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Hydration pack pros and cons

Old 06-12-18, 02:14 AM
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taz777
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Hydration pack pros and cons

I've just bought my first hydration pack as I figured it would help me get out further afield in terms of my cycling and allow me to explore more. Currently my longest ride is 1.5 hours and a water bottle is just about sufficient. I want to ride for longer and carry food, tools, etc., with me, so I learned a little about hydration packs. I found one that seemed to be small enough to be comfortable to wear, yet large enough to support rides of longer than two hours. The one I've bought is an Osprey Raptor 10.

So for those who use a hydration pack, what pros and cons have you found and any useful tips would be great!
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Old 06-12-18, 03:50 AM
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Always used one when riding my mountain bike never on the road and that was years ago. The only negative thing I can remember is the cleaning of the bladder. I kept mine in the freezer between rides, that really worked for me at keeping the mold and mildew away. The first drink was always warm due to the water in the hose being warmed by my body, the second one cool and refreshing.
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Old 06-12-18, 04:19 AM
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Originally Posted by taz777 View Post
I've just bought my first hydration pack as I figured it would help me get out further afield in terms of my cycling and allow me to explore more. Currently my longest ride is 1.5 hours and a water bottle is just about sufficient. I want to ride for longer and carry food, tools, etc., with me, so I learned a little about hydration packs. I found one that seemed to be small enough to be comfortable to wear, yet large enough to support rides of longer than two hours. The one I've bought is an Osprey Raptor 10.

So for those who use a hydration pack, what pros and cons have you found and any useful tips would be great!
Inhibits air flow, and therefor evapotative cooling.
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Old 06-12-18, 04:39 AM
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Originally Posted by HobieKen View Post
Always used one when riding my mountain bike never on the road and that was years ago. The only negative thing I can remember is the cleaning of the bladder. I kept mine in the freezer between rides, that really worked for me at keeping the mold and mildew away. The first drink was always warm due to the water in the hose being warmed by my body, the second one cool and refreshing.
Good to know about the freezer trick.
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Old 06-12-18, 04:42 AM
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Great for running mountain trails in an arid climate. Otherwise they restrict air flow and evaporative cooling as mentioned. If you are one of those who don’t sweat it may work. Otherwise I have two bottle cages on the bike and not difficult to reach down and have a drink.
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Old 06-12-18, 05:17 AM
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Originally Posted by FlMTNdude View Post
Great for running mountain trails in an arid climate. Otherwise they restrict air flow and evaporative cooling as mentioned. If you are one of those who don’t sweat it may work. Otherwise I have two bottle cages on the bike and not difficult to reach down and have a drink.
I have a small frame on my MTB and the standard position of the cage mounts means that only a small bottle will fit (550ml or less). This isn't enough water on hot days or for rides over an hour. I may also look at more creative ways of carrying enough water as I do have several water bottles at home.

I've ridden with a small backpack a few times (a Deuter one) and it wasn't too bad, but then it didn't have any water in it.
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Old 06-12-18, 05:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Abu Mahendra View Post
Inhibits air flow, and therefor evapotative cooling.
Indeed. This is something I'll have to watch and work out whether the convenience of hydration outweighs a sweaty back!
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Old 06-12-18, 05:54 AM
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I use one on long gravel rides where 2 bottles won't cut it and there's limited opportunity to refill. For road rides I just use bottles, if it's really hot i might take a 3rd bottle in my jersey pocket.

Never found the "evaporative cooling” to be a problem. I'm skeptical that's actually a thing. Ymmv.
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Old 06-12-18, 06:14 AM
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
...

Never found the "evaporative cooling” to be a problem. I'm skeptical that's actually a thing. Ymmv.
evaporation--the transition of a liquid to a vapor--is a cooling process. Basic physics, basic thermodynamics. Evaporation is aided by airflow over the surface (of your back), and obstructed by the hydration pack. Again, basic physics and fluid dynamics. YMMV? Only if you and I live in a different worlds with different physics.
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Old 06-12-18, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by taz777 View Post
Indeed. This is something I'll have to watch and work out whether the convenience of hydration outweighs a sweaty back!
you could look to a hydration hip-belt bag.
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Old 06-12-18, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
Never found the "evaporative cooling” to be a problem. I'm skeptical that's actually a thing. Ymmv.
Ride in bright sun, and high humidity, it's defininitely a thing. I can tell there's more air moving the sweat out of the channel between my shoulder blades w/out the pack on.
It's no deal-breaker, but it is noticeable.
I think the bigger issue is weight, and distribution. I use a Camelbak (can't remember the model) that's intended for running / multi-sport, so it's not much more than a holder for the bladder. One small pocket, can hold a Clif bar, multi-tool and car keys. I wear it as high as I can, so the weight is on my shoulders, instead of my 'tail'

My beef with most of the 'backpack' is that the cargo pockets are at the bottom, and on top of the bladder, so they stick out too. If you're comfortable with it, go with it.

