How Does a Hydration Pack Work?


Hands-Free Drinking

  • A hydration pack works by allowing the user to drink water or other liquid without using her hands. They are commonly used by people who spend a lot of time in outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, or bicycling. They are also commonly used in the military.

    Hydration packs are a system for dispensing liquid, built as a waist or back pack, that contains a bladder to hold the liquid, usually made from rubber. Sometimes they are also insulated. There is a mouth piece with a cap on the bladder for filling it, and a hose leading from the bladder to the wearer's shoulder. At the tip of this hose is a bite valve, which is designed to open when a person bites down on it. The liquid is then sucked out of the bladder, up the tube and into the user's mouth.

A Complete Hydration System

  • Hydration packs are considered complete hydration systems if they include a bladder to hold fluids, a surrounding pack to hold the bladder, and tubing with bite or other flow control valves. The can cost as little as $30 for a small waist pack with the capacity to carry 70oz of fluid, or over $100.00 for a large backpack with more than one bladder. These hold over 3.0 liters of liquid, which will more than satisfy someone who is going on a long hike--as long as that someone can carry the weight! Hydration packs can be very heavy. In fact, if you are going to purchase one, ask the store manager to allow you to test the product first.

Features and Usability

  • Hydration systems need to be cleaned often. The tubes, valves, and bladder can promote bacteria growth, so it is a good idea to look for packs that can be cleaned easily. Popular hydration packs also include full-length zippers that make it easier to load a full bladder, reflector strips, space to store other gear, and drip free or biting valves. Hydration packs that are designed to be carried on the back should have padded shoulder straps and breathable lining. Hydration packs which are built to wear around the waist should fit comfortably around the waist while still allowing the user to bend easily, especially if riding a bike.

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