Like any popular product, there's a wealth of choice when it comes to buying a hydration bladder. There are 5 major brands that compete in this space, each trying to carve out a unique proposition:
Add to that the fact that each of these guys have more than one design and a lot of folk will start to feel a bit spoilt for choice.
In amongst all this noise, it can be quite difficult to work out what the best hydration bladder really is. But that’s what we’ll be attempting to unpick in this article.
As a result, the post is quite long. So if you just want a recommendation for a really excellent bladder that won’t disappoint, then just spring for the HydraSleeve Reservoir (3L). It’s a good size, a good price, great weight and will go the distance.
If you have more specific needs and want to spend a bit of time researching exactly the right make and model for your specific circumstances, then read on, my friend, read on...
HydraPak has been creating and developing performance-driven hydration systems since 2001. The company carefully considers each product they manufacture and where they can be best used when designing them. They have also partnered with big brands such as Osprey and Salomon.
They collaborate with their brand partners from design to testing, right through to the finished products. Hydrapak is leading innovation, and it engineers outdoor gear to be safe and reliable, so that you can go beyond your last milestone.
Hydrapak has a broad range of products. We’ve reviewed the Velocity™ 1.5 L, the Force™ 2 L and the HydraSleeve™ Reservoir 3 L.
Velocity™ 1.5 L
The Velocity™ 1.5-liter hydration bladder features a patented Slide-Seal™ top, a wider-than-average opening that allows for easy cleaning and quick filling. Once closed, it has a tight, leak-proof seal.
The reservoir is easy to carry, and with the Dual FlexGrip™ handle, you won't have any issues removing this from the pack.
The bite valve is a self-closing High-flow Blaster™ bite valve. The valve switches off by twisting the on/off bar, which will also prevent leaks when it's not in use. With Hydrapack's Plug-N-Play™ connect system, you can remove the drink tube from the reservoir to make filling it more straightforward.
This hydration bladder also features a useful external gauge, which allows you to track the level of the bladder’s contents.
They make the product from thermoplastic polyurethanes and use RF-welded seams, which makes this a long-lasting product. The Velocity™ 1.5 L is 100 percent free of PVC and BPA.
Capacity is 1.5 liters.
Dimensions: 12.3 Inches x 5.9 inches.
Weight is 4.4 ounces.
Force™ 2 L
The Force™ 2 L shares most of the features of the Velocity™ 1.5 L, but with two exceptions. The Force™ has a pliable 36-inch HydraFusion™ drink tube, which keeps your water cool in the heat and offers extra protection against the elements. The dirt guard prevents dust and grime from being collected in the bite valve, ensuring a safe and clean drinking experience every time.
Capacity is three liters.
Dimensions are 17.4 inches x 6.4 inches.
Weight 6.1 ounces.
HydraSleeve™ Reservoir 3 L - Best Hydration Bladder Overall
If you prefer to drink your water cold, then the HydraSleeve™ Reservoir is the perfect hydration bladder for you. The HydraSleeve™ insulates the reservoir to keep it cold on scorching days, or hot on chilly days, if that’s how you like it.
They have designed it to be durable, so it won’t break if it’s dropped or even thrown.
The bladder has a clip buckle on the top, and when you close it, this becomes a handle that you can hang or carry the unit by. This reservoir also features a Shape-Shift™ 3L reservoir with adaptable baffles that maintain a low profile.
However, you can unlock the baffles to access the full volume of the reservoir.
They’ve designed the bite valve in a handy self-closing style and allows a high-flow water blast, which you can control using the on/off bar. This also helps prevent leaks when the hydration bladder isn’t in active use.
Refilling is no hassle, as you can easily remove the drink tube from the reservoir using HydraPak’s Plug-N-Play connection system.
The HydraSleeve™ Reservoir is waterproof and made from 210 Denier nylon ripstop fabric; the entire thing is PVC-free and BPA-free.
Capacity is three liters.
Dimensions are 19.5 inches x 7.8 inches.
Weight is 10.8 oz.
