How to Clean a CamelBak or Other Hydration Pack Bladder
You just got home from a weekend bike trip, and you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you have a list of things to do—unpack your bags, take a shower, grab a beer, or maybe the last two at once. The very last thing on that list is cleaning out your dirty hydration pack.
However, if you let it sit for a few more days, strange new life forms will start building habitats inside your neglected gear.
There are a few things you can do to keep a terrarium from forming in your pack. Hydration powerhouse CamelBak has pretty clear advice: The best way to care for your reservoir is to clean and dry it after every use, especially if you fill the reservoir with anything other than water. (Personal side note: Never fill it with whiskey.)
In other words, your pack deserves some preventative care. It’s easy to advise, but not so easy to follow after every single outdoor adventure without fail. CamelBak acknowledges that bladder upkeep sometimes gets put on the back burner—we don’t all scrub our outdoor equipment religiously, let alone our water bottles and hydration packs.
But here’s the company’s official advice on how to clean a CamelBak or other hydration pack bladder.
How to clean a CamelBak
Mix a solution of hot water and two tablespoons of baking soda or bleach inside your reservoir. Hold it up above your head while you pinch the bite valve, allowing the mixture to run through the tube. Let the reservoir and cleaning solution sit for about 30 minutes. You can also use CamelBak Cleaning Tabs.
Wash the reservoir with hot water and mild soap. Be sure to completely rinse away any bleach or cleaning solution before using again. You can also use CamelBak brushes from the company’s cleaning kit to scrub your reservoir and tube; brushes are the best way to ensure you are scrubbing all the areas of the reservoir clean.
When you’re finished cleaning, be sure to air dry the reservoir so no moisture is trapped inside, which can cause mold to grow.
Pro tips for cleaning a hydration pack
But what if you can never seem to get that soapy taste out of the bladder? Seth Beiden, former marketing manager at CamelBak, has his own tricks for keeping his reservoir from turning into an outdoor science experiment.
First, he stores his bladder rolled-up in the freezer after it’s been emptied out—the cool air keeps anything from growing inside. If he’s filled the reservoir with anything but water, he rinses it out with hot water and the juice of a lemon, which breaks down any residue and washes out easier than soap; it also leaves a much nicer aftertaste. Beiden also uses a green scrubber pad—which reactivates the antimicrobial coating embedded in the bladder itself. (This is similar to the coating used in shoes to prevent mould and smells.) Lastly, hang-drying is always the way to go.
Beiden also shared a few additional CamelBak care tips for your worst-case scenarios:
- Let the reservoir soak overnight with hot water in it after being cleaned.
- If your valve is super dirty and you want to dry it out, you can leave a toothpick in there while it’s drying to increase airflow.
- You can always dismantle the pieces of your bladder and put them in the dishwasher.
- It’s notoriously hard to get the taste of tequila or whiskey out, so if you absolutely need to drink alcohol from a hydration pack, buy a separate bladder to dedicate solely to that purpose.
The most important thing you can do is to make prompt hydration pack cleaning a habit after every ride. And if you see visible mould that can’t be scrubbed out? Cut your losses and get yourself a new hydration bladder.