When you start to increase your distances, running with a hydration pack seems like a great idea. Want to avoid dehydration? Don’t want to have to remove your water bottle from your vest each time you want to take a swig? Just fill up a hydration bladder with lovely cold water, strap it onto your back, sling the straw over your shoulder and you can sip without breaking stride. Sold.
To be honest, I ran without water for years, since I never went for much more than an hour and avoided really hot conditions. But lately, I’ve been heading out on longer adventures in my trail running shoes to discover new routes. With the weather heating up, I know I can’t just rely on taking a wild swim at the end to cool off and it’s important to load up with water.
So one day, I happily loaded up my Vango Sprint 3 hydration pack and headed out on the West Highland Way. As soon as I started running, I was confused and then horrified by the deafening sound of my water sloshing around inside my water reservoir. Not only did this aquatic cacophony assault the local wildlife and send them scampering deeper into the brush, every hiker I passed looked at me like I was an absolute madwoman.
I ended up dumping out my bladder about half way through to avoid any further disruption or embarrassment, and vowed to figure out if and how runners can wear a hydration pack without causing such a scene.
Once home, I phoned around a few friends to ask how they dealt with it, and was at least reassured to learn that such a mortifying experience is actually just part of running with a hydration pack. All advised me that there’s no way to silence it, but I should squeeze the air out before sealing the bladder, which had already occurred to me. So on my next attempt, I dutifully filled my hydration bladder at the sink, held it against my chest and gently squeezed it with one arm, which resulted in the water spilling all over my running top. When I got out on the trail, not only was I wet but my water was still sloshing around.
Incensed, I called my friend Brian, an ultra runner based up in the Highlands of Scotland and demanded he tell me if there was any secret to doing it properly. Again, he explained that you can’t really fully avoid the slosh, but shared an apparently well-known trail runners’ approach with me to reduce the volume of your hydrated adventures and I’m guessing you’ll want to know it too if you’ve been dealing with annoying sloshing.
This method, which I've outlined below, doesn’t completely eliminate the commotion, but I’ve been doing it for months now and it does turn the volume down considerably, is super easy and won’t soak your clothes in the process.
Running with a hydration pack: how to stop the slosh
- Fill your hydration bladder with water and seal it.
- Turn the bladder upside down (so the part where the tube connects to the bladder is facing down towards the floor).
- Insert the valve into your mouth and suck out all the air. Note that if there’s water in the tube, you’ll have to clear it first.
- Turn your bladder the right way round and check you can drink from it. If you can’t, you've just created a vacuum, making it difficult to extract any water when you’re on the run, so just turn it upside down again and blow a little air back in.
- Hit the trail! Obviously, once you’ve drunk a substantial amount of your water, you can expect the dreaded clamor behind you to return, so you’ll need to take your pack off, turn it upside down and repeat the process, learn to deal with it, or put your headphones in and drown out that irritating racket.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.