Gear Tip: Store your hydration bladder in the freezer

If you love hiking, cycling, mountain biking or any other outdoor activities, you need a good hydration pack. Carrying your water in a bladder stored in your pack keeps your hands free and you hydrated. The problem with hydration packs, however, is keeping the bladders clean. Try as you might, you won’t be able to get all of the water out of them when you get home. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria, which will make water stored in your bladder taste funky and potentially unsafe to drink. Bladders aren’t cheap, so you don’t want to replace them the minute they start to smell poorly. So, how do you keep your water bladder clean and safe? Here’s a simple trick to avoid bad smells and worse bacteria.

Store your hydration pack’s bladder in the freezer. The bladders aren’t that big when they’re empty (even a three liter bladder, like the one in the Osprey Raptor 14 that we reviewed), so you’re bound to be able to find some space in your ice box for one. Go ahead and put the hose in there, too. Any part of the bladder that might have water left in it should get put in cold storage.The frigid temperatures will kill any bacteria and prevent odor from forming. The next time you need your hydration pack, simply take the bladder out of the freezer, fill it up as you normally would and enjoy how cold your water stays because of the temperature of the bladder. Your water will taste fresh and smell pure. Assuming, of course, that you’re filling your bladder with good water.

Sure, you can spend the money on a cleaning kit, but even those aren’t perfect for killing bacteria and don’t ensure that you get all of the water out of the bladder once you’re finished. Plus, they cost money.

You already have a freezer. Storing your bladder in there is free, easy and a way to keep your gear fresh.

You’ll thank us the next time you hit the trail.

Photo of the Day (10.3.10)

Tired of the same old ho-hum travel photos? Try tipping your camera on its side. Flickr user borderfilms (Doug) offers us this wonderful example from Chiapas, Mexico of how a little camera tip can add much needed visual intrigue to your own shots. I particularly enjoy the way the brightly colored red, yellow and white flags all converge around a single point on the cathedral’s facade. It looks like some kind of colonial laser gun, shooting beams of color and movement into the brilliant blue sky beyond.

Have any great travel photos you’d like to share with the world? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Everyone gets a daily “stop” card – Road trip tip

On a road trip, you just can’t stop everywhere that looks interesting or fun. And of course, what would appeal to an 8-year-old girl might lead to the eye-rolling of a 14-year-old boy. An easy solution: every family member gets a “stop” card daily.

No questions asked, no arguments — if a family member pulls out their “stop” card, the whole family stops. You can put a cap on cost ahead of time, and no complaining allowed as each gets a turn.

It’s fair, fun and very interesting to see the type of stopping points chosen.

[Photo: Flickr | Rich Anderson]

Bring a travel corkscrew – Packing tip

While you’re on vacation abroad, few things compare to an impromptu picnic in the open air. It is the perfect opportunity for sampling the local foodstuffs, wine, and scenery.

Depending on where you are in the world, tracking down a corkscrew can often turn an uncomplicated experience into a bit of an ordeal. On your next trip, save yourself some time and always pack a handy travel corkscrew.

[Photo: Flickr | YannGar Photography]

Observe other diners – Dining out tip

It’s a good idea when you’re trying a new ethnic restaurant or in a foreign country to observe the other diners on how to use condiments or how they eat the food.

For example, when dining in a Japanese restaurant for the first time, I had the awkward experience of being served what looked like “burrito.” I poked it with my chopsticks, curious. Luckily, before I tried to take a bite out of it, I saw a fellow patron, open his “burrito” and wash his hands with what turned out to be a hot, wet towel!

[Photo: Flickr | pointnshoot]