I feel like I would find a hydration bladder extremely useful. Especially so when going on via ferratas or multipitch climbs. But even when doing simple hikes it would allow me to have a sip of water more often.

My problem is, however, that I am extremely picky about the water taste. Even in fresh water I always notice its taste. And I always put extra effort when washing my reusable water bottle.

For this reason, I am afraid that I might not be able to wash a hydration bladder well enough for it not to acquire a specific smell/taste. I have tried drinking from a friend's hydration bladder a couple of times, but I couldn't handle the way water tasted/smelled.

So my question is: if I had a hydration bladder, would I be able to keep it clean enough (without extraordinary effort) for it not to render water undrinkable for me?

  • 7
    Chances are no one but you can make that call. But if your reusable bottle is made of plastic, I'd say chances are good. You could give it a shot and buy a reservoir; or have a friend lend you one for a few weeks.
    – Roflo
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:40
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    I'm not too fussy about water bottles but do find it hard to get my hydration packs tasting acceptable. The problem is they take so long to dry out. So if you use it frequently, and sterilise it before storing (then rinse really well) you might be ok, but if you use it rarely, the effort is significant. So do you plan to use it often, or just the odd day every now and then?
    – Chris H
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:50
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    @JimW Freezing it can potentially damage your valve.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 17:34
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    When I am dehydrated and medically in need of a drink, I don't care what the water tastes like. If you abstain from drinking until you are actually thirsty, perhaps you will not mind the taste so much. Works for me with the nasty small town well-sourced water I often need to tap. Commented May 3, 2018 at 1:19
  • 2
    Obvious solution : beer. Commented May 4, 2018 at 9:20

5 Answers 5


I've found lemon juice and baking soda works quite well.

I've also found that different brands of bladders have more or less plastic taste to them. If all else fails you could look into using a disposable bladder such as the Polar Cenote, they come individually or in multi packs and are reasonably priced. If your going to be using it a ton though, disposable may get expensive.

When I use mine, I always fill it with as much ice as it will hold, then fill the rest with fresh cold water. This helps it stay really cold and fresh tasting to me. It seems like when the water starts getting warm is when you taste the bag a bit more. Keeping the empty bag in the freezer also helps to hold off funky tastes and bacteria growth.

If you do go this route here are a few different options for cleaning so you can find one that suits you.

  • Reservoir cleaning tablets: no measuring needed. Just pop in a tablet specifically formulated to remove deposits that can build up in your hydration system over time.
  • Baking soda: an all-around cleaner that’s effective against odors. Platypus recommends ¼ cup of baking soda in ¾ cups of water per liter of volume in your reservoir.
  • Household bleach: kills bacteria and viruses. Platypus recommends using 2 to 5 drops of unscented household bleach per liter of water. Note that you can combine bleach and baking soda together for a more thorough cleaning.
  • Lemon juice: helps neutralize really strong odors. Platypus recommends using ¼ cup of lemon juice per liter of water. It can also be combined with bleach and/or baking soda, but you need to point the reservoir opening away from you because lemon juice and baking soda produce a fizzy reaction.
  • Denture-cleaning tablets: Though not specifically made for a hydration system, these are used by some people as inexpensive alternative cleaning tablets.


  • 1
    +1 for lemon juice. It makes it much more pleasant to drink from a camel bag. Commented May 2, 2018 at 17:34
  • Why drink water when you can drink instant Arnold Palmer? Commented May 2, 2018 at 19:20
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    I have used sterilising tablets for baby's bottles for over twenty years with no problem. They're cheap and readily available. I also recommend 'Source' bladders over other brands as they are excellent value for money and have an anti-bacterial coating which means you can leave water in there for days and it won't 'go off'. Make sure you rinse out any bladder that's had anything other than water in it as soon as you can, though, including the drinking tube and valve.
    – Matti Wens
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 8:39

I'm pretty picky about the taste of my water, I grew up high enough in the mountains that our tap water wasn't chemically treated, they simply filtered the spring water coming out of the mountains, and let gravity bring it the rest of the way into our homes. The first time I tried bottled water I thought it was disgusting.

