Best Hydration Bladders for Outdoor Enthusiasts - 2018 Buying Guide
Outdoor activities are becoming a favorite of many people across the world. Hiking, trail-running, mountaineering, cycling, camping and hunting are just but a few of the many outdoor activities contemporary humans engage in with utmost zeal. However, it is impossible to mention some of these activities without the word “hydration” coming to mind. Get me right, whether it is in the winter or summer, hydration during outdoor excursions is mandatory and means you stay alive and get the best out of your trip.
Now the question is: which is the best hydration bladder to buy in 2018? While this question is easy to come by, the actual process of searching for the best water bladders to select from is not a walk in the park.
But seriously guys, you can take this to the bank; these are the best hydration bladders to have ever been reviewed by outdoor experts:
Which are the best hydration bladders of 2018?
- 1. MSR Dromedary Bag: A Camper's Top Pick
- 2. Deuter Streamer 2.0 Hydration Pack: A Hiker's Top Pick
- 3. CamelBak Antidote Bladder: Best Bang Per Buck
- 4. Miracol Hydration Backpack: Top Backpacking Hydration Bladder
- 5. Geigerrig Hydration Engine: Most Innovative Water Bladder
- 6. Crystal Creek Hydration Bladder: All Weather Water Bladder
- 7. Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir: Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures
- 8. Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir: The "Magnetic" Hydration Bladder
- 9. MSR DromLite Bags: Most Durable Water Bladder
- 10. WACOOL 3 Liter Hydration Pack Bladder: The Pressure Bladder
A detailed look at each of these hydration bladders will clearly reveal why this list should be the only one you can ever rely on for the thoroughly tested, top-rated water bladders. Let's dive right into it so you can find out for yourself:
1. MSR Dromedary Bag: A Camper's Top Pick
I have learnt from experience that hiking, cycling, backpacking or camping demand more than just quenching your thirst. It is therefore always obvious that you will need more water than your ordinary water bottle can carry. Let us look at the features that make the MSR Dromedary Bag an effective solution to this nightmare.
Versatile Outdoor Water Bag
MSR manufactures 2L, 4L, 6L and 10L Dromedary bags. A bigger bag provides a capacity for more water and this saves campers and hikers the hassle of moving to water source every time they need water. The bag has a lid that reliably prevents any spillage; there is a wide opening for easy refilling or pouring of water. And if you thought your drinking needs are not considered then you are all wrong. This water bag comes with a detachable mouthpiece for easy sipping when there is need.
Collapsible and Easy to Carry
Space is an essential factor for campers, hikers and all other adventurers. This water bag is collapsible hence space and storage is not an issue. Collapse the Dromedary Water Bag and keep it in a travel bag or backpack and fill it with water only when necessary.
It is also important to note that the collapsible water bag comes with webbings and straps for easy storage and hanging when necessary.
- Strong and durable.
- Easy to store and carry.
- Highly versatile and convenient in multiple situations.
- Comes in different capacities.
- Comfortable ergonomic handle.
- Slightly heavy particularly when filled with water.
The Dromedary Water Bag comes in handy when you need a larger and more portable water container during your hikes or camps. Armed with this MSR product, you will get your water when you need it. I find this water bag easy to use. Its three in one cap enables filling, pouring and drinking with unimaginable efficiency.
2. Deuter Streamer 2.0 Hydration Pack: A Hiker's Top Pick
Made of thick polyethylene material, the Deuter Streamer 2 liter hydration bladder offers an odorless flow of water that will see you stay rehydrated throughout your hikes for more than just a couple of years. Now we all hate that putrid taste of water stored in those hydration bladders made of polyurethane.
Base-line hose connector
One striking feature about this hydration bladder is the location of the quick connect for the hose. Right at the base of the bladder, the quick connect will enable extended flow of water until the bladder is almost empty. This is unlike other hydration bladders which have the hose connector about one third of the distance from the base.
Bite valve cap
The bite valve is just about the perfect size and has a nicely-fitting removable cap that features push and pull technology for closing and opening. Therefore, your water is kept safe from dust and you open the valve only when you want to sip the water. The cap also ensures absolute absence of leaks via the mouthpiece.
Even then, some people hate the fact that one has to remove the bite valve cap every time they want to sip from the bladder.
