Look, we know that hydration bladders aren’t the sexiest sounding thing. Nor do they seem particularly exciting… unless you know that awful experience of being halfway through a hike with a leaking water bladder and a diminishing will to continue. The bottom line is that robust, accessible hydration bladders make the difference in managing physically demanding conditions.
With the mountains of options out there, we have compiled a list of our favorite options so you can make sure to buy the best hydration bladders for your trip! Whether you’re hiking or biking, trekking or mountaineering, you need to know the differences between your Osprey reservoir to a CamelBak Crux.
The Top 10 Best Hydration Bladders
1. CamelBak Antidote Reservoir 100 oz
Capacity: 3-liter | Weight: 7oz | Dimensions: 6.75 x 2.5 x 16.6 inches
CamelBak is a classic, tried and tested brand when it comes to buying a new hydration bladder. If you live and swear by CamelBak hydration bladders then who can blame you? With their lifetime guarantee with each product and commitment to innovative design, they continuously work to create superb quality hydration packs. The CamelBak Antitode Reservoir is one of the recent additions to their lineup. With the wide mouth opening, it can be easily filled up and can even accommodate ice. With the plastic handle, you don’t have to worry about spilling everything whilst refilling.
It is full to the brim with exciting features such as a high-flow bite valve with a simple shut-off gauge, plus the shape is ergonomically designed with an interior partition. This prevents the liquid from sloshing around whilst you’re carrying it and keeps the weight low and centered.
2. Deuter Streamer Reservoir
Capacity: 2-3 liters | Weight: 1.6oz| Dimensions: 8.3 x 17 inches
Deuter takes the fold-over design but works to make it widely accessible with their Deuter Streamer reservoir. It takes the major limitation of fold-over designs being difficult to fill and drastically improves it. There are two large pinch holes at the top of the hydration bladder so you can hold it and force the mouth of the bag open without any major spills. Deuter hydration systems also feature their Helix Valve, which enables constant access to liquid without interrupting the flow of your day to day life. Whether you’re hiking up a hill or speed biking through a plain, you can easily have enough nourishment to keep pressing through.
3. MSR DromLite Bag Water Reservoir
Capacity: 6-liters | Weight: 5.7oz| Dimensions: 20.6 x 11.3 inches
Compact and packability is the name of the game for MSR with this hydration engine. The MSR DromLite is designed to offer as much capacity as possible whilst being able to fold all the way down to the size of the cap. This is all utility, without weighing you down and allowing you to keep moving quickly.
Made from rugged film with radio frequency-welded seams, this hydration bladder offers reliable durability. You won’t have to worry about a leaking reservoir halfway through your journey! It also has the all-important BFA-free lining to ensure better-tasting water, without any hint of that plastic taste we all despise. Overall, this is one of the best hydration bladders for someone who wants to stay hydrated but doesn’t want to sacrifice any of their space.
4. Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir
Capacity: 2 liters | Weight: 7.4oz| Dimensions: 13.8 x 5.9 x 2.6 inches
The Osprey Hydraulics hydration bladder gives some of the other brands a run for its money. With a slide closure, this fold top bladder is packed full of exciting specs. With an angled bite valve that twists open and closed, and a carry handle, it is designed with the user in mind. Osprey tops this off with their anatomically shaped backplate, for stability and ease of fitting in a full backpack, this is a serious contender for my favorite hydration bladder.
Osprey is a visionary brand when it comes to making the best hydration bladders, creating some of the most exciting features to feature on modern hydration bladders. This is the detachable tube with a magnetic mouthpiece, which stows easily on the company’s own packs. Also, instead of the quick connect valve being placed on the bottom of the bladder, it is placed halfway along the hose of the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir. This actually makes accessing water easier.
5. Platypus Hoser
Capacity: 2 liters | Weight: 3.6 oz| Dimensions: 16 x 6 inches
Unlike some other items on this list, this bladder doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that could make it super expensive. Platypus instead focuses on simplicity and ease of use. Without all the other features, this comes in as super lightweight and demonstrated why Platypus has become a top brand for hydration bladders in recent years. With a few features such as a clip for attaching the head to your pack strap, this is truly the minimalist staple choice.
It has a wide compatibility across the Platypus range, so you can get those additional features if you really wanted. The Hoser focuses on the most important aspect of any hydration system – water flow. The self-sealing HyFLO bite valve provides quick and easy hydration, with a 30% increased flow rate from their previous models. What more do you need?
6. HydraPak Shape-Shift Water Bladder
Capacity: 2 liters | Weight: 4.9oz| Dimensions: 13.3 x 6.4 inches
The HydraPak Shape-Shift is another popular pick with features such as a Plug-n-Play hose connect system and an easy flowing bite valve. It is a fold top bladder with a Slide Seal locking mechanism to keep it secure. It manages to be lightweight at just under 5 oz, which is best for those constantly on the move.
