Why Water Bladders are Essential Backcountry Hunting Gear

platypus bladder

water bladder

A filled water bladder, ready for drinking.Tyler Freel

You'd think we have said enough about water, and could turn to other topics related to backcountry hunting. Yes, it's a critical component of a successful hunt, and yes, you should think early and often about getting enough of it. Well, it turns out we're not quite done with the subject of water.

I just returned from a pretty grueling 14-day sheep hunt here in Alaska, and it was in the middle of that ordeal when I realized I didn't know where my next drink of water was going to come from. It’s funny how something so simple, like a few sips of water, can become more valuable than gold under the right circumstances. In my years of sheep hunting, I’ve noticed that this liquid gold can go from absurdly abundant to nonexistent in the course of just a couple hours of foot travel.

That's why I've started carrying several plastic water bladders. They surely saved me on this year's hunt. The area we hunted had very limited water sources. We were hunting ridge tops, and springs at that elevation are few and far between. The scarcity of water meant that my hunting partner and I had to load up as much as 10 liters of water apiece when we found good sources of water. This type of hoarding is practical only with water bladders.
I don't really care much for the hydration bladders with the sippy hose. I want simple, lightweight bladders that compress to small packages when empty but can turn me into a camel when I need them. On this trip I carried two 2-liter Platypus bladders, two 1-liter Platypus bladders, and two plastic Gatorade bottles.

This capacity allowed me to have a solid two days of water at a time. I would pack my bottles, and sometimes a 1-liter bladder for a day of hunting, and leave the excess at camp. If I was lucky, I’d come across a spot to chug and top off my day's supply while out hunting.

You don’t have to get crazy with it, but if you’re going to be hunting an area where the lack of water might be an issue, having a good means to carry extra liquids to your spike camp can give you the ability to push just a little farther, and burn less time descending in search of water. And sometimes those little things can give you a huge edge in terms of hunting success.