How To Repair a Leaky Hydration Bladder

Boy with Hydration Pack on His Shoulder Wearing White Shirt before Surfing, Stand Up Paddle Boards in Background

Key Points

  • Don't let a leaky hydration bladder ruin your adventure. Knowing how to repair a leaky hydration pack can get you back in the game.

  • Not all leaks are fatal. If you repair leaks properly, the repair can be permanent.

  • Prevent leaks in the field by making regular maintenance a priority.

One of the worst feelings you can have during a race like the MTB Odyssey Race is that of water running down your back. Especially if your hydration bladder is the only source of water you have. In some cases, you can make an emergency repair and keep going. In other cases, you need to drain the water from your hydration bladder before you make repairs. Let's look at repairing a leaky hydration bladder.

Woman hiking in the forest

Find the Source of the Leak

The National Park Service lists hydration as one of the ten essentials to survival. A hydration bladder leak can be serious. If the source of the leak is a big tear, there is not much you can do. Normally, the source of the leak is something small. A quick examination of your hydration pack can determine the severity of the leak.

A Leaking Lid

First, inspect the lid or slider. Lids are commonly cross-threaded. When misaligned, this can result in a leak. Ensure the lid is screwed on correctly. If it is a bladder with a slider, ensure the end has a good seal and proper fold. Ensure the fold is in the slider correctly.

You can prevent a lid from leaking by periodically treating the O-ring with petroleum jelly. Likewise, you can prevent the slide from leaking by storing it flat and treating the zipper with zipper lubricant.

A Leaking Bite Valve

Besides the lid, the bite valve is often the source of a leak. Make sure that it is in the lock position. Apply pressure to the hydration bladder and check the bite valve for leaks. It is common for a hydration valve to wear out every few years, so it may be time to replace it.

A Leaking Tube Port

The tube port is another place where water can leak. The tube port is on the opposite end of the tube than the bite valve and has an 0-ring that can be damaged. Putting hot beverages in your hydration bladder can especially damage O-rings. Remove the tube and inspect the O-ring for damage.

A Leaking Tube

Inspect the tube at either end to see if it is leaking around the bite valve or tube port. The end of the tube will expand over time and leak around the bite valve or tube port. Those who regularly remove the bite valve and tube port for cleaning will often notice this failure.

A Split Seam

A seam can split if your hydration bladder has a few years on it. Pressure from dropping a heavy pack to the ground can cause a seam to split. Ensure that it really is a split seam and that the hydration pack is not sweating. It is surprising how much sweat a hydration pack generates when filled with cold water on a hot, humid day.

A Small Hole

Even for those who know how to use a hydration bladder properly, small holes just happen. Small holes can be hard to find. You can make the job easier by filling a dry hydration bladder full of water and applying pressure while looking for leaks. If that does not work, empty the hydration bladder and fill it full of air. You can use the bite valve to inflate the bladder if you need. Then submerge the entire hydration bladder in water and watch for any air bubbles coming from pin holes.

Thirsty female trail runner drinking water from hydration packs

Hydration Bladder Repair

Some hydration bladder repairs are permanent and some are temporary. The type of repair you have depends on where the repair is on the bladder and the severity. However, some leaks can not be fixed. Let's look at a few of the most common repairs.

Repairing a Leaking Lid

A cross-threaded screw-on lid can simply be removed and screwed on properly. There is an O-ring under the lid that can be damaged. If you notice a leak from the lid and the lid is installed correctly, it is most likely the O-ring.

The zipper on slide-type lids works much like a zip lock bag. If the hydration bladder is stored improperly, the subsequent bend in the zipper can cause a leak. In this case, simply zip it closed and leave it flat for 24 hours. It should regain its original form.

Dirt can also cause the zipper to leak. To solve this problem, complete the following:

  1. Wash the zipper with warm soap and water.

  2. After it is thoroughly rinsed and dried, apply a zipper lubricant.

  3. Wipe off the excess and store it with the hydration bladder lying flat.

Repairing a Leaking Bite Valve

If your bite valve leaks in the locked position, it is time to replace it. You can buy new bite valves through retailers like Amazon, HydraPak, and REI. To replace the bite valve, pull the old valve out and press the new one in. If it is difficult to remove, try soaking it in hot water prior to removing the valve.

Repairing a Leaking Tube Port

A leaking tube port is almost always the result of a bad O-ring. It is next to impossible to find a factory replacement. However, you can find a replacement at your local hardware store. Be sure to take your tube port with you to find the exact match.

Repairing a Leaking Tube

Most tubes leak at the tube port or bite valve. In a pinch, you can cut the tube back a couple of inches and replace the tube port or bite valve. This normally makes the tube a little short, and you will have to replace it later. If the tube has a hole, you can use duct tape to repair it, but replace it when you get home.

Repairing a Split Seam

If you have a split seam, you should replace your hydration bladder. There is no long-term fix for a split seam. You can get by in a pinch with seam grip, but it can make the water taste bad. It's also not a quick fix. If you have no choice but to fix the seam, allow for a lengthy drying time.

Repairing a Hole

There are a variety of fixes for small pinholes that happen over time. You can use a lighter to repair a small pinhole. Hold the lighter a few inches away from a dry bladder for three to five seconds. This will melt the pinhole closed. After you are done, check the repair with water.

If it is a hole up to a 1/8-inch in diameter, you can use an adhesive to repair it. Start with a dry hydration bladder and clean the area with rubbing alcohol. After it dries, use an adhesive like super glue or seam grip to seal the hole. Let it dry and check for leaks.

Use adhesives to repair the damage from larger 1/2-inch holes and slits up to two inches. This is a temporary patch, and you will ultimately need to dispose of the hydration bladder.

For slits, use the following for a temporary repair:

  1. Start with a dry hydration bladder. Clean the area around the slit with rubbing alcohol.

  2. With the slit closed back to normal, reach into the bladder with masking tape and place it over the slit. This will serve as a backing.

  3. On the outside of the slit, spread a generous portion of seam glue over the slit and a 1/2-inch around the perimeter of the slit. Let the seam glue dry for seven to ten hours. Make sure the glue is dry before proceeding.

  4. Reach into the bladder and remove the masking tape. Then check for leaks. When you are done, thoroughly clean the hydration bladder.

If your bladder has up to a 1/2-inch hole, use the following procedures:

  1. Start with a dry hydration bladder. Clean the area around the slit with rubbing alcohol.

  2. Using Tenacious Tape, cut a piece slightly larger than the hole. Put it over the hole with the sticky side up. This piece is to prevent direct water-to-adhesive contact.

  3. With a second piece of tape, cut it at least 3/4 of an inch bigger than the hole. Place it over the first piece of tape and seal. Work out any air bubbles by rubbing them to the edge.

  4. Before using the bladder, fill it with water and check for leaks.

A Quick Repair Can Save the Day

Water running down your back may indicate a leaky hydration bladder, but it doesn't have to ruin your adventure. Even the top hydration packs can spring a leak, but now you know how to find the source of the leak and repair it. With these repairs, you can continue, at least for the time being. These tips can also help you prevent future leaks, but just in case, keep the products mentioned on hand. There is never a good time for a leaky hydration pack, but with these tips and tricks, you are prepared.

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