If you’ve spent any time in the outdoors you have inevitably had to pull off to the side of the trail and dig for your water bottle to get a small drink of water. The constant stops to take off your backpack and get a sip of water get old after a few miles. Believe it or not, there is a simple upgrade from the standard water bottle, the hydration bladder.
Hydration bladders are the perfect alternative to the standard water bottle design. Not only are they made for the person on the go, but they are also ultra convenient when compared to their hard plastic counterparts. They sit comfortably inside nearly every backpack and have a hose that drapes over your shoulder.
The early hydration bladders were nothing more than a tube attached to a thick plastic bag, those days are long gone. Today’s hydration bladders are made of antibacterial plastic, durable material, and are super easy to use. Here’s our take on best hydration bladders in the wild.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of hydration bladders
- Hydration bladder buying guide
- Downside of hydration bladders
- The Best Hydration Bladders
Benefits of hydration bladders
We’ll state the obvious first, they are a quick and easy way to stay hydrated on the go. They are designed to be an alternative to the standards water bottle. No more digging through your backpack to find the bottle, pull it out, twist off the top, take a drink, then reverse the entire process to put it away.
With easy access, you can sip throughout the day and stay hydrated all hike long. Gone are the days of having to stall your progress while taking a refreshing sip of fabulous H20.
Hydration bladders are designed to be easier to carry than a standard water bottle. They disperse the weight over a larger area and only get lighter in weight as you take sips throughout the day.
Advantages of hydration bladders
- Easy access to your water supply
Constantsupply of water
- Easy to keep clean
Hydration bladder buying guide
Hydration bladders are all similar in design, that being said, there are different features that make them all a little different. They are an awesome alternative to a water bottle and the extra features and accessories are what sets them apart.
How much water do they hold?
Hydration bladders range in size from half a liter all the way up to three liters. A 3-liter bladder holds about 6 standard sixteen-ounce bottles of water. Keep in mind that water weighs about 2.2 pounds per liter, so the water weight adds up quickly.
Are hydration bladders easy to clean?
Some hydration bladders are easier to clean than others. Certain models open completely from the top and fold inside out and can be thrown into the dishwasher. Others have a small opening that you need a brush to clean. Cleaning your bladder regularly is an important part of the process in avoiding illnesses from bacteria in old water (source).
Is cleaning the hose easy?
Cleaning the hose is another story. While the dishwasher is an option at home, when you’re on the trail, cleaning requires a long brush or something that can reach inside the diameter of the hose. Either way, it’s important to keep your bladder hose clean to avoid bacteria and water-borne illnesses.
What kind of plastic is used?
With the rise in understanding of the dangers of BPA, it’s important to know what is in the plastic and avoid any potential dangers. Any brand that you choose should be BPA and PVC free.
There are also plastics that contain anti-bacterial properties. If you are a thru-hiker or a long distance backpacker this is a huge perk.
How heavy is the water bladder?
The water bladder themselves are made of lightweight plastic. The amount of water that it holds is where the weight comes from. The heaviest bladders are going to be the 3-liter bladders which weigh 6.6 pounds when completely full.
How easy is it to fill?
If you’re on a long distance backpacking trip there is not going to be a faucet to fill your bladder up. The easiest bladders to fill open completely from the top, making it easy to pour from a pot, dip into a water source, or use a faucet.
Do I need a compatible backpack?
While any old backpack will technically work, a hydration compatible backpack is designed specifically for bladder use and they perform the best. Hydration backpacks have a smaller pocket designed to fit a 3-liter pack, have the attachment points necessary for securing the bladder, and a tube portal for easy drinking.
Are hydration bladder and water bladders the same thing?
No! This is an important distinction because there are big differences between them. A water bladder is just a bag that you can place water into and a hydration bladder has a straw and attachment points. While the terms are used interchangeably, by definition they do have different meanings.
Downside of hydration bladders
The biggest bummer with hydration bladders is a puncture in the bag. Not only will you lose your supply of water, everything in your backpack gets soaking wet.
Punctures can occur from extended use, normal wear and tear, and/or something sharp in your backpack. It’s not something that happens very often, however, it is something to be aware of.
They also can burst if you trip and fall on your backpack. This is rare and only something to worry about if your on challenging terrain or have two left feet.
Hydration bladders are also slightly more difficult to refill than a standard water bottle. Not a deal breaker, but something to think about. Also, cleaning them is slightly challenging depending on the design.