The HydraSleeve™ Reservoir is our top pick as the Best Overall Hydration Bladder. It offers versatility and durability. You can use it in environments that reach temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can take this hydration bladder anywhere with you, from the wet environments of kayaking, boating, or paddleboarding, to land activities such as skiing, biking, hiking or backpacking.
This is one of the lightest hydration bladders on the market, as well as being easy to clean. It is also easy to drink from while you are on the go. The bite valve has a comfortable fit in the mouth and provides a good flow of water.
With its slim profile and top features, you will be taking the HydraSleeve ™ Reservoir with you everywhere you go.
HydraPak prides themselves on being transparent and accountable to their customers as they believe that you should be informed about how they operate.
They continuously strive to improve their hydration systems, as our top pick shows.
The company is mindful of its impact on the planet, and they are partners to organizations such as The National Park Foundation and The Conservation Alliance. All their products come with a lifetime warranty.
Platypus has been creating hydration solutions for over 20 years. Their products range from bladders to water bottles.
They have their own certified, world-class laboratory that allows them to develop and test technologies so that they can bring the best hydration solutions to every outdoor enthusiast.
Platypus has two types of hydration bladder: the Hoser™ Reservoir and the Big Zip™ EVO. Between these two, you should find a bladder size that will meet your outdoor needs.
The Hoser Reservoir is exceptionally lightweight. The body is made from polyurethane and polyethylene, while the bite valve is made from silicone.
This hydration bladder is easy to transport, as it has a carrying handle that can either be hooked onto the back of a backpack or held in your hand.
To protect the hydration bladder from bacteria and mold, it has had silver-ions embedded into it. For added safety, the Hoser™ Reservoir is BPA-free, Phthalate-free, BPS-free, and does not contain any polycarbonate.
It also features a new self-closing bite valve and has an increase of 30 percent in its flow rate. The threaded hose port makes it compatible with most caps and accessory adaptors.
Four sizes: 1 liter, 1.8 liters, 2 liters, and 3 liters.
Bite valve is made from silicone.
Spout is constructed from polyethylene.
One liter and 1.8 liters: 11.5 inches long.
2 liter: 16 inches long.
3 liter: 16.5 inches.
The product comes with a lifetime warranty.
Big Zip™ EVO
The Big Zip™ EVO has recently received a facelift. The new and improved version boasts additional features such as a handy pincher grip, which makes it easy to fill the hydration bladder with one hand.
They have increased the flow rate by 50 percent, as a 5/16-inch drink tube has been added. It has a secured zip-seal, which makes both filling and closing it simple.
The shutoff valve makes it easier to store the hydration bladder in a backpack or hip pack without worrying about leakage.
It has a semi-rigid baffle that keeps the reservoir open to aid evaporation and helps it dry out quickly. It has silver-ions embedded in the film to keep your Big Zip EVO clean and free from mold and bacteria. The EVO hydration bladders are BPS, Phthalate-free, and BPA-free.
Three sizes: 1.5 liters, 2 liters and 3 liters.
Bite valve is made from silicone.
Spout is made from polyethylene.
1.5 liter:13 inches long.
2 liter: 15 inches long.
3 liter:17.2 inches long.
The product has a lifetime warranty.
Lumbar Big Zip™ EVO
Designed to be strapped to your back.
Available in 2 liters only.
Bite valve made from silicone.
8.7 inches long.
Product comes with a lifetime warranty.
They designed the Lumbar Big Zip for cycling and running, although it can be used for many other activities too. These hydration bladders are ideal for mountain climbing, kayaking, hiking and backpacking.
When you buy your Platypus Hydration Reservoir, also purchase the Platypus cleaning kit. This will help maintain your product and keep it free from bacteria.
On your excursions, be sure to put your hydration bladder in either a sleeve or a backpack. This will ensure that your hands are free and that your hydration bladder stays safe.
Platypus prides itself on designing the highest-quality products for your outdoor experience. They use innovative technology to ensure that your product is long-lasting and easy to repair so that it is as eco-friendly as possible.
