Hiking Hydration Systems vs. Water Bottles – Survey Results

How do hikers prefer to carry their water?
How do hikers prefer to carry their water?

Hydration reservoir pockets and drinking tube ports are a common feature on most daypacks and overnight backpacks. But as far as we know, no one has ever studied how prevalent their use is and whether using a hydration reservoir and hose is preferred by day hikers over carrying water bottles.

We surveyed 485 day hikers to see how they carry water on hikes and whether they prefer using a hydration reservoir and a hose or carrying water bottles.

Majority of Hikers Carry Water Bottles

63% of the day hikers we surveyed use water bottles instead of hydration reservoir+hose drinking systems citing reduced expense, ease of maintenance, and ability to see how much water they have left as primary benefits over hydration systems that include a reservoir and hose.

What kind of water bottles do hikers prefer to carry?
What kind of water bottles do hikers prefer to carry?

Recycled Water Bottles Used More than Nalgenes

Within water bottle users (n=307), over 57% use recycled water bottles compared to 27% who prefer using hard-sided Nalgene bottles, citing reduced expense and availability as the primary benefit to reusing plastic water bottles. Just 6.5% use soft-bottles, like the Platypus 1-liter SoftBottle which can be rolled up and stored when empty, while 8.8% used a variety of aluminum, insulated, or running bottles and from several different manufacturers including Sigg, Hydro Flask, Nathan, and Ultimate Direction.

Who makes the most popular hydration systems?
Who makes the most popular hydration systems?

Most Popular Hydration System Manufacturer

Among hydration reservoir+hose users (n=178), Camelbak hydration systems are used by over 41% of respondents compared to Platypus hydration systems which are used by 24%. 33% use hydration systems from a wide variety of other manufacturers ranging from Osprey Hydraulics to Geigerrig.

About the Survey

This survey was run on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 270,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of backpacking gear.

There were 502 people who responded to the survey, but 17 responses were removed as being incomplete or irrelevant, reducing the number of recorded responses to 485.

While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general day hiking population based on the size of the survey results where n=485 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.

There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: hikers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who read Internet content might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all hikers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.

The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to hikers who are interested in learning about how their peers prefer to carry drinking water on hikes.

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