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Hydration bladders are a handy item for rock climbers, hikers, hunters, cyclists, professional athletes, and those working in the military. Since they engage in extreme outdoor activities, they need to keep hydrated to avoid getting dizzy, bad headaches, or fainting.
Carrying a one-liter bottle when engaging in any of these activities is cumbersome as you need to keep light. Hydration backpacks present an excellent alternative, as they are designed to help you carry water and make drinking efficient and convenient.
You don’t need to stop or slow down to drink water; simply grab the water bladder and gulp a few sips to your fill. Finding the best hydration bladder designed for your outdoor activity can be daunting as there are numerous packs from different vendors. Our experts reviewed ten products from the best brands and created the following guide:
As you browse the different water reservoir brands, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind – your health. Water bladders are consumer goods, making them either helpful or harmful to our health. Whatever brand you settle on, ensure the ingredients and materials are safe for use to the body. It’s also essential to consider the functionality of several hydration bladders so you can settle on the one that fits best. While they are all portable and relatively easy to use, some have better features than others.
View The Best ydration Bladder Below
1. Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir for Hydration Backpacks
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Our best hydration bladder is the Platypus Big Zip thanks to its low-profile design that makes it easy to stash it into most backpacks and Silver-ion technology that keeps the water fresh. Its wide-mouth opening allows you to take large gulps of water within seconds and resume activity.
What’s more, it has a quick-release bladder that eliminates drips and makes refilling the reservoir pretty easy to refill. The hydration bladder also has a Slidelock closure that keeps the reservoir tightly sealed during activity. Platypus Big Zip keeps the water taste-free, thanks to the embedded Silver-ion technology that keeps the water fresh throughout use. Many customer reviews also cited loving, Platypus Big Zip self-sealing valve as it improved the flow rate.
Another feature that made Platypus our best pick is that it’s available in three sizes to suit different user needs. In essence, the smallest is a 1.5-liter pack weighing 5.6 ounces, a medium-size bladder (2.0L), weighing 6 ounces. The largest Platypus Big Zip reservoir has a capacity of 3.0 L and weighs 6.5 ounces.
+ Zip-fill water design
+ Phthalate-free and B.P.S. free
+ Embedded with silver ion to keep water taste-free
+ Self-sealing valve
Why We Like It – Platypus Big Zip ranked as one of the best hydration bladders due to several reasons. First, its improved flow-rate was mainly made it easy to take large gulps of water while hiking. Additionally, it has a handy grip that makes it easy to operate, whether you are mountain biking or hiking to a local lookout.
2. Source Outdoor Widepac Hydration System Reservoir
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The Source Outdoor Widepac system reservoir is our second top hydration bladder, thanks to its co-extruded polyethylene construction. This feature gives the reservoir a sleek appearance and keeps the plastic-like taste of the bladder away, maintaining the natural taste of water.
Also, despite its glass-like build, the bladder is relatively light. The glass-like liner consists of a thin film that covers the inner walls of the reservoir to avoid bacterial growth and extend its life. The film is 20 times smoother than regular T.P.U. films, which eliminates the chances of bio-film buildup.
Its Grunge Guard Technology used in the product also ensures that the reservoir doesn’t develop bacteria growth. The technology has been approved and certified as an antimicrobial agent. What’s more, the drinking tube has a 90-degree construction that gives you the best drinking angle.
We also found that Source Widepac hydration bladder uses the popular Helix Bite Valve, which eliminates the need for a particular mouth orientation. The quick-release hose mechanism makes it easy to attach and detach on the reservoir. Also, in case you want to replace the original hose with an insulated one, it’s pretty easy to detach it from the reservoir.
+ Easy to clean and use
+ Quick-release hose mechanism
+ No bacteria buildup
+ Wide fold top
+ Equipped with Helix bit valve
Why We Like It – We ranked it as the second-best hydration bladder because of its unique Slide Closure system. It uses a fold-top opening to allow you to fill the reservoir quickly. The opening is pretty wide compared to other hydration bladders we’ve reviewed, as you can easily slide in ice cubes. Additionally, the opening made it easy to clean the tube and the reservoir.
