Hydration Packs

I currently carry a 40oz. bottle in the cockpit for water. Not ideal, but it’s been working. I do drink quite a bit, probably more than the average person, when I’m doing most things physical. I have an NRS Cvest and am looking into options for hydration packs. Seems there are almost exactly 0 on the market for kayaking. Kokatat makes their tributary, but that seems to be about the end of the specific packs. Problem with the Cvest is the short upper pad on the back because of the mesh on the lower back. Anyone have a solution they would like to share?

NRS also has a hydration pack.

The NRS is no longer in production or available. Also looks too long for the Cvest.

Wally World, Dicks, and others ;
“hydration back pack” or just the bladder.
In the kayak we use just the bladder. lay it on the floor and add another tube to it, so you can bring it up around the back of the seat or bring it up in front and put it under a bungee.
If you want hands free use a small stiff velcro strap around your neck that the tube attaches to that keeps the bite valve at your mouth. (like the marathon canoe racers use)

What model kayak? For my kayaks with day hatch or fore deck hatch I’ve taken spare hatch covers, drilled a hole in them just a hair small for the hydration tube to squeeze through, run the tube through the cover to connect to the bladder in the compartment and clip the bite valve end onto a shoulder strap. For very long days/races I connect two 96 oz. bladders with a tee connector in the day hatch. Kayak becomes the canteen. Not sure if that would work for what you’re paddling.

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@JackL said:
Wally World, Dicks, and others ;
“hydration back pack” or just the bladder.
In the kayak we use just the bladder. lay it on the floor and add another tube to it, so you can bring it up around the back of the seat or bring it up in front and put it under a bungee.
If you want hands free use a small stiff velcro strap around your neck that the tube attaches to that keeps the bite valve at your mouth. (like the marathon canoe racers use)

After I posted, I was thinking I could stash a pack behind the seat since I’m currently only using a deck skirt and not a full skirt. Also saw the Camelbak unbottle. Looks to be too long though to mount to my PFD.

@Mike Harold

The tube will fit under a full skirt (bungee, not rand). That’s how I carry my CamelBak Crux 1.5 liter reservoir [tethered to the boat]. Hydration tube attaches to my PFD strap with a magnetic clip purchased from Source Tactical Gear, but I did glue a stronger magnet to the one that came with the clip. Have them on both my PFDs and they work quite well. Also have the Crux in a 3 liter size.

https://sourcetacticalgear.com/hydration-accessories/43-magnet-clip-7297210000644.html [also available at Amazon, but pricier there]

I’m a canoer and wouldn’t wear a hydration pack no matter what since I think heavy items like water containers belong on the floor. I use MSR water bags (mine are ancient, but I think they still call them Dromedary Bags). Since you only take 40 ounces of water in the boat with you you must be doing pretty short excursions, so water weight in a pack might not be much of an issue for you (it would be about 2.5 pounds in your case). MRS water bags are what I use, and though I don’t use this feature, they can be fitted with a hydration tube so the bag could still lay on the floor of the boat beneath your skirt. If it matters to you, MSR water bags have one advantage over conventional hydration bladders in that they are virtually indestructible. In any case it makes sense to me to put your water container on the floor and drink via a tube, whatever type and brand the bag and tube might be, so you can avoid the complication of making sure your hydration pack is compatible with your PFD and seat back.

As an open canoer I have options not available to Kayakers, but I don’t use a hydration pack because I like to drink cold drinks and do not like anything swinging around on my back. Like many others I use cheap plastic 1/2 and 1 gallon thermos jugs. placed into foam rings glued to the floor with an insulated vinyl tube running from the jug to a bite valve clipped to the PFD. I have seen others use an insulated hydration pack bungee corded to the deck of a kayak, a lanyard holding the bite valve and an extended hose. Using a bite valve or a check valve in the line, there is no need to suck air each time you drink. Bill

Unless you’re doing some sort of crazy endurance race, I think you might be overthinking/over-complicating this. I use a large container that you get juice in (eg. Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice) because it’s durable, a decent size, and almost infinitely replaceable. In my kayak with a day hatch, it goes in there. I don’t bother to secure it even when I’m rolling. Sure I hear it clunk around but it doesn’t bother me - even when I have two in there. On my other boat with no day hatch (Dagger Stratos) there’s a nice little tray and elastic strap right between my legs that holds the same bottle in place during the same sort of maneuvers.

