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Hydration Packs

By MTY - Posted on 25 March 2007

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.


Having just killed 3 bottles and 2 cages in the last week, I've decided to have a look at getting a hydration pack. I've ordered a 1.5L one from Torpedo7, and am waiting for it to turn up in time for Easter.

Just wondering what type and size packs other people are using. What they like, dislike about them. Favourite brands, wear and tear etc.


I've had a Camelbak Mule (M.U.L.E.) since... erm... 2003. Same bladder, same pack. Never cleaned!

However, I don't put anything but the highly chlorinated city water in there. Apparently putting energy drinks, etc. in hydration packs makes them impossible to clean out and they end up full of mould.

How does it sit? Does it move around much when you're riding? Is it confortable to wear?

sorry about the inquisition..... nobody expects an inquisition. Eye-wink


Mate, you'll go through a 1.5L in no time. I curse my own 2L constantly, as I wish for a 3L reservoir. But I do sweat a lot when I ride - hence the need for a large supply. Normally I try to keep to 1L consumed every hour, unless it is a cool day and probably 1/2L per hour would do. BTW, I use a Tioga 2L internal reservoir, and I don't use a drink bottle any more. My bike doesn't have the allen key slots for it.

Another suggestion would be to ensure the pack comes with decent pouch space in it. Just the water reservoir is not enough. You need space for all your other stuff like pump, levers, keys, tubes, whatever.

Anyway, how do you break a bottle cage? Once, maybe. But again? What the deuce? Been having a few stacks then? Smiling

The Mule carries 2.5-3l when full. It's got a nice small pouch at front (good for couple of tools, powerbar + gels), and mesh/elastic area one can even ram a small rain jacket in. It's also got a main pocket that is very limited in size when the bladder is full. Even so, this always has shock pump, gaffer tape, spare tube and brake pads in.

As it empties this does begin to move around a bit on your back, but just give the shoulder/chest straps a quick tug and it's nice and snug again.

Every ride I've done since 2003 has been with this on my back. Say no more.

I broke 1 cage and 1 bottle in a stack about 2 weeks ago. The second cage didn't even last 1 ride before the welds just snapped (That'll learn me for buying el-cheapo's from K-Mart). The second bottle has had a small tear for a while in the lid that got worse this week until I was spilling more water than I was drinking. The third bottle broke on a ride on Saturday, as I took a sip and went to put the bottle back in the cage but missed, and me mate who was riding next to me, ran over the top of it.

Until recently, I was using a Camelbak Blowfish. Nice and light, comfy, good visibility and plenty of storage space. 2L bladder.

It did get a bit warm in summer, but it's more of a hiking pack. I'm really impressed with the durability - it's been through about 2000km of road cycling/touring, 1000km of MTB, lots of hiking and scrapes in tight underground spaces, a dozen 6hr adventure races, weekly grocery haulage for a year, and about three years of day-to-day commuter use. The small zipper doesn't close properly any more, but otherwise it's still going strong.

I'm using the new-model Camelbak MULE now. 3L bladder, much less storage, but it's a little cooler and lighter. Visibility isn't as good; it's grey with orange accents, so I much prefer the Blowfish for commuting (bright red). The straps are a bit better designed and so it's more comfortable. Removing and inserting the bladder is a lot easier, though it does cut into your cargo space when it's full.

I don't like weight on my shoulders, so I tend to run the packs low on my hips - they can both be adjusted well for that. Many of the small roadie Camelbaks have no waist strap at all.

personally, i use a backpack (nalgene) with a rear compartment for a bladder which i popped a 3L one into, and i agree with ditt in that 1.5 wouldnt be enough for me. On a long ride (3hrs+) most of that will be gone by the end, i guess i consume about 1L per hour, personally. The backpack has waist straps as well as shoulder so it doesnt move around alot, and I need the room sometimes for extra stuff, and most recently, i realized a bit of extra padding on your back is a good thing sometimes! some of those camelbaks hardly even have room for a wallet too! -my 2c Smiling

i have 2 that i use, both Camelbaks, i have tried cheaper ones in the past but found there bladders to be absolutely crap, so only stick with Camlebak now.
1: Camelbak Blowfish - this is for longer rides where i need extra stuff like clothes, food, more spare etc, generally if the ride is 3hrs or more i use this pack, has 3l bladder and heaps of storage, even when packed full does not feel heavy or look awkward on your back, does not move around if straped on properly, have had it for approx 7 yrs, same bladder and all and straps and material is still in good nick, do for replacement soon though - will get another blowfish or mule.
2: Camelback Lobo - i use this for rides of 2hrs or less, has 2l bladder only and has storage for, wallet, keys, phone, 2 x tubes, tool kit, tyre levers and chain links, thats it, no room for clothes, food or anything else, very compact, dont even fell like its there. I use this for races also as with only water, tubes and tool kit it pretty much weighs nothing. Very good pack, has excellent ventilation system between the pack and your back for beter airflow.
Always ride with one or the other on the mtb. You will wonder how you lived without one after you get it.

