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General Gear Discussion The General Gear Discussion forum is for the discussion of traditional and lightweight (ultralight) backpacking gear that is not covered in other Practical Backpacking™ forums. [Please post about Backpacks, Shelters, Sleeping Gear, Backcountry Kitchen (Food, Stoves) in those respective forum areas.]

View Poll Results: Which do you most often use for your backpacking drinking water?
Bottles 29 38.16%
Bladder 13 17.11%
Both on same trip 34 44.74%
Voters: 76. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-22-2013, 08:21 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Bladders versus Bottles

Do you more often opt for water bottles or a hydration bladder or both?

Certainly there are advantages and disadvantages for each choice, and there are a number of variables (weather, need for hands-free,...) that make one option better than another for certain trips. Feel free to discuss the "variables" and your preferences.

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Old 09-23-2013, 06:09 AM
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GWyble GWyble is offline
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I have tried a hydration bladder for backpacking a couple times but it didn't catch on. The bladder is harder to fill and if it springs a leak your stuff gets wet and you don't have a way to carry water. I also prefer drinking from a bottle rather than pulling water through a tube. The bladder also seemed to negatively impact the way the pack carried.

For bottles I generally carry (2) 1 liter bottles and (1) .5 liter. Even if I spring a leak or loose one there is redundancy. For filtering I use a Sawyer Squeeze system and I can use those bladders for extra capacity if necessary.

On the otherhand I do use a hydration pack for mountain biking.

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Old 09-23-2013, 08:45 AM
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Balzaccom Balzaccom is offline
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I hike with my wife, and we don't like sucking water out of a tube. But we do like the camelback collapsible bottles. They roll up nicely as they empty---so you don't have to listen to water sloshing about in your pack as you hike.

That said, we hiked for years and years with used soda bottles, and they worked just fine.
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Old 09-23-2013, 10:16 AM
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philman philman is offline
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It varies with the hike but I do prefer bottles. If I'm expecting narrow, overgrown trail or some bushwacking, I like to use a narrow, durable pack (actually a crag bag) with a bladder and no hard bottles. Otherwise, I do like the versatility and durability of 1 liter vitamin water bottles. I do always carry a 2 liter collapsible Platy as well.
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Old 09-23-2013, 10:49 AM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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I've had a couple leaks on water bladders. Once, the leak was at the bottom where the tube was connected. The bladder material had delaminated and all my gear was soaked on a winter hike. Another bladder would leak around the filling cap unless I torqued it so tight I could barely get if off later. On other bladders, the bite valves would wear to where they'd leak constantly.

Also, with a bladder, I don't know how much water I have left until I suck it dry. I had a bad experience in the Grand Canyon that way. A friend and I dropped our packs to make a quick three mile round trip to a spring and waterfall. A half mile after we got back on the main trail, we both sucked our hydration bladders dry. It wasn't much further to the top than back to the spring so we pressed on. I quickly found out how debilitating dehydration can be in a strenuous climb on a hot day with no shade or water and I started wilting fast. My friend, who does half marathons and many R2R GC hikes, shot up the trail to the top to get more water and bring it back to me. The next day when we hiked to the bottom, I cameled up. I wasn't going to go short on water again. I could have prevented the problem by unpacking my day pack and pulling the bladder out to check the level before we made the side trip to the spring.

When hiking with the grandchildren, I use water bladders for their packs because they will drink more out of the giant straw. I carefully check all connections and have installed on/off valves in addition to their bite valves so that leakage isn't an issue with them.

For me, I carry a couple .7 liter bottles clipped to my shoulder straps and a few one liter bottles in my pack.
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Old 09-23-2013, 02:23 PM
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GGervin GGervin is offline
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I voted "bladder + bottle," but I don't know if a "Pack Tap" really counts as a bladder. So maybe I voted wrong...

When I started out packing (20 years ago), I carried 4 32oz. nalgene bottles. That worked fine, but I discovered the weight of the 4 bottles empty was noticeably heavier than a big bladder and a single bottle.

So I opted for lighter, and for a good while, I used a 3L bladder and one 32oz. nalgene bottle. I used the bottle to mix gatorade powder in - so I didn't have "growing gunk" problems from putting gatorade in the bladder. I used the bladder to drink from when I wanted just plain water.

I found the 3L bladder, stored vertically in the pack's bladder pocket takes up a lot of room. It's difficult to get the vertically stored bladder, a bulky bear can, and my bulky camera gear into the pack along with everything else. (This isn't nearly as big an issue without the photo kit.)

I also found I drank a lot more plain water than gatorade that way, and decided I didn't stay as well hydrated. It was too easy to just keep walking and drinking and not bother with the gatorade.

I got a Sea-to-Summit " Pack Tap" that's a lot like a mylar wine bag with a light nylon cover. When you examine a Pack Tap, it looks like it should have leaking problems, but in fact I've had none in my 2 years of use. Mine holds 4L, and for me it's a better shape for loading in the pack - solves the vertical bladder carry problem real well. Just no big straw to drink from. I've gone back to drinking 100% from the bottle and hauling drinking water in the pack tap. I just have to stop more often to refill the bottle. But I've decided an extra rest or two doesn't hurt anything after all. (Turns out a little aging can help convince you of that...)

Last edited by GGervin : 09-23-2013 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 09-23-2013, 04:41 PM
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texasbb texasbb is offline
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I just don't get the bladder thing.

PROS: Can drink without stopping (saves about 15 seconds per half-hour?); weight is maybe carried a little closer to your body; easier to drink quietly (if you're hunting/tracking).

CONS: Can't see how much you've drunk; can't see how much is left; difficult to fill; more likely to leak; a leak can drench your gear; a leak leaves you with no ability to carry water (because many/most people only carry one big bladder); can't guzzle water when you need to; drinking through a straw all week gets really old; hard to clean; hose/valve can freeze up in cold weather; harder to use for cooking; more expensive; takes up room inside the pack.

The CONS win by my math.
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Old 09-23-2013, 05:53 PM
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FirstRWD FirstRWD is offline
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I usually take both. I use the bottles for drinking around camp, and prefer the bladder for hiking. I'll fill both if I think I'm going to go through a lot of water on a particular hike, but usually the bottles are empty. I figure the empty weight doesn't add up to much, but I like to have them in case the bladder springs a leak somewhere along a trail and I need water. I do find the bladder more convenient while hiking, though, and usually for doing dishes.
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Old 09-23-2013, 07:18 PM
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Wildfield Wildfield is offline
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Bladder - like the packability and the capacity. Sucking water through the tube when you're out of breath is not a lot of fun. If the bladder ever leaked...that would really stink. As others have noted...hard to see how much is left. Maybe someone will invent the wireless water level gauge that works with your altimeter/compass/watch.

Bottle - Much easier to fill and easy to pour water out quickly. Much easier to drink, even when out of breath. I put a bottle in the side mesh pocket...which is somewhat easy to grab, but a little harder to replace while walking. Definitely not as "hands-free" as a bladder.

Either beats the old aluminum canteen we used to carry as kids.
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Old 09-25-2013, 10:59 PM
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dsuursoo dsuursoo is offline
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i'm a 'both' kinda guy. bladders have this really awesome convenience factor in camp, you can hang the bag and it's like having running water, only in the woods. if you have a dark-colored bladder you can even have warm/hot running water in the afternoon.

bottles are great, and can be easy to fill. they can be a real pain in the butt to get to. i can't lever my arms back around to reach my steel bottles.

but it's a lot more awkward to take a bladder to bed.
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