How to Properly Dry a Hydration Bladder

Adventurous Woman Hiker and dog are dinking water during a cloudy and sunny summer day. Taken while hiking on a mountain near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Key Points

  • The quick dry method for your hydration pack is quick and easy for those who use their hydration pack daily.

  • The blow-dry method is the easiest, and the dryer adapter makes the job easier for hydration packs with a screw-on lid.

  • The most important part of drying a hydration bladder is making sure the bladder is open enough to allow airflow.

  • Drying your hydration bladder in direct sunlight will allow UV rays to damage the reservoir. It will become stiff and brittle.

Properly drying your hydration bladder before storing keeps your bladder from looking like a science experiment when you go to use it again — you'll be begging for the mold to be gone! It's important to teach your kids how to dry theirs, too, so they don't accidentally create a science experiment. Drying a bladder takes less time than you think, and if you follow our steps to drying a hydration bladder, the time will fly by.

The Quick Dry Method

One of the great myths of hydration bladders is they'll always be clean if you only use clean water. Ranger Carol with the National Park System says even the water at Glacier National Park has unsafe bacteria, which isn't what you want lingering in your hydration bladder. "Sadly, yes, the water here in Glacier does harbor Giardia and other water-borne illness-causing protozoa and bacteria…there is more than one employee around here who knows how that feels."

Mold and mildew will grow if you don't dry your bladder out. The water soon tastes bad, and the inside of the bladder will smell. You should always clean and dry your bladder after each trip and, at the very least, dry it.

The quick dry method works great for those who use their hydration bladder every few days. Here's how it works:

  1. Rinse and pour the water out of the bladder

  2. Remove the water from the water hose by lifting the bladder higher than the bite valve, then squeeze the bite valve to let the water drain out.

  3. Reach into the bladder with a dry towel or paper towel and wipe the inside of the bladder down. Some hydration bladders have a small opening, which is impossible to fit your hand through. The bladder will still dry. It just takes longer.

  4. Next, prop open the bladder for air circulation. Hydration bladders like CamelBak have drying arms that clip around the lid. If your bladder has drying arms, unclip them from the lid and fold them back. Stick your hand in the reservoir to "inflate" the bladder for proper airflow. If your bladder is not so equipped, you can use a whisk or long tongs to inflate the bladder. Adequate airflow is needed to dry the bladder completely.

  5. Hydration bladders like the Gregory 3D Hydro have a hook on the bottom to hang the bladder upside down to dry. If your bladder does not have the hook, you can buy a reservoir hook or use a clothes hanger.

  6. A reservoir hook works well because they have a hook, a mechanism to hold the bladder open, and they have a clip to hang the water tube.

  7. A DIY reservoir hook is a wire hanger. Try to use a coated one to prevent any punctures. Pull the hanger long ways by grabbing the bottom of the hook with one hand and the middle rung with your other. Then, shape the hanger into the shape of a J. Slide the non-hook side into the bladder and hang the other end. Drape the water hose over the top, and you're all set.

  8. The last step is to hang your hydration bladder in a cool, dry place.

The Blow Dry Method

This method works well for hydration bladders with zip-top, but with an adapter, it also works well for bladders with a screw-on lid. You'll need a hairdryer and a dryer adapter like the RiVern Hydration Bladder Dryer.

This method is quick and easy with these steps:

  1. Rinse the hydration bladder out and wipe dry the best you can.

  2. Unscrew the lid and screw in the hydration bladder dryer adapter. If you have a zip-top bladder, remove the slide and open the bladder.

  3. Put the dryer's nozzle in the adapter and turn on the dryer. If you have a zip-top, put the dryer in the opening and turn it on. Do not squeeze the reservoir around the barrel of the dryer. The barrel is very hot and can damage the reservoir. Be careful not to let the reservoir get too hot.

  4. Remove the bite valve from the water tube to let air circulate and dry the water tube. Continue until the reservoir and tube are dry. Replace the bite valve.

  5. Remove the dryer adapter.

  6. Hang your hydration bladder upside down with the lid off or zip-top open. If possible, let the water tube hang vertically with the bite valve at the top.

Hydration Pack Drying Pad Method

This method requires you to purchase a hydration pack drying pad. You can buy drying pads like the U'Be Hydration Pack Dryer, which has an optional cleaning kit. Drying pads work surprisingly fast to absorb and wick away moisture. Drying pads work with either screw-on lids or zip-top bladders.

Here is how it works:

  1. Rinse the hydration bladder out and wipe dry the best you can.

  2. Stick the drying pad partially in the reservoir, leaving a few inches sticking out the top.

  3. Hang the hydration bladder so that the hydration pad does not fall out.

  4. In a few minutes, it'll dry. Leave it in longer or even overnight to absorb any droplets.

Store Your Hydration Bladder in the Freezer

Try to store your hydration bladder in the freezer. Once your bladder is dry, lay it flat and put it in the freezer. Freezing it will keep any mold or mildew from forming. If you use your hydration bladder in hot weather, you can put clean water in it and let it freeze. Make sure you do not overfill it, or it will burst. Another popular way to use the freezer is to put a few inches of water in the bladder and lay it flat in the freezer. It will make a large, flat ice cube that does not slosh around when hiking.

Tips and Tricks to Drying Your Hydration Bladder

Over time, people learn better and faster ways to dry their hydration bladder. They also know things not to do. In some cases, they learn things the hard way. In other cases, a new product comes out to make things easier.

Here are a few tips and tricks, along with a few dos and don'ts:

  1. Don't dry your hydration bladder by leaving it in direct sun. It will dry, but the UV rays will damage the bladder. Seams will get ridged and brittle. Leaving your bladder in direct sun will shorten the life of the bladder.

  2. Don't store your hydration bladder in the shower. Storing your bladder in the bathroom seems obvious, but it's a common mistake. Mold and mildew quickly form in a humid environment. Opt instead for a cool, dry area.

  3. It's best to remove the water tube and let it hang vertically. The bite valve should be on the top. Vertically storing your water tube lets any moisture left in the bite valve drain out of the tube. Inspect your bite valve and replace as necessary.

  4. If you notice that the walls of your reservoir are sticking together, then there's not enough airflow in the drying process. Make sure you have the reservoir as open as possible. Airflow prevents the sides from sticking.

  5. Use a towel wrapped around a wooden spoon if your hands are too big to fit in your hydration pack. The towel will absorb much of the water.

  6. The most common place for mold and mildew to form is around the neck of the screw-on lid or fold of the zip-top bladder. Pay careful attention to these areas.

  7. If you store it in the freezer, ensure the bladder is clean. Also, store it with air, keeping the sides apart. The air will keep the reservoir sides from freezing together. Otherwise, you will have to let it thaw before adding water later. You should remove the water tube as well. Water in the locking mechanism could damage it when it expands.

  8. Do not leave the lid or slide on your bladder when drying. They will trap moisture and form a black film around the opening.

  9. Avoid using soft drinks or mixes in your hydration bladder. The sugar will cause mold and mildew to grow in your bladder quickly. Mold and mildew are the little black dots floating in your bladder.

Drying Your Hydration Bladder is Quick and Easy

The biggest complaint about drying a hydration bladder is that it takes forever. These steps can make the process painless and only take a few minutes. If you ever taste water from a hydration bladder with mold or mildew, you'll quickly understand it's time well spent. There are instances of people not taking the time to dry their hydration bladder and getting sick. Any of the drying methods above will keep your water safe and tasting great for years to come.

If you find that your bladder is just too far gone, make sure you properly dispose of the hydration bladder.

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