The subject came up at work today: Which is better, carry water bottles or camel back ?
Of course, this is a very subjective decision, but mine is based on years of experience with the free soda bottles.
Each bottle can contain a different beverage, the bottle is easy to fill and nearly indestructible.
Did I mention its free?
I place them in a sling, bungee them to shoulder straps on my pack, or in gear pockets in the pack or jacket.
A camel back comes in a self contained pack, but then where do you put all the odds and ends of gear, like rain jacket, emergency kit, maps, camera, food, etc?
My friend says he brings another pack, or else removes the bladder and slips it into the day pack itself.
You are then limited to one flavor of beverage with all your eggs in one basket. If the thing clogs, breaks, or leaks, that's it. Many camel backs carry two liters of water.
Sometimes you'll want more than that. I carry a 1.5 liter bottle, and supplement with other soda bottles as needed. Always leave home well hydrated, carry plenty depending on temperature, dry climates, body size and duration of hike. Once home, I rehydrate if needed.
Guess I'm a minimalist and have only observed a camel back in use. I do not own one, so that sort of distorts my opinion. They are pricey for what they are, even though drinking from a straw while hiking might feel really cool. Maybe some day I'll try one and limit my beverage choice to plain water.
For those gearing up on a budget, get a day pack with pockets, some empty soda bottles and get out and hike. You can bring as much water as you like along with gear and snacks for little cash outlay.