Yeah, we had a poll about accessories a while back, guess what's ahead by a mile?

which will probably end up closer to a dollars worth. My immediate reaction reading your first post was, you should have asked this before you ordered, a 1.5l pack won't be anywere enough, but then I thought you have been surviving on a bottle per ride so you may be OK.

Couldn't agree with Rob more, don't put anything but water into it, you will regret it later.

I started with a small 1.5l pack, problem was I found it just too small to ever get comfortable on my "bulky" frame. It felt great in the store but as soon as I put water in it, I just could never get it comfortable. This never made it out of my house, my daughter now uses this for short bushwalks we do.

Camelbacks are obviously at the top of the pyramid when it comes to this, along with another brand made for the Israeli army (sorry name escapes me at the moment) Unfortunately this normally means a price to match.

There are cheaper options but the thing to watch for is the quality of the bladder, after all if it leaks its no good and if your water tastes like plastic that'd be no good either.

I've gone for a cheap MKIsmo "hydro" pack with no bladder that I bought from a local camping shop of Victoria Rd Ryde. Cost about $25 3 years ago. It has a large main compartment that has a neoprene divider in it, obviously where the 3l bladder goes. This compartment is also expandable so there is plenty of room for my batteries, jumper etc etc, have yet to fill it. It also has a smaller compartment on this that has more than enought room for tools, tubes, pumps, spares, food and a rain jacket. It then has elastic cord on the outside of this that is great for putting my armour into if I decide not to wear it anymore.

The bladder is a "Platypus" bladder I got from Katmandu, $25 on sale again 3 years ago. I have had numerous OTB stacks, landing on shoulders and back heavily and have had no problems with either pack or bladder. No leaks and still tastes like Sydney tap water.

Good luck with your purchase, hope it works for you.

I have used various types and found many good packs, however the one thing that I have seen time and time again is that cheap packs normally have low quality bladders.

I have been using a camelbak blowfish for some time and recently the bladder gave up the ghost. A new genuine Camelbak bladder was going to cost me close to $80. So I found a genuine camelbak bladder on ebay for around $35.

Point is the bladder takes a lot of hammering, so spend the money and buy a good quality item. It will last longer and not let you down on a long ride.

As far as using energy drinks or other mixes other than water is concerned, I have found that you can combat the scary stuff that tend to grow in the bladder and tube, by simply rinsing the bladder every now and then with warm (not hot) water and a 1/4 teaspoon of common pool chlorine. Get some from a mate with a pool and keep in a small glass container. dont use too much as it is a strong bleaching agent. However it cleans it up beautiful after a hour or so soak. Remember to let some of the mis run down the tube.

Of course rinse properly afterwards!!

after my original reply i checked out my 7 yr old Camelbak Blowfish. The bladder was pretty bad and i think quite a few types of mould and fungus have been living inside, went out today and got a new camelbak Mule, pretty cool, nice compartment size and should hold enough stuff for a days out. Will test it out on the weekend at the 24hr race.

I am using the 3L bladder made by Platypus. This is a laminated platic and can actually stand up on its end, is easy to look after and only needs a bottle cap if you want to take the hose off and put in the fridge. My original bladder started to leak and I got the 3L for $2 postage. The guys in Aust. threw in a new hose anyway, they have a lifetime warranty and you can't beat that.
I find that in fits well in a medium size backpack which has seperate bladder holder (elastised compartment) Have seen some Carribee bags with quite alot of insulation material for keeping the bladder cool..alot of heat coming off your back into your water..


Lots of good info there. Thanks.

@Stuart M. Yeh. I tend to make decisions and then think about them later Smiling. I was going to see if Aldi had any of those packs that someone left a link to here last week, however neither the Manly no Warringah Mall stores had them.

I think if the one from torpedo7 doesn't work out then I'll definitely will give the camelbaks's a go. I'll still keep the bottles and use them as well.

Took the hydration pack for a spin on Sunday. I didn't notice that I had a pack on once I hit the trails. Looks like all my fears about having an 'unnatural' pack on were unfounded.
The pack itself has plenty of room to put a larger bladder in if I need to for longer rides.

Now, does anyone have any ideas on how to get the horrible rubber taste out of the mouth piece?

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