Founded in 1974, Osprey’s owner Mike Pfotenhauer has every product design pass through his hands before going to production. When he started his store, he had travelers and backpackers seek him out for his made-to-order and custom-fit packs.
As the demand grew for noteworthy fitting backpacks, Osprey outgrew its humble storefront and moved to a new home in Southwest Colorado.
Osprey has a diverse product range geared towards all outdoor activities, be it mountaineering, running, skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or backpacking.
The Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir has four size options: the 1.5 liters, the 2 liters, the 2.5 liters and the 3-liters hydration bladder. Depending on your activity and the duration, you can select which size hydration bladders would best fit your needs.
The bladders have many shared features, so the size will make the most significant distinction when choosing one. There are, however, some minor differences, which you can see below. All of Osprey's hydration bladders are lead-free, phthalate-free, and BPA-free.
Osprey Hydraulics 1.5L Reservoir
They use twin-welded chevron baffles to keep your water stabilized, as well as to maintain a flat profile.
It features an Easy Slide-Seal top opening. This keeps it watertight and makes cleaning and filling a breeze.
It comes with a Pour Shield that extends the collar, making it easier to pour water into other bottles.
It features a practical handle that makes it easy to carry and fill.
The magnetic bite valve is a magnetic clip that connects the hydration bladder hose with the sternum strap magnet, making it easier to drink your water.
The Hydrapak Blaster Valve provides a fast and smooth water flow, with just a quarter of a twist.
The QuickConnect system makes it simple to remove the bladder and refill it when you are in the outdoors.
Osprey Hydraulics 2L Reservoir
This model comes with a hydrostatic backerplate, which provides a sturdy structure that allows the reservoir to maintain a flat profile when placed into a backpack. This is a great space-saver when carrying a loaded pack!
The Easy Slide-Seal opening on the top ensures that the hydration bladder lets no water go to waste.
A handy Pour Shield helps for transferring water from the bladder into other bottles, by extending the collar for easy and splash-free tipping.
The easy-grip handle is practical and comfortable.
The bite valve is magnetic and can be clipped to the sternum strap magnet to ensure it stays in one place and is easy to access.
It only takes a quarter twist of the Blaster Valve to allow the fast, smooth water flow.
The hydration bladder’s QuickConnect system makes quick work of removing the tube and refilling.
Osprey 2.5 Liter Hydraulics® LT Reservoir
Osprey’s twin-welded baffle system keeps the reservoir as flat as possible while it’s in a pack, allowing for plenty of space for first aid kits, snacks, and other necessary accessories!
The hydration bladder is leak-proof, so no matter how it lies in your pack, you don’t have to worry about losing water.
Like all Osprey reservoirs, it features a handy collar extension that makes pouring water into other vessels easy and mess-free.
Easy to carry and hold while filling.
Easy-access bite valve connects to the chest strap using a handy magnet.
Features the classic Osprey Hydrapak Blaster Valve and QuickConnect System.
Osprey 3 Liter Hydraulics® Reservoir
Like the 2-liter, this model features a hydrostatic backerplate to keep the reservoir as flat as possible when in a pack.
Watertight seal that’s easy to clean.
Pour Shield makes it simple to pour water from the hydration bladder into other vessels.
Easy-carry handle is convenient and makes for easy filling.
No need to worry about losing your bite valve! Simply clip it to the sternum strap with the handy magnetic clip.
The water flow is smooth, fast, and even thanks to the Blaster Valve.
You don’t need to take the whole pack off to remove and refill the reservoir. Osprey’s QuickConnect system makes it a quick and easy process.
These hydration bladders are suitable for just about every outdoor activity. Whether your sport of choice is cycling, rock climbing, white river rafting, trail mountain biking, hiking or backpacking, one of the Osprey models will suit you.
They make the Osprey Hydraulics reservoirs from thermoplastic polyurethane and come with detachable hoses and bite valves. There are a few accessories that you can buy separately, such as the magnetic clip, hydraulics bite valves, hydraulics silicone nozzles, a cleaning kit and insulated tubes.
