Did you know there’s a silent hydration war going on between two camps of outdoorsmen? The struggle has its origin in a bike race about 34 years ago where a previously unknown emergency medical technician by the name of Michael Eidson made a significant discovery.
The dreaded race, aptly named “Hotter ‘n Hell” featured a temperature so high water replenishment was of the highest priority. The heat wave forced the participants of the race to find new solution to stay hydrated – or prepare for failure. The forementioned medical technician grabbed an IV bag from the nearest ambulance and filled it to the brim with sweet cold water and connected it to a tube that then went over his shoulder. There it sat, waiting for the thirst to sneak up on him.
The result was incredible – Michael suddenly had the ability to carry and drink a seemingly infinite amount of water before he had to stop to switch- and refill bottles!
Was it cheating? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
One thing was certain, though. The new invention was meant for success!
Somehow it didn’t turn out that way.
“Look at the freak with the water backpack! Ha!”
The insults seemed unending, but Michael persevered.
It was not until he coined the famed slogan “Hydrate or die!” that the US military found out about the invention.
The hardened servicemen of the Army refused to die, so they naturally had to hydrate to appease this new threat and get their hands on this new invention at a massive scale.
This was my interpretation of the origin story of the world’s most known water bladder manufacturer (the real version may differ slightly). But the question remains: How do people today view the water bladder in comparison to the classic water bottle?
In the right corner we have the classic water bottle. Simple, stylish and easy to fill and refill when out!
In the lefthand corner we have the up- and comer: hydration bladder. It has a hose you can put in your mouth, hides away in your pack, and has the capacity of several bottles!
Hydration on longer hikes
When you’re going for a longer hike without much prospect of sourcing clean water you basically have two options. Bring all the water you’re going to need during the hike, or bring a water purification kit.
On hikes longer than 5-6 hours I tend to need more water than a 3 liter hydration bladder can hold, dependign on temperature, hiking speed, etc. Another water bottle will keep me for a couple of more hours but then I’ll need to refill somehow. Either by bringing a water filter or by finding another source of clean water.
To bring the same amount of water in bottles, I’d have to bring at least 4 large 1 liter bottles. For some reason it feels as if the bottles take up more space in the pack than a hydration bladder does.
Finding clean water sources
Here in southern Sweden, there’s a lot of different places to find water along the trails, especially during summer when the outdoor faucets are maintained and active. So, normally one does not even have to bring a form of water filter unless you plan on staying completely off the trail.
Up north, however, there’s more and more walking to be done between sources of clean water, and it’s not really until you get quite a bit up north you actually are able to take clean water directly from water sources. In the rest of the country it is advisable to clean it somehow beforehand.
Cleaning the water
The cleaning process itself does not differ too much wether you have a bladder or water bottles. You can clean the water either by boiling, filtering or by other means at your disposal.
If you choose to boil the water, however, keep in mind that you’re going to have to wait a while for it to cool down before pouring it into your water bladder.
On shorter hikes
Generally, on shorter hikes it’s purely your preference if you choose to bring the bladder or the bottle. The bladder is better if you’re constantly moving about with your pack on your back. However, if you’re going to be staying at one place, perhaps do some cooking and coffee, the bottle is my suggested option!