MOLLE: Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment PART III: MOLLE Hydration System

By: William McKinney

President, Bradley's Military Surplus

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The last piece of military equipment I will discuss in this 3 part article is the MOLLE hydration system. You have been introduced to the MOLLE tactical vest and backpack systems in the last two articles. After speaking about the military's hydration system this will cover all 3 parts of the MOLLE system.

The History of Military Hydration Systems:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

During the World War II era soldiers were issued two aluminum 1 quart canteens that were used in conjunction with their web gear. Over time these aluminum canteens changed over to hard plastic versions. Soon afterwards collapsible 2 quart and 5 quart bladders were introduced. By the late 1980's or early 1990's some soldiers were using a civilian product that is known as a "canteen straw." This product was less of a "straw" and more of a hose or tube. At one end of the hose was a canteen cap, and the other had a bit valve. The canteen straw could be used with the military's 1, 2, and 5 quart hydration systems. This hose system offered convenient access to water on long road marches. Various canteens or bladders could be securely stored away, and the need to remove and open canteens was eliminated. As the military became more aware of the threats associated with heat injuries collapsible bladders and canteen straws paved the road for more robust high capacity hydration systems. This catalyst gave birth to the hydration pack.

The hydration pack is a type of hydration system built as a backpack or waist pack containing a reservoir or bladder commonly made of rubber or flexible plastic. The reservoir contains a capped mouth for filling with liquid and a hose that allows the wearer to drink hands-free. Most hoses end with a "bite valve" that opens when the user bites down on it; the valve may be protected by a dust cover. Some hydration packs are insulated to keep water from freezing or becoming warm. Reservoir sizes commonly range from 1.5 to 3.0 liters. Some of the latest developments include hydration packs that have pressurized hydration bladders which will force water through an in-line-filter allowing the user access to clean water on-the-go.

Hydration packs are commonly used for outdoor recreational activities, such as hiking, bicycling, and kayaking, as well as for military maneuvers. The information in the last paragraph was gathered HERE.

The MOLLE Hydration System:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The MOLLE hydration system has a polyurethane 3-Liter bladder. Attached to the bladder is a neoprene covered hose with a soft bite value. The bite valve has a on/off switch. The rectangular bladder carrier is made with U.S. licensed 1000D Cordura Nylon with Quick Release Buckles on the Carrying straps. The original hydration system was OD green, but it eventually progressed to 3-color desert, UCP, and OCP camouflage. The most current hydration carriers are M.O.L.L.E. Compatible.

Other Facts: • 100 oz. bladder • Large fill port • MOLLE webbing for attaching additional gear • Should straps • Waist strap • Drinking tube with mouth piece • Made in the USA • NSN: 8465-01-524-8362

Possible Future Trends:

The first hydration packs introduced to soldiers were quite simple. The system consisted of a bladder and cover, and the cover possessed very basic shoulder straps. Latter generations added PALS webbing to make it MOLLE compatible. The mouth of the bladder system was widened to make it easier to pour water into the system. Improvements were made to the hose and bite valve, and various adjustment straps and quick release buckles were added to make it easier to put on or off. Despite these changes, the outward appearance of the hydration system looked virtually the same.

While the Army issued these basic hydration systems companies such as CamelBak and Black Hawk introduced more robust systems. The direction these companies pursued was to combine the hydration bladder with impressive assault packs. This concept appears to be popular with soldiers despite the hefty price tag that is associated with such hydration systems. Although I can't see into the future, I sense the hydration system / assault pack combination will eventually become an Army issued piece of equipment.

Here are some other opinions I have on the subject: • The military will adopt 2 hydration systems. One system will focus on MOLLE compatibility and being able to attach onto tactical vests and body armor. The other system will focus on road marching and the military back pack systems. • The system the military currently issues will continue to be upgraded so it functions optimally with various tactical vests (FLC) and body armor systems (IBA & IOTV). • Future assault packs will be upgraded to include an internal pocket for a hydration system and provide an exit hole for the hose. Such an assault pack could be used with the MOLLE rucksack system or used independently. This concept would be ideal while road marching with a backpack. • The bladders associated with the assault pack / hydration system combination may be enlarged to provide more water capacity unless weight becomes an issue. My Favorite Assault Pack / Hydration System combinations: There are many companies producing assault packs that include hydration systems. These models come in many shapes and sizes. My favorite systems are made by Black Hawk and CamelBak. My opinion has less to do with my own personal preferences and relies more with the feedback I receive from my customers. Based on customer feedback I would suggest that the CamelBak Motherlode and the Black Hawk Titan & Hydrastorm Cyclone are the best models on the market today. Below I have included information on these systems.

CamelBak Motherlode:

The CamelBak Motherlode Cargo/ Hydration Backpack features 2258 cubic inches of cargo space and a 100 ounce (3 liter) water reservoir. The pack also features an Air Director Back Panel for superior ventilation. Cargo volume: 2258 cubic inches (37 liters) Includes 100 ounce (3 liter) OMEGA Water Beast Reservoir with HydroLink Exit Port Easy-to-fill and clean wide-mouth OMEGA fillport and integrated handle allows you to add ice Insulated multi-layered PureFlow drink tube keeps water tasting fresh with no plastic taste Patented Big Bite Valve: bite and sit to drink with self-sealing medical grade silicone HydroLink Exit Port and Drink Port HydroLock valve provides secure, positive lever-action flow shut-off when not drinking and is easy to use with gloves One-handed flow control Side-release buckles for quick release from shoulder harness, compression straps and waist belt Zippered back panel access makes loading a full reservoir easy Air Director Back Panel provides superior ventilation Multiple drink tube exit ports for routing drink tube over the shoulder or under an arm Glasses, goggles and NVG pocket with external access MOLLE attachment system integrated to bottom of boot 500D Cordura fabric front panel, gussets and shoulder harness front side 420D high density nylon on shoulder harness back side, padded waist belt and back panel 10mm EVA foam shoulder harness and padded waist belt 5mm PE foam for hydration compartment divider 200 Nylon lining Nylon webbing Army Universal…

CamelBak Motherlode 500 Hydration Pack

The new Motherlode™ 500 is now a pound lighter than the original by making material and structural changes without compromising design, durability, and functionality.