Osprey designs its products with sustainability as its core value. Their products can be recycled, and they are continually evolving their processes to ensure that their products are safe, long-lasting and are as close to zero-waste producing as possible.
MSR Dromedary - Best Hydration Bladders for Backpacking
A mountaineer and engineer by the name of Larry Penberthy founded Mountain Safety Research (MSR) in 1969. He was driven by the idea that the key to unlocking extraordinary adventures was reliable and safe equipment.
Today, MSR is still innovative and designing high-performance equipment. They use their combined knowledge of science and engineering to deliver solutions to challenges that explorers face.
MSR is also the founding member of the Outdoor Industry Association Sustainability Working Group. This is an alliance of 300 outdoor brands, manufacturers, and suppliers that are dedicated to taking on the sustainability challenge.
The MSR DromLite™ Bags come in a range of three sizes: the four-liter, the six-liter, and 10-liter Dromedary Bags. These long-lasting and durable bags fold into a remarkably small size — roughly the same size as their cap. These hydration bladders, Made from polyurethane, with RF-Welded seams, are incredibly durable and can also withstand freezing temperatures.
They feature a loop that makes the reservoir easy to hang or carry, and it comes with useful accessories such as the Svelte 3-in-1 cap. This lets you pour, drink, and fill with ease. These hydration bladders are BPA-free, making them extra safe to drink from.
The MSR Dromedary Specs:
Four-liter length is 18.3 inches.
Six-liter bag length is 20.6 inches.
The 10-liter bag length is 23 inches.
Made from polyurethane-laminated.
This product is best used for backpacking, hiking and camping. It's particularly suitable for freezing temperatures.
You can add to your MSR DromLite™ bags by buying an easy-to-use kit that will turn your standard hydration bag into a hands-free hydration bag. The kit includes a bite valve, a shutoff valve, a custom hydration cap and a taste-free drinking tube.
MSR uses the knowledge they have acquired over the last 50 or so years to develop clean drinking and water sanitation for communities around the world.
They produce some of the safest, reliable, high-performance and environmentally friendly adventure products on the market. Some of this technology and knowledge has also gone into their hydration bladders.
This company was born out of thirst, literally. The founder, Michael Edison, entered a race called “Hotter N Hell” in Wichita Falls, Texas. The race was a 100-mile course with very few water stops along the way.
Michael was an emergency medical technician, and for the race, he filled an IV bag with water, put that into a tube sock, and then clamped the thin hose to his shirt with a clothes peg.
At first, the other contestants laughed at him, but then they saw that he could cycle further with fewer stops. And so, the first hands-free hydration bladder was born.
CamelBak has the CRUX™ Reservoir, which comes in three sizes and also has a Lumbar Reservoir option. The CRUX™ Reservoirs share many features, and, regardless of their size, they have all received a recent face-lift to keep up with industry standards.
They make the CRUX™ Reservoir from polyurethane, and it has Hydroguard™ applied science that prevents the growth of bacteria in the tube and reservoir. The Big Bite Valve now offers 20 percent more water flow and also self-seals after each sip.
The CRUX™ Reservoir has the Quick Link System that lets you easily disconnect the tube and remove the hydration bladder from your backpack. While you are going about your activities, the reservoir baffles provide a low profile and minimize any sloshing.
It has a nifty on/off valve, which allows you to seal the tube with ease, using one hand. It also has a sizable access port, which makes it easy to fill and clean. These hydration bladders are 100 percent free of BPF, BPS and BPA’s.
The dimensions of the 1.5-liter are 12 inches x 7 inches x 2.5 inches.
For the two-liter is 15 inches x 7.5 inches x 2.5 inches.
The three-liter's dimensions are 18 inches x 9 inches x 3 inches.
The Lumber CRUX™ Reservoir dimensions are 10.5 inches x 11 inches x 3 inches.
The CRUX™ Reservoir is an ideal companion when you go kayaking, skiing, backpacking, trail running, cycling or hiking.
