Hydration units were a major leap forward in hiking technology. Forget heavy, bulky water bottles. Forget drinking out of streams and hoping you don’t get some deadly illness. Technology once again has made life better. But also once again, technology has created some new problems that we have to address.
Specifically, the problem I’m talking about is making sure you don’t end up with a new ecosystem growing inside your hydration pack. Mold, mildew, and bacteria love wet, warm, dark places. After use, your hydration pack is an ideal place for nasty stuff to start growing. This can completely ruin it, which is obviously something you want to avoid!
I want to share with you how to clean your hydration pack, plus explain the top three cleaning mistakes that people make and how to avoid them!
How To Clean Your Hydration Pack
Here are the basic steps to get your hydration pack squeaky clean:
- Rinse thoroughly
- Fill your pack with hot water and your choice of cleaner (review the manufacturer’s recommendations)
- Let soak for 30 minutes
- Drain, scrub and rinse
- Air dry until there is no moisture left
There are a bunch of different cleaners out there that you can use. Some hydration pack companies even make little soap pods that are specifically designed for this purpose. Some people recommend unscented household bleach or dish soap. However, this wouldn’t be my first choice since it can be hard to get that bleach or soap flavor fully rinsed out. I like using lemon juice (¼ cup of lemon juice per liter of water) and/or baking soda (be careful combining them though; it creates a fizzy mixture!).
Make sure that while you’re cleaning, you open the bite valve and allow the tube to fill and be rinsed.
Now, for the three mistakes you want to avoid!
#1 – Waiting
The #1 mistake that people make when it comes to hydration packs is not cleaning it out immediately after use. When you get back from a hike, you are probably tired, hungry, and ready for a shower. The last thing you want to do is take the time necessary to clean out your hydration pack.
However, waiting is just what the mold and mildew want you to do!
As soon as you get back, empty and rinse out your pack. If you have absolutely no time and can’t clean your pack, or if you know you’ll be using it again really soon, one neat little trick is to just throw it in the freezer! The same way the freezer keeps food edible for long periods of time, it will do the same thing for your hydration pack. The freezing air stops bacteria growth, keeping your hydration pack ready to go.
#2 – Not Soaking
Another mistake people make is forgetting to soak the hydration pack. This step might not be as important if you’re just filling the hydration pack with water; however, if you’re drinking anything other than water, it’s vital to soak your pack.
Soaking breaks down any residue from the liquid that was in the pack. You don’t need any additional reasons for mold to grow! It also helps remove any lingering flavors.
#3 – Not Drying Enough
Putting away your hydration pack wet is a bad idea. Even if you have cleaned it spotless, bacteria and mold will still find a way. Your pack should be completely bone dry prior to storing it. Dry it out thoroughly with paper towels, and then allow it to air dry.
Make sure that the bladder is not flattened so that air can flow freely into the interior. You can do this by putting a few balled up, dry paper towels inside. I’ll often prop it up on a spatula handle, not exactly professional, but it gets the job done! Getting the drinking tube completely dry can be a bit of a challenge. You can prop open the bite valve with a toothpick to make sure air is flowing.
With these tips, you’ll be able to keep your hydration pack clean and in great condition for many hikes to come!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.