Disadvantages of hydration bladders
- Bag can puncture
- The bag can burst if you fall on it
- Difficult to refill (when compared to a water bottle)
- Cleaning can be a challenge
The Best Hydration Bladders
WACOOL 3 Liter Hydration Bladder
- Capacity: 3 Liter (100oz), 100% odorless, tasteless, BPA- Free EVA material
- Might be the most rigid hydration bladder on the market: 0.6mm extra thick liner is pressure-tolerant and wear-proof; double soldering sealing side technique has greatly improved durability.
- Double opening design. As the most popular design for high end hydration systems in recent years, this allows you to refill in any condition.
- To avoid potential leaking, the screw cap should be securely closed as tight as possible! Twist the lid clockwise to fasten it tightly until the lid can not move any further under force! Please do not hesitate to mail us first if there is any issue about the product.
The WACOOL Liter Hydration Bladder is made of plastic that is BPA free, odorless, and tasteless EVA material. It has a thick outer liner that makes it pressure tolerant (it handles falls better) and durable. Both the hose and components are built to last.
The top side of the bag opens completely by sliding off the black crimp. This makes rinsing it out with soap and water super easy.
Water in the bag stays relatively cool when placed inside a backpack and not exposed to direct sunlight. The water in the hose has a tendency to warm up, however, once you get to water that’s in the bag you feel a noticeable temperature drop.
- Easy to clean
- BPA free
- Mouthpiece gets stuck
- Bite valve issues
- Plastic taste
CamelBak 90352 Omega Water Reservoir
- Capacity: 100 oz (3 liters)
- Dimensions: 18.0 in x 7.37 in
- Weight w/ components: 7.6 oz
- Model: 90352
CamelBak is arguably the most popular brand of hydration bladders around. This particular model holds 3 liters or 100 ounces and weighs in at 7.6 ounces when completely empty.
The hose is built to last and it comes with quick release clips to remove the hose from the bladder itself. The hose is longer than most, giving you flexibility on where the bladder is placed in the backpack.
The plastic has an anti-microbial coating that limits the smell and general nastiness inside the bladder that accumulates over time.
- No plastic flavor
- BPA free
- Can over screw cap
- Bag gets warm in the sun
- Plastic taste at first
Platypus Big Zip LP Hydration Reservoir
- Wide-mouth opening with Slidelock closure is easy to refill and locks securely
- Low-profile design rides flat in your pack
- Taste-free and BPA-free for clean drinking
- Silver-ion antimicrobial keeps it fresh
The Platypus Big Zip LP Hydration Reservoir is a 2-liter hydration bladder that fits well inside a smaller hydration backpack. The slim design conforms well to most packs and has a large handle on the closure strip that seals the bladder shut and doubles as a hanger.
The bag opens from the top so you can fit a small brush inside to clean it. There is no information on the bottle or their website saying that this hydration bladder is dishwasher safe. It’s best to clean it with a small brush, soap, and hot water.
The bite valve is easily replaced, so if the included mouthpiece isn’t your favorite you can easily swap it out for the one you like better. The water bladder is BPA free and made of silver ion microbial plastics without any funky taste.
- Thick plastic
- No plastic taste
- Large handle/hanger
- Bite valve is hard to suck
- Wide body can be awkward
- Bite valve is hard to clean
Aquatic Way Hydration Bladder
- YOU'LL ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS OR IT IS ON US: If there is a leak, or bad taste, or ANY other reason why you're not 100% happy with this hydration bladder, simply let us know & we'll do a full refund. Best for all high adventure uses outdoors. Stay hydrated whether you are on a hike, on a bicycle, or skiing down your favorite ski slope.
- THIS AWSOME DEAL INCLUDES 2 BITE VALVES, CLEANING KIT, & a 2 LITER 70oz HYDRATION BLADDER- : The cleaning kit significantly increases the life of your water bladder. The extra long wire brush is perfect to CLEAN THE INSIDE OF THE TUBE and long brush is best to reach the difficult BLADDER CORNERS. Easily DRY BLADDER with the included separator. BONUS: The two replacement SCILICONE BITE VALVES save you extra money! You GET THEM FREE in this kit!
- BPA FREE AND FDA APPROVED MATERIALS: This bladder uses food grade highest quality anti-bacteria materials. Thick TPU water bag material is pressure & wear tolerant. LARGE OPENING LETS YOU EASILY REACH INNER SURFACES AND ADD ICE. Clean and dry with ease, add ice directly from scoop or refrigerator. The QUICK RELEASE connector mechanism lets you attach and detach the tube with a single click - no hassle with trying to screw it on the reservoir bag! Bladder DOESN'T LEAK WHEN TUBE IS DETACHED.
- Silicone BITE VALVE is durable, anti-microbial, and soft for wholesome drinking. Easily accessible SHUTOFF VALVE prevents dripping when stored with water inside the pouch or during rigorous activity. The INSULATED TUBE COVER provides additional value! Our neoprene insulation resists temperature changes in different outdoor climates - hot and cold.
