Best Hydration Bladders for the Outdoors
Everybody that loves outdoor sports and activities knows that at some point, plenty of water will be needed to keep performing. When you’re in the middle of doing your favorite activity, whether it’s hiking, running, biking or any outdoor sport, one of the most annoying things to have to do is stop to grab a drink of water. That’s why outdoor enthusiasts should carry a hydration bladder pack instead of an ordinary water bottle. Hydration bladder packs make it not only very easy to drink water without stopping your activity, but they also make it much more efficient for you to carry your water without having to use your hands.
Most hydration bladder packs are designed to let those of you who love outdoor activities to carry water easily. Hydration packs typically operate like water bottles attached to a backpack, with a tube coming out of them that you can keep near your mouth. To get a drink, you can easily grab the tube that runs to the hydration bladder where the water is kept, and take a sip. There’s no need to stop what you’re doing to grab a drink with the use of a good hydration pack.
Our Top 3 Picks
10 Best Hydration Bladders
Geigerrig Hydration Engine
Geiggerig’s Hydration Engine comes with a wide mouth opening, making it an easy-to-clean and refill hydration bladder. Cleaning is particularly easy with this product, in part because of its wide mouth opening, but also because it’s very easy to dry it out as well. For those outdoor enthusiasts that prefer sports drinks to water and worry about keeping their hydration bladders clean and bacteria free, Geiggerig’s Hydration Engine’s benefit of an efficient cleaning and drying system makes this possible. Also, when using sports drinks in hydration bladders, many people worry about residue in the tubes. But again, Geiggerig’s Hydration Engine makes clean tubes possible since it utilizes a pressurized system to help clear out the tubes.
The wide mouth opening on Geiggerig’s Hydration Engine makes it very easy to fill in the kitchen sink, although it can be more difficult to fill in smaller sinks. Also, if you are outdoors for long periods of time, this hydration bladder makes it simple to get water from rivers and streams.
Geiggerig’s Hydration Engine is made to last. Developed with a strong nylon material, you’ll be able to pull it in and out easily without having to worry about it tearing or fraying, something you certainly don’t want to worry about if you find yourself outdoors for long periods of time.
- Dishwasher Safe
- Made with strong material
- Costs a bit more than other hydration bladders
- Requires some time to get used to
- Bags do not come with measurements
MSR DromeLite Bags
MSR DromeLite Bags are tough products built to last through any outdoor activity and all outdoor conditions. It’s compact and collapsible, making it very easy to carry anywhere. MSR DromeLite bags are also very easy to fill, and come with a wide-mouth opening.
The MSR DromeLite’s wide-mouth opening comes with an exclusive feature, a cap that allows you to use the hydration bladder in a few different ways. First, you can take the cap off to access the wide-mouth if you need a refill, to empty out your water, or dry out your pack. Second, you can opt to use the spout on the cap for a splash of water if you need to wash your hands or rinse something.
MSR DromeLite Bags are rugged products, designed with a strong 200-denier Cordura material to keep the water inside the bag safe no matter what harsh conditions you encounter along your route. You’ll get a lot of use out of this hydration bladder as well since it’s designed for a wide variety of outdoor activities.
- Cap provides different use options
- Built to Last
- Wider profile than most hydration packs
- Can be difficult to fit in a standard backpack
- Heavy hose
CamelBak Crux Reservoir
The CamelBak Crux Reservoir is simple to use for both drinking and filling.
Even though this hydration bladder is not pressurized, it’s still easy to get a quick sip. The bladder comes with a unique lumbar design which helps to keep water weight against the lower back, making the system steady no matter what activities you perform outdoors. You also get a leak-proof cap and an on/off lever to seal the tube and prevent leaks.
Also, even though the CamelBak Crux Reservoir is not pressurized, it comes with hydro guard technology, which helps prevent bacteria from forming in the product.
Although the CamelBak Crux is not as efficient to clean as some other hydration bladders, it can be thrown in the dishwasher and cleaned with a cleaning brush kit. It’s also made to help you keep your balance well while outdoors. Plus, with a lifetime warranty, it’s built to last.