3. S. K. L Hydration Bladder
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Our third best reservoir is the S.K.L hydration bladder thanks to its great value for money. The package not only comes with a hydration bladder but also a hydration backpack that has a pretty lightweight build for any outdoor activity.
The backpack is equipped with multi-functional pockets for you to stash a cellphone, a thin raincoat, keys, hydration bladder, among other items you need. It’s made of high-quality nylon fabric and a breathable mesh-lined on the back panel to enhance comfort.
What’s more, the shoulder straps are adjustable and are wide-webbed, reducing the burden at the shoulder so you can wear the backpack for hours. The hydration bladder has a capacity of two liters, which is more than enough for a four-hour hike. The bladder is made of an E.V.A. material film, which is FDA-approved, BPA-free, leak-proof, and tolerant to high amounts of pressure.
Also, the E.V.A. film ensures the water bladder maintains the natural water taste. The bladder has an ergonomic build that makes it pretty easy to use. You only need to pull the rubber mouthpiece and draw water, and push it back to close.
+ Easy to use
+ Easy to fill water
+ Comes with a backpack
+ Lifetime warranty
+ Auto-shut bite valve
Why We Like It – The S.K.L Hydration Bladder has reputable pressure-tolerance. It was taken through pneumatic tests before release to prove that it can withstand very high pressure. As such, you can stash it along with your hiking items without fear of damage.
4. Camelbak Mil Spec Antidote Accessory Long Reservoir
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Camel Mil Spec Antidote Reservoir is one of the best camelback bladders. Being a reputable military water reservoir that can withstand different combat environments, the hydration bladder does not disappoint. One feature that makes it stand out is the anti-sloshing feature that prevents water from sloshing around when hiking.
Also, this Camelbak backpacking bladder does not leak even when the hose disconnects from the device. This is because it’s equipped with a Bite Valve Adapter that auto-shuts the device when not in use. Another feature that makes this water reservoir stand out is the Camelbak crux feature.
It’s a brand new feature that enables the reservoir to deliver 20% more water per sip. It’s this Camelbak crux feature that makes this bladder a choice product among athletes. The bladder also boasts a baffled design that minimizes the reservoir stack and enhances stability during rigorous activity.
What’s more, the bladder features the New Fillport feature that equips hydration bladders with an air-tight opening for easy open and closing. The feature also keeps the device sealed tightly.
+ Improved flow of water due to Camelbak crux feature
+ Low-profile design
+ Anti-sloshing design
+ Auto-shut bite valve
Why We Like It – Camelbak Mil Spec Antidote Accessory Long Reservoir was among the hydration bladders that bulged the least when filled with water. Its low-profile made it easy to use and carry along with other items in the backpack. The Camelbak crux feature was also pretty handy for mountain climbers who have little time to take breaks.
5. Osprey Hydraulics L.T. Reservoir
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If you’re looking for hydration bladders with a fancy and sporty appearance, Osprey Hydraulics by Hydrapak is the best buy. It’s one of the products developed after Osprey and Hydrapak’s partnership. The Osprey Hydraulics L.T. Reservoir has a capacity of 1.5L, which is more than enough for those hiking in a desert canyon. It has a clear construction with volume markings to help you determine how much you have used.
Additionally, the device has a pair of welded baffles to keep it from ballooning midsection. If you’re the kind that likes adding ice cubes to keep cool for an extended period, you just need to stash them in the v-shaped central tube. It has a quick release hose mechanism that allows you to leave the busy end attached to the ports while retaining the straps on the pack. You will also love its opening mechanism, which folds over to open full width.
Osprey Hydraulics L.T. Reservoir is also fitted with a bite valve. Though a little smaller than other valves we have seen on other bladders, it rotates to keep the device sealed and prevent accidental leakage.
+ Equipped with a bite valve
+ Good water flow
+ Quick disconnect mechanism
+ Maintains a low-profile even when filled with water
+ Twin baffles that keep a compact shape and prevent excessive bulging
Why We Like It – Its carrying handle is pretty handy for people hiking on long trails as it minimizes hand fatigue. You may also find the carry loop more effective.
