I've not used a hydration bladder for about three years, and there are many reasons why.
#1 – Electrolytes
Any experienced hiker will be using electrolytes if they are on a multi-day / long-distance trail hike or even a challenging day hike. It is just not practical to add electrolytes to a hydration bladder. Ideally, if you are carrying a hydration bladder then I would recommend only using this for plain water, and perhaps have a separate bottle or soft flask to carry your flavoured water with the electrolyte tablets.
Note: I like the Nectar Hydro electrolytes from Decathlon. They are not fizzy and just taste like lemon/lime water.
#2 – You can't see how much water you have left easily
There is one thing that I find very frustrating with a hydration bladder and that is the constant guessing game of how much water you have left. At least with a bottle that is close at hand you know when you are running low of water and can deal with the situation before it becomes a problem. \
#3 – It's a pain to fill up
To fill up your hydration bladder with water, you will need to take everything out of your backpack, remove the bladder, fill it up, and then repack your backpack. Time is miles, so for me, I prefer the grab and go style of a water bottle.
#4 – The water is always warm
I like a nice cold drink of water to quench my thirst, not lukewarm water that you tend to have with a hydration bladder. A smaller bottle will be replenished via cold streams on a more regular basis using a water filter system, which is much nicer than warm water that has been sloshing around in your backpack all day.
#5 – The water always tastes funny
When I drink from a hydration bladder, there is always a rubbery taste to the water. I can't explain it very well, but it has always put me off taking a bladder on any type of hike as I simply don't enjoy the taste.
#6 – Hydration bladders are a pain to clean
Hydration bladders do tend to need cleaning much more than regular water bottles (in fact, when my bottles get a bit smeggy, I end up just purchasing a new one). Cleaning them takes time and even with the special hose brushes and special bladder cleaning equipment you can never get them 100%.
#7 – Hydration bladders and soft flasks go mouldy quickly!
I often see little black dots of mould in my hydration bladder, soft flasks and also my Camelbak water bottle valve. I have been known to spend hours trying to get every little bit of dirt and grit out. If I was on a long thru-hike, or a long-distance trail then the last thing I would want to do is worry about drinking from a bottle that was growing mould inside. For me, it is just easier to buy a cheap Smart Water Bottle, or Gatorade from my local supermarket and swap them out as and when they become manky.
#8 – The Tubes and Valves Can Freeze in the winter
If the tubes and valves become frozen on your water bladder then you could be in serious trouble. I once slept with a soft flask inside my sleeping bag and it leaked, and I really wouldn't want a hydration bladder to do the same thing. I do put my little water bottle and also my water filter into a dry bag, which then goes into my sleeping quilt foot box which stops it from freezing.
#9 – Hydration bladders are heavy
I am now confident enough to only walk with 500ml of water in my shoulder pocket, and 1ltr of water in my Katadyn Water Filter bag. In the UK, it is unlikely that I will rarely not have a place to fill up with water. From cattle troughs to running streams to even knocking on someone's door. I have no need to carry more than 2litres of water a day, therefore a bladder is not really suitable for my needs.
I weighed all three water bladders in the video, and they ranged from 642g to 841g all with 500ml. My Gatorade bottle weighed just 542g when full. Every ounce counts when you are on a long-distance hike.
#10 – I just prefer the simplicity of a bottle
Not all backpacks have a compartment for a hydration bladder, nor do they all have holes in the right place for the tubes. My Osprey tube feeds down onto my left shoulder, but I prefer to have my umbrella and a shoulder pouch for snacks on that shoulder, and a tube just gets in the way. I completely appreciate that you simply turn your head, take a sip and you are good to go, but like to take a good swig of water to quench my thirst, not bite on a value and then suck (oh, er!).
This is purely my opinion and I know many of my hiking buddies swear by bladders and Camelbak's, they just aren't for me.
What do you prefer? Are you a bottle person or a bladder person? I would especially love to hear the reasons why people would prefer a bladder to a bottle. Please comment below.