- Unique lumbar design to help with balance while outdoors
- Hydro guard technology helps prevent bacteria
- Lifetime warranty
- More difficult to clean than its competitors
- Can be hard to fill when not near a sink.
- No pressurized system.
Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir
Osprey’s Hydraulics LT Reservoir bladder comes with several features that make it an excellent companion for all your outdoor activities. One huge benefit of this bladder is its leak proof bite valve, which lets you get all the water you need without feeling like you need to suck the system dry for a sip. The bit valve’s magnetic attachment is also a great feature, since you can attach the bit valve anywhere on the tube.
The location of the quick release hose on this bladder is also a plus. Instead of being on the base like most bladders, the hose on the Osprey system is found about twelve inches from the base. Placing the hose away from the base makes it much easier to get the bladder out and to locate the release.
Osprey’s Hydraulics LT Reservoir System comes with an innovative design that makes it one efficient system to use while performing all your outdoor activities. The one drawback to Osprey’s bladder is that it is not as simple to clean as some of its competitors. The Osprey doesn’t turn inside out easily, either. However, if you want to make cleaning the Osprey bladder easier, all you need to do is purchase a cleaning brush.
- Innovative design on quick release hose
- Magnetic attachment on bit valve for easy use and placement
- Makes water easy to access
- No pressurized system
- Can be hard to clean.
- Plastic taste.
HydraPack Shape-Shift Reservoir
The HydraPack Shape-Shift Reservoir comes with an innovative, wide slider opening. The wide slider opening is both leak proof and easy to fill. Also, the HydraPack bladder can be turned inside out easily, making both cleaning and drying a simple process.
The bite valve on the HydraPack bladder provides plenty of water with a light amount of sucking. The HydraPack also comes with a magnetic clip which helps control the hose. While the bite valve does provide you with easy access to water, it can be hard to lock.
The HydraPack comes with a zip lock divider, which is a bonus feature. Using the divider helps keep the water from sloshing everywhere while you’re active. You can also use the zip lock divider to zip up the pack and make it smaller, or unzip the divider to make it larger. The zip lock divider feature makes this bladder compatible with a wide range of packs and sleeves.
The features on the HydraPack give it a nice overall design that makes it both easy to use and clean. This hydration bladder is built to last, and also made with simplicity in mind.
- Shape-Shifting material allows for adaptability and makes the product reversible.
- Easy to clean and dry.
- Zip lock divider prevents sloshing
- Fits easily into most packs and sleeves.
- Closure can detach easily.
- Bite valve is difficult to lock.
Platypus Big Zip LP
The Platypus Big Zip LP comes with a wide-mouth opening so that it can be refilled and emptied easily. The pack also sits flat in water reservoir sleeves, and comes in several size options, so that it is easy to fit into any sleeve you own. The Big Zip also has an efficient zip top closure and effective quick release system.
A couple of things about the Platypus Big Zip LP’s benefits come to mind when reviewing quality. First, the Big Zip is taste-free, so there’s no plastic aftertaste to worry about. It is also designed with a silver-ion material to ward off bacteria and mold.
- Several size options to fit various reservoir sleeves
- Good zip top closure
- Great quick release system
- The top is difficult to use in cold weather
- No flip-top opening
- Sides of product can come apart easily
Bonl Emerald Hydration Bladder
The Bonl Emerald Hydration Bladder brings you an easy-opening system with its efficient screw cap and slide opening capability. These two features make it very efficient for you to refill your hydration bladder anywhere, no matter what terrain or weather you encounter. Even better, both the screw cap and slide opening make the unit easy to clean and dry.
The inside surface of the Bonl Emerald Hydration Bladder is made with both Microban anti-bacterial material and Bonl’s GlassAS technology system.
This combination is an innovative approach to hydration bladders since it makes the hydration bladder’s inner design smooth. The even interior material keeps bacteria and germs from forming and infecting your water, protecting you from ingesting to bad materials.
- Microban anti-bacteria material and GlassAS technology create a germ-free, smooth interior.
- Effective opening system provided by the sliding opening and screw cap.
