What are Hydration Systems?

Shannon Kietzman

Hydration systems are tools used by athletes, particularly cyclists, to assist in maintaining the proper hydration level in the body. Racecar drivers also typically use hydration systems, as do runners, speed walkers, and other athletes who may need to be rehydrated while keeping their hands free. In addition to athletes, people who enjoy hiking also use hydration systems, as they help keep the body hydrated while allowing the hiker to use his or her hands for climbing over obstacles.

Hydration systems are typically fitted into a backpack.
Hydration systems are typically fitted into a backpack.

In order to help keep an individual hydrated, hydration systems are attached to the body and provide the person with a constant source of water. The most typical method for attaching hydration systems to the body is to place them within a special backpack. A component called a bladder, which is filled with water, is placed inside. The backpack is designed to allow a tube to exit the backpack while it remains closed and holds the bladder securely inside. These backpacks also contain flaps that prevent rainwater from getting inside.

Hydration systems may be easier to use for athletes than carrying a water bottle.
Hydration systems may be easier to use for athletes than carrying a water bottle.

The tube used with hydration systems contains a bite valve on the end opposite the bladder. The user can easily turn the bite valve on or off by applying pressure with his or her mouth. Once the pressure is released, the liquid flow stops. On the bladder end of hydration systems, the tube is located near the bottom. This helps ensure that nearly all of the water can be easily accessed with the tube.

Bladders are available in a variety of sizes for hydration systems. While it is important to purchase hydration systems large enough to hold adequate amounts of water, the user also must consider the weight of the filled bladder and the stress it will place on his or her back and shoulders while carrying it. Therefore, it is best to purchase hydration systems with bladders that are large enough to hold the desired amount of water, yet small enough to be carried comfortably. Backpacks for hydration systems are available in a variety of colors and styles. Some contain several small pockets, which can be used to carry other essential items such as snacks or camping equipment.

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