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If you like to spend some of your time away from work trail running or mountain biking, it is essential that you stay hydrated. However, toting a water bottle or two may not provide all the water your body will need. Instead of carrying a water bottle or canteen, get a hydration system like the Camelbak MULE to supply your water needs.
What is a Hydration System?
A hydration system, also known as a hydration pack or water backpack, is a pack designed to carry a water bladder or reservoir to provide the user with to fresh drinking water. Most of them have a tube with a sip valve connected to the reservoir, so you don’t need to stop what you’re doing to get a drink.
The pack usually has room for snacks, extra clothing, and other gear that you may need to take with you on an excursion. Hydration systems come in several sizes to provide the amount of water you’ll need while on the trail, camping, biking, or skiing.
The size of a hydration pack is determined by the amount of water it holds. The water capacities that are available include:
- 0.5-liter packs can carry 16 ounces of fluid or less.
- One or 1.5-liter packs carry 32 or 50 ounces of water.
- 2 or 2.5-liters equates to 70 or 85 fluid ounces.
- 3 liters or more allows you to carry 100 ounces or more of water.
Water waist packs may carry standard water bottles, or they may come with bottles or water flasks that can hold 16 to 18 ounces of water.
How to Select a Hydration System
When picking out a hydration pack, you should consider the sport or activity for which it will be used. If you’re going on a short hike, then a daypack that carries a water bottle or small water bladder may be all you need. Some guidelines for hydration packs are:
- A one to 1.5-liter pack is appropriate for running, biking, and other high energy activities.
- Two to 2.5-liter packs are best for long days that include climbing, trail hiking or cross-country skiing.
- Three-liter packs are good for all-day trips on trails or roads where there isn’t any access to fresh drinking water.
The pack’s capacity will also include the other gear it will hold. If you’re biking or skiing, then you will want a pack large enough to carry changes of clothes, extra shoes, a tool kit, first aid supplies, snacks and your helmet.
Construction of the Pack
It will pay to be aware of how a hydration pack is constructed because the better the product is made, the longer it will last. Most packs are made from materials that used to make regular backpacks. However, they are usually lined with anti-microbial agents to prevent mold and keep germs at bay.
Depending on the pack size, the water bottles or water reservoirs are made from a hard or flexible plastic. Most manufacturers of good quality hydration packs use BPA-free plastic in their systems. The makers of the Camelbak hydration pack use bottles and bladders made from BP-A, BP-S, and BP-F free materials.
The backpacks carrying the reservoirs may be made from materials ranging from plastic to polyester. However, due to its durability, most manufacturers use nylon for their packs. Since nylon contains plastic, it resists moisture, so they stay dry. Although it can tear, manufacturers using different weaves to make the nylon packs stronger.
Hydration Pack Frames
While smaller packs may not have a frame, larger ones, such as the Camelbak MULE, may have an interior or external back panel to give the pack with support and allow them to conform to the user’s body. When properly worn, packs that fit along the curvature of the back will move less, which makes it easier to pedal or run.
The back panels also protect the cyclist or runner with some protection. The panels provide some shock absorption, so your body doesn’t take the brunt of a fall. This protection can prevent injuries that could keep you off the trails for several days.
Pick by Purpose
Although they may look alike, most hydration packs are made to suit a specific purpose. If you are a cyclist, then you can choose a pack for road cycling or mountain biking. If you like to run, then there are packs specifically designed for runners. Water backpacks are available for hikers and winter sports enthusiasts too.
Cycling Hydration Packs
The type of cycling you do will determine which type of bike backpack to buy. Most packs are designed for either road cycling or mountain biking.
Road Cycling Packs
A hydration pack recommended for road cycling are small to medium-size packs with a larger water bladder. They can carry two to three liters of water, so you don’t need to stop for a drink if you’re on a bicycle tour or training for a triathlon.
They sit lower on the back to provide good visibility when you’re riding and need to look over your shoulder. By conforming to the body, the pack won’t bounce around when you’re riding, which provides a more aerodynamic ride. Cycling water backpacks are also designed to prevent interference when you’re pedaling the bike.
Mountain Biking Packs
If you’re into mountain biking, then you need to have plenty of water accessible to you to stay hydrated since it is a strenuous sport. A mountain bike backpack is usually larger than a road cyclist’s because they carry more gear with them.
Along with the water reservoir, which is usually two to three liters, the pack will have room for snacks, extra clothing, a toolkit, and first aid kit. Having it fit snuggly against the back of the rider is important to prevent the pack from being snagged on tree branches or other obstacles that you come across on mountain trails.
Running Hydration Packs
Whether you only run in parks, the streets of a city or on dirt trails, there are hydration packs for runners that will ensure that you stay hydrated. If you do stick to the city, then a smaller daypack with a water bottle or small capacity reservoir should provide enough water as you have access to more.
However, if you like to run on trails, then you should carry a larger capacity pack with a larger water reservoir. The Rei Camelbak hydration system is a good choice because there are a variety of capacities and water reservoir options. Trail runners should consider packs with the capacity to carry snacks, extra clothing, a first aid kit, and rain gear.
Hiking Hydration Packs
The hydration pack you choose for hiking will depend on how long the hike is and where the trails are located. If you’re going for a short hike, then a water waist pack or a pack with a small reservoir may be sufficient for a couple of hours.
However, if you are going to be away from civilization for a full day, then you’ll want to carry a pack with a larger water reservoir. It is often difficult to find drinking water sources in wilderness areas, so you don’t have a choice but to carry water with you. A pack will also provide room to take other supplies and gear with you.
Winter Sports Hydration Packs
Whether you like snowboarding, cross country or downhill skiing, a hydration system is a convenient way to get a drink when you need it. Any fresh water you would find on the side of a mountain will probably be frozen, but winter sports hydration systems are designed to keep water from freezing.
The backpacks also provide room for your helmet, extra clothing, and snacks when you’re taking a break from the slopes.
Carrying a Hydration Pack
It is important to know how to properly carry a hydration backpack to prevent a sore back or injuries. The weight of a backpack, no matter what is inside of it, should be carried by the legs, not the back because the legs are stronger and can easily carry heavier weights.
Once you determine the proper type of pack, you can take your measurements to find which size you’ll need. To ensure a good fit, you will need to adjust the shoulder straps, hipbelt, and chest strap, so that you’re carrying the pack correctly.
When adjusting the shoulder straps, they should pull the weight of the pack forward to sit over the hips inside of carrying it on your back. If it is carried on your back, then not only could you get a sore back, but your neck and shoulder muscles may be strained as well.
The hipbelt will also allow you to adjust the pack to sit on your hips to make it more comfortable to carry. The belt should feel snug and secure without pinching your body. Finally, buckle and pull the sternum strap so your arms can move freely but so that it fits snuggly and comfortably.
This information can help you find the right Camelbak MULE to carry when you’re out enjoying the day with your friends or family doing the activities you love the most.