CAMPING & HIKING

Best Hydration Bladder: A Simple Solution to The Most Important Human Requirement

Best Hydration Bladder
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were thirsty and you felt sorry for not bringing some fluids with you? Or you maybe had a bottle of water, but it was simply not enough, your trip was longer than expected and you ran out of fluid? You’re not alone, believe us. Have you considered looking up the best hydration bladder the market has to offer? This is where we step in.

There can never be enough said about the importance of hydration, and especially when you are expending energy during whatever activity you chose. One of the most useful items you could have on your outdoor activity, trip or a survival situation is a hydration pack. This way you solve the problem of finding pure water to drink and you avoid getting dehydrated or worse, catching a disease that will diminish your power of surviving. So you can see why hydration systems are ideal.

We’ll discuss how to choose a hydration bladder for your needs according to your usual activities as well as some important features to consider before buying one. With all the information you’ll read, you’ll be able to make your decision and choose the best hydration bladder.

Our Top Picks

ProductCapacityBest useDefining featurePrice
Geigerrig Hydration Engine3 lSports activities, hiking, backpackingPressure pumpCheck price on Amazon
CamelBak Antidote1.5, 2, 3 lHiking, backpacking, KayakingTrail filter is good for 300 cyclesCheck price on Amazon
Platypus Big Zip LP1.5, 2 lHiking, backpacking, long day activitiesTwin chamber designCheck price on Amazon
Platypus Hoser2 lHiking, sports activitiesSimple designCheck price on Amazon
Osprey Hydraulics3 lHiking, long backpacking tripsRigid back plateCheck price on Amazon
NRS PFD1.5 lKayaking, trail running, hiking, bike ridingRemovable shoulder strapsCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

Before buying the best hydration bladder possible, we listed some of the main features you have to have in mind, so let’s take a look at them so you have a better idea on which one would be best to buy according to your preferences.

Usability

Pretty easy to measure, or so we would think. Yes, its usability is the most important thing as you need to easily drink water from it. If you can’t easily drink water, then it becomes an expensive hot water bottle or a pillow.

Hydration Bladder

In order to make drinking as effortless as possible, much design focus is placed on the mouthpiece to ensure that you get just enough water on demand. Too much and you could find yourself aspirating (particularly when you’re out of breath); too little and you feel like ripping the reservoir apart. And lastly, does the mouth need or have a lock-out function.

Maintenance

Especially important if you enjoy filling your hydration pack with isotonic sports drinks, but even for those of us that require nothing more than water, cleaning and maintaining your reservoir is critical to avoid illness which, with the build-up of bacteria, can happen pretty quickly.

Cleaning Hydration Bladder

Image credit: onroadnow.com

Wide opening bladders can be turned inside out and cleaning is a pleasure. And, if the screw lid type is your preference, you will need to consider one of the cleaning products available (often as simple as dropping a tablet into the reservoir and letting it do its work). In fact, many are top-shelf dishwasher safe.

Refilling

Whilst the wide-mouth design provides a large opening for you to pour (or scoop) water, they are a bit tricky to close when full. The screw lid design is obviously a little more difficult to fill but is easier to manage when it is full.

Filling Hydration Bladder

Image credit: rei.com

So, you should keep this in mind, especially if you plan on using your hydration bladder frequently. Having a model that is tricky to fill or pour will cause more problems than help. Our suggestion would be to go for the model that is easy to fill as this is a more important feature no matter how you look at it.

Overall Quality and Weight

Whilst for the vast majority of active users, weight is not an important consideration, the quality is. In the case of these “active aids” quality is largely determined by the gauge of the material used.

Hydration Bladder in Hand

Image credit: wizbiker.com

Most of them are BPA-free and will withstand a moderate amount of normal abuse. However, there are some models that are truly quite remarkable and can withstand all the abuse you throw their way, and this includes the units which have welded seams.

Price

After doing an extensive research, we concluded that the price of a product that might save your life at some point is pretty affordable. Hydration systems range from approximately $20 to $60 and it really depends on your preferences on which one you’ll choose.

Hydration Bladders

Image credit: singletracks.com

So, if you plan on using it quite frequently, investing more would be a smarter choice in the long run. But, if you plan on using it just a few times a year, then there is no need to pay too much, right?

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that you know what important features to look for it’s time for our reviews. We picked up six hydration bladders on the market today in order to provide you the best possible insight before you make a final decision and buy one. Let’s start!

Geigerrig Hydration Engine

Price: $50 – $60Geigerrig Hydration Engine

Capacity: 3 l

Specific features: Pressure pump, detachable hoses, wide opening, very good grade plastic bladder

Best use: Sports activities, hiking, backpacking

It was never going to be too long before someone came along and said; “what if we could add a bit of pressure to the bladder and get the water to squirt out” and Geigerrig gave it a go.

