How To Store a Hydration Bladder in the Off-Season

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Key Points

  • Properly storing your hydration pack in the off-season ensures your water tastes better and prevents you from getting sick miles from home when the time comes to use it.

  • A good hydration bladder cleaning kit makes the chore of cleaning and drying your hydration bladder much easier, and kits even come with a brush for cleaning the water tube.

  • A safe and convenient place to store your hydration bladder and accessories is in the freezer, which prevents mold and mildew from growing and does not harm your hydration bladder.

Properly storing your hydration bladder in the off-season helps make it last longer and prevent leaks in the future. Still, there are those who toss their hydration pack in the trunk, and it stays there for months. They often find out that if you don't take the time to store your hydration bladder safely, it may soon have a chia pet growing in it. If you are one of the many who do not know how to properly store your hydration bladder, use this information to help avoid the chia pet.

Proper Storage Is Good for Your Health

Storing a damp hydration bladder in a hall closet results in mold and mildew growing in the bladder. The next time you need it, you will spend hours cleaning it. Even after a good scrubbing, you may worry about getting sick. Take the time to properly store your hydration pack every time, and every time, it will be ready.

A properly stored hydration pack is something you grab out of the freezer and go. You don't have to worry about mold, mildew, or leaks. You have the peace of mind of knowing the bladder is ready anytime you are.

Woman tourist drinks water through a hose from a camelbak while walking.

Prepare Your Hydration Bladder for Storage

In preparation for storage, there are many cleaning kits to choose from, but it's hard to beat the CamelBak cleaning kit. This kit allows you to properly clean the reservoir and tube. Also listed are alternate methods to clean a hydration bladder rather than using a kit. Follow the below steps to prepare your hydration bladder for storage.

  1. Fill your hydration bladder with warm water, add a cleaning tablet from your cleaning kit, put the lid on, and shake. You may also use a teaspoon of unscented bleach per liter of water to sanitize the bladder. This is a good substitute for cleaning tablets.

  2. Next, lift the hydration bladder above the sink, leaving the tube and bite valve in the sink. Pinch the bite valve open and let a little cleaning solution run out. This will fill the tube and valve with the cleaning solution.

  3. Let the hydration bladder sit for five minutes and drain completely. You should also pinch the bite valve open and drain the tube. If you are using bleach, let it set for 20 minutes.

  4. Now it's time to wash out the mold, mildew, and bacteria that the cleaning solution loosened up. Using the brush from the cleaning kit, warm water, and mild dish soap, scrub the inside of the bladder. Remember to clean the lid.

  5. Remove the tube from the bladder and the bite valve from the tube. Using the tube brush from the cleaning kit, insert it into the tube scrub until clean. Use your fingers or toothbrush to clean the bite valve with mild dish soap. Some bite tubes come with a removable sheath. If your hydration bladder has a sheath, remove it and clean it and the post.

  6. It's time to thoroughly rinse the bladder, tube, bite valve, and sheath. Place the reservoir on the hanger supplied by the cleaning kit, and hang it to dry. Clip the tube on the hanger so that it dries properly. When you hang the tube and reservoir to dry, avoid a humid room like the bathroom. If you don't have a cleaning kit, drape the reservoir over a paper towel holder or prop up the reservoir with a whisk inside the bladder for better airflow. You'll have to improvise and find a place to hang the tube.

  7. Once everything is thoroughly dry, reassemble the hydration pack for proper storage. If you plan to store the hydration bladder in a closet, ensure that everything is completely dry before you store it.

How To Properly Store Your Hydration Pack

Now that you know how quickly mold and mildew grow in a hydration pack, it is time to store your pack and bladder. According to CamelBak, the best place to store a hydration bladder in the off-season is in the freezer. Follow these steps to store your hydration bladder in a way that is free of mold and mildew.

  1. Ensure that your hydration bladder is clean and dry.

  2. Inspect the lid or zipper, tube, bite valve, and reservoir for possible leaks or issues. You should make repairs before storing the bladder.

  3. Make sure to close the lid or zipper. If you store it in the open position, you must let it thaw before you close it.

  4. If your bite valve has a cap, make sure it is on. The difficulty with a cap is if you store it closed, you may have to let it thaw to remove it. If you store it off the valve, it may be difficult to put the cap on until everything is at room temperature.

  5. Lay your hydration pack flat in the freezer. This prevents the zipper from freezing in an awkward position.

Anytime you store your hydration bladder, you must also store the hydration pack. Before you store your hydration pack, take a minute to do the following steps.

  1. Make sure all your straps and buckles are in working order.

  2. Inspect the pockets and main compartment for things you may have left, like a chocolate bar or something that might melt. Also, check for anything sharp, like a stick or thorn, lodged in the pack. These things could rupture the hydration bladder.

  3. If the hydration pack smells or is dirty, it is time to throw it in the washing machine. Make sure to dry it thoroughly before storing it.

  4. Organize and replace the items you want to continue to store in the hydration pack.

  5. Store your hydration pack in a manner that holds its shape.

Common Hydration Bladder Storage Mistakes

All in all, there's not much to tear up when you store your hydration bladder in the freezer. Still, there are a few things to consider before you shut the freezer door. Here are a few rookie mistakes that everyone makes at one time or another.

  • Try to store the hydration bladder flat in the freezer. This is not a big deal for hydration packs with screw-on lids, but wrapping a rubber band around a rolled-up hydration pack that has a zipper is not a good idea. This often kinks the zipper, and then it freezes with the zipper in a bind. If you store your hydration pack like this, plan on laying it flat and letting it thaw out before filling it with water. It will often regain its shape and won't leak. Use a zipper lubricant to keep it working properly.

  • There are those with the opinion that only clean water goes in the hydration bladder, so why clean it? Any water left in the bladder has the potential to grow mold, mildew, and bacteria. To prevent a chia pet from growing in your hydration bladder, you should clean the bladder after every use.

  • If you store tequila or whiskey in your hydration pack, it is extremely difficult to clean. It is almost impossible to remove the odor. If you frequently fill your hydration bladder with tequila or whiskey, keep the bladder just for that purpose.

  • Do not store your hydration bladder in the freezer when it is full of water. The water expands when it freezes and may rupture the bladder. Partially fill the bladder and freeze it for use during hot weather. Partially filling a bladder with water and freezing the bladder lying flat makes a long flat ice cube in the bladder. This not only keeps your water cold, but it will keep it from sloshing around.

Chia pet from the 1980s featuring iconic characters

Photo source: Chia Pet/HowStuffWorks

Prevent the Chia Pet

No one wants to use a gross hydration bladder. Unfortunately, some don't realize how gross it is until they take a drink. Upon further inspection, they notice a chia pet growing in their hydration bladder. You don't want to be on the Mt. St. Helens Sunset Hike when you notice the chia pet. Following the steps listed above to prevent growing a chia pet in your hydration bladder during the off-season. This makes your water taste better, and your hydration pack and bladder ready when you are.

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