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How to Find the Right Hydration Pack
A pack-based hydration system is a backpack containing a soft, removable water reservoir, or “bladder,” that has tubing and a bite valve that enable easy, hands-free, and continuous access to water. (We say water because nothing but water should be used in the reservoirs. More about this later.) The water reservoir lies in the back of the pack, in a dedicated pocket. In most cases, it is a long, somewhat flat bag that runs vertically down the length of your back. The drinking tube is attached to the bottom of the reservoir, providing pressure for easier drinking. The tube emerges through an opening at the top of the bladder pocket and runs through loops along the shoulder strap. The bite valve at the end is held in place in front of the chest by a clip or (much more cool!) a magnet.
Another advantage to backpack systems lies in how they carry the load. A long hike in warm weather can easily require 3 liters, or 6.6 pounds, of water. Jamming one-liter water bottles into a daypack can make for an awkward, poorly balanced load, and even if you have side pockets for bottles, they can be hard to reach. But a soft-walled 3-liter reservoir that fits close to your back puts that load in the most comfortable position.
If you think a hydration backpack is for you, this list will help you pick the best for your needs!