What hydration bladder should I buy?
My advice to first time buyers is to buy the best bladder you can afford. Go with the brands that have the biggest market share not necessarily what your favorite sponsored athlete uses. The first bladder I bought left a bad taste in my mouth and I did not believe all those that raved about hydration bladders. Buy the best and you will enjoy your piece of kit often and enjoy the experience. Cheap models leave an aftertaste, leak and the bite valve is not nearly as comfortable as better (and more expensive models). Below I will assume that you have purchased one of the dedicated brands with a quality hydration system.
Can I transport juice or beer in my bladder?
Sure you can (in theory). Check that your bladder has an anti microbial lining. However if you leave Coke or other juice in the bladder without rinsing thoroughly then bacteria will grow irrespective of what lining the bladder has. The hose will become grey and murky! My personal preference is to only carry water in the bladder and if I need energy juice then I will transport it in a separate bottle. Also see here for my ideas on keeping hydration and nutrition separate.
What maintenance is required?
Irrespective of what brand of hydration bladder you use this item of your kit will require some level of maintenance in order to remain hygienic. Here are some tips that I have learnt. They can be used on any reservoir no matter what the brand. So next time you have used your Camelbak®, Osprey® Hydraulics™ Reservoir or Source™ bladder don’t just leave it in your pack but take a few minutes to store it correctly.
How do I clean my bladder?
Rinse out with warm water as soon as you can. Don’t let your energy juice get sticky. You can use soap, bicarb of soda or lemon mixed with water to get rid of residue taste. For more thorough cleaning use a bottle brush and thin brush to clean the hose, remove and dismantle the bite valve and clean and rinse separately.
How do I store my hydration bladder?
The crux is to get the residue water out of the corners of the bladder.
Hang the bladder up above the bath to drip dry. Make sure to release the water out of the drinking tube and bite valve occasionally.
The other trick is to dry it as best you can and then pack inside your freezer compartment (with no water in the bladder). The idea is not to cool your drink but to stop bacteria from growing in it in the sub-zero freezer.
How do I stop the sloshing in my bladder?
Once you have filled your hydration bladder, turn it upside down and squeeze all the air out while releasing the bit valve. Now when you drink you will only get liquid and no air coming out. Also you wont feel the irritating sloshing when running.
How much water do I need to carry?
That is the million dollar question and it really depends! According to Tim Noakes and others the best practice seems to be to drink to thirst. For a bike ride of around 3 – 4 hours I might need less than 750ml of water. But then I have some catching up to do if it has been hot. However for the first section of Skyrun I carry 3l as it typically takes about 5 hours to reach the first refill point. And more importantly I am hydrating not for that section of trail but for the 20+ hours of running that I am undertaking. Practice to see what works for you!
As an aside Andrew Porter carried only a 500ml hand held water bottle on his solo Drakensberg Traverse. He goes super light and refills often.
Hydration Bladders are great but just need a little maintenance and care to give you long service. enjoy.
If you have any other questions please post them below.