Author Topic: Camelbak / Water Bladder  (Read 11723 times)

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Camelbak / Water Bladder
« on: April 25, 2011, 11:43:36 pm »
Greetings, my friends!

Today, I am seeking your expertise as experienced bicycle tourists in regards to hydration options.  I've read everywhere that any reasonably-equipped bicycle tourist should have at least 2-3 water bottles on their trip to stay hydrated.  However, I've found almost no mention of water/hydration bladders such as the Camelbak products (e.g., the new Antidote reservoir).

What do you guys think about using these products for bicycle touring?  Specifically, I'm considering buying one of the Camelbak backbacks with an integrated 100 oz (3 L) reservoir.
Is this a good way to store extra water and perhaps some of your gear?
If not, what are the biggest problems with using them for this purpose?
Also, since I've never seen this mentioned before, is it not a good idea to use a backpack of any kind while touring?

Offline cgarch

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2011, 12:26:51 am »
Using a Camelback is pretty much a matter of choice. I have something similar to what you describe, an older Camelback mule. So does my wife. She loves hers and I'm so-so. Lots of folks don't like having something that weighty on their back all day. It is nice feel a little freer when riding. Like most things on a bike, if you bring it you will stuff it somewhere and a C-back becomes another pannier on your back in no time. Plus every time you need to change layers it comes off. The other rub of course is it moves weight up higher, changing your center of gravity. I've a smaller Camelback that holds only water (70 oz) and is a little easier to deal with.

Twice on our Pac Coast trip my wife (and stoker) took hers off and forgot to put it back on. The first time it was amusing, the second time came after a long steep climb and wasn't very funny. She only discovered that when the car next to us, stopped at a construction stop, made mention of it. After my little road side tirade, the folks gave her a ride back down the road to pick it up. They were pretty cool. But it does show that it is easy to forget them when you're distracted, tired, or not paying attention.

If you're serious about getting one, take a look at the Osprey packs I've been looking for something other than what I see in Camelbacks and these look a little mo' betta.

Stay wet.


Offline whittierider

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2011, 12:28:30 am »
You'll probably want as little weight on your body as possible, for reasons of saddle and back comfort.  If you use one of the XLab (or similar) brand gizmos that allow you to put two additional water bottles behind the seat, then use Zefal Magnum water bottles which hold 32 ounces each, you'll get 128 ounces with nothing on your back, and none of the Camelbak-cleaning problems.  I use four of these bottles, two on the frame in the normal places and two more up high behind my seat, above the huge seat bag.

Edit, based on following posts:  Four of the 32-ounce Zefal Magnum bottles (two going behind the seat) holds a lot more than any Camelbak!  Four of the largest of other brands of bottles (28 oz each instead of 32) still comes out to 112 oz which is still more than any Camelbak.

« Last Edit: April 26, 2011, 02:39:03 pm by whittierider »

Offline Susan

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2011, 01:25:11 am »
When cycling, I've always been accustomed to wearing a very light and comfortable small backpack with a 2L. Deuter Bladder and room for my valuables.  The weight never really bothered me.  I prefer this as opposed to bottles because I like to take little sips real often.

But I live in Germany where it's usually cool.  Last year on my Sierra Cascade tour it was HOT!  I only had the opportunity to shower every 3 to 5 days and I developed sores on my back from the salty sweat under the little backpack. 

For this year's NT tour I have a Source Convertube with different adapter caps that fit onto various bottles (PET, Nalgene, etc.)

I use this with a 1L. PET bottle.  It seems to me that I have to suck a little harder than when using the same company's valve out of the backpack/bladder, but I'm still very happy with this solution.  I still carry the little backpack with an (empty) 2L. bladder inside a pannier, just in case I need to haul large amounts of water.  That way the weight (of the water) is positioned low (near the axle). 
It's off the subject, but I like being able to easily grab the backpack containing my valuables when I go inside somewhere or for a walk around town and still have my hands free.  I personally don't like handlebar bags and carrying any weight up that high.
Happy trails!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2011, 06:46:15 am »
Personally I don't want to wear a Camelbak when riding.  That said my Trans America companions used a camelbak bladder in a front pannier with the hose routed up to the bars and it worked pretty well.  I think the main advantage was that it allowed them to fill it with ice and have cold water all day.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2011, 06:47:50 am by staehpj1 »


  • Guest
Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2011, 09:20:53 am »
I sweat profusely but wrote off Camelbacks for some time because I didn't think one would be comfortable for me.  I finally got one while touring in southenr Spain where the sun was intense and finding water in rural areas was sometimes difficult, especially on Sunday.  Turns out that I don't mind a small one.  It's probably two water bottles worth.  I pair that with two standard watter bottles.  I don't think I would like anything larger on my back.  I certainly would not want to carry gear that way.

I also find it handy when the water source at the campground is somewhat of a walk from my site.  To keep it for getting nasty, I only use it for water.  Any other type of liquid goes in a bottle.