6. CHERAINTI Hydration Bladder
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The CHERAINTI bladder is made of sturdy and durable materials that keep it secure and functional even after months of usage. It features a remarkably large opening that makes it easy to refill and clean the bladder. It also has a smooth and ultramodern design that makes drinking water from it less of a hassle.
These bladders – and their hosepipes – withstand extreme temperatures of -20 to 50 degrees Celsius. Cherainti’s bladder is 100% leak-proof. It has bite valves and an auto-shutoff hose socket that keeps the water from dripping when not in use. The mouthpiece bite valve has an On/OFF button to allow you to control the flow of water.
+ Large opening for easy cleaning and use
+ Precise control of water flow
+ The mouthpiece comes with a dust cover
B.P.A. free hence maintains fresh taste with non-toxins
Why We Like It – The CHERAINTI bladder comes equipped with an insulation tube that keeps the water taste-free. Also, its double-seal construction enhances this tube’s durability, so you’re confident the bladder will last a lifetime.
7. Eland Hydration Bladder
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This leak-proof bladder is the best for avid outdoor enthusiasts looking for a medium-sized water bladder. It has a capacity of two liters allowing you to carry enough water to keep you hydrated when hiking, camping, climbing, cycling, hunting, or backpacking.
Additionally, its double-sealed construction not only enhances its durability but also keeps the reservoir pressure tolerant. The feature also enhances its leak-free build along with its auto-shutoff valve. Eland water reservoir also has a pretty large opening for easy cleaning and drying, filling, draining.
You will also love the foldable, water-tight nozzle and tube equipped with an opening and locking device. The locking mechanism makes it easy to refill the device and keep it tightly closed when not in use. The bladder is made of a sturdy material, which is S.G.S. and FDA-certified and BPA-free.
What’s more, the device is designed to withstand temperatures of -20 to 50 degrees Celsius. As such, you are confident to use the pack in both hot and cold climates without affecting its functionality.
+ Easy to clean and use
+ Sturdy construction
+ 100% leak proof
+ Comes with a dust-proof cover
Why We Like It – We loved the fact that the pack has an insulated water tube. The insulation ensures the water remains taste-free even when used in hot climates. Also, unlike other bladders, Eland’s device has a detachable tube, which makes it easy for backpackers to store it.
8. OMORC Hydration Bladder
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The OMORC Hydration Bladder has quadruple protection, i.e., a collection of four features that make it impossible for water to drip through the film. They include an excellent top used to airlock the side filling port, a slide clip that seals the top opening, a modern bite valve on the mouthpiece, and a hose socket with an automatic locking mechanism.
The quality of the OMORC hydration bladder is unrivaled. It’s designed with F.D.A. certified food-grade PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) material that can withstand high amounts of pressure and is leak-proof. Its large capacity (3L) ensures you carry enough water for your outdoor activities
+ Long hose
+ Quadruple protection
+ Dual opening
+ Easy to clean and dry
Why We Like It – If you’re looking for a hydration bladder equipped with an extremely long hose, the OMORC is the best buy. It has a 39-inch long hose that allows you to drink water straight from the backpack. Since it’s insulated, you never have to worry about water changing taste.
9. WACOOL Free E.V.A. Hydration Pack Bladder
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If looking for a robust and rugged hydration pack, Wacool’s 3L E.V.A. bladder is the best pick. Its large capacity of up to 3L, compact design, and Ethylene-vinyl acetate (E.V.A.) build makes it hold up in any extreme outdoor activity. The E.V.A. film keeps water taste-free. Ethylene-vinyl acetate is approved by the F.D.A. as safe to be used in consumer goods.
The pack has a dual opening design, which is a pretty handy feature for the best hydration bladders. With this design, you can refill the bladder in any condition. Both three liters made of Ethylene-vinyl acetate come with insulated hosepipes that protect the tubing from harmful U.V. rays.
Another feature that makes WACOOL hydration pack stand out is its military-grade insulation used on the hose pipe. The insulation prevents high-temperature conditions from changing the taste of the water.