- Easy to refill
- Easy to clean and dry
- Bottom seal and hose can leak easily
- Tubing is difficult to attach or detach from bag
- Not as durable as some of its competition
Mubasal Gear Hydration Backpack
Mubasal’s Gear Hydration Bladder Backpack comes with a large opening. The wide opening means you can easily add ice cubes to the hydration bladder, as well as refill the unit easily from just about anywhere. You’re also able to easily clean the Mubasal hydration bladder because of the large opening.
The hydration bladder is made up of strong nylon material, making this a product that can take a decent amount of punishment without falling apart. The straps on the backpack are made to adjust easily for your every outdoor adventure. The backpack also comes with additional straps not offered by other backpack designs. The extra straps fit around your waste, so both the backpack and bladder stay in place.
- Comes as a set with a backpack and hydration bladder
- Easy to Clean
- Can create a chemical or plastic taste
- Can be hard to suck water out of.
- Not as durable as some of its competition.
Deuter Steamer Bladder
The Deuter Steamer Bladder’s mouth-opening design improvements are certainly a plus. The grasping holes on top of the bag do make it much easier for you to open the mouth for refills compared to most other folding dry-bag bladders. However, the product is not an all-around efficient hydration bladder for other reasons.
While Deuter did well with making this hydration bladder easy to refill, the bit valve and mouthpiece design should have also been reconsidered. Because the mouthpiece has to spin for you to open and close it, it’s not easy-to-use when you need to get a quick drink while on-the-go and busy with an outdoor adventure. A spinning mouthpiece boils down to one thing—you have to use your hands to get your water, which means stopping. Most outdoor enthusiasts purchase hydration bladders expecting them to be hands-free, and the Deuter Steamer Bladder’s design overlooked this.
While the Deuter Steamer Bladder is a durable item, and it is easy to refill, the mouthpiece is a major drawback. Besides the fact the mouthpiece requires outdoor enthusiasts to stop and use their hands, it’s also not easy to close. As a result, it tends to leak.
- Improved design over many folding-dry bag bladder options
- Easy to open and refill
- Grasping holes on top make the hydration bladder easier to use
- Mouthpiece spins so it’s not hands-free
- Mouthpiece is difficult to close and leaks.
Platypus Hoser Hydration Reservoir
The Platypus Hoser’s hose is made with a lapel clip to keep it in place no matter what outdoor activities you decide to perform. The drink tube itself is easy to use, and fits even small pack openings. Also, the Platypus Hoser comes with a Hyperflow bite valve, which makes it an effective option for hands-free water access while on-the-go.
The Platypus Hoser Hydration Reservoir’s materials make it a phthalate-free option designed with silver-ion on the interior of the bladder, keeping it safe from mold and bacteria, and making it taste-free. This hydration bladder is also made with a food-grade liner that strengthens the outside of the bag, making it tough and resilient. Overall, it’s a good, versatile bag you can use for a variety of outdoor activities.
- Comes in four different sizes
- Silver-ion interior protects it from mold and bacteria
- The tubes and bag are not easy to clean.
- The mouthpiece has no on/off valve.
- The attachment clip is not always easy to adjust.
Criteria for Evaluation
Hydration Bladder’s Size
When you’re preparing yourself for your next outdoor activity and know you will need to carry water, you’ll want to take a moment to consider just how much water you’ll really need to achieve your goals. Considering the amount of water you need to carry for your outdoor activities should also help you decide what size of a hydration bladder you require. If you do a wide variety of outdoor activities, and only want to purchase one versatile hydration pack for all that you do, then you’ll need to consider the maximum amount of water you’ll need to have for your most strenuous activities.
While you might feel like it’s better to be “safe than sorry” with water and overprepare rather than under prepare, remember that this is not always the best approach to planning your outdoor adventures, either. Water isn’t something that’s particularly light to carry if you are hauling around a large amount of it. One liter of water, for example, weighs around two pounds. So, another thing to think about is how much water you really can carry without slowing yourself down, and whether or not you’ll have options to refill your hydration bladder along the way.
