thoughts about hydration backpacks

5:50 p.m. on June 23, 2015 (EDT)
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i'm talking about the small ones that basically carry a bladder with enough storage for a hot weather workout or solo day hike - rain jacket, spare t-shirt, food, hat.  debating the osprey viper 13 and the arcteryx aerios 10.  other suggestions? features  you like or dislike? thoughts about osprey's proprietary bladder, which comes with their hydration packs?


1:53 a.m. on June 25, 2015 (EDT)
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I bought a very early Camelbak for biking. It holds almost nothing, which I soon found out was a bad idea. I also bought a winter bladder which has an insulated bag and hose. Don't like it either. I would much rather just carry a couple of  bottles, even in winter. I know these things sell really well, but just not for me. If this is your first one, get whatever's cheaper in case you don't like it. Cleaning them is tedious, don't like sucking on the hose,  just for me, one of those things that seems like a good idea when you see it in the store, not so great in the field.

5:33 a.m. on June 25, 2015 (EDT)
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Andrew, while I like Osprey backpacks, I think their proprietary bladder is subpar compared to the rest of the game. My personal favourite is platypus as they are adequately tough but also lightweight (I think they might be the lightest weight ones available)... which is ultimately what you want when going quite minimal.

My girlfriend ended up getting a Platypus Origin 9 hydration pack which I was very impressed with.

Otherwise, I would just get a nice lightweight small pack from any manufacturer and just fit a platypus reservoir to it and call it a day.

7:26 a.m. on June 25, 2015 (EDT)
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8:42 a.m. on June 25, 2015 (EDT)
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Most every daypack you can get nowadays has a sleeve, or at least a clip, to use with a bladder, so you may be better off getting a bladder and using that with an existing pack to try it out.  If you get one of the bladders, like the platypus hoser, that don't have the big fill hole (tougher to put ice in, but easier to roll up when empty) you could still use it for extra water capacity if you decide you don't like using as a bladder.

8:47 a.m. on June 25, 2015 (EDT)
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thanks for the comments - all very helpful.

i should have given some background. for the most part, i have used reservoirs for any good-sized walk or hike for a several years, with a few caveats. First, you have to let them dry out after you use them by draining the bag and the hose and letting them both hang up to dry. The hoses can get mucky and can be hard to clean; the bags are easy enough to clean with a vinegar/water or ammonia/water mix, rinse thoroughly of course. second, can't use them in cold weather. In my experience, the hose will freeze up in cold weather, notwithstanding insulation and notwithstanding religious efforts to blow the water out of the hose after each drink.

We have three currently in the house, all 3 liters. One is a camelbak, one a platypus with a screw on hose, and one with a plastic zipper top. They all work fine. I slightly prefer the platypus, though we had one fail where the bag is bonded to the zip top; REI replaced that for free. Anyway, I was primarily focusing on the carrying part rather than the bladder. Looking for something for the short hikes or walks where i might want to carry a few things - a minimal shell, some food, water, maybe a spare pair of socks and t-shirt.

i went and tried on quite a few. If i were looking for a reservoir-only carrying solution, the camelbaks were great.  they fit well, they don't feel like they would bounce around.  i was less enthusiastic about their slightly larger ones, they didn't fit as well and felt kind of heavy. Same deal with a gregory i tried, nice but a little big/heavy. the arcteryx one i mentioned above was sold out of the new arcteryx store in DC...what's the point of having a proprietary store as a showcase if you can't keep your own gear in stock?

Osprey makes many backpacks with seemingly overlapping function. Most of them are busy, lots of zippers and little pockets, which is not usually my preference. i see the concern about their proprietary reservoirs - they are heavy, with extra and probably unnecessary hard plastic (big handle) and a hard plastic sheet that is apparently supposed to help support the very minimal frame sheet on the pack.  But...the one i initially thought would work is comfortable. the way the reservoir sits and zips in is smart. though busy, it has the space i need. and that is what i ended up with. 

no perfect solutions.  i walked with it early this morning, and it was good. for something at this price point, should be fine.  

12:23 a.m. on June 26, 2015 (EDT)
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 They are somewhat of a pain to clean however I use mine frequently enough that I'll store the empty bladder in the refrigerator when I'm not using it   That way I don't have to worry about growing anything inside of it    I will usually clean it twice a year once in the spring when I take it out of storage and once in the fall when I put it away    I don't use them in the winter

 If use it frequently enough then store it filled with water and you'll always have Cold water ready. 

2:49 p.m. on June 26, 2015 (EDT)
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For many years after bladders first appeared, I remained skeptical of them. Then I bought a daypack that included a bladder. In one of my first hikes with the bladder, it developed a major leak - the hose went through a hole in the cap, which was pointing downward to feed the water out. This made me even more skeptical. But since I do a lot of bicycling, some friends who were using them during long hot rides convinced me to spring the bucks for a Camelbak. Since then, that is what I have used for orienteering competitions, hikes, climbs, bike rides, and skiing.

