I know, I know. After a fun yet grueling day out hiking or biking, the last thing you’d probably want to do when you get home is clean out your hydration pack. I, for one, would rather jump in the shower first, have a shower beer or two (if you’ve never had a shower beer, you haven’t lived, friend) and take a nice, long nap. Full disclosure, at times, I put off cleaning my hydration pack and just let the poor, neglected thing sit in the sink for a couple of days after a hike. Just this weekend after a ride, it sat on the kitchen floor for a full 48 hours before I decided to deal with it. Disgusting, yes, and no, I’m not proud of it.
Neglecting your gear though, always has a way of coming full circle and biting you in the ass. Letting your hydration pack sit for a few days after use increases the likelihood of bacteria build up, so it’s actually best practice to clean it immediately especially if you fill it with liquids other than good ‘ole H2O. So unless you plan to cultivate bizarre organisms in your hydration pack, you need to take care of that thing ASAP.
With that said, here is our ridiculously easy Hydration Bladder Gear Hack
The easiest way to keep ebola or mad cow disease from festering in your bladder? Simply throw it in the fridge for the time being. I keep mine in the crisper, and it has yet to fail me. This is the best thing to do when you can’t clean it immediately after use.
I’m no scientist, but from what I gather about bacteria, they don’t generally thrive in cold places. They tend to prefer warmer, darker places like your mud room gear rack or your garage. It’s a quick, easy fix if you wish to have everything in order as soon as possible after having some outdoor fun.
If you have neglected your bladder and need to give it a thorough scrub however, follow these easy-peasy steps to keep it as clean as possible:
In a separate container, prepare a cleaning solution by diluting some bleach (or baking soda) in hot water. For every liter of hot water, use two tablespoons of bleach (I prepare this in a separate container as doing so in the reservoir will leave an unpleasant chemical aftertaste.) Once fully diluted, add the solution to the reservoir.
Get the solution into the bag and hose. To let the bleach and water mixture flow through the tube, hoist the reservoir above your head and press the bite valve. Then, let this soak for about 30 minutes to an hour.
If you are not a fan of bleach or baking soda, there are other alternatives you might consider using. Some friends of mine swear that Efferdent (yep, the one old folks use to clean their dentures) does a great job, and at just over $7 for 120 tabs, a cheaper alternative. Proceed with caution in using Efferdent, however, as the FDA has issued previous warnings about it causing allergic reactions. If you’d like to purchase and try out Efferdent, it can be purchased cheapest at Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000GGKQ16/
Outdoor gear manufacturer Camelbak also sells 8 doses of slow-release cleaning tablets at $12.00. Pricey, yes, but I am not one to suggest scrimping when it comes to gear care, especially when a product has been proven to work really well. Those can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0055PLBM6/
After draining your hydration pack of the bleach and water solution, you can now wash it using a mild dishwashing liquid or castile soap and hot water. Make sure to scrub away any signs of grime and mold, and rinse away all traces of the bleach solution. Here are additional tips for scrubbing and rinsing out your hydration pack:
1. The higher end bladders have an antimicrobial coating embedded in it, and using a green scrubber pad can reactivate it to prevent mold and unpleasant smells.
2. If you’ve filled your hydration pack with sports drinks, try rinsing it out with a mixture of hot water and lemon juice. This mixture is great at breaking down any type of residue and is easier to rinse out than soap or dishwashing liquid. Also, avoid filling your pack with sugary sports drinks as sugar particles left in the reservoir is a cause of molds.
3. If you plan to get your drink on during your time outdoors, I strongly suggest you get a separate hydration pack for your alcoholic beverages. The smell and aftertaste of alcohol is very hard to remove, even with max effort.
At $21, Camelbak’s Cleaning Kit (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E9DKXS) is a solid investment for taking care of your hydration pack. The hose cleaner and the brushes in the kit do an awesome job in cleaning the pack’s reservoir and tube. However, if you choose to jam econo, you can utilize a more punk rock approach by attaching a stiff wire to a q-tip to clean out the tube and remove the gunk from the bite valve. An ordinary dishwashing brush will also do in cleaning all the areas of the reservoir’s insides. While we haven’t specifically tested these brands out, there are also some economy versions of reservoir cleaning kits, such as the Tagvo Cleaning Kit ,which is available right now for $9.99 and the Michael Josh Hydration Water Bladder Cleaning Kit which goes for only $8.99.
Finally, remember to detach the gasket from the hydration pack and clean it along with the threads.
Once everything has been scrubbed and rinsed out properly, the last step is to air dry the reservoir and the rest of the hydration pack. It is very important that there is no trace of moisture left inside as this can cause mold to thrive. Camelbak’s cleaning kit has a special plastic hanger that you can use to hang the bag with the interior spread out so that it dries properly. Again, you can easily DIY this implement by modifying an ordinary clothes hanger you can find around the house.
If you really want to go all out in taking care of your hydration pack, you can get a specialized electric dryer from Amazon (costs about $34 bucks). While it may be a bit too excessive and expensive for my taste, I can’t deny its awesomeness.
Easy as apple pie, right? Following these steps will ensure that your hydration pack stays fresh, clean, and always serviceable whenever you need it. Do not, however, forget the most important take-away from this blog post: Don’t be lazy and throw that bad boy in the fridge, and make sure to keep it clean after every use! Thanks for reading, share and have fun out there!