The Best Hydration Bladders
Last Update: 13 February 2019

Best Hydration Bladders for Outdoor Enthusiasts - 2019 Top Picks

Which is the best hydration bladder to buy in 2019? While this question is easy to come by, the actual process of searching, testing, comparing and selecting the best water bladder isn't as easy.

That's why we rummaged through the market, tried out 20 of the top-rated brands and settled for the best ten below.

Our tests dwelled on reservoir capacity, their leak proofing capabilities, ease of access and cleaning, insulation, durability, safety for health, and even the miniature details such as their bite valve types and ease of suction through their hoses.

To say that this list consists of the best water reservoirs is a gross understatement. We think there isn't a better, a more practical list out there. Let's get to it:

Which are the best hydration bladders of 2019?

best-hydration-water-bladders-reservoirs

1. Source Tactical WXP 3-Liter Hydration Reservoir: A Mixed-Technology Hydration Bladder

Source-Tactical-WXP-Hydration-Reservoir

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My favorite pick, the WXP offers an array of irresistible features to any individual who knows what to look for in a hydration bladder.

First off, this hydration bladder comes in sizes of 2 liters and 3 liters each featuring a combination of both the screw cap and a slide-locking design for opening and closing. Both of these are water-tight and leak-proof. Since this feature caters for both preferences, it has seen the WXP so quickly rise up the popularity scale to become a favorite of a wide group of hikers and outdoor-savvy individuals.

Easy to refill and clean

The slide-locking design of this reservoir allows it to slide wide open for easy cleaning, refilling, and ice insertion. And if you prefer only water in your hydration bladder, the screw cap offers a quick way to refill the WXP.

Highest Quality construction

This high-performance hydration reservoir is constructed with topnotch coextruded polyethylene material that is not only low maintenance but also free from chemicals and toxins. The interior of the reservoir and tube features a glass-like liner which serves a crucial role of acting as a mechanism to prevent bio-film build-up which in turn prevents bacterial growth in the reservoir. Additionally, this liner prevents stored water from developing plastic flavor. The WXP is further enhanced with Grunge-Guard antimicrobial technology that prevents bacteria and other micro-organisms from thriving.

Other Versatile Features

Though not with the best kind of technology, WXP does a great job in insulating its tube. The insulation mechanism consists of a fabric webbing that deters UV light and, to some extent, keeps the water cool for a reasonable length of time.

Another feature that WXP prides itself in is the patented push and pull storm technology for the suction valve. You pull it and the water gushes into your mouth with a 25$ more flow than most other bladders. You push it back and the valve closes. This technology is a gem in two subtle ways. First, since pulling the valve doesn't allow it to completely come off, you will never have to harbor a fear of losing it. Second, the fact that the valve remains closed and you open it only when you need to suck some water means that your water remains sterile and uncontaminated.

Generally, this is an incredible reservoir that is characterized by a wide range of performance-enhancement features. From antimicrobial technology to leak-proof design, cool weave, wide open access and taste-free system features, this reservoir has so much to offer. Furthermore, it is easy to clean and maintain. It only needs to be rinsed with water and, using the techniques listed below, hanged open for air drying.

Drying the WXP bladder

At first, we had found it difficult air drying the WXP since it is practically difficult to keep its apposing sides separated when empty. However, a few tricks learnt through a long-term experience in dealing with hydration bladders proved handy. The first hack is to have it stand upside down on a bottleneck of any drinking bottle or an empty glass of water. The second hack is to hang it by the tube connector, and stuff a small dry towel into it. The third hack is to fold its tube into a spiral and insert it into the bladder to keep it open.

Pros
  • Features both screw-cap and slide locking mechanisms both of which are leak-proof
  • High quality construction
  • Embedded with antimicrobial technology
  • Self-cleansing mechanism
  • Keeps water cool for a long time
Cons
  • Somehow too tall hence a bit of a trouble fitting it in most hydration backpacks
  • Needs some hacks to keep it open while drying. Luckily, these hacks are easy to learn and implement.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is an excellent choice for a heavy duty reservoir. From the capacity to design related features, you pay less for more. Three liters of water is quite something and on top of that, water temperature remains under control for at least four hours. The quality of the material used to construct the reservoir is incredible. It is completely leak-proof.


2. Deuter Streamer 2.0 Hydration Bladder: A Hiker's Top Pick

Deuter-Streamer-2-0-Hydration-Pack-Review

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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. I'm not one of those people since I value my health more than comfort.

Full-width opening

Ease of cleaning and hassle-free refilling of the Deuter Hydration Reservoir 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.

Pros
  • 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.
Cons
  • We didn't like the fact that you have to open the bite valve every time you want to sip water from it.

Bottom Line

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: The Most Trusted Pick

camelbak-antidote-water-bladder-review

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If not for anything else, you will want to make this 3 Liter (100 oz) hydration reservoir your choice for its trustworthiness. Made of strong polyurethane mterial and introduced into the market decades back, this hydration bladder has stood the test of time. Free of BPA and BPS, this water bladder has maintained its high ratings and positive reputations. A number of quality-enhancement features have been carefully crafted into the CamelBak and you will be buying into nothing short of a proven hydration system.

