Hydration Packs are relatively new on the market but have they really got anything on old fashioned bottles? Read on to find out...
Hydration Packs vary in the amount of water they can carry but most hold 1l to 2l of water.
Cleaning a hydration pack takes time you can wipe the inside out with a cloth easily but to clean the pipe you have to soak it for a while or use a special cleaner which unfortunately is not widely available yet.
Most new rucksacks nowadays have a pocket on the inside that supports the hydration pack whilst you are walking. Also quite a few rucksacks have holes that you put the pipe through and some also have loops that you can thread the pipe under on the straps so that its doesn't swing around as much. However, if your rucksack does not have these features you can always leave a gap in the zip.
It may not surprise you that holding a bag of water in your rucksack is not very durable. However, more expensive hydration packs (such as Camelback) have padding around them that protects the actual bladder inside. If the pack does split you can always fix it with the magic of gaffer tape!
Ease of access
Its really easy to sip from a pipe (pretty much a straw) when its hanging over your shoulder. You don't need to stop and as a result you are more likely to take frequent sips rather than drinking loads at once. This will avoid dehydration.
Hydration packs can be bought from between £4 to £40 however the packs in the lower price bracket will eventually get a puncture and leak. (I used a new (out of the shop) cheap one (a grand sum of £3) on an ascent of Ben Nevis and ended the day with a wet back.)
Hydration packs are new, they will eventually develop to be stronger and better. For example there is already a hydration pack that you do not even need to suck the water out of: kinda lazy but a good idea.
Most water bottles only hold 500ml to 1l of water which would be consumed very quickly on a summers day (assuming its not raining).
Bottles are really easy to clean. You can just tip them out, rinse them then soak in warm water for a little while.
You can just put a water bottle in your rucksack but most rucksacks have pockets on the sides that you can put a water bottle in.
Water bottles are usually quite durable but tin ones or cheap plastic ones can get dented or shatter easily.
Ease of access
Having a water bottle in your rucksack often means that you will need to stop to get it out. This can be a pain if its cold or if your rucksack is unorganised.
Water bottles are the cheaper option and generally cost no more that £20 and as a result are a better option for one off hikers or if you leave your hydration pack at home.
The good thing about water bottles is that you can put dehydration tablets in them. These as the name suggests stops you from getting dehydrated.
You can also sterilise water from a lake or tarn easier (using tablets) in a water bottle than in a hydration pack. Although after the water has been sterilised it often tastes distinctively like a swimming pool
I personally prefer hydration packs as I tend not to drink a lot and obviously this would lead to dehydration on the mountains. Having it hanging over my shoulder reminds me to drink it and means that I don't have to stop to drink. However, I would recommend that you also take a water bottle full of water to use dehydration tablets and water purifiers in; this does not need to be a walking specific one: it could just be a Coke bottle (other brands are of course available). In the end it all comes down to personal preference, budget and how often you go hiking but I hope this page has been helpful.