Hydration equipment / packs for epic rides

I got in Dirty Kanza 200 this year. I’ve done plenty of centuries but the time has never gone beyond 6 hours. I know hydration and fueling is huge part of success (I.e. @Nate_Pearson at Leadville). I’m trying to figure out the bottle/hydration pack equipment. So my questions are

  1. should I use a hydration backpack? If so recommendations? I’ve never used one
  2. should I add a tri rig to my seat for two extra bottles and strap them down so they don’t eject?
  3. 3 big bottles…my gravel bike has a place for a third bottle holder but it’s low and will likely get covered in mud and dust before I get to it
  4. other options?

I think that’s it for now. Thanks in advance for the help!

Yes, Camelbak Chase or Uswe Airborn. Best way to go, I’ve used it for a MTB 100 with 10,000 ft climbing (9 hours)


It’s gonna get gross

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You can cover the lowest bottle with some plastic and a rubber band. Leave it there until you empty one of the upper ones. Then swap, likely during an aid station stop, and reattach the cover… rinse & repeat.


Just a note, Elite has a 950ml bottle now which might help.

I’ve ridden a 6 hr mtb race with one bottle because the aid stations allowed it. If I had a choice, I’d use bottles instead of camelback. But if the distance between aid station is long enough, and you don’t have capacity to carry bottles, you need a camelback. So I’ll be using a camelback for LT100 this year. If you have capacity for three bottle cages, go with that. Bottles are easier to refill, and you can drink a whole lot quicker from them, which means you drink more.

Zefal sells 1L bottles as well. The Magnum.

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I used to use mine on long rides, but I stopped because I realized that plain water is a problem for me and I refuse to put anything else in a hydration pack. Then I talked to someone whose daughter is a world-class triathlete, and she just throws the liner away after a single use. When you are paying $1000 for a ride, $20 is nothing. But it did make me think about when I would do that. I do like having a hydration pack if it’s really hot. I have been carrying 4 water bottles instead and haven’t had any problems with it so far.

I have put electrolyte mix in my bladder plenty of times, as does everyone I know who uses hydration packs. You just need to clean them out immediately after use with either the Camelbak bladder tablets or denture cleaner (Polident) tabs and warm water. Let it soak for 20 mins and wash out with water. Really not a big deal.

For epic races I use a hydration pack (2 liter) for hydration and a 1 liter bottle of concentrated fuel (4 hour bottle) that goes in my bottle cage. So I only “need” to stop once per 4 hours. Then just keep extra hydration tabs and baggies of dry fuel mix to refuel every aid station. It’s about a 2 min stop with this method. I used this strategy for a MTB 100 that took me just over 9 hours by only making two stops.

I’ve done 9+ hour rides with bottles and with packs. I seldom ride with a pack because of heat and comfort. I have found that I drink more regularly with the pack, which in turn, has increased my performance. The two big mtb races I have planned for this year will both be completed with a pack. Gravel races depend on aid station frequency and type of roads. Rough roads where bottles are likely to auto-eject? Use a pack.

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Thabks for all the replies. My A race is Dirty Kanza 200 so it’s 3/4 hours between the 3 aid stations. I’m leaning towards a pack and two large bottles. My thought right now is mostly liquid fueling so the pack and bottles will have a carb heavy drink (Maurten, Tailwind, Hammer, Beta Fuel, or the like). Maybe have one bottle just water or electrolytes. Then using the third bottle cage for tool storage and a top tube pack for additonal tools tubes and a few back up gels.

So it looks like The Rift is going to go ahead at this point…the virus seems to be under control in Iceland and the organizers sent a positive e-mail about the race over the weekend. Still a bit uncertain myself, but hoping to get a vaccine between now and then.

Assuming I go, I need a new hydration pack. I have one smaller Camelback but it is just hydration, not storage. The pack I have with storage is very old (20+ years) and fit and function of hydration packs has changed substantially.

Any favorites / suggesstions? A few considerations…

  • I hate riding with a pack, so weight is a factor
  • I don’t drink very much on the bike…based on aid station placement, a 1.5L bladder should be more than sufficient for me. (will also have two large bottles on the bike). This also ties to the above point…I don’t want a huge pack on my back.
  • heat won’t be an issue in Iceland, but this would also be my primary hydration pack moving forward, so lightweight / breathable is obviously preferred.

Considering the Camelback Chase at the moment…open to other suggestions.


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Some related discussion here, if you haven’t seen it.

I love my Chase, but have not compared to the Airborne mentioned above. The Chase largely disappears on me, but I also have a history with large packs (Camelback M.U.L.E loaded to the max for most of my MTB rides), so this is a feather compared to the MULE.

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Thanks for the link…was kinda surprised when I didn’t see a similar topic come up when I started typing in the thread title…you can just merge this one into the larger thread if you want.

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Cool, I merged and added “packs” to the title to hopefully help with future searchers. :smiley:

If you are comfortable with a pack, I would go that route.

I personally do not like wearing packs. I have done 12+ hour days in the desert with just bottles (70 miles and 12000’ climbing) on my mountain bike, using pre planned areas to refill my bottles (my car and restaurants). I have a very small pack I use for running, but even then I only use it when necessary.

Nothing wrong with putting mix in your bladders, just rinse it out as soon as reasonably possible after you are done.

On my big bike (my preferred bike), I can add a couple extra bottles to the SWAT bibs for more water. I will do the same with a jersey pocket on my XC bike (which has two cages). Pretty rare I am on a ride where I can’t plan a stop to refill my three bottles, even if it is a stream or snow or something. I set a FKT on a local MTB course (50 miles, 10k’) a couple years ago pre staging bottles on the course to swap out the morning of, picked them back up after I was done.

Hmmm…back in the day, I used to use a Blackburn B52 waterbottle cage when I went to Moab…held a full liter bottle that you could buy at any convenience store.

Just found one on eBay…may have to consider that as an option.

I really like my USWE pack. It holds well to your back, so no bouncing. The one I have has a 1.5L bladder that can expand to 2L and then has a little detachable pouch on the back for storage.

It’s either an Airborne 2 or 3. I think the 2 doesn’t have the pouch but the 3 does.

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For Unbound, I’m going with two large bottles, the new Chase vest and at least one 17oz Stow flask in the front pocket, maybe another in my DarkSpeedWorks top tube bag depending on temps.

Stoked it looks like The Rift is gonna happen. Take all the pics!


A few thoughts/ideas:

  • I’d imagine the weather in Iceland can be “variable”! It will be nice to have a pack that is low profile so it can fit under a rain jacket. This may eliminate a lot of packs, even “small” ones if they stick too far out from your back.

  • consider a small frame bag to carry additional gear instead of carrying gear in a pack

  • check out the b-rad system from wolf tooth. Looks like lots of good ideas for expanding carrying capacity of your frame

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