Ease of cleaning and hassle-free refilling of the Deuter Hydration Pack is all made possible by the zip-locking mechanism that sees it open for its entire width. You can turn it inside out then clean and dry with ease. Now some people may think that the full-width opening is a disadvantage which is likely to cause some leakages. But far from it! The Deuter has a locking top that also acts as handle. This seal is perfectly leak-proof and to be honest with you, you can never find a better leak-proof bladder.
- No odors in water.
- Full-width opening makes it easy to clean and dry.
- Long-lasting (made of thick polyethylene).
- Easy to use.
- Base-line location of hose connector makes it convenient with even small volumes of water.
- Fully leak-proof.
- We didn’t like the fact that you have to open the bite valve every time you want to sip water from it.
If you are looking for something that has been on the market for quite some time and which has been shown to stand the test of time, the Deuter hydration bladder is the perfect choice for you. No leaks, no bad odors, no disappointments.
3. CamelBak Antidote Reservoir: Best Bang Per Buck
The CamelBak Antidote Reservoir scores highly on quite some quality scales. This hydration bag is very easy to fill.
If anything, the CamelBak antidote is one of the least expensive bladders one can find in the market today. Despite its highly affordable cost, this hydration bladder packs all the features of a premium product.
The Camelbak Antidote water bladder comes with a limited lifetime warranty. The lifetime warranty enhances its long-term value. The Camelbak hydration bladder is highly recommended for those people who are on a tight budget but still want something that is still classy with great service.
Cool and Latest features
The Antidote is the latest Camelbak bladder in a lineage that dates back to decades ago. Over the years, CamelBak has continually modified its hydration bladders.
Compared to earlier versions, the Antidote has a larger wide mouth opening, a baseline hose-connector, a larger grab handle for filling and two water chambers. The modified features ensure that it sloshes around less. Additional features include a removable hose and drying plastic tabs. The bite valves are neither too big nor too small, and they don’t come off easily and loosely as was the case in the previous models.
- Easy to fill.
- It has a large screw top opening.
- It is affordable.
- It has a great bite valve.
- It has a narrow profile.
- It is compatible with most packs.
- It has compartments that prevent sloshing.
- It is difficult to clean.
- It is usually harder to fill in trickling streams.
The Antidote is the hydration bladder of choice for many, the reason being CamelBak has been a major player in hydration bladders for some time. The Antidote scores highly and is of great value. It has won the hearts of campers and hiking non-campers alike.
4. Miracol Hydration Backpack with 2L Water Bladder: The Top Backpacker's Choice
It is not logical to review the best water bladders without mentioning the Miracol Hydration Backpack with 2L Water Bladder. The sleek backpack and water bladder has all the features that make it your number one adventure buddy. Read along to learn about some of its unique features!
Versatile Outdoor Gear
If you love adventure then the Miracol Hydration Backpack is going to be your friend and companion. The combination of a backpack and a hydration water bladder makes it unique and arguably the most versatile. The built-in 2L hydration bladder provides a convenient storage for the water.
The Miracol product solves the storage problem for most hikers by providing many storage compartments in the backpack. You therefore have spaces and pockets of different sizes to safely carry your phone, keys, fishing reel or that extra sweater that you will need during your outdoor trip. Moreover, entertainment lovers will find the incorporated earphone opening all they need for their favorite music or gigs. Isn't this interesting and fulfilling?
Reliable Thermal Insulation
You obviously need water to quench your thirst during your outdoor adventures. However, what is the need of carrying water when you can't keep it cool? Thermal-insulated backpacks are trendy and best suited for long hikes or adventures.
The Miracol Hydration Backpack with 2L Water Bladder guarantees that! At least four hours of cool water during your adventure.
Durable and Cost Effective
The economy today demands that we look into the lifespan of everything we spend on. While this backpack is definitely trendy, its strength and durability is not sacrificed for the sporty look.
- Adjustable chest and shoulder straps to help secure the backpack.
- Sleek and attractive.
- Comfortable on the back.
- Replaceable 2L water bladder.
- Comparatively more affordable.
- Not machine washable.
- The bladder may leak after several uses but this is easy to replace.