I've been using a camelbak for quite a few years now, and I can tell you it isn't the bag that is going to affect the taste of your water as much as the water you put in the bag will. Cold clean water fresh out of a mountain stream tastes just as delicious through the straw of my bag as it does out of a cup.

This much is true for my old camelbak, but newer bags will sometimes have that "fresh" plastic taste until you've had a chance to flush it out. The cheaper bladders have it worse than the nicer ones in my experience too.

Keeping your water bladder clean and not letting old water sit in it for days and weeks between hikes helps prevent a stale taste from developing. You can get bladder cleaning kits for cleaning out your bladder and hose (see Cleaning the sipper pipe of a hydration pack).

The short answer to your question is, "yes, picky people can use a hydration bag." It's the water you put into your bag that's going to make the difference. If you're really picky about the taste of you water, you can flavour it to mask whatever taste you don't like, you simply need to be diligent about cleaning the bag out afterwards, or at least flushing it out with clean water.

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    Also, the bladder keeps fresh if you put it into the freezer while not using it. Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:56
  • 1
    Water quality is certainly not a problem where I live. It is 100% spring water coming directly from the mountains. I drink only tap water.
    – april rain
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 15:10
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    Besides, once you're thirsty, you get used to any plasticky taste pretty damn quickly.
    – Vikki
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 15:53

I usually store my* Platypus empty, and don't fill it until I'm about to leave, in order to minimise the length of time that the water's sitting in it before I use it; I find that waiting until as late as possible in the preparation process to fill it greatly minimises the plastic taste in the water. Thoroughly rinsing it out at the end of a hiking trip also helps, both to get rid of any remaining plasticky water and to help cut down on stuff growing on it that could also make the water in it taste funny.

I also find that

  • Most of the plasticky taste seems to come from the hose leading from the bladder to the mouthpiece, rather than from the bladder itself. Blowing air into the mouthpiece after taking a drink to force the water in the hose back into the bladder (apologies if this sounds disgusting) helps the water's taste a great deal.
  • Going along with the above, taking more frequent drinks minimises the length of time that the water spends in the hose, and, thus, also improves the taste of the water.
  • I get used to any plasticky taste surprisingly (to me) quickly. Especially if I'm thirsty.

*Technically, it's not mine (I'm pretty sure my grandma owns it), but it's the one I always use, and am in charge of, when I go hiking.

  • 3
    I may have a little insight on the taste mostly coming from the tube (a bit of a polymers background).. The tube is probably a vinyl (pvc) compound, which typically requires additives known as plasticizers to make it flexible. These additives are mixed in with the plastic at the time of production, but do not chemically bond to the polymer, and therefore can slowly diffuse out over time. The more you use the tube, the less it should taste over time. This does however mean that it may become stiffer over time as well.
    – Aaron
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 17:12
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    ... If the tube is replaceable, I'd look for a silicone tube instead. Silicone is naturally more flexible, and needs far less in the way of plasticizers and additives, so it should have less of a taste. In either case keeping your hose and bladder out of the sun, and in a cool and dry place when you're not using it will slow the rate that the polymer breaks down (also just good practice to keep mold away...)
    – Aaron
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 17:16

Most hydration bags, including CamelBak, are made from polyurethane. Even if you clean them well before using, they may impart a "plasticky" aftertaste or smell.

Platypus bladders are made from Nylon/Polyethylene (the same stuff that water bottles are made out of)--they're a bit more expensive, but your water will just taste like water.

  • If it tastes like plastic, it's the wrong kind of plastic. "The Platypus® modular line of BPA-free and taste-free hydration products includes..."
    – Mazura
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 23:41

I'd highly recommend a soluble cleaner, like VWP cleaner.

enter image description here

It's commonly used by homebrew enthusiasts, it is suitable for cleaning any foodsafe containers with hard to reach places (flasks, water siphon pipes, bottles).

You just need to let it soak for a few hours, and then rinse it out with water. It will eliminate any odours and residues, even stubborn bits. It left some of my heavily tea stained flasks looking like new.

It only requires a couple of teaspoons of powder to make a 5 litre cleaning solution, so one tub should last you a long time.

There are probably other brands with a similar product, but that is the one I'm familiar with.

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