They say dehydration is a soldier’s worst enemy, but in reality, we think the enemy is probably the soldier’s worst enemy, with dehydration coming in as a very close second. But for you hikers, bikers, and joggers out there, a lack of proper H2O is pretty much the worst foe you’ll face on any given outing. Unless you have made serious enemies over the years, in which case again your enemy is your worst enemy.
Related: Hats Are Also Important
Anyway, assuming you are the target of relatively little enmity, let’s put aside talk of that and instead discuss the best ways to keep yourself hydrated while on the move. In years past, a leather water flask (AKA a “bota bag”) or a tin canteen were essentially your only options for packing along water while covering ground on foot (or bike or horse). But today’s newfangled “technology” has allowed us to produce a plethora of portable hydration systems. Not all of these hydration systems are created equal, though; some may be perfect for use during one activity but a poor choice for others, and some may be suitable for one user but imperfect for another sportsmen or sportswoman.
First let’s talk about a modern classic, the indispensable CamelBak!
You no doubt know all about the CamelBak, but in case you’ve just arrived here from before the 1990s, it is a hydration system involving a bladder and a length of tubing capped by a bite valve and worn in a slim-profile backpack. This type system has become so ubiquitous that most hiking packs today have built-in pouches for the bladder and slots to pass the tubing through, eliminating the need for a separate pack.
For the hiker or biker traveling light, a simple CamelBak HydroBak Hydration Pack is a great choice: the nylon pack is compact and lightweight and features a small pocket for keys or a snack. There are multiple sizes of CamelBak available, but we recommend the 1.5 liter capacity bladder for most activities lasting 2 – 3 hours.
The drawback to the CamelBak system? It’s not great for jogging/running. With only a pair of shoulder straps to keep the pack on your body (e.g. no waist strap) there is really no way to keep it from bouncing up and down with each step.
Now let’s talk about a top-notch hydration belt, the Camden Gear Hydration Running Belt
There are hydration belts out there that strap four and even six bottles of water to your person, and for extra-long runs or jogs, you might need that much hydration. But for mid-level jaunts of a few miles, you need to find an optimal balance between weight and water. This belt from Camden Gear comes with two 6-ounce bottles, giving you enough H2O to compensate for the sweat you’ll produce during an hour or so of exercise, keeping you hydrated and healthy until you’re back home (or back to the office or lodge or yurt or whatever) to guzzle down more water. The wide belt fits snugly around your waist for minimal bouncing and little chafing even over bare skin. The belt also has a pocket large enough for snacks, a phone, keys, and other small necessities.
The only drawback to the Camden Gear belt? 12 ounces of water is fine for those shorter/mid-range runs, but it’s sure not enough for even a morning hike.
For a super-snug hydration pack that won’t hold you back, try the DolfinPack.
DolfinPacks were designed with water sports in mind. They fit snugly over the torso using shoulder and chest straps, and have such a slim profile they can be worn under a wetsuit or lifejacket. That same close fit means a DolfinPack is great for joggers or runners, too, as there is minimal jostling, and for cyclists, as a DolfinPack offers full range of movement. The standard model holds a full liter of water, enough for mid-range outings of all types.
Drawback to the DolfinPack? They’re not all that comfortable – the thin straps and abundance of velcro leads to lots of chafing, so don’t even try to wear one shirtless for long periods of time.
And finally, if there’s water all around, why not just bring a LifeStraw?
If you’re going to be hiking, biking, or jogging in an area with copious streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and so forth, you could always just drink from the bounty of Mother Nature using a LifeStraw Personal Water Filter! These handy little contraptions remove 99.99% of waterborne pathogens and parasites (likely better than that bottled water you’re sipping now, Alice) and can safely filter up to 1000 liters of water each. So in theory, that’s 1000 days of exercise with a clean liter of hydration at your fingertips each time for… about two cents per liter. LifeStraws cost less than twenty bucks, see? And a LifeStraw weighs about two ounces. So toss one in a your bag, strap it to your bike, or just carry the damn thing.
The drawback here? Well, if you can’t find water, it’s not going to help much…