Hiking, cycling, trail running, trekking, skiing and other outdoor adventures are becoming common ways of spending weekends and holidays. The Miracol Hydration Backpack with 2L Water Bladder makes these exciting and memorable by providing you with cool water as well as sufficient and comfortable storage. Apart from not being safe for machine washing, this product scores very highly and is a must have for outdoor adventurers.
5. Geigerrig Hydration Engine: Most Innovative Water Bladder
The Geigerrig Hydration Engine is the most innovative and versatile water bladder tested. With its sleek design and pressurized system, it has a multiplicity of uses that no other bladder tested can match. The sleek profile is thin and narrow, which allows compatibility with all sorts of backpacking backpacks and running packs. The bladder offers you the ability to keep it pressurized or unpressurized with a double chamber - one for air and one for water. When pressurized, it is the easiest to drink from and doubles as a sun shower.
With its versatility, it is a great way to get rid of dog dirt or dirty sports utility before throwing it into your car. A caveat with this system is that when fully pumped, the water does slosh around quite a bit.
With its dishwasher safe technology, this was one of the two bladders that could easily be flipped inside out and cleaned right in the dishwasher. We also found that manual cleaning was easy with a simple brush. All parts were easy to take apart. The Geigerrig hydration engine is a bit pricey than most other reservoirs. The hydration engine’s many innovations considered, it is worth the price. Carrying the pump around is tedious because it is a bit weighty.
- Has many innovative uses.
- Has a slim profile.
- Has a pressurized system.
- It is light.
- It is easy to fill.
- Safe to be used in a dishwasher.
- It is expensive.
- It has a small learning curve.
- Has no measurements on the bag.
The Geigerrig hydration engine is loved for the versatility and creativity that it offers. The machine finds new applications daily, from pet grooming and cleaning to showering. Initially, it was supposed that this would be a product geared for nerds only, but recent evidence suggests otherwise, and its uses have been observed to extend past the tech-obsessed outdoor user.
6. Crystal Creek Hydration Bladder: All Weather Hydration Bladder
Crystal Creek is definitely among the best hydration bladders and here's why:
3 Liter Capacity
If you are a hiking enthusiast then you will agree with me that an ideal hydration bladder should be large enough to contain a reasonable capacity of water for more tasking trips. The hydration bladder has a capacity of 3 liters or 100 oz. This makes it ideal for long treks, hikes, trail running, biking and hunting expeditions.
The bonus insulated reservoir sleeve remains one of the top reasons why the Crystal Creek Hydration Bladder is one of the best hiking equipment in its category if not the very best. Firstly, the insulation maintains your water at a cool temperature hence ideal for both cold and hot environments. Secondly, it efficiently provides an extra protective layer to the hydration bladder. This accidentally but awesomely confers extra durability to the bladder.
Easy to Use
The design of the Crystal Creek 3 Liter Hydration Bladder ensures a hassle free usage. It is easy to refill, clean and close. Moreover, the positive flow mouthpiece concept makes accessing your water a breeze.
- Handsfree hydrating aided by the positive flow.
- Screw threads at the lid make it easy to close and keeps your water safe.
- Clear body makes it possible to see through and determine if your bladder and water are clean.
- Slightly more expensive than most hydration bladders but it is worth the price.
The Crystal Creek 3L Hydration Bladder and Insulated Sleeve delivers everything that it promises, and much more. You will certainly find it durable, easy to use and more versatile than most bladders. As a matter of fact, this is an item that I can confidently recommend to a friend or give them as a gift.
7. Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir: Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures
Lightweight and Slim
The HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir is the best option for lightweight adventures. It has a simple, lightweight design and slim profile that makes it race-ready and compatible with any running or hiking pack. The zip-lock divider prevents water from sloshing around, while the flip top opening makes for easy cleaning and fill ups. The blaster valve delivers water quickly with little sucking required, while the quantum clip keeps the tube in place.
3 Liter Capacity
Another plus feature for the Shape-Shift is its ample capacity that will see you hydrated over longer tracks. Now we all hate the experience of water running out of our hydration pack mid-track.
- It is light.
- It has an internal zipper that reduces sloshing.
- Features a magnetic clip.
- It can be used in a dishwasher without any issues.
- It has a quick release hose.
- It is compatible with other brands.
- It has a large flip-top closure.