And it is the first real significant change to the hydration pack in the past decade or so. In fact, it is the only real change. Some would say that the jury is out on whether the application is as good as the idea, and this is largely due to the unit’s ability, or inability to retain pressure.

The overall construction of the Geigerrig Hydration Engine is excellent, the bite valve is good, and the hoses detach, enabling quick filling through the wide slide opening. If you want to share your water with your best friend, you can simply squeeze your regular hydration pack to get a similar effect of squirting out water.
The bladder is compatible with most backpacks.

PROS:

  • Excellent construction
  • Good bite valve
  • Compatible with most backpacks
  • Easy to maintain
  • Dishwasher safe
 CONS:

  • It can happen that the air pressure side bleeds down.
  • The air bulb is too easily detached

Related: Although this hydration bladder has a drink tube you can never be wrong by having another one as a backup. The same brand also offers additional Geigerrig Insulated Drink Tube that can be easily replaced.

Check the price on Amazon

CamelBak Antidote Reservoir

Price: Approx. $35CamelBak Antidote Reservoir

Capacity: 1.5, 2 and 3 l

Specific features: 23 cm / 9.1 in. tall, replaceable trail filter is good for 300 cycles, produces 16 oz’s in 15 seconds, robust stainless steel construction

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, kayaking

The mere mention of the name “CamelBak” is generally sufficient to deal with any misgivings that you may have regarding quality and product support, and this comes from consistently producing high quality and durable hydration packs.

In fact, CamelBak is quick to point that if they make it, they’ll back, and back it they do, for a lifetime of hydration. Needless to say, the idea of carrying a water bladder around with you has been duplicated hundreds, if not thousands of times.

You are either a fan of the ‘quarter turn’ filling cap, or a fan of the ‘wide mouth’ opening, ‘slide sealer’ mechanism. For my money, the ability to hold onto the CamelBak Antidote Reservoir, by gripping the ring around the filler lid, makes for a really easy filling, and yes I am a fan of the filler cap models.

The wide construction style makes for a low profile reservoir, a feature which is becoming a common place with most designs, and eliminates the ballooning effect created by narrow reservoirs when full, a rather uncomfortable result along the center of your back.

PROS:

  • High quality
  • Durable
  • Slide sealer
  • Easy to fill
 CONS:

  • Leaves a plastic taste
  • Quarter-turn fill cap is hard to use

Related: Camelbak also offers Camelbak Cleaning Tablets to keep your hydration system free from plastic taste and odor in just 5 minutes. It costs approximately $12 and contains 8 tablets.

Check the price on Amazon

Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir

Price: Approx. $35Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir

Capacity: 1.5, 2, and 3 l

Specific features: Taste free and BPA free water, transparent bladder, twin chamber design

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, long day activities

There are two specific stand-out design features with the Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir; the transparent bladder and the twin chamber system. We have yet to fully understand why it is that manufacturers of hydration systems elect to color the bladder skin.

For this price, we want to see exactly what is going on in the bladder, particularly to check that we have not inadvertently collected some unwanted sediment on the way. The twin chamber design is a clever way of eliminating water from sloshing around in your pack, which is something that irritates many users and lasts a while until the bladder is empty.

Another simple yet clever feature is the fact that the slider is attached to the pack, one only realizes how useful this is when you have lost one or two sliders. It is also a wide, low profile design and it’s important to mention that it leaves no taste as it’s BPA, BPS and phthalate free.

PROS:

  • Easy to refill
  • Mold and bacteria free
  • BPA, BPS, and phthalate-free
  • Made in the USA
  • 3 different sizes
 CONS:

  • Air bubbles come through when trying to drink water
  • Hard to dry inside the pouch

Related: You’ll need a good cleaning tool in order to clean your hydration bladder and Platypus offers a great Platypus Cleaning Kit at approximately $12. A reservoir brush and tube are included.

Check the price on Amazon

Platypus Hoser Hydration System

Price: Approx. $20Platypus Hoser Hydration System

Capacity: 2 l

Specific features: Single filler/outlet port, extremely simple design, very well priced

Best use: Hiking, sports activities

The Platypus Hoser Hydration System is probably one of the simplest designs you are likely to encounter across the broad range of hydration system options.

Sure, the filler port is small, and yes, expect to get a bit of water splashing around as you fill it up, but the filler port is also the outlet port. And it goes without saying that the fewer the openings to your hydration bladder, the fewer the chances are of leaks.

