Trying to figure out, “what size hydration bladder do I need?”
I’ve put together this article to help answer this exact question. And provide some useful tips for choosing and looking after your bladder.
Hydration bladders are available in various sizes, most commonly 1, 2, and 3 liters. There are also some larger ones out there for more specific needs.
To better understand what the best size bladder for you is before purchasing, you need to know how much you’re going to drink and what your requirements are.
Choosing the right size bladder is important for a few reasons:
- Water is extra weight you’ll have to carry around with you;
- Not having enough water is a serious health risk if you become dehydrated;
- You need the right size bladder for your backpack/vest to be comfortable;
Not drinking enough is one of the most common mistakes hikers make, and it can be costly. Staying well-hydrated should be one of your first concerns.
It’s a bit of a balancing act. Going hiking also presents the problem of being stuck a long way from extra supplies. But carrying too much water is going to weigh you down and tire you out faster.
So, how do you know how much water you need to take with you on a hike? There are three main things to consider:
- Weather conditions/climate during your hike;
- How physically demanding the hike is going to be;
- Your own personal preference for water intake;
The average amount of fluid we need to drink each day is 2 liters, with around 3 liters of total fluid intake (cited from MayoClinic).
This replaces all the fluid we naturally lose through sweating etc. So, if you’re going to be hiking for most of the day you need to drink a lot more than 2 liters as you will be exerting a lot of energy.
Personally, I almost always find a 3-liter bladder to be a perfect size. Anything smaller is really only useful for the casual hiker who is going to be hiking for a few hours in normal conditions.
3L is going to be enough to carry you through the best part of a day hiking. Unless you are being physically challenged by the terrain, out in really hot temps, and so on.
If you’re hiking overnight for two or more days you should consider carrying a water filter, or you’ll have to boil water you find. The key thing to remember here is that every liter of water weighs around a kilo. So carrying more than 3 liters at any one time can get uncomfortable pretty quickly along with all your other gear.
Sourcing Water and Refilling Your Hydration Bladder
As mentioned above, you can’t carry the amount of water you need if you’re hiking for days at a time. You can reduce the weight in your backpack by carrying enough for the day and finding a water source.
If you find water you have to filter or purify it before drinking it, however. The best ways to do this are to use a backpacking water filter, like this LifeStraw, or boil the water using a stove.
I recently published a post covering how to purify lake water safely. If you’re an experienced hiker and know where you will be able to source water you can travel a lot lighter. You should never head out hiking and assume you will find a water source, always plan ahead and make sure you’re 100% you will be able to find water.
Tips on How to Manage Your Water
I’m not suggesting you ration water, you should always drink more than enough. But, there are ways you can manage your water so it lasts longer and a few tips to keep you hydrated.
Firstly, you should get into the habit of sipping from your hydration bladder, not gulping at longer intervals. Your body can only absorb so much water at one time, and sipping at regular intervals is the most effective way to keep absorbing water.
You will notice you don’t need to stop for a toilet break as often by sipping water too. I don’t mention this just for convenience, it’s also proof that you are absorbing more water into your body and not just passing it through.
You should always drink water before you’re thirsty too. This won’t be a problem if you’re taking sips, but it’s still a common mistake a lot of hikers make. There’s no excuse either when you’re using a hydration bladder. One of the best features of a hydration bladder is having a tube that makes it easy to sip without stopping as you would a bottle.
That covers all the tips and tricks I can think of, and hopefully answers any questions around what size hydration bladder is best for you.
If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Just drop me a comment or contact me, thanks.