To make cleaning your CRUX™ Reservoir easy, we recommend buying the CamelBak cleaning tabs. They are made from chlorine dioxide, and you only need to use them periodically. This will help to keep the tube and reservoir free of any odor or taste.
You can also purchase the cleaning kit for a thorough cleaning, which you should do to preserve your product's life.
One of CamelBak’s aspirations is to eliminate disposable plastic. They’re dedicated to environmental sustainability and have manufactured their products to be durable so that they can help reduce plastic waste. They are also major suppliers to the U.S. military and worldwide law enforcement agencies.
Choosing The Best Hydration Bladder For You
Whether you’re an intrepid adventurer or simply an outdoor activities enthusiast, then the convenience of the hydration bladder will appeal to you. Whatever your activity, be it hiking, cycling or running trails, you will need to have a water supply with you.
The amount of water you consume during your activity will depend on several factors:
The particular activity you are doing.
The duration of the activity.
Temperatures on the day.
Hydration bladders have options for different activities, so you can always choose one that fits your requirements.
When you are considering buying a hydration bladder, it’s important to keep in mind the activity you will be doing. For example, if you are going to be doing short walks through the city park, then a 1.5-liter bladder would be perfectly adequate.
If you’re cycling for long distances, then you may want to get the Lumbar two-liter. These are more commonly bought by climbers, cyclists, skiers, backpackers and snowboarders, as it offers an outstanding balance between weight and water capacity.
If your activity is long distance and well away from clean water, then looking at the hydration bladders that are three liters or more would be the best option for you.
The higher water capacity is beneficial if you’re going extreme distances. The reservoir would most likely be heavier, but you don't have to always fill it to the top if weight is a concern.
You want to choose a hydration bladder that can take a beating while remaining durable, sturdy, and leak-free. The material should be long-lasting, robust and flexible. You don't want to get snagged on a tree or shrub and have it puncture.
You also want a product that will handle consistent use in all weather. See if you can purchase accessories that are winterized, such as insulated tubes, insulated sleeves, bite valve covers and even reservoir covers to keep your product from cracking or malfunctioning in the cold.
They may add a little more weight, but they can make a difference to your activity, and the durability of your hydration bladder. Nobody wants to be replacing equipment too often.
Considering you’ll be putting this product in your mouth, make sure it states that it’s lead-free, phthalate-free, PVC-free and BPF, BPS and BPA-free.
Companies are leaning towards sustainability, and they now design many products to last longer to prevent waste. Most offer a warranty that will cover any defects in manufacturing.
Ease of Use
Hydration bladders free up your hands while you are climbing mountains, cycling or running. They offer the convenience of staying hydrated easily while being on the go.
To make them even more convenient, you can purchase accessories like magnet clips, which allow you to attach your hose to your sternum. This makes it easier to access the hose to sip from.
You can also change nozzles if you prefer a self-sealing bite nozzle instead of the type that you need to turn to switch on and off.
A hydration bladder should be easy to fill. You don’t want one where you have to fight the faucet to get water inside it.
New version hydration bladders either use a screw cap lid or a Zip Slide lock. These are uncomplicated and make it easy to fill the bladder with water.
If you’re purchasing a new backpack, bag, or sleeve, make sure it’s the right dimensions to fit your hydration bladder when it’s filled.
Not all bags are compatible with all bladders, and you don’t want to have to buy a new bladder because your current one doesn’t fit in your new backpack.
Once you’ve chosen the pack you want, slip your bladder into it, and you are good-to-go on your adventure.
The HydraSleeve™ Reservoir is our selection for the Best Overall Hydration Bladder. It offers so much versatility and durability.
When the call for adventure comes, you want to know that you can use your hydration bladder in any environment and it will handle enough liquid to get you to the end.
After committing to using a hydration bladder and then picking the bladder that best fits your needs and activities, you will never look back.
Hydration bladders offer convenience and opportunity, as you can go further and explore unfamiliar environments while staying well hydrated.
The hydration bladder allows for newfound freedom, and whatever your outdoor activity of choice, there's one that will suit you.