- You will need to maintain the O-ring.
- The closure is not attached well.
This Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures is perfect race-ready bladder truly excelling where lightweight design is required.
8. Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir: The "Magnetic" Hydration Bladder
The Osprey Hydraulics LT Bladder stands out for its longer flip top closure, built-in handle, and an extended quick release hose system. The hydration bladder has a magnetic bite valve that serves to keep water close at hand. Despite it being very easy to use, it is compatible with most backpacking and running hydration packs. A large plastic handle is part of the bladder’s design, and it also allows you to hold the bladder level during filling.
The longer collar on the flip top is a buyer’s favorite since it helps one to collect and share water. It comes with a magnetic tube clip that attaches anywhere on the tube; this clip can also be removed and used for other packs that don't come with a tube clip.
- It is easy to clean.
- It has a larger and longer collar for easy filling.
- It is affordable.
- It has an extended hose attachment.
- It is hard to flip inside out.
- It has a plastic taste.
This bladder is perfect for the person looking for a light, functional flip top bladder with a handle. The magnetic attachment is super handy for easy drinking access while the quick-release system is ideal for fully loaded packs. It has lots of cool features that create value for money spent.
9. MSR DromLite Bag: Most Durable Water Bladder
A highly adaptable, exceptionally durable, and lightweight hydration bladder, the DromLite is available in three different sizes. The bladder has a few optional accessories including a mouthpiece and hose, a spigot cap, and a shower kit which make it much more than the most hydration bladders in the market.
Despite the versatility and awesomeness of this product, a few caveats have been noted. The MSR Hydration Kit is sold separately, and it turns the bag into a complete hydration system with a hose and bite valve. The MSR hydration kit is rudimentary and not a quick release. The bladder opening is hard to fill in small streams because the outside fabric gets wet easily and retains water for a long while. A wet bladder in a backpack will most likely wet your clothing. All factors considered, it is still one of the most durable products tested and without a doubt one of the most versatile hydration bladders.
- It is light.
- It is easy to store.
- It is durable.
- Features a 3-in-1 mouthpiece.
- It is versatile.
- Has many accessories.
- It is heavy with a hose.
- It has a wide profile.
- It is not compatible with all backpack sleeves.
The uniqueness, durability, and versatility of this hydration bladder make it one of the best backpacking options available. If you are looking for a hydration bladder, then this might just be what you have been seeking.
10. WACOOL 3 Liter Hydration Pack Bladder: The Pressure Bladder
Falling in the lower cost range of hydration bladders, the WACOOL 3 Liter Hydration Bladder is worth a consideration especially due to its awesome and unique features.
Sturdy and Pressure-Tolerant
One of the salient features of this water bladder that instantly captures your attention is its thick lining material that makes it pressure-tolerant and sufficiently durable. Additionally, this bladder features a double soldering technique for side-sealing which improves its pressure-bearing capabilities. If anything, you can comfortably apply immense pressures (for instance with use in a camel back) without it giving in. For a lower budget, you get a hiking bladder that will take you on many and versatile treks.
3 Liter Capacity
The 3-Liter capacity of the WACOOL bladder is sufficient enough to keep you hydrated over long hikes and walks. In addition, this hydration bladder features a double opening design which has been adopted by many high-end hydration bladders. This design will enable you to refill the bladder in any condition.
- Large enough for long hikes.
- Excellent durability due to its extra thickness and double soldering sealing technique.
- Easy to refill in any condition due to its double opening design.
- Features a sleek contemporary design.
- Easy to clean.
- Some come with a leaking problem on the cap and you may need to find alternate method of sealing this.
- Somehow hard to pull water from it through the mouthpiece.
- Emits putrid taste with initial use. Using it over time however solves the issue.
You will love the WACOOL water bladder due to its unique contemporary design and excellent durability. If you are operating on a low budget and need something cool that perfectly serves the purpose of a high-end hydration bladder, this should be your choice. We however hope that you won’t mind laboring the sipping.
The Hydration Bladdder Buying Guide: What Should You Consider?
