Keeping Water Cold in a Hydration Pack: Insulating Your Camelbak


Hydration packs have been around since the ’90s and they’ll probably be here till the 2090s. It didn’t take long for backpackers/hikers to realize just how nice it was to have hand-free access to water. Such a simple solution to a serious problem.

In the early days, hydration bladders were never designed to keep your water cold, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. Throughout the years, backpackers have found ways to keep their water cold and pack insulation has significantly improved.

Do Hydration Packs Keep Water Cold?

Modern hydration packs have built-in insulation, but you’ll probably need to add more. With extra insulation and a little bit of ice, your hydration bladder will stay cold all day. Remember that you also need to wrap the tube, or else the first couple of sips will always be warm.

How to Keep Your Hydration Pack Cold

Keeping your hydration bladder cold is a fairly straight forward process. You just need to follow two basic steps. Chill your water and keep the reservoir/tube insulated. It’s that simple!

  • Chill Your Water: Your water won’t magically get cold on the trail. You have to start off with cold water by either adding ice, using ice packs or tossing your hydration bladder in the freezer.
  • Insulation: Without proper insulation, your water won’t stay ice cold for long. You need to insulate both the water reservoir and tube to keep your water cold.

Chill Your Water Before Heading Out

Make sure your water is ice cold before packing up your hydration bladder. You’re fighting a losing battle if you start off with water the same temperature it came out of the tap.

Just remember that none of these methods will work for long without proper insulation. Continue reading below to find out how to insulate your hydration pack. Here are a few different ways to chill your water.

  1. Add Ice Cubes: Adding ice to your hydration reservoir is by far the best way to chill your water. Fill the reservoir about half-way to the top with ice. Adding too much ice will cause your entire bag to freeze.
  2. Use The Freezer: Throw your hydration bladder in the freezer for a few hours. Just make sure you take the bladder out before it freezes completely.
  3. Freezer Bricks: Start off with cold water and add one of those freezer bricks to your pack(these things). Make sure you have an insulation sleeve wrapped around the brick and your water reservoir.
Adding Ice Isn’t Just About Cold Water

You’ll love the way your icy water reservoir feels on a hot summer day. It’s like having a giant ice pack wrapped around your entire back. With a big bag of ice strapped to your back, I doubt you’ll be sweating even in extreme heat.

Find a Pack With Insulation or Make Your Own

Proper insulation is the only way you’re going to keep your water cold. Luckily, most hydration packs come from the factory with a little bit of insulation. As packs increase in price, you can expect better insulation.

However, most of the packs I’ve seen are woefully under-insulated and can’t handle hot/cold temperatures. Even with a pack completely filled with ice cubes you’ll end up with a bladder filled with lukewarm liquid after a few hours.

Don’t worry, you aren’t screwed, that’s not the only way to insulate your hydration reservoir. You can further insulate your pack without breaking the bank.

How to Insulate Your Hydration Pack

Adding extra insulation to your hydration pack is fairly straightforward. It’s all about keeping your water reservoir away from exterior heat. Like a sleeping bag, your insulating layer forms a barrier between the warm outside air and cold hydration bladder.

Buy or Make an Insulating Sleeve

Personally, I would just buy an insulating sleeve to stow your hydration bladder(Check This Out). These sleeves are surprisingly cheap, they’re easy to use, and they really work.

Just remove your water bladder from its pack, slide your bladder into the bag/sleeve, and feed your tube through the hole. Just add a little ice to your water reservoir and it will stay cold/refreshing even in extreme heat.

Don’t Forget to Insulate The Tube

With your drinking tube on the outside of the pack, your first couple sips will always be warm. You can fix this by purchasing a foam sleeve to wrap around your tube(Check Them Out).

I’ve also seen people wrap their tubes in closed-cell foam insulation, and bubble wrap. They just duct tape it to their tube and that definitely works, but you’re only saving a couple of bucks over the premade options(seems kinda ridiculous).

DIY Insulating Sleeves

All it takes is a thin layer of closed-cell foam or bubble wrap to effectively insulate your hydration reservoir. Simply lay out your reservoir down on your choice of insulation, fold over the insulation and cover up your reservoir. Make sure you leave at least 1cm gap so your bladder will fit in the sleeve.

I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way this is going to work! To be honest, I was shocked the first time I tried this. The first time I did this, I ended up with a big chunk of frozen ice that I needed to melt.

With a little bit of ice and extra insulation, your hydration bladder will stay cold all day long.

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