Hydration Hunting Backpacks – How Should You Choose One?

Those who hunt and like the outdoors won’t wait very long until they try backpack hunting. Backpack hunting is challenging, rewarding, and demanding, and it’s definitely for the fearful and shy. When you go backpack hunting, you’re ready to spend the night out and to go back on trail the next morning; you won’t stop until you get that final shot, right?

You would have to be at least an experienced hunter or an avid backpacker to try combine hunting and backpacking; we don’t recommend you try it if you’ve never hunt nor backpack for some years. If your mind is set, you don’t want to learn the hard way that backpack hunting is no walk in the park. Preparation, both mentally and physically, is essential.

When you go backpack hunting, you will have to carry your hunting gear and your essentials for camping/day trips. From ropes, lighter, camera to the flashlight, knife, or ammo, there are so many things that you need to stow in your hunting backpack. Even if you only go for a day hunt, you still want to be prepared.

How important is it to carry water when hunting?

Nothing ruins your hunt like being dehydrated or hungry. It does not spoil to have both water and some snacks when you go backpack hunting; it’s merely taking care of your essential needs to focus on your shooting.

You don’t need to be an experienced hunter or backpacker to know that a bottle of water won’t do much on a day hunt; it adds weight to your packs and doesn’t provide enough water the whole day. Outdoor gear has evolved a lot over the last years, and hydration packs are among the best inventions for outdoor enthusiasts.

When it comes to hunting, though, not all hydration packs will work; the same way, not all backpacks will work for hunting. Silent zippers, comfortable carry, quiet zippers, or rugged materials are features that make a backpack reliable for hunting, and they’re not that difficult to figure out. But what qualities should a hydration backpack have in order to work when hunting? Which features count most, where do you compromise? Keep reading if you have no idea how to select a hydration pack for your hunting.

Which features make a hydration backpack reliable for hunting?

A hydration backpack for hunting will have to resemble any regular pack for hunting. It’s important to be durable, reliable, comfortable, and so on. The most important aspects to consider when selecting are listed down below:

Which features make a hydration backpack reliable for hunting

Size, weight, and fit

You should decide if you will go with a day pack or a backpack. The daypack makes a dependable option for a day hunt, as it’s lighter and smaller and typically quieter than a pack. In the beginning, you may want to try backpack hunting so that a day pack will be a safe choice.

The more experienced you become, the more gear you will want to pack, and you will eventually want to spend the night. A day pack won’t cut it anymore, so you will need to look for a backpack.

As it’s still a pack, you want the hydration pack to fit your body shape and fit you perfectly; just because it’s a hydration pack doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be as comfortable as any other hunting backpack. You have to pay attention that the hydration pack fits you well around the chest or hip and fits your torso length. It would help if you had someone measuring your torso length (the distance between your small bump on the neck and the imaginary line between your hips). Knowing the torso length will help you identify the best hydration pack for your torso length. Also, keep in mind that you can find backpacks made explicitly for women, fitting the women’s body shape better than bags that aren’t made with female-specific features.

Your pack’s weight is also essential; go with lightweight for the shorter hunts; the longer the hunting trip, the heavier the pack will become, for you need to stow the extra gear and essentials.

Even if the water compartment counts, you don’t want to buy a hydration pack without providing features for a comfortable hunt. The hydration pack should still offer pockets for organizing your gear and enough storage for your items. A pack over 11 liters will work for day hunts; don’t use one over 20 liters because it will become too heavy at the end of the day. The pack’s material should be silent, and the pattern should be camo, as you still want to be as subtle as possible.

Always consider the length of your hunting trip when choosing the hydration pack’s size; at some point, you will have to refill it, so make sure you don’t end up with an empty hydration pack too soon. The longer the hunting trip, the bigger the hydration bladder should be; a bigger hydration bladder means more weight, so the pack should be very comfortable.

If you’re planning a long day hunt, you will need both comfortable carry and hydration. Should you sacrifice any? No, because they’re both essential. Look for a pack providing you good water volume; 3 liters will be enough for the entire day, whereas 1.5 liters will require you to refill the midday. You will have to check which gear you put in the pack to don’t end up with back pain in the evening.

The water reserve

The hydration packs are made with three components: the bag, the water bladder, and the hose. It doesn’t look like much, but many factors make the hydration packs differ from each other. Weight, bag size, and material are the most important to name.

The bladder

There are several aspects to remember as regards the bladder

  • The bladder should have a wide mouth if you want to clean it by hand or add solids such as ice.
  • The bladder capacity varies, so you have to choose according to the length of your hunting trips. Three liters is a good size if you want to spend more than one-day backpack hunting.

The hose

The hose is the tube going from the bladder through a particular slit inside the pack and back to the head, allowing hands-free drinking. Couple of notes to highlight too:

  • The bite valve should come with a twist/switch so that you don’t spill water
  • Some hoses feature insulating materials for cold weather; look for this kind of hydration pack for the cold season. Bear in mind that insulation will add weight and some bulkiness to the pack too.
  • A clip on the hose fixating to the chest or shoulder for effortless access will count a lot for comfortable use.
  • You need a flexible and skinny brush for cleaning the house.

Instead of a conclusion

Do your bits and bobs before you go backpack hunting; learn about the gear, the essentials, the tips, and ask your fellow hunters about the beauty and challenges of backpack hunting. If it doesn’t scare you off, start small with a 3-hour day hunt with your hydration pack on. When it comes to backpack hunting, learning to walk before running is essential for succeeding- taking that shot, that is.

Now that you have a hydration hunting backpack, how should you clean it?

