What Is A Hydration Pack? A Brief Overview
Hydration Packs are incredibly popular with outdoor enthusiasts and it’s easy to see why. I have actually tried going out for a hike without my hydration pack and just carrying water bottles. I then did a hike with no water bottles and carrying just my hydration pack. The difference was immeasurable.
Carrying the bottles was a pain. I had to stop and fish the bottle out of my backpack every time I wanted a drink of water. This put me off drinking as much water as I should have which is a major problem when doing quite intense physical activity. Bottles are also bulkier and take up more space than seems necessary.
With the hydration pack however, I noticed a huge difference. The tube being right there for whenever I wanted, I could take a sip of water while hiking and not have to worry about stopping and opening up my backpack. It was also a lot more compact and took up a minimal amount of space which was ideal for going on long hikes.
It’s safe to say that, after comparing the two and noticing the huge difference, I never looked back.
What Is A Hydration Pack?
If you’re reading this and not sure what a hydration pack is exactly, let me explain.
It’s a backpack that is designed to carry a small plastic reservoir which you can fill with water (or any fluid of your choice, but water is best). There’s a hose connecting the reservoir to a bite valve which you can feed out of your backpack and link into the shoulder straps allowing hands-free drinking while you’re doing physical activity. The bite valve is, as you probably imagined, a valve that opens when you bite down on it. Most hydration packs also have an “on/off” twisting valve on the tube which stops it from leaking when you’re not drinking.
The reservoirs vary in size depending on the type of hydration pack you go for. Generally, they can hold up to 1 – 3 litres. The size you choose obviously depends on what activities you prefer. Water is pretty heavy (1kg per litre) so it’s impractical to carry any more than 3 – 4 litres no matter what your activity.
Which Hydration Pack Should You Choose?
There are dozens of different hydration packs. When you are choosing one to buy you need to take into consideration what you’ll mainly be using it for.
If you’re a trials cyclist or runner who goes for the best times possible then, naturally, you’re going to want to be carrying as little weight as possible. For this type of activity, a 1 – 1.5 litre reservoir would be best.
Hikes can vary in length but the vast majority of the time you’ll be out for several hours so a hydration pack with a capacity of 2 – 3 litres is much more convenient if you’re heading out into the hills.
You can get backpacks which solely consist of the water reservoir with maybe a small pocket where you can slot in an energy bar or something similar. These are ideal for short and intense activities where you’re not going to be stopping but water is essential.
Bigger rucksacks have the reservoir in its own compartment and the rest of the space can be used for carrying gear. These are obviously suited to those heading on day (or even longer) excursions.
If you already have a decent rucksack then you can buy the reservoir separately and slot it into your pack.
Are There Any Other Uses For A Hydration Pack?
Actually, there are.
Obviously, its main purpose is for staying hydrated when you do physical activity. It also has another use which not many people think of when going on long expeditions.
The reservoir serves as a very useful dishwasher when you are camping. The relatively high velocity of the chute of water is much more effective than just pouring water over your dishes.
Why Should You Get A Hydration Pack?
When doing physical activity, no matter what it is, staying hydrated is one of the key performance factors. It’s really easy to forget this and we often get dangerously dehydrated without realising it.
Before using hydration packs I fell into this category. I would easily go half a hike (a good 6-7 miles) without even taking a sip of water because I couldn’t be bothered stopping and taking my bottle out of my pack. I would then wonder why the hike seemed to be getting very hard very quickly. It was obviously down to my body slowing down due to dehydration and using a hydration pack changed all that.
Did you know that our body actually tricks us when its cold? The constriction of blood vessels stops blood from flowing to our extremities (cold hands anyone?). That way our body conserves heat by drawing in more blood which is tricking our system into thinking that the overall blood volume has increased. Because of this, we dehydrate and no thirst is signalled. That’s why, even when it’s cold and you’re doing physical activity, regular consumption of fluids is very important.
Getting dehydrated is not only detrimental to your health and performance in the moment but also years down the line. You might not notice it at first but it can be the cause of quite a few different conditions later in life. One of these is kidney stones.
- Can hold up to 3 litres of water.
- Bigger packs have space for plenty of other supplies.
- Keeps liquid cool/warm (depending on activity).
- Adds support and padding to your back.
- Easy access, no rummaging for a water bottle or having to stop.
- Can make back sweat worse.
- Can be difficult to clean if you are using sports drinks.
- Extra weight (water weighs 1kg per litre).
The pros outweigh the cons by quite some margin which makes hydration packs an essential piece of gear for doing exercise. Their aesthetics and ease of use make them far superior to the water bottle.
This post was meant to be a brief but concise answer to the question: ‘what is a hydration pack?’. I hope that it has answered your question and please stay tuned for some specific hydration pack reviews as well as a guide on all the factors to consider when deciding which pack to buy.
As always, thanks a lot for reading and let me know what you think in the comments box below. 🙂