Another concept to remember when considering what size of hydration bladder to purchase is knowing you don’t need to totally fill your hydration bladder to the top each time you use it. If you are planning an activity you know will be a shorter event requiring less water, then only bring what you know you will need. So, for those of you wanting to get one hydration bladder pack for all of your outdoor needs, think of the longest trip you might take and the largest amount of water you might need before you purchase your hydration bladder, and try to match what you anticipate. Then, when you go on your shorter trips, fill the hydration bladder with only the water you need, instead of to the very top.
Typical hydration bladder sizes are:
- 5 liters or less. These hydration bladders are very small and minimal, and work only for short, light outdoor activities.
- 1-1.5 liters. This hydration bladder size works well for people that do short-distance hikes, runs, and bike rides for the average workout of about thirty to ninety minutes per trip.
- 2-2.5 liters. The most popular hydration bladder size, this option gives you enough water to not require much refilling, and isn’t too heavy or bulky.
- 3 liters or more. This size is really for the long-term adventurist who plans to keep going for several hours without wanting a refill. It can also be used by overnight outdoor enthusiasts.
Ease of Use
Another important factor to consider when purchasing your hydration bladder is its ease of use, especially while you are on-the-go. The best hydration bladders for outdoor enthusiasts are easy to drink from and hands-free so that stopping to hydrate is not required.
The most important feature to analyze when looking for a hydration bladder that’s simple to drink from is the mouthpiece. You want to find a hydration bladder that gives you the amount of water you need whenever you need it with minimal sucking. If you find you have to suck too much on the mouthpiece, you might find yourself having difficulty breathing during your activity, and then you’ll most likely despise any reservoir bladder that makes you feel like you are short of breath.
A hydration bladder’s capability to be easily cleaned is another important consideration. If the hydration bladder is difficult to clean, then you might wind up with some mold and bacteria build-up which can cause problems with your water and eventually your health. This build-up issue is especially a problem for those outdoor enthusiasts who prefer sports drinks. For health purposes, you’ll want a hydration bladder that is easy to clean, and many hydration bladders on the market today are dishwasher safe, which is the most effective way to kill that bacteria and mold, and also the simplest way to clean your hydration bladder.
How easy a hydration bladder is to refill is something else that will come into play with ease of use. Many hydration bladders come with wide-mouth designs, which does allow for simple refilling just about everywhere. However, some of these wide-mouth openings can be hard to close, so make sure to consider how well you feel the mouth closes.
Weight and Quality of the Materials
The weight of your hydration bladder is certainly something to think about, since you’ll want to carry something that will be both convenient for you and that won’t obstruct your outdoor activities. Most hydration bladder companies offer lightweight options that are easy to lug around and don’t prevent movement. For smaller people, considering a lightweight hydration bladder should be a necessity.
The materials that form your hydration bladder pack should also be a factor in your decision-making process. The quality of your hydration bladder pack will depend immensely on the materials that form the design. Several hydration packs are BPA-free, which helps prevent the water from tasting like plastic or chemicals. Also, many hydration bladder use materials in the interior of bladder, like silver-ion for example, that help destroy both bacteria and mold from building up and creating health issues.
The hydration bladder pack’s materials will also determine how rugged and long-lasting the product will be. Most hydration bladder packs are built to take some abuse, but there are also other hydration bladder packs found on the market that are built to last a lifetime. The more resilient types of hydration bladders that come with features like welded seems do typically cost more, but can also last for an incredible amount of time, and do tend to save you money in the long run. Also, having a hydration bladder that you know can withstand just about anything means you won’t find yourself in the middle of an outdoor activity with a hydration bladder that breaks or malfunctions, leaving you with no water. So, reliability is also a key factor, and something you’ll be grateful for later.
Q: Why should I purchase a hydration bladder for my outdoor activities?
If you are an active outdoor enthusiast, then you already know you’re going to need to be able to consume water when you’re out and about. Most outdoor enthusiasts feel hydration bladders are indispensable, and a necessary product to utilize. Hydration bladders offer outdoor enthusiasts several benefits, and they are all things you’ll want to capitalize on.
