For a number of years I have used a hydration system rather than a water bottle for both hiking and mountain biking. It could be anything from a simple water bottle with a tube to a backpack bladder system like those made by camelbak, nalgene and many other manufacturers.

Recently I have also started to use a hydration system carried within my PFD for flat water paddling sessions. Many of the newer designs of PFDs have this capability with dedicated pouches for a hydration bladder system.

My personal preference is the system made by Nalgene. Nalgene make this system under their own name and also supply Dakine and Osprey.


I guess everyone who owns such a system has forgot to give it a rinse out on return from a ride, hike or paddle. After a few days festering the bacteria within the system will build up. At the extreme you’ll start to notice a build up of what looks like black gel on the inside of the system.


Simply put if you don’t clean your hydration bladder on a regular basis it WILL “see you off”. Even if you add clean water to the system, the bacteria that builds up can cause serious illness.

If I do forget to rinse it out, (and when I do realise) I tend to flush it through a few times with clean water and then fill with water, drop in a baby bottle sterilising tablet and let it sit for some time. If it is really gunked up camelbak make a cleaning brush that actually does a pretty good job.

You can also prevent possible build up of bacteria by storing your empty hydration system in the freezer compartment/drawer of your refrigerator.