During orienteering and other activities, I have often used hydration electrolyte mixes. On hot days, especially when there is no opportunity to stop, like during an orienteering meet, I find they work great. BUT, while it is easy to keep the bladder and hose clean when using plain water, they get pretty grungy and are hard to clean when using drink mixes or anything other than plain water. With time, though, I have learned easier ways to clean and dry them.

I had an incident that inspired me to learn how to properly clean them. I had been using the bladder on almost daily hikes, bikes, and runs with electrolytes in it. Since it was daily, I was filling the bladder frequently. But one day, after coming back from a bike ride, I starting feeling weak and getting chills, despite it being a 90° day. As this was after I retired and Barb was still working, I was alone in the house. I called her and she headed home immediately, finding me in bed with my down alpine gear on (expedition parka and pants). She took me to Urgent Care immediately. They ran all sorts of tests and hooked me up with IVs - lots of fluids going in and nothing coming out. I gradually recovered, but they would not release me until I could go to the bathroom. Eventually, I was able to empty my personal internal bladder and they decide I was ok to let go. A couple days later, I was thinking about going for a bike ride. As I went to fill the bladder, I noticed that the formerly transparent tube was black. Further inspection showed it was lined with some kind of mold. AHA! That was the culprit that felled me. Since then I never put anything except plain water in the bladders, and since doing so, I have had no problems.

Many people seem to have a lot of problems with bladders in winter conditions. However, I have learned a few tricks, such that since I was introduced to the tricks, I have never had a bladder freeze. At really cold negative temperatures (down in the -30° and lower ranges), I have had a few times that I got a little ice in the tube near the bite valve, but mostly that has been carelessness.

5:03 p.m. on June 26, 2015 (EDT)
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Bill, curious if you were doing anything to clean it when you had the issue with the mold?  I have always put just plain water in mine, but putting some sort of mix in mine is always tempting.  

5:15 p.m. on June 26, 2015 (EDT)
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I had some dark mold/mildew in the tube of a camelback that we neglected to empty, sat for a few weeks after a hike. camelback sells a long, flexible thingy with a fuzzy pipe cleaner end.  dipped in bleach/water solution, it did a pretty good job cleaning the tube, though it's not the easiest task in the world - had to pull the tube off the reservoir to really clean that end of the tube.   

by all means share your strategies for keeping the tube clear during the winter, Bill. when I tried to use reservoirs in the winter, I started with warm but not boiling water, had the tube encased in one of those foam camelback winter tubes,made sure the reservoir was as close to my back as possible inside the pack, and after each time I took a drink, I bit the valve and blew excess water out of the tube, back into the reservoir.  invariably ended up with clogs either at the bite valve or, eventually, at the point where the hose enters the reservoir.  I suppose I could keep it warmer by storing the reservoir under my jacket, but I really, really don't want a situation where the reservoir leaks on me in the winter.  On the other hand, I am confident that a bottle inside a cozy isn't going to leak on me & will stay liquid under my jacket.

7:58 p.m. on June 26, 2015 (EDT)
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Sam, before the mold incident, I had (or so I thought) been cleaning the bladder, hose, shutoff valve, and bite valve regularly after every outing, although if there were a lot of liquid left and I was heading out the next day or 2, I didn't do the cleaning. I believe that what happened is that I had a lot of the electrolytes still in the system, which provided "food" for the mold to grow. I almost certainly drank some of the fluid through the hose unseen, since I had an insulator sleeve on the hose and discovered the black mold when I removed the sleeve.

When I have diligently emptied even a half-empty bladder, poured in very hot water, used a bottle brush on the bladder, and run the tube brush up and down the hose from both ends, then hung everything up to drain and dry, I have had no problems. As I noted above, I put only clear water in my bladders these days, and replace electrolytes from a small bottle and/or some of the "gummy electrolyte" candies.

As for cold weather, there are several tricks. One you mentioned (sort of). If you blow the water most of the way down the hose after drinking, that helps. Just do not blow air into the main bladder - it will soon make the bladder uncomfortable and can create an "air lock". By wearing the bladder as close to your back as possible, under your jacket or in the insulated "vest" or mesh vest that Camelbak made (or used to make) for cold weather use, you get a balance of the water (which has a low coefficient of heat, hence requires a large input to drain heat from you) temperature and you. Just do not have the bladder exposed to the cold air. The hose should always be inside your layers unless being actually in use, or run down your sleeve so you can drink from your wrist. Again, clear the fluid back, but do not blow air all the way into the bladder itself.

1:31 a.m. on June 27, 2015 (EDT)
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My bladder says to wash it with baking soda then vinegar. It works well. I also let mine dry completely between uses and, since its semi-arid here it works great. Last summer on Mt Rainier a guy in the group had bottles instead of a bladder and we were CONSTANTLY stopping while he took a drink. We shipped on our bladder bags without stopping. 

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