The unique design is what makes it a particular favorite. It also has a center baffle which means that this bladder is slim and can fit nicely within most hydration system compatible backpacks. This makes it similar to the Platypus Big Zip but differs as the internal baffle can be removed. This is great for increasing water capacity and means you can turn the Hydrapak Shape-Shift inside out, making it much easier to clean. Pop it on the top shelf of your dishwasher for easy cleaning!
7. Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir
Capacity: 2 liters | Weight: 6oz | Dimensions: 8.7 x 15 inches
As you can guess from the name, the Platypus Big Zip has a zip-lock opening at the top of the bladder. With this slide closure, it can open easily both ways whilst keeping the water securely inside. The wide opening allows for easy access to clean, fill and empty the reservoir.
It is also made with two layers of polyethylene material, the inner layer designed to ensure the water is taste-free. This layer has an embedded silver-ion treatment to protect clean water from mold and bacteria. The outer layer is much more robust and ensures the durability of the whole bladder. This combines to create a taste-free, leak-proof reservoir, perfect for all hiking enthusiasts.
Much like the HydraPak, the Platypus Big Zip has an internal baffle, giving it a low profile design so it rides flat in a pack. This however means that the pack cannot be turned inside out as the internal baffle is kept in place. It’s easy to carry and to fit into any backpack, no matter how full!
8. CamelBak Crux Mil-Spec Reservoir
Capacity: 3 liters | Weight: 8.3oz | Dimensions: 18.1 x 9.1 x 3.1 inches
With the CamelBak Mil-Spec Crux, the best-known hydration bladder brand wanted to keep improving on their previous models. This model is all about being bigger and better than before, with thoughtful design reflecting that. With a wide opening measuring just over 3 inches, this is easy to fill, easy to clean, and big enough to add ice if you have any handy. CamelBak boasts to be able to deliver 25% more water per each sip than previous models which makes it perfect for active people. You can also add a CamelBak filter if you want to ensure every sip is filtered to perfection.
The RF-welded polyurethane film is tough and resistant to punctures – an essential feature to avoid messy spillage. It also reacts gracefully to any shock as the seams are strong from the radio frequency welding on the inside. The CamelBak Crux Mil-Spec also features the silver ion antimicrobial treatment which prevents mold and ensures that your cleaning is more effective. The filling handle is larger than previous CamelBak models and is designed to make grabbing and filling the reservoir easier. The bottom line is: this is the best CamelBak model yet!
9. Aquamira Pressurized Hydration Reservoir
Capacity: 2-3 liters | Weight: 11.9 oz| Dimensions: 11.3 x 5.6 x 2.8 inches
The Aquamire Pressurized Hydration Bladder is designed to be quick and easy to use. The slide top and wide open mouth means you can have a fast refill from any water source you wish, lake, pond, river, or even your kitchen sink faucet.
This is optimized to work with Aquamira’s filtration systems. You can install an Aquamira Frontier Max filter via the inline quick connects to have a complete hydration and filtration system, on the move. This is a particularly exciting feature as you don’t have to worry about whether it is safe to drink from a river as the bladder can filter out unwanted bacteria. It also consists of BPA-free and phthalate-free materials so your drink can be taste-free. Plus, this bladder can be easily flipped inside out. This makes cleaning easier and convenient – you can pop it on the top shelf of your dishwasher with no problem!
10. Polar Bottle Cenote Hydration System
Capacity: 2 liters | Weight: 1.6 oz| Dimensions: 19.25 x 8.5 inches
This is the choice for those who don’t want to have to clean their whole system after using it. Polar Bottle designed the Cenote system to be fully recyclable and affordable – allowing you to use your hydration bladder whichever way you want without any feelings of guilt when it comes to changing the bladder. When you just use water it has up to 50+ uses, but you’re able to fill it with a cheeky drink (or a bottle of it) if you wish. Just be prepared it will last for a shorter amount of time if using alcoholic beverages or sports drinks in it. When it comes to cleaning the peripherals, it’s as simple as running some water through the hose and black bite valve and then letting them air dry.
The bladder itself boasts a clean taste thanks to the BPA-free and Phthalate-free materials that it is made of. With a high-flow bite valve and it’s wide and easy to fill opening, it is designed to be incredibly practical and able to be used by all without any hassle.
Buyer’s Guide to Hydration Bladders
Knowing why you should buy a certain hydration system is just as important as knowing which ones a popular picks. Each of the bladder’s specifications differ in terms of what they’re intended for. This means there are a few considerations to keep in mind when buying the best one for you. Here I am going to go through some of the key things to keep in mind when deciding on what are the best hydration bladders.
Hydration bladders are in general slightly heavier than your everyday water bottles as they are made of much tougher and more durable materials (usually a polyethylene material or another plastic). However, your hydration bladder must be as lightweight as possible, otherwise it will be too difficult to carry around. Even the heavier products in this article are only around 8oz, with the majority of them being lighter.