Reasonable Picing

Given the high quality and the improvements this hydration bladder has had to undergo over the years, its price is reasonable enough. It might not be as affordable as the two reviewed above but as you might be expecting, CamelBak is incomparable in a number of ways. For lack of a better description, CamelBak is a premium water bladder which lives up to its promise by all means.

Additionally, the Camelbak Antidote water bladder comes with a limited lifetime warranty which enhances its long-term value.

Cool and Latest features

Over time, CamelBak has been modifying its hydration bladders in response to feedback received from users worldwide. The CamelBak Antidote Reservoir is the newest of their reservoirs that date back to years ago.

Compared to the older versions, the newer Antidote has an array of performance-enhancement features that see it outperform its competitors in a number of ways. Its wider mouth opening, together with its larger grab handle, enable easy refilling and cleaning. Its baseline hose-connector allows complete draining of water from the reservoir. The two water chambers is a clever feature that, apart from welding the bladder into a slim-profile reservoir, reduces sloshing of water within it. Other additional features include a removable hose, integrated fold-out dryer arms and a Quick Link system which makes changing the reservoirs seamless.

Another feature that has seen improvement is the bite valve. Medium in size, the bite valve is neither too small nor too large. Unlike with the previous CamelBak models, the bite valve in the newer model is firmer and not easily detachable. This has put to bay the complaints of the bladder leaking through this particular point.

Enhanced versatility

Built as a slim-profile water reservoir, the CamelBak has an uncanny ability of turning any backpack into a hydration pack. This means that even with your normal backpack, you can still carry your CamelBak Antidote reservoir without worrying about space or getting your backpack wet. Its airtight fillport, apart from being leak-proof, reduces on weight. The hydration bladder weighs 7 ounces which is lightweight enough.

Pros
  • Easy to fill and to refill.
  • It has a large screw top opening.
  • It has a great bite valve.
  • It has a narrow profile which makes it compatible with different backpacks and hydration packs.
  • It has compartments that prevent sloshing of water in it.
  • It has stood the test of time while holding onto its good reputation. Future improvements are by all means plausible.
Cons
  • It is difficult to clean and may need using of specilaized hydration bladder cleaning kits.
  • It is usually harder to fill in trickling streams.

Bottom Line

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, hikers, runners and all other outdoor enthusiasts.


4. Source Widepac Hydration Bladder: The Helix Bite-Valve Reservoir

Source Widepac Hydration Bladder

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Available in three different sizes of 1.5L, 2L and 3L, Source Widepac hydration bladder is undoubtedly one of the best water bladders.

It is constructed from the favorable coextruded polyethylene and features a glass-like liner inside of its reservoir and tube. This technology, apart from putting at bay the loathed plastic taste in water, also confers the self-cleaning ability to the reservoir. As such, bio-film buildup and bacterial growth in the reservoir is effectively deterred.

Its rounded helix bite valve features a safety shutoff mechanism that completely prevents leakages even under pressure or with prolonged use. Biting it softly delivers a sufficient flow of water into your mouth. The dirt-shield protective cover protects the bite valve from dust and other kinds of physical contamination.

Grunge Guard Anti-Microbial Technology

A technology that utilizes FDA-approved and EPA-registered anti-microbial agent effectively inhibits bacterial growth inside both the reservoir and the suction tube. This agent lasts the entire lifetime of the bladder. Therefore, if your health is of great concern to you (we think it should be), this is the reservoir meant for you.

Easy to Maintain

A number of features make low-maintenance of the Widepac reservoir possible. First off, its glass-like film liner, smoother than standard TPU films by about 2000%, makes it self-cleansing. What this means is that you can confidently refill this reservoir again and again before you can finally clean it. Your water remains fresh for several days.

The Widepac slide-closure, made in a user-friendly manner, enables easy refill, ice-insertion and cleaning.

90° Suction Tube

At 94 centimeters length, its suction tube features a remarkable 90° design which significantly makes it shorter than most other suction tubes.

This, apart from creating a favorable drinking angle, eliminates excessive tubing around your chest. No one wants to be burdened by excessively unnecessary load.

Pros
  • Free from BPA, BPS and phthalates.
  • The Grunge Guard technology and Glass-like liner keeps your water sterile and safe for drinking.
  • Tightly water-tight and leakage-free.
  • No odors or tastes added to water.
  • Easy maintenance.
Cons
  • The suction valve is a bit too huge in size.
  • We tend to think that the hanging point on the top slide bar was wrongly placed.

Bottom Line

Greatly built with almost everything you would love to see in a hydration bladder, the Source Widepac is one of a kind. It is leak-free, easy to maintain and clean, comfortable to carry and with great safety-enhancement features. Save for the few mishaps, this is a nearly perfect hydration bladder.