For the folk that wants to really scrub the inside of their hydration bladders, this one is not going to work for you, nor will you be able to turn this one inside out, and hang to dry. But, dry it will, it will just take a little longer than most.

This hydration system is lightweight, versatile and durable with a simple design. It’s pretty practical for any activity, from hiking to sports activities. It comes in 4 sizes so you’ll be able to find the size appropriate for your backpack.

PROS:

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to refill
  • Easy to clean and dry
  • Price
 CONS:

  • The filler port is small

Related: Another great thing offered by Platypus is Platypus Bite Valve Cover. This gadget will prevent dust and dirt from covering bladder’s mouthpiece.

Check the price on Amazon

Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

Price: $30 – $60Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

Capacity: 3 l

Specific features: Rigid back plate, BPA/PVC free, Metallocene PE high-strength, 1/4″/6.35 mm hose

Best use: Hiking, long backpacking trips

The Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir may well have a rigid back plate, and one can see how this would assist in inserting the reservoir into a backpack, particularly if the pack is rather full. Not so long ago the price of this hydraulics reservoir was around $410. Yes, you read it right! So we expected it does a whole lot more than just slide in and out of your bag. The question is; does it?

It is claimed to be manufactured from Metallocene PE high-strength and taste-free film (BPA/PVC free), and anti-microbial formula to prevent bacteria and mold, and this is the case with many other hydration reservoirs.

It has volume graduations printed up the reservoir, which many have, in fact, it is a mystery to us why everyone does not include this as a standard feature. It features flexible 1/4″/6.35 mm hose for faster water flow, but so do all of the others. The advertised low profile shape is equally something many other brands are following.

In summary, does it do a lot more because it was once approx $410? We don’t think so, so it’s great that they lower the price and now can be found from around $30 to $60 on Amazon.

PROS:

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to refill
  • The magnetic holding clip
  • Good flow
 CONS:

  • The bite valve cover not included
  • The mouthpiece doesn’t rotate
  • Leaves a plastic taste

Related: Osprey also offers their Osprey Hydraulics Cleaning Kit for their products so if you decide on buying Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir we advise you opt for their cleaning kit also. The kit includes a drying rack and cleaning brushes for reservoir and delivery system.

Check the price on Amazon

NRS PFD Hydration Pack

Price: Approx.$55NRS PFD Hydration Pack

Capacity: 1.5 l

Specific features: Removable shoulder straps, water bladder included, 3,5’ flexible hose, outer accessory pocket, 2 straps for PFD attachments, padded mesh back

Best use: Kayaking, trail running, hiking, bike riding

The NRS PFD Hydration Pack (personal flotation device) or a life jacket, as they are commonly referred to, and typically donned when on the water in one of many crafts. In particular, you would be a kayaker or paddler of some sort to find this hydration pack useful. Although, with a capacity of a mere 1.5 l, don’t expect to go too far between fresh water points.

This is a complete hydration pack, not just the bladder or reservoir, and is designed to fit onto a PFD. There are many kayakers using this hydration pack and it can be used for, walking, running, hiking or any other activities as it can be simply attached by the shoulder straps.

It can handle lots of kicks and abuse as it’s extremely durable. It also breathes easily as it has a padded mesh back, which means you’ll stay cool and cozy. There are also replacement bladders available to purchase.

PROS:

  • Resistant to damage
  • Durable
  • Padded mesh back
  • Straps for PFD attachments
 CONS:

  • It’s a bit hard to pull the bladder while attached to the PFD

Related: Although this hydration system has 2 removable straps, you can never go wrong by ordering an extra one in case it breaks. NRS offers Heavy Duty Tie-Down Strap that is quite popular among backpackers.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

Staying hydrated will always be the single most important consideration that you will ever need to make to stay fit and healthy in the wilderness. Whether you are out on a 5-day survival trail, or simply enjoying a hike or ride in your local park, anticipating the need and preparing for clean drinking water should be your first priority.

You are either going to take enough water along with you, or you are going to take the right equipment with you, to ensure that you get enough water. How will you know if you have enough water? The answer is simple: you don’t, but large hydration reservoirs will hold up to 3 liters, and this is a great start.

Hydration Bladder on a Rock

Image credit: everydaymtb.com

Out on the trail or during almost all moderate to strenuous activity, sufficient water will be the difference between enjoying your outing, and having a torrid time. It is surprising how much water you can conveniently and easily take along with you in a hydration reservoir, the ease of use will certainly improve the frequency with which you drink water.

Are They Worth The Money? – Every cent and then some. Having water and not needing it, is always going to beat, needing it and not having it. Have you already chosen one? Feel free to share your opinion or questions if you have any by leaving a comment in the comment section below. We’d love to hear what you have to say about these life-saving systems.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Foster

Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.