Hydration bladders are not new to campers and hikers. They became widely available from the early 90s. Hydration bladders have no doubt taken the outdoor world by storm first featuring among cyclists. During their breakthrough in the market, they were marketed and purchased in hydration packs and this lead to the realization that this was a very convenient way to keep cyclists, backpackers, campers, hikers and other athletes hydrated. Thanks to this discovery, backpacks are made to be hydration bladder compatible, either as a tiny hole through which the drink tube passes or as multi compartments where the hydration tube is threaded through the shoulder straps.
The following are what you should consider while buying hydration bladders:
Size and Compatibility
Hydration Bladder Opening: Zip Top, Fold Top, or Screw Cap?
Bite Valve Size
Ease of Use
Ease of Cleaning
Ease of Filling and Refilling
Pressurized Versus Unpressurized
How Much Water Should You Plan to Drink Daily?
It is important that one chooses a hydration bladder that will snugly fit in the bladder compartment of your backpack. Readily available hydration bladders are commonly designed in the same shape, but with slight variations. Hydration bladders come in different capacities most commonly two-liter and three-liter capacities, but smaller sizes are available (1 liter = 33.8 ounces or a little more than a quart).
3L capacity hydration bladders are recommended compared to 1L and 2L bladders because of the increased capacity despite the slight price variation. A 3L capacity hydration bladder is not recommended in instances where the bladder compartment of your backpack is tiny.
In as much as a larger bladder is recommended, it might not always be the best choice for you. As you already know, water is heavy but you still need to know what capacity you would need for your trip. You also need to decide if you will refill along the way and if so, how often. When shopping for a water bladder, consider the following before you make your choice.
0.5 Liters to 2 Liters: Any bladder within this category is ideal for light expeditions such as running, day hike, ski, trekking and snowboarding. Most of them offer a commendable balance between bulk and lightweight on one hand and sufficient water in situations that may require occasional refills such as short distance biking, running and hiking. Lighter bladders are also available for kids.
3 Liters and Above: Have you ever adventured in a place where you are not certain of your source of water but still don't have access to a backpacking water filter? In such cases, you need bigger bladders that will last you the entire time of your activity. In general, bigger hydration bladders are ideal for long distance trekking, trail running, hiking and camping. A bigger size is a favorite because you have the option of carrying either a large or a small volume of water.
Another compatibility consideration is the profile of your bladder. Some bladders are wide while others are narrow. Some are fat while others are flat when filled. So, what do you need? Most that are hydration-backpack-compatible come with a built-in sleeve. If you take a look at the sleeve, you will be able to see how wide or narrow it is. From that, you'll be able to determine which bladder to choose.
When considering what kind of bladder opening to go with, you need to consider how easy it is to fill, the environment you are filling in, and how easy it is to open and close. Three styles of bladder openings are available: fold top, zip top, and screw top.
Fold Top bladders were the most popular in this review. The tops flip up and fold over; once folded over, you slide a closure over the top, and the bag is free from leaks! We found this to be the best type of bladder opening when filling up in streams or other outdoor environments where you need to gather water from limited sources. We also thought they were great to use under a regular tap at home. We loved that we could turn most of these inside out to clean and get to the hard to reach places.
Zip Top bladders are similar to the fold top style. They resemble a large zip lock bag with a closure that fits over the top the zipper. Even though these are easy to use, many of our testers thought they took a little longer to open and close then fold top styles. These bladders are also great options for filling up at slowly flowing streams and at home under a regular tap. Even though they are easier to clean than screw top options, we found them harder to clean than fold tops as you needed a brush and could not flip them inside out.
Screw Top bladders take a little longer to open and close than zip top or fold top versions but are the easiest to fill in shallow basins. During filling, the screw models can be held in different positions and this allows them to fill with ease from a sink or water fountain. Screw bladders can also be topped off completely whereas with flip and zip top design bladders have to have some air allowance at the top for them to close smoothly and without spilling. Cleaning screw top versions is troublesome since they have hard to reach nooks and crannies.
Bite valves vary in size and type, and most feature a locking mechanism. Some bite valves are larger while others are smaller. The size of the valve affects how easy or hard it is to suck water from the tube. In general, we found that bite valves that were larger were harder to suck water through when using non-pressurized bladders. Small valves were sufficient but didn't offer sufficient water flow to make you feel the satisfaction. Therefore, medium-sized mouthpieces are the best bet.
