Why I don’t carry a plastic water bladder

leaky water bottle1) They will always eventually fail.

2) It will always be when you need them.

In 2001 when I first hiked the PCT(Pacific Crest Trail), I had one of those plastic bladders hooked up to a hose system to drink out of as I walked. Even though I bought several of them while I was on the trail every one failed. On 2 of them, the bags leaked, on one, the bite valve leaked and water dribbled down my shirt, another the bite valve came off.

Good water bottleI shucked the hose system for “disposable” Aqua Fina bottles. However, I did buy a new 2 liter platypus in case of a long waterless stretch.

After the first 700 miles of desert on the PCT, water becomes more plentiful until you hit Oregon and then it dries up again. I carried that platypus for probably 800 miles until the day came that I needed the extra water capacity. I filled it with water and…. it leaked.

Sure Platypus will replace your bottle if you send it to them but that’s of no use to me when I’m sitting at the last water source for 33 miles with a leaking plastic bag.

Related post: Water Treatment and Containers

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Hermit, long distance hiker, primitive cabin dweller, seeker.

8 thoughts on “Why I don’t carry a plastic water bladder”

  1. You’ve come to the same conclusion as several of my outdoorsey friends. None of them are long distance hikers, but one for example is an avide hiker in Idaho, etc and find plastic bladders are always damaged on the trail.

    So do you go all hard water bottles now? I assume so. I know you don’t like branding, but surely brand ties to quality in this case, so is it Nalgene? Ever try their 1.5 liter bottles? They may work nice for you because they’re standard diameter so they usually fit in the outter pockets of most packs still, but you get an extra half liter, yipee.


  2. I carry two- 1.5 liter “disposable” Aquafina bottles and a .5 liter soft white nalgene. When I need more water than that, I pick up an extra disposable bottle or two before going into the dry section.

    I have carried the same “disposable” bottles for thousands of miles and never had a failure. The “disposable” bottles weigh 1.5 ounces a piece, which is only a little heavier then a platypus but a lot more dependable.


  3. My wife has used a 2+ liter platy for about 3 years, and I used a 4L MSR Dromlite last year. We walked about 500 miles with them last year. No leakage problems last year due to one change. Earlier years we found that it was easy to cause bite valve leaks. If you go to the bike section of REI, you can find bite valves with on-off switches. Once we replaced the original valves with one having the on-off switch, no more problems. Never have had the bladder itself leak. We used to carry 2L Nalgene flexible bottles, but after about 3 years of being crammed in packs when empty, they began to leak.

    When in the desert, we need a lot of additional water, and have used 2L soda bottles for hundreds of miles with no failures.

  4. Bite valves bite.
    I do like the Nalgene Cantene. The cap is interchangeable with my other wide mouth bottles and it has a grommet so I can hang it from a tree. From there it can be tipped so that the water flows out and I can wash my hands and face.
    I can’t bring myself to buy water in disposable containers under the one gallon size and more.

  5. I’ve used all sorts of ordinary 1.5L water bottles for years and never once had a problem with them cracking. When full, they are next to indestructible. Just prevent the plastic from flexing too much, which tends to happen mainly when the bottles are empty. If you the bottle is being repeatedly bent out of shape, then replace it more frequently. Plastic is not designed to flex repeatedly. This is why Platypus bottles will inevitably fail. If you just need capacity for dry areas, then buy some extra 1.5L bottles when you arrive in these areas. Lots of bottles means less of a disaster if one bottle should somehow break. If you really want a water bladder, then get a dromedary or dromlite. Though I don’t see why, given how bladders will always be a nuisance to clean, are cumbersome to fill and drink from, and you can’t see what’s inside in the case of dromedaries and dromlites. I hate water bladders.

  6. I have used camelbak bladders for years. Bite valves have on-off valve so no leaks there but I have had leaks where the hose meets the bladder. Solution was to cut 1/2 inch off hose end and reattach. Works for another year or so. I like bladders convenience but also use bottles, disposable and otherwise.

  7. Personally I only carry an 18th century leather costrel, but you could try using the plastic bladder from a wine cask. You get to have a good reason for buying wine, and the bladder comes free once you have finished the cask.
    Le Loup.

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