When I go for a day-hike in the mountain I usually carry a Camelbak-type water bladder, and since it’s been a habit for a while now, I packed one in the duffle bag that contained all my gear for the PCT. I find it quite handy to be able to frequently drink small quantities of water without having to reach for a bottle every time. Moreover, I have the feeling (not sure if that’s entirely true though) that the bladder being inside the backpack, between my back and the gear I’ve packed, favors a certain temperature regulation, at least to some extent: the water stored there stays cooler for a longer time on hot weather, and doesn’t freeze when it’s real cold (save for the water trapped in the pipe section. To keep it from freezing I blow it back into the bladder every time I drink).
I have nevertheless ditched my bladder after a few weeks on the PCT, mainly for 4 reasons:
  1. The bladder, when it’s full, takes up some volume in my backpack’s main compartment, making it somewhat less accessible. On a typical thru-hiking day, I will take all the gear out of my pack and put it back several times a day, and having it perfectly positionned is key to having a comfortable hike. In that context, I find that having the bladder there in the middle is too unpractical.
  2. Since you can’t see the bladder, you don’t know how much water you have consumed. That can be tricky and leaves you with only two options: either you take the water you need, drink it as you go and face the risk of being short, or you take more than you need and carry too much weight…
  3. Sooner or later, as you take your pack off on your frequent brakes, or even only at camp, the hose of your bladder is gonna end up brushing the floor. This will result in the nozzle getting dusty in no time, and you’ll end up chewing sand.
  4. When it’s time to refill, taking the bladder out of the pack when it’s empty is fairly easy, all you have to do is pull. But once it’s full, putting it back in place with all the gear in the pack is nearly impossible. This means that each time you need to refill you’ll have to take all your gear out of your pack.
I haven’t actually ditched my bladder, from the PCT I just sent it back home. I’m still using it on day hikes, that’s where it makes the most sense to me. I fill it with water once in the morning, before going out, and it lasts the whole day, maybe with the help of an additional bottle depending on my hydration needs for the hike. In the evening I take it out of the pack once and for all, clean it, clean the nozzle, dry it, and repeat on the next day. On the PCT (and on my subsequent multiple-day hikes) I had a plastic bottle in each side pocket of my pack, plus a Sawyer bladder as a backup. That really worked well for me, and I never regretted sending my bladder back home.

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