First, when you have a good hydration bladder pack, you’ll find that it is easy to stay hydrated and get the water you need while you are on the go. Hydration bladders use drinking tubes that can be easily accessed while you are in the middle of an activity. So, instead of using a regular water bottle, which requires you to stop, look for the water, and then drink it, you won’t need to stop and can easily access your water.
It’s also very easy to carry water in hydration bladders, and they don’t require a lot of pack space usage, either. Hydration bladders are made to fit easily into a pack’s outside frame, so you won’t use any inside pack space. Your backpack, then, becomes much lighter to carry. Also, the action of carrying water in a hydration bladder is much more comfortable than having to carry a water canteen, since a canteen can flop around the body and poke into the skin. Canteens also leave you feeling lopsided, since all the water weight sets on one side of the body. Hydration bladders sit easily in backpacks without flopping around or poking into your body, and are designed to spread the water weight so you stay balanced.
The space-saving features of hydration bladders are also a bonus and make them much more efficient than canteens. As you drink water, the hydration bladder will shrink as they empty out, giving you more space in your backpack.
Hydration bladders are also much lighter and carry more water than a plastic water bottle or canteen. Larger hydration bladders that hold up to three liters of water usually only weigh around six ounces. Most plastic water bottles weigh around four ounces, and only hold about one liter of water.
Q: What’s the best way to care for my hydration bladder?
Hydration bladders are made to carry both water and sports drinks, or really any other special type of drink you decide to make for yourself to help you replenish whatever you feel you need while you’re out doing your outdoor activities.
For people who prefer energy drinks and sports drinks, they’ll have to remember that many of these types of beverages contain additives not found in water. Many of these additives, if left to sit inside the hydration bladder, can form into bacteria, even in hydration bladders that come with interior features that help cut down on bacterial growth. If you’re in a warm climate and using energy or sports drinks in your hydration bladder, the bacteria can multiply very fast.
Of course, even if you prefer to just use water in your hydration bladder, mold and bacteria can build up through regular use and a lack of cleaning. So, no matter what you decide to put in your hydration bladder, you need to figure out an effective way to clean your hydration bladder regularly to prevent health issues.
There are a few different ways you can effectively clean your hydration bladder and keep it clear from bacteria and mold. One way to do this is to use hot water along with a couple of spoons of baking soda or bleach. Simply run your tap till the water is hot, and before placing the water in your hydration bladder, first add the bleach or baking soda. Then, add the water and fill your hydration bladder about halfway. Close the bladder and shake it for two to five minutes. Then, let the water drain out through the bite valve to clean and disinfect the tubes and mouth piece areas. Rinse your hydration bladder out with water and make sure it is chemical-free.
Another way to clean your hydration bladder is to purchase cleaning tabs made for disinfecting hydration bladders. Fill your hydration bladder with clean water, then drop one tab in and let the hydration bladder sit that way for about a half an hour. Then, rinse and drain the hydration bladder.
Whenever you clean your hydration bladder, you need to ensure you’ve effectively disinfected both the tube and mouth piece. Hydration bladder tubes usually need more than just a simple rinse, since mold tends to grow in the tubes quickly. Mold can also stain your hydration bladder’s tubes, and even after you’ve cleaned out the tubes, you may still see the stains. To make sure you are able to get all of the mold and bacteria out of the tube and to keep the tube stain-free, you’ll want to purchase a tube brush to help clean the tube.
Last, make sure you air dry your hydration bladder before you put it away. Keep it away from the sun, and hang it out to dry somewhere inside your house.
For the avid outdoor enthusiast, purchasing a reliable hydration bladder is a necessity. Hydration bladders are both affordable and comfortable ways to carry water evenly and comfortably without restricting movement. Also, obtaining easy access to water without stopping, searching for a water bottle, or having to use one’s hands for an extended period of time is a true benefit of hydration bladders. Most hydration bladders are built to last, and made to be used for a variety of outdoor activities. You’ll enjoy the versatility, comfortability, and easy access to water while engaging in your outdoor activities with your hydration bladder.