+ Hosepipe length is 40 inches
+ A quick link release mechanism
+ Insulated hosepipe
+ Double-opening design
Why We Like It – We love the WACOOL EVA hydration Bladder as it has hose sockets with an automatic locking mechanism. Both the hosepipe sock and the mouthpiece bite valve have been designed to enable automatic locking. This means that when you remove the tubing from its socket, the socket immediately locks itself, preventing water from pouring out. What’s more, in case you stop drawing water, the mouthpiece bite valve automatically shuts off to prevent water from coming out. This is a pretty handy feature in case the pack disconnects accidentally.
10. Source Tactical W.X.P. Hydration Reservoir Antimicrobial System
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This hydration bladder features a Co-extruded polyethylene construction that enhances the product’s flexibility, durability, and tastelessness. Its interior is coated with a glass-like liner hence its self-cleaning mechanism and ability to prevent biofilm buildup.
The reservoir’s Grunge Guard technology consists of an anti-bacterial agent that discourages biofilm buildup. Additionally, the hydration bladder is equipped with webbing insulation that cushions the water within the tube against temperature changes.
Unlike other hydration bladders equipped with a single opening and closing mechanism, the W.X.P. has two systems: screw top and fold-top systems. The screw top allows you to fill the device with water quickly, while the fold-top opening comes in handy when inserting ice cubes, cleaning, and drying the reservoir.
When it comes to cleaning, its wide slide opening and ability to disconnect the drinking tube makes the process a breeze. If you want to clean and dry the hydration bladder, make sure you disconnect the tube after cleaning, fold it, and insert it in the bladder to prevent the sides from sticking together. Its webbing insulation cover then acts as the wicking material to remove moisture.
+ Easy to fill from different water sources
+ Minimal maintenance
+ Resistant to abrasion
+ Easy to clean
+ B.P.S., B.P.A., phthalate-free
Why We Like It – This reservoir’s push and pull locking mechanism was another feature that made it rank among the best hydration bladders. The system is fitted on the suction valve to allow you to draw 25% more water in comparison with other hydration bladders.
Hydration Bladder Buyer’s Guide
With a wide variety of hydration bladders currently in the market, it’s quite a challenge to pick one that works best. Some will have popular specifications but lack the most important ones. This is why it’s essential to know what to look for when buying hydration bladders. While your first thought could be pricing, other factors would render the price factor inconsequential.
When purchasing a hydration bladder, you have one thing in mind – drinking water. This means that the water has to be fresh with no added tastes, and safe from toxins. The result of such would only be affected by the material used to make the film. Materials like polyethylene (P.E.) or Ethylene-vinyl acetate (E.V.A.) are preferable. These two do not react to extreme temperatures.
On the other hand, avoid buying water reservoirs made of Bisphenol S., Bisphenol A., and Bisphenol F. These are chemicals found in plastics and consumer goods. Research shows the possibility of these chemicals sipping into food and water. F.D.A. warns the public from heating bottles and tins made of these chemicals; there’s a high chance that they will intoxicate your food. If this is the case with tins and bottles, then the same will apply to bladders.
Apart from intoxicating the water in the bladder, these chemicals will give water that plastic taste, making it unbearable to drink. That said, you should always look at the product description and ensure that it’s made of anything other than B.P.F., B.P.A., and B.P.S. Escape sellers who try to convince you that one of the three is safer than the other two. The amount of sunlight you’ll experience outdoors when hiking and cycling will be enough to cause the chemicals to react.
Size, Capacity, Weight, and Length
The second most essential aspect is the capacity of the hydration bladder. While this is entirely dependent on one’s personal preference and need, it’s still a factor. Different brands provide different bladder capacities. Many of the brand upgrades now offer a variety of options.
