How To Clean A Hydration Pack Properly

Mar 30, 2018 | Hiking, Tips and Info

Have you bought a hydration pack yet? If you’re a keen hiker, cyclist or long-distance runner then you should get one right now! When you think about how to clean a hydration pack, you probably just envisage rinsing it with some water and that’s that.

If you really want to take care of your new hydration pack then keep reading – these tips will be useful for you!

First of all, if you’re a beginner hiker and aren’t too sure about hydration packs then check this post out. It’s an amazing piece of gear and I honestly didn’t realise how hard I was making it for myself before I started using them.

I assume you’re reading this because you use a hydration pack but you’re not quite sure what to do with it after a day in the hills.

I totally understand. After an exhausting day of hiking, probably the last thing on your mind is cleaning your gear. Cleaning and drying your boots as well as your hydration pack should be a priority, not just now but in the long-term.

I started off by using just water to clean the bladder but this doesn’t do it completely. It rinses out the pack but I still find that, once it’s left to dry for a while, the bladder will smell a bit weird after a couple of days. While I haven’t experienced mould yet, I know this is what will come next.

There are a couple of ways you can approach this and the cheapest is to use general home ingredients. There are some specific chlorine tablets sold by Camelbak but these are rather pricey.

The Camelbak below is what I’m currently using and the first part I make sure I clean is in and around the opening port.

Opening of Camelbak Hydration Pack

The whole cleaning process is very simple:

1. Fill the reservoir with hot water and mix in two tablespoons of bleach. Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda in the US) will also do. NEVER use boiling water to clean the bladder.

2. Shake the bladder vigorously to make sure the cleaning agent reaches every face, kink and corner.

3. Hold the reservoir upside down and squeeze the bite valve (don’t bite it whatever you do!). This allows the liquid to pass through and clean the tube and valve. Do this a couple of times for maximum effect.

4. I then recommend you leave the hydration pack with the liquid inside for a while. No more than an hour should be sufficient.

5. Wash the reservoir again with a small amount of soap to get rid of the bleach/bicarbonate. Wash it again a few times with pure water. Make sure ALL the cleaning liquid is gone.

6. If you have a small brush then this facilitates the cleaning process (a sponge will also do the trick). You can also buy a cleaning kit. Make sure that you efficiently scrub/rinse the bite valve.

7. Before leaving the reservoir to dry, make sure you get most of the water out. You can do this by squeezing in some toilet paper or a thin towel to absorb the bulk of it.

8. Leave the reservoir open and upside down to let all the water droplets dry. I find the best way is on a coat hanger. Expand the inside as much as you can to completely dry it. Again, make sure no moisture remains inside because this causes mould to grow.

Simple as that! If you follow these steps you’ll ensure a clean and fresh-smelling hydration pack before your next hike/run/cycle.

The Camelback below is what I’m currently using and the first part I make sure I clean is in and around the opening port.


Further Points

If you can detach the hose then you should clean around the attachment port. My pack doesn’t actually detach so I make sure to get in and around the valve as much as possible.

how to clean a hydration pack around the valve

An advanced way of cleaning the hose is to buy a special cable. This can be fed through the tube and rub against the edges to get rid of any trace of grime or mould. If you already take good care of your hydration pack then this method may be a bit overkill.

If you are using cleaning tablets then follow the same procedure as above, just replace the cleaning agent with the tablets.

If you previously had a lot of mould on your hydration pack and do manage to get it all off, you may be left with some stains. Don’t worry about this, the important thing is getting shot of that lumpy dung.

TIP: You might find that there’s a bit of a groovy taste to the hydration pack the next time you use it. If this is the case, add more water and less bleach next time. If it persists then consider buying bicarbonate of soda and just stick to that.


Alternative Cleaning Methods

Efferdent is supposed to be a good cleaning agent for hydration packs but I’ve never tried this.

Another method to completely make sure that no mould grows is to stick your hydration pack in the freezer between hikes! Nothing grows below about -18 Celsius (-0.4 F). It may be unorthodox but does the trick!

I’ve also heard of it being effective to add strong alcohol such as vodka or whiskey to the hydration pack. I DON’T recommend this. I mean, you can try but don’t be surprised if your hydration pack never smells the same again.



The key is preventing mould before it grows. In a nutshell, you want to get all the water and bacteria out of the bladder and get it dry as quickly as possible.

These techniques aren’t just for after hiking, this was my example because it’s when I most often use my hydration pack. Packs are commonly used by distance runners and cyclists – the same protocol should apply after doing these activities.

If you’ve had your hydration pack for quite a while and are finding that the mould, funky smell, mildew or whatever is inside persists, then it’s probably time to buy yourself a new pack. Your time is only worth so much and you now know how to treat your new pack!

There are some more expensive hydration packs which actually have an anti-microbial layer on the inside to prevent bacteria growth. This design even has a ‘self-cleaning’ system.

As always, thanks a lot for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments box below. 🙂


Related Post: How Much Water To Bring Hiking


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