best hydration pack for mountain biking

Best Hydration Pack for Mountain Biking

by Joseph Wells - Last Updated: December 17, 2018

So you got a new bike, and you head out to ride it. You spend about a half hour and you are now thirsty. Forgot hydration right?

Where I live in the desert, hydration is beyond important, it can be life and death.  For mountain biking the Camelbak MULE is by far the best choice for all of your rides. This backpack hydration system is the most imitated model out there.

 

The Camelbak MULE wrote the book and still continues to lead the pack in features, storage and fluid capacity.  Many riders choose this pack because they can easily haul spare tubes, pumps, food and everything they need for their rides, PLUS 100 ounces of fluid. Few pack systems carry this much fluid.

The other cool aspect of the Camelbak is the choices available. There are many color combinations and accessories for this pack.  You aren’t stuck with one or two colors from 3 years ago.

Top Pick: Camelbak MULE

For years, bike hydration amounted to several water bottles and aluminum water bottle cages mounted on your bike.  On touring bikes, you may see 4 cage mounts and other provisions for hydration. But with the advent of full suspension on mountain bikes, keeping water or your favorite drink on the bike itself proved difficult.

With this, Camelback and imitators became the go-to products for mountain bikers. At first, there was a limited amount of fluids. But with better manufacturing techniques and engineering, the bladder systems work excellent and hold more than ever before.

The Camelback MULE is a great choice and our top pick for on the bike hydration.  It has the optimum amount of storage paired with a 100-ounce bladder.  In many packs, you give up storage for fluid capacity.

The MULE also includes comfortable easy to adjust shoulder straps and a belt to help stabilize the load.  The drink tube is insulated and includes a dust cap so you aren’t putting a dirt-laden valve in your mouth.

Best High End Pack: Osprey Packs Manta AG 36

It is hard to beat Camebak at their own game, but check out Osprey Packs Manta AG 36.  This smart looking bag is packed with features, pardon the pun.

Osprey set out to add great value in their own way.  It features a rain cover, great storage compartments and several cycling related features.  The great colors are also appealing.

One of the first features for cycling is an integrated helmet loop.  After commuting or some other ride, and you are moving around with your stuff, putting your helmet on your pack is a smart choice. It also helps keep your gear together.

The Osprey also includes a special area to attach rear lights.  Not only for hiking but increasingly for safety conscious riders, attaching a light in a smart area like your pack grabs attention due to the height and location.  You can never be too safe on the roads and trails anymore.

The other cool feature is on the belt. There is integrated storage compartments. These can be used for food or other goodies and are easily accessible while riding.

Affordable Packs: Teton Sports Oasis 1100 pack

One of the problems with the market for hydration packs is there are so many companies or even just names on packs. How do you find something good, and you can trust?  Trying to stick with name brands is important.

Check out the Teton Sports Oasis 1100 pack. This company sells directly and offers incredible customer service, direct from the makers. That says a lot.

It features a large bladder that is BPA free.  Be careful with knock-off brands as you might get a bladder made with dangerous chemicals.

This pack also has large pockets, insulation in the right places and is sturdy.  Lesser packs may have weak zippers or poorly designed shoulder straps.

Best Alternative: Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Running Belt

Some people dislike backpacks. They can’t move freely, or the weight bothers their shoulders.  There are alternatives that bring certain benefits that a backpack style can hold up to.

One of the big issues is accessibility.  Most backpacks are not all that accessible while on the move. The Osprey pack had side pouches on the hip belt, but that is not all that normal.

The Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Running Belt could be an answer for you.  Nathan makes a variety of belts with different configurations for easy access.

These belts are pretty awesome with two flasks and a center pocket as a minimum. Other belts offer different choices and sizes.  The flasks are reasonable in size for most basic hydration.

Another cool way to go is what’s called a hydration shirt. This differs from a backpack in that the support is from a full shirt, rather than just straps.

Check out the Camelbak Hydration shirt. These come in both men’s and ladies versions. They are also white in color to help reflect heat during the summer.  A potential plus is the bladder is close to the skin, so if it is kept cool with ice, it can help lower core body temperature.

Features and Accessories

Mold and contaminants are the biggest issues with any hydration solution. If not maintained well, mold easily grows and will certainly make you sick or in the bare minimum make your water taste funny.  But there is no use for any of this if you use a few smart products.

First is to get a hydration cleaning kit.  These feature several brushes and an internal structure that holds the bladder open for proper drying.  Getting the moisture out is such a good idea, and perhaps hanging the bladder in the sun can utilize UV sunlight to kill the bad stuff.

Another must is cleaning tablets.  While soap can do quite a bit, residues can be left behind tainting the bladder. Nobody wants to taste soap while out riding.

Look for a cleaning tab like the Camelbak Reservoir Cleaning Tablets.  These tablets dissolve in a small amount of water in your bladder. Usually, you want to rinse the bladder, then add some fresh water and a tablet.  Slosh it around some, and drain liquid through the hose as well. That should help clean all of the areas inside the bladder and hose.

Here is one last tip. Never put a drink mix into your Camelbak bladder. Normally the taste will stay in the bladder for months. So, grab a separate water bottle like a Camelbak Chill and bring your favorite electrolyte with you, separately.

Conclusion

Hydration while exercising is the most important thing to consider.  As we become dehydrated, our performance suffers, brain function deteriorates, and we run the danger of injuring ourselves or perhaps worse. In desert areas, thousands of people per year are admitted to hospitals with heat stroke and other dehydration complications.

During hot weather, it should be simple to grab your Camelbak MULE fill it with some water and ice and have an enjoyable ride.  The insulation can keep your water cool for hours, and having a cool drink is awesome at the top of the hard hill on your ride.

If backpacks are not your thing, check out Nathan hydration belts as an alternative. These belts can supply need food and water for your next ride.

Any way you cut it, there is some way to keep hydrated during extreme heat conditions. There are hundreds of choices on the market, and these are some of the best on the market.

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