Commonly, the capacities are 1 liter, 2 liters, and 3 liters. However, some reputable companies have produced up to 8-liter hydration bladders. Unless you are hiking for a full day in a desert, 8 liters of water could be too much for one person. Here are some things to think about when considering reservoir capacity:
0.5 Liter pack or less: This kind is ideal for lightweight outdoor activities like walking or running since the packs have a minimal water capacity
1-1.5 Liter pack: This type is the best for minimalists and outdoor enthusiasts who walk, run, bike or hike short distances
2-2.5 liters: This kind is suitable for buyers looking for a balance of bulk and weight while carrying sufficient water that needs occasional refilling
3 liters and more: They are the best for people exploring terrains with few water sources
Type of Opening
Three types of openings are used on hydration bladders: zip top, fold tops, and screw tops. The fold top is the most popular, and like its name, it folds over to provide access to the reservoir. When closing, a reverse mechanism applies, and the closure slides over the top to prevent leaking.
Zip top openings, on the other hand, have closures that resemble a large Ziploc bag. As such, they are easy to fill, drain, and clean. Screw top closures are the most secure as they keel the bladder tightly sealed. However, they may feel a little difficult to open and close in comparison with their counterparts.
Hose Length and Functionality
The length of the drinking tube is relevant to the backpack. The best hydration bladder has a long hosepipe, such as a 48 inch one. This way, you can adjust it according to the size of your backpack, making it easier to use. Just like the film material is a vital factor, so is the material of the hose. You will use this tube to suck out water from the bladder to your mouth; therefore, if it’s made of bisphenol A., then the taste of the water will change. Make sure the bladders you select are made of polyurethane and have a quick release technology.
Hydrating Backpack Attachment
Outdoor activities like mountain climbing are quite exhausting; hence, it’d be helpful to carry along more comfortable things. A hydration pack eliminates the need to carry two separate items: the bladder and the backpack. As such, when examining the best hydration bladders, make sure that they have a hydration pack attachment. That’ll make it easier to use as you can access the drinking tube without slowing down.
Hydration bladders have different designs. The Camelbak bladders, for example, are available in a Lumbar waist belt pack and a rucksack style. If shopping for a new bladder for an existing backpack, the Lumbar waist hydration pack is ideal. Deuter Streamer is also a good buy when looking for a hydration waist pack.
However, if looking for a pack compatible with an existing rucksack, make sure you examine the shape and the area you are placing the bladder in. You also need to examine the bladder’s design when filled with liquid. Low-profile bladders, like Hydrapak Shape-shift, are a great buy because they’re equipped with an adjustable baffle that helps retain their shape.
Type of Outdoor Activity
The packs have varying sizes, capacity, and designs to cater to the different user needs. Avid outdoor enthusiasts participating in extreme outdoor activities like cycling, snowsports, or running should opt for hydration packs specially designed for those activities. However, if participating in light adventures, like hiking or cross-country skiing, where you don’t need much gear, a waist pack like Deuter Streamer should do.
Quality of the Hydration Bladder
Quality is all about the ability to resist pressure and high temperatures. It’s also about how durable the bladder is. Find out how long the bladder can store water freshly, how often it needs to be cleaned, and if it’s protected from mold buildup. Another significant aspect is the mouthpiece protection from dirt and bacteria. It should have a mouthpiece dirt-cover for covering the mouthpiece to keep it free from bacteria. A quality hydration bladder should also last long without getting faulty.
Easy to Clean and Dry
The best hydration bladders make it easy to clean and dry. Some bladders can even last a month without cleaning and still be safe for use. Look for features such as the opening mechanism, whether the drinking tube has a quick link for easy release and if it is reversible.
Hydrapak Shape-shift reservoir is an excellent example of such a hydration bladder. It’s equipped with a slider top that makes it fully reversible for cleaning and drying. The drink tube does not get in the way as you can quickly disconnect it, and its auto-shutoff bite valve prevents leaking.
The other aspect is the size of the filling port. The filling port is the space in which you pour water into the bladder. This port needs to be big enough to fit your hand so that you clean to the bottom and sides of the film. The best bite valves are also easy to clean. Luckily, some brands provide cleaning kits and precise instructions on how the bladders should be cleaned.