For locking mechanisms, there are two types, the turn valve and the switch valve. We recommend the switch as they are easier to clean and easier to use while exercising. Even though we have preferences with bite valves, we found that most reservoirs have an interchangeable tube and valve options. So, if you prefer a certain type of valve/tube but love the reservoir, simply change it and you are ready to go.
A hydration bladder is an essential outdoor equipment but it becomes useless when you cannot easily drink from it. Ease of use is largely dependent on the type and size of mouthpiece and the type of drinking mechanism. A suitable mouthpiece should neither be too large nor too small. Larger mouthpieces are harder to control while smaller mouthpieces are difficult to use.
Locking and drinking mechanism is another aspect that determines how easy to use your bladder is likely to be. In many cases, the mechanism involves slightly biting the valve and sucking. It is worth noting that the biting and sucking should not take a lot of energy. This is why we strongly recommend medium sized valves as they guarantee an easy and consistent flow of water when you suck. However, sucking is not the universal technology in all valves as some valves only require biting to allow out water.
Switch and twist locks are the two most common types of locking mechanisms commonly used in water bladders. Switch locks are simpler and easier to use while twist locks are more delicate and need people who are a bit more careful.
No matter how sleek the bladder of your choice is, the wisest decision is to certainly go for a hydration bladder that is both easy to clean and maintain. Without proper cleaning and care of a hydration bladder, it will most possibly become a habitat and breeding ground for mold and bacteria. When this happens, it becomes a health hazard.
Most hydration bladders have hidden areas that are difficult to clean and dry. These hard-to-reach spots are the usual culprits for breeding harmful bacteria and mold. A hydration bladder which is used solely for carrying water does not need cleaning very often. However, if you use your hydration bladder to carry sugary and energy drinks, you have to clean the bladder every time after using it. Three main areas should be focused on while cleaning the bladder: the hose, the bladder and the mouthpiece.
When purchasing a bladder, consider how easy or hard it is to clean it. Look for a wide mouth or a zip-locking bladder so you can either easily fit a brush inside or flip the bladder inside out. Make sure you can disassemble the hose and mouthpiece easily. Many bladders come with a quick-release mechanism that allows you to disconnect the hose from the mouthpiece. It will be difficult to clean the hose without the quick release functionality. In general, flip top bladders that can be easily turned inside out and thrown into the dishwasher are the easiest to clean if they are dish-washer safe.
Many backpackers find filling and refilling of hydration bladders cumbersome. It is therefore important to choose a bladder that is easy to fill and generally easy to use. While bladders with wider mouth openings are easier to refill, closing them is usually a challenge. Just like with the mouthpiece, we recommend that you choose a bladder that has a medium mouth opening. This gives you a balance when filling, closing as well as when cleaning the bladder.
A pressurized hydration bladder has a double chamber, a water and an air chamber. Using a pump, you can blow up the air chamber to create a pressurized reservoir. The pressure will force water to squirt out of the bite valve automatically.
Making a choice for a pressurized hydration pack over a non-pressurized option should always be considered as an independent choosing tip. Pressurized hydration packs are easier to use, more luxurious and will not require sucking to have your sip.
When considering a purchase, make sure your bladder has a quick release mechanism in a vertical orientation. Most hydration hoses use a quick release mechanism to connect to the bladder, and this allows for easy filling and cleaning of the bladders.
When temperatures drop below the freezing point, chances are that the water inside the bladder will freeze inside the tube and in the mouthpiece. It is advisable that during the winter one blows the water back into the main bladder. This clears the hose after each sip. Tube kits tailored for winter are also available, and they cover the hose in neoprene. Winter tailored kits are designed to insulate the hose and prevent it from freezing. The Crystal Creek hydration bladder is one of the best winter-suited hydration bladders due to its additional insulation sleeve.
In general, one should drink 17-25 oz. of water per hour and the intake during endurance activities is more. The amount of water one takes varies with temperature and humidity conditions and the exertion level.
While it's not an easy task searching for and finding the best hydration bladder for hiking, camping or any other outdoor activity, it really doesn't have to be so hard. Our hydration bladders reviews have been carefully curated with outdoor enthusiasts in mind. We subjected the different water bladders to a number of tests and finally came up with the list of only the best. If you really have to buy the best water bladder, pick one from our list.