Hydration systems are meant to provide us with a convenient way to stay hydrated on the trail. Whether it’s forgoing the hassle of taking off your pack to access a water bottle or being able to constantly sip water on a hot summer day without much effort, hydration packs with bladders seem to have made catching a drink during an activity as convenient as can be…or have they?
Traditional hydration systems typically have simple bladders users can fill with the liquid of their choice, then consume using a tube with a bite valve and a variety of nozzles. Isn’t just having a mouthpiece and taking a drink convenient enough? It might be, unless you’re looking to share water with friends, spray sunscreen out of your eyes, even irrigate wounds using your hydration system. Pressurizing your hydration bladder can make the following noninclusive list of things a whole lot easier:
- Sharing water from the same bladder without multiple users touching the mouthpiece
- Providing water to furry hiking companions, slobber-free
- Spraying sweaty off faces, dirt off hand, and cleaning stinky feet, muddy shoes, dirt-caked mountain bikes, or dirt-caked anything, really
- Irrigating open wounds, something that’s essential in backcountry first aid, without the use of a syringe
- Drinking without stopping your activity
For those of us who’ve attempted to use our hydration bladders to complete any of the tasks in the list above, they’d all have been much easier to do if we had a pressurized system. In this post, we’ll explore some of the ways to pressurize hydration bladders along with the pro’s and con’s of each.
Method 1: Put pressure on the bladder
Whether you remove the bladder from your pack and squeeze it, put an elastic band around it, or simply lean up against a tree/rock/car/other person, this method will definitely get the water to come out.
Pros: It’s pretty self explanatory. If you’re leaning up against something, it won’t take long to create the pressure you need. You don’t have to rely on another person to hold the bladder for you, though it does help if you’re taking the bladder out of your pack to squeeze it. Multiple users can drink from the same pack without sharing the mouthpiece. It’ll work with any bladder.
Cons: You risk serious damage to the bladder itself, as most bladders aren’t designed to take extreme amounts of pressure. If you create a leak in the bladder with this method, you risk losing all of your water. As with the elevation method, you’ll have to stop your activity to use this method, and you’ll lose pressurization when you stop squeezing the bladder. You’ll also be putting pressure on anything else (peanut butter sandwich, phone, fruit, etc.) you have in your pack, unless you remove the bladder.
Method 2: Elevate the bladder
One of the most obvious ways to get water to come out of your hydration bladder is to use gravity. By holding the bladder itself above the hose and bite valve, Sir Isaac Newton’s favorite physical law will take effect and when the bite valve is squeezed, water’s got nowhere to go but down and out of the bladder.
Pros: This method is about as simple as it gets. Unless you’re on the Moon, it will always work. You don’t need any specialized equipment or a specialized bladder. You won’t risk damage to the bladder. Multiple users can drink from the same pack without sharing the mouthpiece. You can pretend it’s your shower at home if you can get it stationed above your head. It provides a sustained stream of water, at least until your arms get tired.
Cons: If you’re in the middle of an activity, you’ll have to stop to use this method. If you have a long hose and short arms, this is a challenge unless you’ve got a friend to hold the bladder up for you. As far as convenience goes, this method is…definitely not. You’ll also lose pressure as soon as you drop the bladder below the hose and valve.
Method 3: The “blowback” method
Also self-explanatory, this method involves taking the bite valve in your mouth and exhaling all available air in your lungs into the hydration bladder. The extra air in the bladder will help push the water out.
Pros: This method is simple. Anyone with two working lungs can use it. You don’t need any help, and once the system is pressurized, multiple users can drink from the same pack without sharing the mouthpiece. This also works with any bladder.
Cons: It’s a little gross when you think about it, especially if you’re sharing the bladder with someone else. Any bacteria that was in your mouth will end up contaminating the entire bladder’s water supply. If that isn’t enough to convince you this method isn’t ideal, you’ll also experience a decrease in pressure as the water comes out. There are other issues, but I can’t get past the backwash part.
Method 4: Geigerrig’s pressurization method
All Geigerrig hydration packs come with a patented two-comparment bladder that can be pressurized using an attached tube with a bulb at the end. Fill one compartment with the liquid of your choice, including non-water liquids, seal it up, and squeeze the bulb 15-20 times to push air into the second compartment. The pressure on the water-filled compartment from the air-filled compartment pushes the water out through a second tube when the bite valve is pinched.
Pros: The system itself, provided you connect the right tubes to the right openings, is a piece of cake to use. Pumping the system up does take a little and effort, but once it’s pressurized, the pressure will be constant as long as there is air in the bladder. The bladder is designed to take quite a bit of pressure, meaning it’s quite challenging to over-pump it. You don’t have to worry about backwash, and you can pump the bladder up anytime, anywhere.
Cons: The bladders come with two tubes, which can be a lot to manage when you’re out on the trail. After wearing my Rig 500 around, I noticed the bulb easily detaches from the tube, which doesn’t affect the pressurization, but does get annoying. The presence of the bulb itself can make the system feel bulkier. All of the added air takes up valuable pack space, but at least it doesn’t weigh anything.
Have you used these methods to pressurize your hydration system? What other methods have you used that weren’t mentioned here? Do any of them appeal to you over the others? Leave a comment and help us get a discussion going!