The concrns Cgarch mentions are legitimate ones.  I too once left my Camelback after taking off a jacket I had put on during a ferry ride.  Fortunately, I had only gone a few flat miles before I realized it.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2011, 09:47:31 am »
I'll use a hydration pack occasionally for some of the long rides in the hills without good re-supply points, but if I've got panniers on the bike, let them carry the load.  Any kind of pack is (IME) hot, sweaty, and not very comfortable.

The bladder (or a Platypus bladder, without the extra opening) is useful for long stretches without water -- you can find those in Kentucky, Kansas, and further west on the TransAm.

Offline hem

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2011, 09:51:19 am »
We have several Camelbaks but like the Rocket model (72oz) best for riding. It is better ventilated and rides better than the regular hiking models when on a bike. I find using the Camelbaks I stay better hydrated which is a big issue for me.

Offline Bike Hermit

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2011, 12:54:41 pm »
Personally I use a small hydration backpack and would recommend it for a few reasons. 1) I have never been worried about having too much water. 2) Easier to drink out of than bottles. I probably drink more regularly too. 3) I have heated water with my stove, poured it into the bladder and used it to take a shower. Pure luxury! 4) I put small stuff that I want to keep track of in the pockets.
On the downside......
Sometimes the bite valve leaks. That's annoying.
Yes it is possible to forget it. But I get into the habit of doing an inventory after each stop.
Just don't put any drink mixes in the bladder, and it's not a problem to keep clean. 
Bike Touring News
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Offline Shane

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2011, 01:33:39 pm »
Do you really want another 3kg on your bum? Saddle pain can be an issue at the best of times, without the extra weight...

And whats the biggest advantage of a camelback? It means you can drink without stopping (which you can do with bidons), but why the hurry, its nice to stop for 30 seconds now and again and have a look around, maybe take a photo?

Offline hem

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2011, 06:21:59 pm »
And whats the biggest advantage of a camelback?
Dehydration is critical and serious health issue for me and can sneak up real fast with the low humidity levels and hot days.
I use a Camelbak is it lets me drink smaller amounts of water more often which my body seems to handle better then waiting until I am thirsty and stopping to drink. Not that I don't stop every hour or so to take a SaltStick pill, without which drinking the water is much less effective. Drinking from a water bottle is not as convenient or as effective as the Camelbak is in keeping me hydrated.

Offline cheesehawk

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2011, 08:31:25 am »
On my UGRR ride in April I took a Camelbak along for Alabama, when I expected to have trouble finding water, at least on Sundays. For the first 1 1/2 days of riding (the first day being a half day) I used bottles. I had gone from 44 F in Wisconsin to 87 F and humid in Kentucky. By the time I got to the end of the first full day of riding I was dehydrated to the point of mild nauseau when I ate a Cliff bar. After that I rode with the 50 oz Camelbak on and had no problems staying hydrated.

I had never worn a Camelbak while cycling before. I did not like the idea of the weight on my back. I had no rubbing issues. I did not really notice the extra weight. I think the inconvenience when changing layers was a small price to pay for staying well hydrated. Now I would not do a major ride where I was expecting 80+F weather without one.

Offline leicrao1

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2011, 01:41:42 pm »
I found my 3L camelbak really convenient. Its ability to keep cold water cold throughout the day for a start. Plus, I endorse the comment about it helping you consume small amounts frequently. I stuffed it with the additional lightweight things essential for a long trip (nail clippers, spare pair of socks) and the weight never became difficult. Weight distribution is a personal matter. My companion had nothing on his body at all but two panniers dragging at his back wheel all day. He ended up mailing one back to the UK from Utah and spent the rest of the trip with a heavy pannier on one side. I had my camelbak and two bum bags (fanny packs???) and virtually nothing on my bike and it really worked for me. I am a 170lbs male. If you are slighter than this then perhaps 2L would be the equivalent. Try it out and see.

One word of advice is to make sure you have spare mouthpieces if you are using a camelbak. Without warning they can fall off with lots of use and then the entire unit becomes useless. Luckily the only time it happened to me was in a gas station queue in Ohio somewhere and the only down side was having to clear up a large puddle of water/gatorade mix. But it did make me think what I would have done if it had fallen off while riding along and disappeared into the verge never to be seen again.

Offline katekosar

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Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2011, 08:46:09 am »
I have lower lumbar and shoulder issues.  The last thing I need is something else compressing my spine even more than the riding does!  I'm not going anywhere in a blaze of glory, anyway.  If I get thirsty, I stop and have a nice drink.  I usually keep a big bladder of water either on top of the rear rack or insulated inside the rear pannier, though, just in case.


Offline PeteJack

Re: Camelbak / Water Bladder
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2011, 11:08:48 am »
Not even bottles are perfect. Riding across the North Cascades I dropped one and it rolled downhill right down the middle of a very busy two lane road. It was quite exciting dodging cars and chasing my bottle.