A question that comes up a lot for people who don’t have a hydration bladder is, ‘do I need a special backpack for a hydration bladder?’ The short answer is, you don’t absolutely need a special backpack, no. However, while it’s not necessary, it is beneficial to have a backpack or vest that’s designed to hold a hydration bladder for a number of reasons that I will cover.
There are three main options to choose from when it comes to backpacks for your bladder:
Hydration backpacks – These are backpacks designed around holding a hydration bladder. They are lightweight, well-designed to position the bladder in an easy to use place, and are typically very comfortable.
Hydration vests – If a hydration backpack is a little large and you want to travel lighter, a hydration vest is going to suit you better.. They are also called marathon vests because they are commonly used by marathon runners.
These vests are lightweight, fit nice and snug so there is no movement as you run, and hold a bladder with the tube that will be well positioned for you to drink from without having to stop running.
Backpack with a hydration pocket – These are designed for those who hike instead of run. Backpacks with hydration pockets are the best of both worlds. You have a pocket for your hydration bladder to fit nice and snug, and you have plenty of space in your backpack to use as you would a normal backpack.
What to Look out for When Choosing a Backpack for Your Hydration Bladder
There are a few things to look out for when choosing a backpack that holds a hydration bladder. I will cover everything you need to know to help you find that perfect backpack to hold your hydration bladder, or I’ll give you some tips to get by if you don’t want to wear a backpack.
Check the Hydration Pocket Size
This sounds obvious, but it’s really important and a little detail that’s often overlooked. Hydration pockets in backpacks and vests are designed to fit certain size bladders. It’s really important that the bladder fits in nice and tight. If you’re running or jogging this reduces the amount of movement and it keeps your bladder separate from other items in your backpack.
The most common bladder sizes are probably the 2L and 3L. I would always recommend getting the 3L. There is no harm in having a bladder that‘s a little too large, but if it’s too small you’re going to regret it. So make sure you are buying a 3L hydration bladder, like the Crystal Creek 3L bladder you see here. Then check the backpack or vest you’re buying has been designed to hold a 3L bladder.
Look Where the Bladder and Tube are Positioned
I still see backpacks that are not well-designed to hold a bladder and feed the tube where you need it. Sometimes this is because the manufacturer is using an already designed backpack and adding a place to hold a bladder. Other times it’s just a poorly designed backpack.
Marathon vests have the best design if you intend to use your bladder while running. They typically have a pocket on the back and there are clips to hold the tube going over the shoulder and into your mouth.
Backpacks are more for hikers and will not always have clips for the tube, but it’s not as important as you’re not concentration on running you can feed the tube round where you want it. There should be a spot in the bag that’s not going to get in the way, and some insulation to keep the bladder away from your back is ideal.
Check the Quality of the Backpack
We all want value for money, but as with most camping gear or running you need to put quality high on your list. Having any camping gear let you down when you’re miles from home is going to cause a problem. Hydration backpacks or vests are no different. Imagine having a marathon vest malfunction while running a marathon. Salomon are known to be one of the best manufacturers of marathon vests if you want a starting point there.
Unless you see a recommendation from someone who has owned a backpack or read an outstanding review online, stick with the quality brands. Check for good warranties on manufacturing faults too. If it looks like the backpack doesn’t have good insulation to keep your water cool and fresh pick up a bladder with an insulating sleeve.
That covers just about everything you need to know about providing a home for your bladder while backpacking, hiking, running, whatever you’re doing. Hydration bladders have come a long way in the last few years, keeping hydrated while outdoors has never been so easy.
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