I used to use hydration pack and tube while hiking but found that stopping for a short rest and a long drink worked better for me. This carried over into my kayaking.

I tried carrying 1.5 liters of water on the back of my PFD once. That lasted less than five minutes.

It takes all kinds. I do like to be able to keep hydrated by short sips as needed rather than big drinks when I stop. that works well when hiking as my day packs and back pack are designed for hydration bladders by a company that also makes the bladders. Paddling is another story. My Astral Blue Vest is supposed to be designed for a bladder but I haven’t found a valid solution and I rather think that a bladder would be better supported from below rather than just hung. I have used one of my Osprey hydration packs over top of my PFD when I’m on a long distance paddle like the Hugh Heward 50 miler where I don’t want to have my hands off the paddle. Still looking for a solution.

Love my Mocke racing pfd, I carry a 50-ounce bladder in the back pocket, and snacks in the front.


It doesn’t take much to create a hydration pack for a PFD. I glued up a simple neoprene pouch with a Velcro top closure. It accepts a 2-liter hydration reservoir and attaches to my PFD with a couple of bungee cords. I don’t notice it while paddling and I find that I stay hydrated better than if I rely on water bottles, which I find to be a pain in the butt. I can also drink regardless of the conditions, even when it would be impossible to take both hands off the paddle to deal with a bottle.

As for keeping the reservoir inside the boat and using a long tube, I don’t want anything on the boat or my body that could become an entanglement hazard.

Camelbak unbottle 70 oz. reservoir. Comes with four mount points (two per side) and can be mounted easily to the back of your existing pfd either horizontally or vertically. Make attachment loops if needed on the back of your pfd using paracord. Make a simple hook and eye loop (velcro) on the shoulder of your pfd to rout the drinking tube to a convenient location. Works well for me and my Stohlquist Coaster pfd.

I used a camelback hydration pack for biking and found a PFD mounted one to be the best for ready access to water on the water. One thing that I discovered once I got my roll, is that it has to be something that attaches at 4 points. The ones that only attach at two points do really inconvenience things when you are upside down.

The self-rescue thing is why I would never have a water bladder from under the skirt attached to me when out alone on bigger water, like in Maine. Should I have to come out of the boat, I now have a floating water bladder to disengage and rescue as well as myself. It is either going to complicate my self-rescue, or I would have to let it go and add a new piece of plastic trash to the ocean. The first adds to my risk, and the second is not acceptable.

I keep some spare water for day paddles in the day hatch. Paddling with others alters the scenario, worse case is that someone could go retrieve the bottle while I was getting set up.

I only fill the PFD-attached bladder to about half so it is not so heavy. I replenish it at breaks from what I am carrying secured inside the boat.

I use the Kokatat Tributary Hydration pack. It rides on the back of my PFD and is high enough to allow me to still wear my waist mounted rescue/tow line. It has tabs that mount to the adjusters on the shoulder and waist of your PFD. I use it in combination with my Kokatat MSFit PFD. It was $90 bucks on Amazon.

Use any type of bladder and add tubing as long as you need it. (I’m a fan of keeping the water as low in the boat as possible.) I’ve even put two bladders in the back hatch and run the tubing through the rear bulkhead into the cockpit on ultra-marathons. Then tape a section of hard tubing just below the drinking valve (hard plastic straws work great,) attach some heavy gauge wire to your life jacket so it ends just in front of and below your mouth, then mount the drinking tube to the end of the wire. All you have to do is bend your head forward and drink without taking your hands off the paddle.

The Tributary is nice, albeit ridiculously over-priced. However, the last thing I want near my face in rough conditions is “heavy-gauge wire”. I use magnetic bite valves that are quickly and easily detached and reattached, even when the going is rough.