If you are primarily a day hiker, then water is still pretty important, but often not so much is carrying a lot of it. On day hikes, you want to keep a leisurely pace and not carry ten tons of supplies because, unless you like to tempt fate by going off trail and potentially getting lost, you won’t need it. One or two liters at most is enough to sustain most day hikers, and you can go even lower if there is a source of fresh water along your route. A minimalist hiking hydration pack is best because it is easier to carry, but a bladder is good enough if you have a place to put it.
If you are a backpacker, you are in it for the long haul. Your hikes take days at a time, and unlike day hikers, it is much more important to stay hydrated since you can’t go back home and do it on the couch. However, as a backpacker, you already have enough stuff to carry. While you can go for a smaller pack, you need to be sure you have places that you can refill it on your trek. Thankfully, hydration packs are pretty compact no matter how large they are, making them easy to slip under other bulkier bags. That why packs engineered around pre-installed reservoirs that are easy to sling over your back are the best way to go.
Trail running is a surprisingly fun way to get out there, but unlike day hiking, often requires you to restore more resources to your body. Unfortunately for runners, improperly filled hydration packs tend to make an unpleasant sloshing sound when walking and even more so when running. Minimalist backpacks are really the only good option, but you need to be sure to suck the air out of the bag before filling to stop the sloshing. Small, thin bags keep the weight down while still providing an optimum amount of water.
Road cyclist are built for speed, and like trail runners, they need to keep things light. However, they also need to be aerodynamic to not create a lot of drag. For this reason, that is why a lot of road cyclist still choose to carry water bottles, but small hydration packs may be the better answer. You want the pack to be smooth and not feature a lot of extra ridges or huge seams that will cause drag to slow you down.
Unlike road cyclists, mountain bikers are built for toughness, and that often means bulk. All the cycling elements – the tires, the frame, the brakes – they are all so much sturdier. Generally the hydration packs should be as well. Not only do they carry more water to reach those real thrills, but think of it as extra padding if you happen to wipe out. Those three liter packs can really save a spine.
Between all your climbing gear and other supplies, you probably don’t have the space for a full-on hydration pack, especially when it combined with your other bag may restrict your range of motion. That being said, climbing is still thirsty work, especially in the desert when there are some pretty amazing vistas that you can reach by scaling the walls. The best option here is to go for a hydration bladder that you can store in your actual climbing bag. Most outdoor packs have at least one little pocket that is optimum for a hydration bladder to be slipped on in there.
Snowboarders and Skiers
Snowboarding and skiing are a lot like other outdoor sports, but more winter-y. You can go big with a hydration pack if you tend to wipe out a lot to provide yourself with more padding, or you can go light if you don’t want to be put off balance. As thirst doesn’t manifest as noticeably in winter, you can afford to carry less water, so long as you drink it every now and then.
However, it is important for carrying hydration packs in the winter that you actually winterize them. You need to make sure the bite valve cover stays closed and relatively warm as well as invest in an insulated cover to warm the pack itself so that all your precious water doesn’t start to freeze.