It depends on the manufacturer, but most hydration backpacks are tricky to take care of and clean. When hunting, you want to have fresh water, so keeping the hydration pack clean is crucial. Please read our recommendations.

Now that you have a hydration hunting backpack, how should you clean it

Regular care

No matter if it’s the hunting backpack, hydration backpack, or your hiking pack, they all need proper care on a regular basis. You should brush your hydration backpack down, wipe it with a cloth or wash it in the washing machine—it all depends on how dirty it is. Always start with reading the care&use directions on the tag for proper washing.

Here are some general recommendations on how to care for the backpack before you go hunting, especially before your first hunt for the season:

  • Open all pockets and pouches and check out all zippers to see if they’re not broken
  • Examine the plastic elements and get replacements, if necessary
  • See if the backpack fits you
  • Take a look at the seams and see if there are any ruptures
  • Clean the inside and outside of the pack with a cloth and warm soapy water
  • Air-dry the backpack

Needless to say, you should do all of these things several days before you go hunting. Unlike the regular backpacks, where some dirt will mainly alter the looks of the packs, hydration backpacks need to stay clean for hygienic reasons. When hunting, the last thing you want is to get a bad taste in your mouth when drinking water and, even worse, get sick from it.

What’s the best way to deep clean a hydration bladder?

The frequency of washing the water bladder in your pack depends a lot on how often you use it and which water you use. When using regular water, your hydration bladder in the pack might not need a thorough cleaning, drying, or draining. Should you use flavored, sweetened, and isotonic drinks, you shouldn’t skip proper cleaning of the water bladder. Do it before extended storage as well.

Clean the reservoir

Start with disconnecting the drinking tube and removing the pack closure from the bladder. Use warm soapy water to wash the bladder and a soft brush to scrub, if necessary. Rinse it all well and hang the water bladder upside down. Please don’t use a hairdryer and let it air dry.

You can put some paper tissue or a non-sharp object inside the bladder to make sure the water bladder walls stay apart.

Clean the Drinking Tube

Connect the tube to the bladder, open/disconnect the valve and remove all water inside. Press water through the tube and roll up the reservoir top-down. Use lukewarm soapy water to rinse the tube. If you’ve been drinking sweet drinks, you should thoroughly clean the tube with a brush.

As for drying, you should hold the tube by the valve and swing it in a circle. Do it outside so that you don’t cause a mess inside.

Clean the Drinking Valve

You don’t need to disassemble and clean the valve if you only drink regular water. It’s enough to rinse it with some warm soapy water. However, if the valve got into the mud or something got it dirty, you should disassemble it and clean it. You can only do it with some models of hydration packs.

Some extra tips to keep your hydration backpack in good condition

There are several tips to follow for keeping your hydration backpack clean and hygienic for the longest time.

  • When you don’t have the manufacturer’s tool to keep airflow through the reservoir while drying, you can place a paper towel in the reservoir to obtain the same results.
  • Should you hurry and need to dry the reservoir as quickly as possible, you can blow compressed air through the tube.
  • You can use denture cleaning tablets if your budget is tight
  • Pour baking soda and several cups of water into the reservoir. Shake it and allow it to sit for an hour. Continue with rinsing and filling it with lemon juice and water. Shake and rinse a few times and let it air dry in the end. If you want the best results or if you’ve been using sweet drinks, let the baking soda sit overnight.
  • Make a solution out of a bit of bleach (1/2teaspoon) and a gallon of water. Use it to clean the reservoir and tube. Let it work for an hour and rinse it a few times before you put it to dry.
  • Pour a tablespoon of vinegar and water into the water bladder. Shake it well and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. When time’s up, drain the solution and dry the reservoir.
  • Place the hydration pack in the freezer—don’t worry about shortening the backpack’s durability. This trick reduces the risk for bacteria growth inside the pack.
  • Pour half a cup of water into the reservoir, heat it in the microwave until the water gets hot. You only need to wait until the water cools and throw it away.

How should you store your hydration backpack?

Once you know that your hydration hunting pack is clean and dry, you can store it until your next hunting trip. If it’s the end of the hunting season, you should disconnect all the parts and place them in a spot with no sunlight—bacteria thrive in sunny places. You can also hang your hydration pack so that no parts of the pack are bend or twisted when stored.

Properly cleaning, drying, and storing your hydration backpack will expand its lifespan and keep you healthy too. We recommend following these cleaning methods and thoroughly cleaning your backpack once a month.


How long will hydration bladders last?

How you use the hydration bladder and how you take care of it will impact its durability. Typically, hydration bladders can last for six to 12 months. Just with anything else in life, some hydration packs will last longer than others, so pay the extra buck when buying.

Will the hydration backpack keep the water cold?

One of the benefits of hydration backpacks is that, due to construction, they can keep the water cold for more than hours at a time. This happens even if you’re hunting in the sun.

Can a hydration backpack make you sick?

Like reusable straw, moisture can get trapped inside the water pack, encouraging bacteria to grow. Therefore, if you don’t clean the hydration pack after every use or clean it thoroughly enough, you can get sick from it.

What’s the best way to prevent mold in the water bladder?

The best way to reduce the risk of mold inside the hydration pack is by washing it out and drying it after every single hunting trip. When you get back from a trip, you should clean and dry your hunting gear, the hydration pack included.

Is it safe to put the hydration backpack in the washing machine?

It would help if you never washed the hydration backpack in the washing machine. Machine washing the pack will twist/tear the straps and fixtures and damage the fabric’s weatherproof coating. We recommend you use warm soapy water to wash the cap and bottle. You can also place them in the top rack of the dishwasher to clean them.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!