This article primarily focuses on products with bite valves that offer easy access to your water – by applying pressure on the mouthpiece the valve gets opened and the water is ready to be drunk. The other popular type of mouthpiece is the push/pull valve which is slightly more difficult to use as it requires that you close the valve (with your hands or teeth) after drinking. If you want something easier to use, or are a beginner to buying such products, then opting for a model with a bite valve would be the perfect choice.
This is a hugely important consideration for which hydration bladder works best for you. Differing closure types can affect how easy it is to open and refill your bladder. They also impact on the cleaning process, so read through to help decide what is the perfect one for your needs.
The big advantage of the screw top closure is that they are quick and easy to open and close, making filling it from a tap or sink incredibly simple. However, screw tops also have limitations. Attempting to scoop water from a slow-flowing stream can be difficult and turning them inside out for cleaning and drying is very tough.
Zip tops have a slide closure making it similar to your household favorite, the zip lock freezer bag, but with a more robust fastener. This seals the whole top securely so you can carry it about without worrying about a leak. They open up to create a reasonably wide opening that ensures an easier cleaning and drying process than screw tops. This makes it much easier to fill from streams and rivers on your journeys!
The fold top has close similarities to a zip-top bladder, but instead of the plastic joining together, the top simply folds over. A slide closure then sweeps over the fold to ensure the top is completely sealed. The huge benefit of this is the mega-wide opening is great for refilling and cleaning in all different environments.
Durability is both the initial build and how well it responds to its environment. This means you need to ensure your final choice has a study selection of materials, with a strong plastic that won’t split at the seams the moment you have water inside. It also has to be strong enough to withstand a few knocks and jolts without a tear.
The build is significant as water reservoirs themselves aren’t usually prone to leakages, it is the weaker areas such as where the mouthpiece and tube meet, and the tube to the water reservoir. These connections present a huge risk of leaking so the hydration system’s durability greatly depends on the quality of these joints. A build that has a detachable quick release tube and mouthpiece works best as this allows you to change the damaged individual part instead of replacing the whole product.
Manufacturers often offer specialized accessories for their hydration bladders. This can include tubes with water filters or a mouthpiece cover, to ensure you’re getting constant access to clean water. Also, tube insulators for the cold weather or flow meter kits can be necessities for you. it depends on what kind of journey you’re on.
For accessibility and use, some of the best accessories are the cleaning kits, as cleaning and drying your bladders are a huge priority. If you’re new to the world of water bladders, then this may be your essential accessory! The bottom line is, once your bladder has bacterial growth it’s difficult to get the clean water you need.
Why Choose a Hydration Bladder Over a Water Bottle?
Whilst they’re both valuable tools for keeping yourself hydrated, there are times where you need a hydration bladder over water bottles. A bottle may suffice on an ordinary walk but for hikers, where backpacking space is at a premium, they’re far too bulky. Hydration bladders become smaller in your backpack as they are emptied, which saves valuable space. They are also ergonomically designed so they can fit into your backpack easily. With the hydration bladder design, the weight of the water can be kept close to your body so it is much easier to carry for long distances.
Being able to drink your water hands-free through a bite valve is another invaluable feature that the hydration bladder has over a bottle. This is a huge advantage when you’re running or biking across distances, you need constant access to your hands so holding your water bottle can be an inconvenience. Those who use a hydration system tend to take small sips of water throughout their activities via the bite valve. You don’t have to move even one hand to take a sip thanks to the bite valve. Taking these regular, small sips of water is especially recommended during strenuous activities, as it ensures your body doesn’t become dehydrated or overwhelmed, especially when doing sports.
How do I clean and dry a hydration bladder?
The greatest advantage of a hydration bladder is having enough water, to get you through your day. This means nothing if the water you’re drinking is tainted by a moldy bite valve cover or internal lining. Keeping your hydration system clean is essential. I know it’s a pain but without regular cleaning, the hydration bladders can become prone to bacterial growth. You don’t have to do a full soapy clean every time, but you should definitely rinse and air dry your water bladder after every use.
So how do you clean your hydration bladder? It’s real simple – if you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher safe hydration bladder then you can easily flip it inside out and place it on your top shelf. Brands such a Hydrapak are dishwasher friendly which makes cleaning super simple, and you just have to leave it to air dry.
Most other brands are best cleaned by hand using hot soapy water and giving a thorough rinse. You only need a tiny amount of dishwashing soap or some people prefer to use natural cleaners such as lemon juice, baking soda, or vinegar. Ensure you remove the mouthpiece cover and bite valves, and let these pieces soak in a bowl of warm soapy water, before laying them out to rinse and dry fully. You will find that the best hydration bladders end up being easy to clean due to it being such an essential aspect of using them.
When it comes to drying it’s equally as easy. Just flip it upside down or turn it inside out, then hang it over something (anything such as your sink faucet or a rail) with the mouth open until it dries out.