Hydration bladder vs bottle. It’s an age-old question that’s been pondered by thousands of runners venturing in the ultra distances. You will find people on both sides that swear by their choice. But does that make it the right choice for you? There are some key differences and benefits between hydration packs and water bottles, advantages and disadvantages. Below I’ve made a list of facts between the two too better help you make the right choice for you. Let’s get started!
Hydration Bladder vs Bottle for Ultra Running
- Hydration Bladders Hold more water than a single Water Bottle – This is the biggest advantage people have when thinking of a hydration bladder.
- Water Bottles are much easier to clean than a Bladder – With a water bottle you can just put it into the dishwasher. With a bladder it’s not so simple. You will need to thoroughly clean and dry the bladder and its assembly after every trip.
- Hydration Bladders take longer and are harder to fill – This is important for ultra running for two reasons. The time it takes to fill your bladder can be minutes longer than water bottles. Multiply by 6+ aid stations and that can be 30 minutes + for an average runner. These longer stops can lead to cramping. It’s also harder to fill them when you’re tired, leaving you somewhat dependent on helpers.
- Water bottles (especially squeeze bottles) are much easier to drink out of than a bladder. With most traditional bladders you have to suck the water through a hose. This isn’t exactly easy while huffing and puffing up a hill. With a squeeze water bottle you can squirt the water directly into your mouth saving valuable time for breathing.
- With a water bottle you can squirt water onto your head or body during a hot race. You can’t do this with most hydration bladders.
- Carrying multiple water bottles allows you to carry multiple forms of hydration – You can have one bottle with water and one with water/Talewind. This is something you can’t do with a bladder.
- If something breaks on your bladder you’re in a tough situation – When carrying multiple water bottles you always have a back up if something breaks.
Conclusion – Hydration Bladders vs Water Bottles
As you might have surmised from the above I’m definitely in the “water bottle” fan club. I’ve run with both and can tell you that in my experience water bottles are much more functional than bladders. Especially for ultra running or endurance hiking. The one advantage bladders have is their size, often carrying 2 liters or more. I always carry the ability to have 2 liters, I just do it with multiple collapsible water bottles. This has a couple advantages in itself. When racing you don’t typically go far enough between aid stations to need 2 liters. This means your just carrying extra weight if you use 2 liters. Carrying multiple water bottles allows me to easily and quickly fill my needs. I like to carry a bottle with just water and one with whatever electrolytes light i’m using/served at the race #6. And I also have back ups is something goes wrong, see above #7.
Here is my setup. I run with a Salomon vest will have all 4 full for long hikes and 2 full with 2 empty backups for ultras:
The Salomon came with my vest and they have held up great but for the price you can’t beat the Triwonders.