I usually use mine on unsupported road rides more than 30 miles (if I don't think I will be able to find water, and on MTB trail rides, where i'd rather wear the weight of the water, then rack it on the bike
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Old 06-12-18, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by taz777 View Post
Indeed. This is something I'll have to watch and work out whether the convenience of hydration outweighs a sweaty back!
That may have been true with first or second generation Camelbak and the hydration packs. Modern packs are better designed. It's not that much of a problem anymore and the benefits far outweigh a sweaty back.

Hydration packs can be packed with ice which makes them into your own personal cooler. Because they are insulated much better than any bottle and because they have a greater capacity, they will keep cold for several hours even in highly humid environments. As an added benefit, water condensing on the bag will drip through and cool that sweaty back. I've carried one throughout the southern, eastern, northern and western US. Drinking ice water on a hot day...whether dry or humid...is far better than drinking tepid water from a bottle.

Originally Posted by FlMTNdude View Post
Great for running mountain trails in an arid climate. Otherwise they restrict air flow and evaporative cooling as mentioned. If you are one of those who don’t sweat it may work. Otherwise I have two bottle cages on the bike and not difficult to reach down and have a drink.
Don't assume that it's easy for everyone. taz777 has already addressed the limit of water bottle for small frames in terms of size but hasn't addressed the issue of getting even a regular sized bottle out of that small a frame. It is trickier to get a bottle out of the cage when your frame is very small. The bottle just barely fits and requires more maneuvering of the bottle to clear the frame. That's time spent not looking at where you are going.

Hydration packs are simple to use and require a lot less hassle. Mountain bikers discovered that long ago which is why they embraced them. On a trail where you are bouncing around, grabbing a tube that is at your shoulder is a whole lot easier the looking down at a cage. You don't run into trees as often. You also have to put it back.
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Old 06-12-18, 08:07 AM
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It just depends on personal preference for hydration. If I am going for one hour or less I will just bring a water bottle for my cage. If I plan on riding all day then I bring the pack and the bottle. Always bring more than you think you will need because dehydration really sucks on a bike. I really prefer riding with nothing but having a pack that you can keep a spare tube, tools and snacks gives you a better piece of mind. If my wife is riding with me I pack all her spare gear in my pack as well. I ride a 29er and she rides a 650b so extra tubes and misc parts for both bikes. Just find what works for you and get out there and ride!!!!
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Old 06-12-18, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Abu Mahendra View Post
you could look to a hydration hip-belt bag.
This is an excellent option if you don't want the weight and material on your back. You can go the hip bladder route with Camelback, or the hip bottle route with UD, Natham, et al. Plus the ones I use have a little spare room for snacks, sunscreen, ID,

The problem with bladders and mouthpieces is the cleaning, and that likely means you avoid powders and performance liquids. They are also all or nothing, unlike bottle where you can alternate a juiced up bottle and a clean water bottle.

Last edited by FrenchFit; 06-12-18 at 08:20 AM.
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Old 06-12-18, 08:23 AM
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Pros:
- extend cycling range before you need to stop to resupply
- great place for storing stuff (vest/jacket/arm/leg warmers, extra food, etc.)

Cons:
- more difficult to clean, though if you clean and dry it immediately (swing tube 'round to get moisture out, put a couple of paper towels in the bladder to wick out residual moisture) it's not really that big a deal
- swings around when out of saddle, though the new harnesses make this much less an issue than it was with the original Camelback with the thin web straps
- as someone noted above, I've not noticed that I get significantly hotter with a hydration pack on my back, there's not that much airflow over my back when riding, and the screening from the sun provided by the pack seems to compensate adequately for any loss in evaporative cooling - its possible that it does interfere with cooling and my body compensates by sweating more elsewhere, but as I said I haven't really noticed
- fewer excuses to stop, rest, socialize, get ice cream/donuts/???

-----------
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Old 06-12-18, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by FrenchFit View Post
The problem with bladders and mouthpieces is the cleaning, and that likely means you avoid powders and performance liquids. They are also all or nothing, unlike bottle where you can alternate a juiced up bottle and a clean water bottle.
That pretty much goes without saying. Don't use sugar in a hydration pack. For that I carry water bottles filled with "performance" liquids of choice


2015-05-03 11.38.54 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

I will say that they get pretty skeezy after carrying them on a bike for a while. On a tour, I've thrown them away after about 2 weeks. At home, I wash them in a dishwasher after every use but that can't be done while touring.