If buying a hydration backpack, ensure it has these accessories:
- Bite valve shutoff switch: The pack should be equipped with a bite valve to prevent water from dripping. Some bite valves need to be twisted to open and close, while others have switches
- Wide-mouth openings: The feature allows users to fit your hand in the reservoir when cleaning. If buying a pack with a small opening be sure to purchase a cleaning kit too
- Clip: Ensure the hydration pack has a clip on the shoulder strap to provide easy access
- Quick release mechanism: Ensure the bladder has a drink tube that’s easy to disconnect from the body of the reservoir. This design makes it easy to refill the bladder mid-hike
- Water delivery: You want a drinking tube that delivers as much water per sip. The Camelbak crux feature, for example, is one such feature that increases water flow by 20%. Hydration bladders from Camelbak and Hydrapak Shape-shift are equipped with the feature.
Before purchasing the hydration bladder, find out what previous buyers have to say about it. Unless you’ve used a similar bladder before, you will not know if it’s worth buying. The purchase price could be high, but worth it, or it could be low and a total waste. This is to show that price is not a constraining factor, but quality and durability are.
Therefore, find out from different platforms what owners of that hydration bladder think of it. You’ll get different responses on the same brand; some will find it worth purchasing, and others will give horrible reviews. However, reading a bunch of reviews will help you weigh the possibilities.
What is a Hydration Pack?
A hydration pack is designed to carry water and make drinking water convenient and efficient during activity. As such, you don’t need to stop to take a sip of water; instead, you only need to grab the drink tube connected to the hydration bladder. Hydration packs comprise to two components: a hydration backpack and hydration bladder. The bladder is mounted to the backpack, and the drinking tube clipped on its straps for easy access. A hydration bladder is a rubber-like bag made up of a film and a tube and used to store fresh water for drinking during outdoor activities like hiking and cycling.
How long Do Hydration Bladders Store Fresh Water?
You can store water in hydration bladders for about 5 to 7 days and still have it fresh for drinking. However, this depends on other factors, such as when you last cleaned the bladder, the material used to make the film, and its ability to prevent bacteria and mold buildup.
Can One Purchase the Bladder without the Bag?
Yes, totally. It’s totally up to you. You may find buying them separately cheaper or even decide that the bag is not a necessity. We’re not sure how you’ll carry the hydration bladder without its backpack, but it’s possible.
When would I Need to Use a Hydration Bladder?
As earlier mentioned, hydration bladders carry drinking water when working on outdoor activities, including military missions, hiking, cycling, mountain climbing, desert visits, and the like. However, you can also carry it when traveling a long distance if a water bottle seems less appropriate.
When Should You Consider Buying a Pressurized Hydration Pack?
A pressurized hydration system like Geigerrig hydration engine is an excellent buy for rock climbers and mountain bikers. This is because the reservoir is equipped with a hydration engine that adds pressure on the bladder to provide on-demand water. The pressurization tube is equipped with a quick release valve that enables it to spray water to your mouth. The 1.5L Geigerrig hydration engine can fit the best hydration bladders and vests without becoming bulky.
What’s more, the Geigerrig hydration engine is dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean. You only need to remove the slide top, refill the bladder from any stream, lake, or river. Consider using the quick link to plug in the Aquamira Frontier Filter inline to create complete hydration and filtration system wherever you go.
With this list of the best hydration bladders, hiking, biking, mountain or rock climbing is now more bearable. You just need to pick a pack that suits your needs, and you are good to go. The Platypus Big Zip is a top pick if looking for a pack that allows you to carry lots of water without adding lots of weight to your backpack. Its low-profile design keeps it less bulky even when carrying the largest pack (3L pack). Also, its silver-ion technology keeps the water fresh and taste-free throughout the outdoor activity.
Our second top pick is the Source Outdoor Widepac Hydration System Reservoir if you’re all about the shape and construction of the bladder. Its 90-degree shape provides quick access to the drinking tube, while its Helix Bite Valve makes drawing water from the device easy.
The S. K. L Hydration Bladder was our third top pick, as it provides great value for money being a combination of a bladder and a backpack. The backpack has multi-functional pockets where you can stash essential items without creating too much bulk. Also, consider other factors like Camelbak Crux feature that increases the amount of water per sip and if the reservoir is fully reversible. A fully reversible bladder like the Hydrapak Shape-shift makes it easy to clean and dry.