• Decreased weight by 1 lb while increasing volume by 400 cu in • Fleece-lined pocket for glasses, goggles, and NVG's with external access • Improved Air Director™ back panel provides better ventilation • Lightweight, durable 500D Cordura® is 35% lighter than 1000D • Increased internal organization • Lower drink tube exit ports for under arm tube routing • Zippered back panel access makes loading a full reservoir easy • Add or remove name tags and unit badges quickly with integrated hook-and-loop panel • OMEGA™ Water Beast™ Reservoir – with Lifetime Warranty • HydroLink™ Big Bite™ Valve Cover • HydroLock™ valve securely shuts off water flow • 2 in (51 mm) padded, removable waist belt incorporates a lower compression system for better fit • Upper and lower compression straps • Adjustable length elastic sternum strap • Hook-and-loop strap management • Insulated Neoprene tube cover keeps liquids cool or warm while protecting from harmful UV rays • MOLLE attachment system integrated to bottom of boot • Elastic drawstring pocket in main storage compartment can accomodate a second reservoir • Zippered mesh pocket in main storage compartment for keys, clips, etc. • Noiseless zipper pulls • Nylon webbing with hanger loop • S/ R buckles for quick release from shoulder harness, compression straps and waist belt • D-Rings and webbing loops for tube management • Grommet drain holes located at bottom of each pocket and compartment • Printed MOLLE webbing on AUC and Digital Desert patterns

BLACKHAWK Titan Hydration Pack:

• Constructed of heavy-duty 1000 denier nylon • Reinforced stitching to ensure durability • Includes 100 oz. BLACKHAWK!® Hydration System • Drink system protected by Microban® antimicrobial treatment • Bite Me® bite valve and patent-pending quick-disconnect system • 3-D mesh back panel with frame • External hydration reservoir access • Numerous internal pockets and dividers • Dual antenna ports • Robust waist belt with additional S.T.R.I.K.E.® attachment points • Tie-down straps in main compartment • Includes Upright GP Pouch (37CL52) and Nalgene® Bottle Pouch (37CL70)

Specifications: • Dimensions (main comp.): 20”L x 12.5”W x 7.5”D • Dimensions (top front comp.): 14”L x 12.5”W x 2.75”D • Dimensions (bottom front): 12.5”L x 6”W x 3”D • Dimensions (side comp.): 8.25”L x 5”W x 3.75”D • Dimensions (side comp.): 9”L x 4”W x 2”D • Cubes: 2800 cu. in. / 40 L

Blackhawk HydraStorm Cyclone pack:

The Blackhawk HydraStorm Cyclone pack is a versatile, rugged backpack and is NTOA reviewed and approved. It has quickly become a Blackhawk customer favorite. It features twin compartments for extra storage. The large compartment has an internal pouch for radio packs and three antenna ports with flaps. With over 100 external S.T.R.I.K.E. webbing attachment points you'll have no shortage of places to attach your must-have gear pouches. The reinforced waist belt adds stability and has its own MOLLE attachment points.

Features: • Includes 100 oz. BLACKHAWK!® Hydration System • Drink system protected by Microban® antimicrobial technology • Bite Me® bite valve and patent-pending quick-disconnect system • Twin compartments for extra storage • Large compartment has internal pouch for radio packs and three antenna ports with flaps • Anodized D-rings and quick-cinch buckles for compatibility with 3-Day accessory pouches • Reinforced waist belt with additional attachment points • Padded, contour-fit shoulder straps with sternum strap • Rubber drag handle • Metal grommet at bottom of pack for drainage

Specifications: • Dimensions (main comp.): 19”L x 11”W x 5.5”D • Dimensions (front-top comp.): 9.5”L x 7”W x 3”D • Dimensions (front-bottom comp.): 11”L x 11.5”W x 3.5”D • Cubes: 1800 cu. in. / 32 L • Capacity: 100 oz. / 3 L


The introduction of MOLLE tactical vests, backpacks, and advanced hydration systems were revolutionary concepts that grossly exceeded what the military used in the past. Offering a tactical vest that could be modified and carry more equipment comfortably was wise decision making. Offering a backpack with a built in sleeping bag carrier, more padding and a detachable assault pack was another step in the right direction. Finally, creating hydration systems where soldiers could carry more water, offer easier access to the water source, and being able to carry it comfortably was brilliant!

Soldiers often reminisce about the good old days, but this rhetoric has more to do with issues surrounding new work policies or personal conduct matters. One area of the Army that has unquestionably improved over the past 2 decades is the personal equipment soldiers use on a daily basis. Without a doubt these improvements are astonishing, and the Army appears to have more good concepts in the pipeline. With this in mind, I encourage my civilian customers to experiment with these new military products. I believe you will discover that military surplus items offers a tremendous value that is unbeatable! Compare issues surrounding quality, durability and price, and you will soon discover many military products offer more bang for the buck! For more information on MOLLE equipment visit

Check out this THIS site: Sincerely; William G. McKinney Bradley's Military Enterprises President