Originally Posted by noimagination View Post
- more difficult to clean, though if you clean and dry it immediately (swing tube 'round to get moisture out, put a couple of paper towels in the bladder to wick out residual moisture) it's not really that big a deal
Everyone makes a big deal out of this. Frankly I haven't had a problem. My hydration pack bladders have water in them all the time. I use them all year long and very seldom dry or even clean them. Water doesn't carry much in the way of organisms, especially if it is municipal water. I just fill them with water when they are empty and empty them while riding. I also make sure I don't put anything with sugar in them.
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Old 06-12-18, 09:45 AM
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2015-05-03 11.38.54 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Nice bike. I have a '95 T700, though I use it for commuting (when not lazy), and not touring.
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Old 06-12-18, 10:39 AM
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Roadies are knee-jerk anti-hydration pack as a rule but they're useful! Especially if there are no known clean water sources on your route (like a few of the mountain roads near me). Also if the water out of water fountains tastes nasty, which it does in Los Angeles.

That's a nice one too - osprey make great hydration packs. And you can put snacks and multi-tools in there instead of your jersey pocket, which is another plus.

I did get a plastic drying rack doohickey for mine - after use, it basically spreads the interior of the bladder so it doesn't stay wet.
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Old 06-12-18, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
Roadies are knee-jerk anti-hydration pack as a rule but they're useful!
I agree and I don't understand why. It's a product that was made by roadies for roadies for a roadie event.
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Old 06-12-18, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
And you can put snacks and multi-tools in there instead of your jersey pocket, which is another plus.
Putting things I need in the bag, in addition to the large volume of water particularly appeals to me. I found out the hard way recently, in very hot weather, that water and energy were very, very important when cycling for more than an hour. I've learned to make my own energy bars now so plan to take a few with me on every ride to avoid going hypoglycaemic.

I also travel a lot and the backpack could come in useful on some trips.
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Old 06-12-18, 12:39 PM
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Pros:
Extends my range since I can travel further with more water.
Travels on my back, out of the way.
It has a pocket in which I can put snacks like a banana, Clif bars, and small bags of Gatorade powder for my water bottles. The ice water in the bladder keeps snacks cool.
Wide mouth on it making it easy to fill.
Easy to unclip the tube from one of two plastic D-rings and drink while moving.
Mouthpiece requires biting down in order to open, so no leakage if you lose control of the tube.
Pack has some reflective strips on it for added visibility at night.

Cons:
Can be a bit heavy at the beginning of a ride.
Often makes my back sweaty.
The pack isn't heavily insulated so water doesn't stay cold for long, even when filled with ice water. When drinking, have to suck on the tube for a bit for the water to turn cold.
While the tube is easy to unclip, sometimes hard to clip back onto the D-ring.
Is designed to only hold water, nothing else, due to difficulty in cleaning.
After use, have to hang it on 1/2 a clothes hanger for several days for it to dry completely so mold doesn't form in it.

But even with these cons, they're all minor to me and far outweighed by the advantage of having extra water when I need it. I tend to sweat a lot, and this hydration pack has been a literal lifesaver with 2 liters of extra water on long, hot summer rides in rural areas with absolutely no place to get water.
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Old 06-12-18, 01:19 PM
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As a Roadie the biggest con for me is my Camelbak acts like a sail and creates a noticeable drag on flats and descents.

I will use it in temps above 90 degrees because it does encourage frequent sipping to prevent heat exhaustion.
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Old 06-12-18, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Milton Keynes View Post
After use, have to hang it on 1/2 a clothes hanger for several days for it to dry completely so mold doesn't form in it.
Wow, it takes several days to dry?

I found a cleaning kit on Amazon UK and one of the items in that kit was a kind of hanger frame to help with the drying, which I guess does a similar job to the clothes hanger that you use? It's this one here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01GPXBOVY/
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Old 06-12-18, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Jogged my memory of use in TdF. Looked up; SI.com : In the team time trial in the Tour de France on July 5, 2005, Bobby Julich and his Team CSC teammates used an iteration of CamelBak’s RaceVest. The low profile reservoir, which held about two water bottles-worth, was strapped to their backs. CSC won that stage, but, Galten says, “they outlawed it after that because basically it gave an aerodynamic advantage.
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Old 06-12-18, 08:57 PM
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One thing I haven't seen anybody mention is about fit: make sure you dial in the fit of the backpack properly or you may end up with discomfort and/or injury. It may not be noticeable on short rides, but the longer you go it may become more apparent (just like any other bikefit scenario). There was one time I was experiencing lower back pain which had never happened before in the middle of a century-ish distance ride, then I realized the Camelbak that I was using at the time was a little unbalanced (one strap was a little tighter than the other). After fixing it, the pain went away and I was able to complete my ride without discomfort.

However nowadays I don't use my Camelbak anymore as I find two water bottles are more than sufficient, plus where I ride there are plenty of opportunities to stop and refill, and its easier to access items in a back jersey pocket than from the Camelbak.
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