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By: Steven Billington

"Camelbak," Keeping It Clean

Tubing and mouthpiece needs to corm apart.  This is important to make sure you get the best clean.
Tubing and mouthpiece needs to come apart.  This is important to make sure you get the best clean.

A lot of us use Camelbaks to take our favorite beverage to the trails with us. Many of you, like me, even use them while kayaking, mowing the lawn, woods parties, etc. If you’re like me, you are not always drinking water!! This means you need to take very good care of your bladder (the camelbak, wackjobs) when you are finished consuming said beverage. Improper cleaning will lead to mold, weird taste, etc. I have been doing it this way for years, and it works great. I just did it again a few minutes ago, and it inspired me to write this for all of you to share. My methods work great, and 100% of what is needed you should have around the house already, so it’s free!

Notice how the hanger fits into the bladder.  Its a simple way to ensure it dries properly.
Notice how the hanger fits into the bladder.  It's a simple way to ensure it dries properly.

So let’s get started! Remove the bladder from the carrier. This is easy enough. Just pull it out and then guide the hose through. If there is any drink left in your bladder, drain it now. Just use regular water once or twice and make sure the large majority of the beverage is out. If you were drinking water, you can skip this part.

Now we can get to work. Fill up the bladder with straight water. Not all the way, but the majority of the way. Add about a half of a shot glass (the small ones lol) worth of household bleach into the bladder and close the lid. Shake the water/bleach mixture around for about a minute. The dirtier it is, or the longer it has been sitting, the longer you will want to shake it. Now before I shake it, I blow air into the bladder so it’s nice and firm. Be careful if you do this, and ensure you are blowing before you bite the valve open. If not, the bleach solution is going to go in your mouth. Be VERY careful if doing this.

Side view of the hanger inside of bladder.
Side view of the hanger inside of bladder.

After the minute has passed, hold the bladder above your head and use your fingers to open the valve and drain the solution into the sink. Once the majority is out, repeat that last step with straight water. Done? OK! Now you should have an empty bladder that has been rinsed with the bleach once and straight water once. Fill it back up with water, and add a few drops of dish washing liquid.

We used the bleach to kill any little germs or things living in there, but we don’t want to leave any behind. Rinse it with soap and water three times. I don’t mind doing it three times, and neither should you. Rinse twice more with straight water to get the soap out.

We're almost done! Now pull the valve off the hose, and the hose off the bladder. Go wash the bladder out a few more times with water to be safe. Rinse the hose a couple of times, and take the mouthpiece apart and wash it as well as you can. I recommend using soap again on the valve at this point. All the dust and nasty stuff in your mouth festers in this valve. You should clean it.

Make sure to hang the bladder upside down for the best drying.
Make sure to hang the bladder upside down for the best drying.

Leave the housing and mouthpiece off to dry. Now as to how you might want to hang the bladder. You can buy the drying rack from Camelbak, but if you’re cheap like me, I have the answer. Find yourself a wire coat hanger. Lay it on the desk in front of you with the hook closest to you. It should basically be upside down. Grab the left side and fold it over to the right side. Don’t fold it all the way; leave about 4-5 inches between them. Shove the now modified “coathangerrackthingy” into the bladder, and bend it in or out to adjust it. This will keep the bladder open. Hang it by the outlet the hose plugs onto. Now it is held open, and it is hanging upside down. Allow it to dry.

Now, a lot of people like to end with the "freezer trick" instead of drying it. The gist of that is after you are finished cleaning, put everything back together, but leave it out of the carrier. Fill with water, and add a few drops of lemon juice. Shake around, drain, and stick it right into the freezer until the next time you use it. I don’t like this method, as my way keeps it just as clean and anti-funky, and doesn’t take up room in my freezer.


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