You’ve probably been told that you can’t put anything besides water in your hydration bladder. Internet message boards are filled with horror stories of people ruining their hydration bladders by filling them with sports drinks, coffee, and even alcohol(you can definitely use alcohol in a hydration bladder).
Let me be the first person to tell you that’s absolute hogwash. If you properly clean your hydration bladder and limit the sugar content you can use just about any powdered/tablet drink mix. Have a little bit of common sense, watch out for mold and you’re good to go.
Who Wants to Drink Plain Water?
Let me start off by saying I HAVE NEVER been one to drink straight water. I might refill my water bottle at the gym, but I would much rather have some kind of drink mix.
With water bottles it’s not a big deal, I just bring those individual serving powdered drink mixes and I’m good to go. I never thought twice about it until I bought my first hydration bladder.
So what drinks can you put in your hydration bladder? Surprisingly more than you would ever expect.
What Drinks Can You Put in a Hydration Bladder?
You can obviously put any liquid in your hydration bladder, but that doesn’t mean you won’t damage it. Don’t listen to those “Keyboard Warriors” that say you can only put water in your hydration bladder.
If that was the case why would Camelbak start to sell their own line of drink mix(Camelbak Elixer Tablets)? Although that product is discontinued, lots of other companies have started to sell their own version of tablets/powders designed specifically for hydration bladders(check out all the different flavors).
All those naysayers are just repeating what they’ve read over the years. In the early days(1990’s), hydration bladders were only designed for water, but times have changed. Manufacturers switched up the inner lining so they wouldn’t break down with other liquids.
So what drinks can you put in your hydration bladder?
Lots of people have warned me about putting flavored drinks in my hydration bladder. Friends, family and strangers have all tried to give me a stern warning about the dangers of mold. Luckily, I ignored their suggestions and continued on my way(after thanking them for being so helpful).
Everybody that I’ve talked to is worried about one simple thing. They are all worried about mold buildup. Yes, that’s a logical concern, but with proper cleaning and some common sense, you don’t have to worry about mold.
To prevent mold, you have to clean out your bladder religiously. Even with water, you should clean your bladder before and immediately after use, but it’s even worse with powdered drink mix.
Thoroughly clean out your water reservoir, tube and bite valve using a hydration bladder cleaning kit and specialized cleaning tablets. This shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes at home, but it’s a serious pain on the trail. On multi-day hikes, you might want to stick to water.
Cold Slows Bacteria and Mold Growth
Bacteria and mold thrive in warm environments so use the cold to your advantage. You can fill your water reservoir halfway up with ice, throw a half-full bladder in the freezer, or just bring along one of those frozen ice bricks.
In hot weather the ice won’t last long without proper insulation. You can either check out my post on insulating a hydration bladder or pick up a hydration bladder cooler bag just make sure you get the right size.
Bacteria and mold needs a fuel source to grow. That fuel source can be either fat or sugar(probably not putting fat in your hydration bladder).
To prevent bacteria/mold growth limit the amount of sugar used in your drink mix. Stick to low-calorie drink mixes either designed for hydration bladders(like these) or low-calorie drink mixes that have limited sugar content. Extra sugar will require faster cleaning.
Personally, I go to Walmart, Dollar Tree or Dollar General and buy those individually wrapped powdered drink mixes. The generic brands are usually 10 sticks for 1$ and name brands are 6-8 sticks for 1$. I usually use 2-3 of those tubes in a 2 Liter hydration bladder.
Other Drinks to Avoid
These are the drinks that I personally avoid. Let me know about all the drinks you avoid in the comments below.
- Carbonation: Avoid filling up your water reservoir with anything carbonated. This means no beer, diet soda or energy drinks. Your drink will be sloshing around in your pack all day and end up a foamy mess(probably leak). With all that CO2 release your drink will be flat in a matter of minutes.
- Coffee: You can put coffee in a properly insulated hydration bladder and it will stay hot, but you’re going to be left with a coffee after taste. For obvious reasons avoid dairy and sugar.
- Alcohol(Kinda): Lots of people fill up their hydration bladders with alcohol for concerts and festivals, but you will always taste the alcohol. I personally stick to vodka and low sugar mix, keto friendly recipes are a good place to start. Check out my post on putting alcohol in a hydration bladder.