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Primer: How to Clean A Hydration Pack

Outdoor adventuring 101: stay hydrated. We’re all quite aware of this necessity while traversing the fine national parks and backcountry badlands of this great country of ours. That’s why any semi-serious to serious outdoorsman keeps a hydration pack in their arsenal of gear to keep them alive and well in the unforgiving wilderness. Just as a tent keeps you protected at night, a hydration pack (housing anywhere between a 1-3 L hydration bladder) prevents the unthinkable but very real from happening. Some options range in size, durability, and idiosyncratic features depending on your intended use, however, all options require one thing for continued use: cleaning.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the most fun part of the trip – for it’s usually at the very end when all is said and done that cleaning your hydration bladder becomes imperative. Otherwise, you’re opting to allow Mother Nature turn your otherwise safety net of hydration into a terrarium of bacteria and mold. And trust us, you don’t want that. So, in addition to unwinding after a weekend in the woods with a cool beer, take a few moments to clean your hydration pack before forgetting to do so. We know it’s not the most exciting or entertaining activity, but hey, everyone needs to eat their broccoli from time to time.

Photo: Matador Hydrolite Filtration Backpack

How to Clean

4 Simple Steps

Despite what assumptions you may have, cleaning your hydration pack isn’t some heavily involved activity when completed regularly after each outing. It’s only after things have bacterially taken a turn for the worse that a little time, effort, and elbow grease is needed for continued safe use. Some brands also offer full-on cleaning kits that can come in handy from time to time. However, if you have basic brushes and household cleaning supplies at home, you can sufficiently tackle the task head-on without worry. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. This first step is to make the cleaning mixture. To do this, mix up two tablespoons of bleach for every liter of hot water in a separate container to prevent the chlorine from coming into direct contact with the bladder. Once you have your mixture in place, allow it to circulate throughout the hydration bladder – including the tube- and then let it rest with the solution intact for about 30 minutes.

  2. Next, after enough time has elapsed, it’s time to drain. This should be fairly self-explanatory but just to be safe you’re going to want to allow the liquid solution to drain through the mouthpiece as well. This is often a neglected part of the hydration pack due to its more difficult access but is equally if not more important than the actual bladder.

  3. After everything’s been drained, go ahead and take some mild soap or castile soap and then gently wash the hydration bladder. The goal here is to rid the pack of any Bleach or mold (if you haven’t cleaned it in a while) that may have been left behind. You can use a standard dishwashing brush for cleaning the actual reservoir and either some Q-tips or a designated hose cleaner for the hose and mouthpiece.

  4. After the bags been sufficiently washed, it’s time to dry things out. CamelBak actually makes a handy hanging device that’s built for drying out your hydration bladder after cleaning. Whatever you may choose, you want to make sure the inside is expanded wide so the whole piece dries from the inside out. This, in the end, is what will prevent any mold from forming after all that hard work.

Pro Tip

If using soap isn’t something that suits your fancy, you can also rinse the hydration bladder out with hot water and lemon juice that not only works to rids the bladder of any residue but leaves a more pleasant scent/aftertaste.


Getting the Most Out of Your Pack

Just like anything else, continued upkeep and maintenance will help prolong the life of your hydration bladder for as long as possible. Here it’s all about keeping it dry and hung up after cleaning – remaining cautious as to what goes into the bladder. For instance, if you prefer sports drinks, try and use ones with limited sugar or ones that are even sugar-free. The reason being that sugar leaves residue that can accelerate the growth of mold so it’s best to stay away from sports drinks with high sugar content.

Our Pick: Matador Hydrolite Filtration Backpack

In addition to eight liters of standard storage capacity, this pack features an onboard 2-liter Hydrapak polyurethane reservoir complete with a built-in Sawyer MINI water filter. It’s also packable, comes equipped with a crease-resistant silicone hose, and a 100% waterproof seamed main compartment.

Purchase: $190

Also, it’s a well-known fact that scents from spirits like tequila and whiskey are notoriously difficult to get rid of. So if hitting the slopes with a booze-filled hydration bladder is in the deck, try to designate one solely to this activity and others for more neutral liquids like water. Finally, when storing your hydration bladder, it’s best to keep it housed in the freezer once it’s completely dry. That way, the chances of any unwanted growth from forming inside are practically nil.

The Equipment You'll Need

Always at the Ready

  • OXO Good Grips Dish Brush ($5)
  • Bleach ($7+)
  • Efferdent ($9)
  • Q Tips ($10+)
  • CamelBak Reservoir Dryer ($12)
  • Dr. Bonner’sCastile Soap ($20)

Just like all other aspects of outdoor living, there’s a bit gear involved. Fortunately, however, the things you’ll need the get this done aren’t obscure or expensive by any means. In fact, we’d be willing to bet the majority of these items are already stocked under your kitchen sink. If so, this makes the whole preparation aspect of cleaning your hydration bladder a whole lot easier. If not, no worries, each of these items can easily be found either online or at the nearest convenience store.

The Best Hydration Bladders Around

Hydration bladder beyond redemption? If that’s the case take a look at this list of the best hydration bladders available today on the market. Just make sure you take care of it this time around.