Aquatic Way includes two bite valves and a cleaning kit with the purchase of their bladder. If you have used hydration bladders before you understand the importance of a clean bite valve. Often times, they are the first place on the hydration bladder that grows bacteria and mold.
The plastic is made of high-grade anti-bacterial plastics that are both FDA approved and BPA free, for peace of mind. The bag is built with thick plastic that withstands pressure from impact and lasts for years.
The large opening that makes it easy to clean is also large enough to throw some ice cubes in. Aquatic Way include a 100% money back guarantee for a little peace of mind, no questions asked.
- FDA approved plastic
- 37-inch drinking tube
- On/off flow valve
- The hose is difficult to connect
- Plastic taste in the beginning
- Shutoff valve leaks
Unigear Hydration Water Bladder
- PREMIUM QUALITY: Manufactured from high quality TPU flexible food grade material. BPA FREE and FDA APPROVED. Your taste free and odor free hydration bladder has passed a bearing pressure test to ensure it is leak proof and ready use.
- LOW-PROFILE DESIGN: fit for unmatched stability which reduces liquid movement for increased pack stability at high speed.
- LARGE OPENING FOR EASY CLEANING: Inner surfaces easily accessible for easy cleaning and drying. For cold water, ADDING ICE CUBES directly from a scoop or refrigerator ice dispenser.
- SOFT MOUTHPIECE: Durable and soft anti-microbial mouthpiece for wholesome and effortless sipping. Easily accessible shut off valve.
Unigear’s Hydration Water Bladder is made of high-quality food grade plastic that is both BPA free, as well as, FDA approved. The plastic comes odor free and pressure tested.
The top is ziplock with a large opening that makes accessing the hydration bladder for cleaning or adding ice super easy. The mouthpiece is made of soft and durable plastic with a simple to access shutoff valve.
The drinking tube is insulated with a neoprene cover that is resistant to temperature changes in both warm and cold climates. Unigear also offers a money back guarantee for 60 days after purchase.
- FDA approved plastic
- Large opening
- Suction issues
- Mouthpiece comes loose
- Plastic taste
Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir
- Flexible 1/4"/6.35mm hose for faster water flow
- 3/4 turn cap for quick and secure open/close
- Liter markings printed on reservoir body
- Welded chevron baffles prevent sloshing and maintains shape
What stands out about Osprey’s Hydration Bladder is how easy it is to use. It comes with a flip top, built-in handle, magnetic bite valve, and extended quick release hose. This all sounds fancy but what it means for us is that it performs as it should with little to now hard work.
The bite valve is easy to use, has adequate water flow, and rarely leaks. It comes with a twist lock mechanism that controls the water flow into the hose and has a quick release for the hose at the base of the bladder.
It has a flip top opening that you can’t quite get your entire hand into. Cleaning it requires a brush which is no biggie, however, the bag does not flip inside out very easily. Overall, it’s a light and functional flip top hydration bladder with lots of cool features.
- Large handle
- Easy to clean
- Extended hose
- Difficult to flip inside out
- Plastic taste
- Plastic turns yellow over time
Source Outdoor Widepac Hydration
- Widepac Closure The original user-friendly Widepac Slide Closure opens wide, allows easy filling, cleaning, draining, and ice insertion. Airtight seal. Most SOURCE Hydration Systems and Hydration Packs feature reservoirs with our signature Widepac Closure
- Taste-Free System - Our co-extruded PE film retains the pure taste with absolutely no plastic flavor, also over time. (BPA and Phthalate free.)
- GrungeGuard Technology - Our GrungeGuard Technology inhibits bacteria growth on the reservoir and drinking tube for the life of the system. Technology utilizes FDA-approved and EPA-registered anti-microbial agent
- Glass-Like Technology - SOURCE's Glass-Like Film is 2000% smoother than standard TPU films, with virtually no difference from glass itself, it prevents bio-film build up, making the system virtually self-cleaning
Source comes into the mix with a 3-liter capacity and a helix bite valve that works great on the go. It’s a functional and fully featured hydration bladder has all the bells and whistles.
The plastic utilizes an FDA approved, as well as, an EPA registered anti-microbial properties. Source’s glass-like film is much smoother than standard plastic and there is virtually no difference from a glass bottle.
Water inside the bottle stays fresh for days and the top opens wide. Cleaning and adding ice is super easy. Overall, the Source water bladder is functional, durable, and convenient.
- Easy to clean
- Extremely durable
- Good bite valve
- No cleaning kit included
- Plastic taste
- Plastic may discolor