5. Badlands Hydration Reservoir: Best Hydration Bladder for Hunting

Badlans Hydration Bladder For Hunting

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Specifically designed for hunters, the Badlands is both convenient and reliable. It is a spectacular product whose birth was a result of the collaboration between Hydrapak™ and Badlands, two of the most popular innovators of outdoor products.

It is durable, leak-proof, practical and quieter than any other water reservoir out there.

Constructed with 0.25mm thick Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), the Badlands is available in 3 different sizes of 1L, 2L and 3L and in rectangular and square shapes. With the renowned Badlands Unconditional Lifetime Warranty enhancing its life-long value, there's nothing better you could ever wish for.

Easy to Clean

One of the few water bladders that flip inside-out, the Badlands is easy to clean and dry. Its full-width slide-top opening allows for a wide access to its interior for a thorough cleaning. When flipped inside-out, the bladder is dishwasher-safe.

Remarkable Hose and Valve Designs

Durable but lightweight and with a perfect length, the Badlands TPU hose is remarkable in two ways. First, the Plug-N-Play™ tube connector lets you easily attach and detach the tube from the reservoir. This, apart from enhancing the flexibility of the bladder when cleaning, also allows for easy refills.

Secondly, the hose sports a built-in foam insulation mechanism which keeps water within the tube colder for longer. If you've ever had a sip of warm water during blistering-hot temperatures, then you know why this Hydrafusion™ insulation technology is a great feature of this reservoir tube.

The Elite Surge Valve allows plenty of water to flow into your mouth with a simple suction. To keep the bite-valve sterile, a freely-dangling dust cover is attached.

Pros
  • Available in different shapes and sizes.
  • Advanced technology used in the construction of both the bladder and tube.
  • Flips inside-out, easy to clean, dishwasher safe.
  • Unbeaten lifetime warranty.
Cons
  • The opaque hose doesn't allow one to see through, which may be a health risk when molds grow in it. You will want to be regularly cleaning the tube with every bladder wash to prevent this from happening.
  • Some rubbery taste in water, which disappears with time.

Bottom Line

Have you been searching unsuccessfully for the best water bladder for hunting? The Badlands Hydration Bladder has been carefully crafted to take care of your needs. It is a quality product we can confidently forge for.


6. MSR Dromedary Water Bag: A Camper's Top Pick

MSR-dromedary-bag-review

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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 the best hydration bladder for camping.

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.

Pros
  • Strong and durable.
  • Easy to store and carry.
  • Highly versatile and convenient in multiple situations.
  • Comes in different capacities.
  • Comfortable ergonomic handle.
Cons
  • Slightly heavy particularly when filled with water.

Bottom Line

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.


7. Hydrapak Velocity 1.5L Hydration Reservoir: Most Durable Hydration Bladder

Hydrapak Velocity Water Reservoir - Malibu

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We used to love the Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir. That was until their new Hydrapak Velocity made its entry into the market with incredibly innovative features. And we couldn't help but immediately replace the former with this newer breathtaking model. 100 percent BPA- and PVC-free, the Hydrapak Velocity adds no harmful chemicals or weird tastes to your water.

Made to last, the Hydrapak velocity utilizes Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Silicone in its construction, probably the highest number of material combination in a single hydration bladder. Due to this combination, the Hydrapak Velocity is elastic and effectively resistant to grease, oil and abrasion. But, as you'll shortly notice, that's not all there is to this new and innovative product in the world of hydration.

For us, the Hydrapak Velocity would be a perfect hydration bladder save for the fact that it is limited by its low capacity of 1.5 liters.

Easy to Clean and Dry

This zip-top bladder opens full width and flips inside out. This means that you can easily clean all its nooks to rid it of dirt and micro-organisms. Noteworthy, this water bladder is dishwasher-safe.

To dry it, simply turn the bladder inside-out and hang it in open air.

Enhanced Flexibility

Its 36-inch HydraFlex drinking hose is non-kinking and proffers a steady flow of water. The sufficiently satisfying flow is as well enabled by its unique Blaster™ bite-valve which features an on-off turn-mechanism for locking. The valve auto-seals after every sip, a feature which a majority of us fell in love with.

The clear tube enables one to see through and gauge the extent to which it has been colonized by molds. This means that it is easy to clean every part of the tube to rid it of any health hazards.

The bladder's Plug-N-Play™ quick connect system features an auto-shutoff valve that prevents any leakages when you disconnect the hose from the bladder. You realize that this quick disconnect system adds to your flexibility when refilling or cleaning the bladder.

Other Impressive Features

A majority of our testers thought that the Malibu blue color of the reservoir was an impressive one. Still, we think that a diversity of colors would be a good idea.

Ergonomically designed, the top slider-seal is smooth and closes tightly to ensure zero leakages. It has got no sharp edges that would be a nuisance.

The reservoir's weight of 4.2 ounces makes it one of the most lightweight water reservoirs for outdoor use.

Its affordability, coupled with Hydrapak's Beyond Lifetime Warranty which will see your reservoir replaced or repaired in case of any mishap, are everything that should prompt you into trying out this newer but insanely incredible product.

Pros
  • Easy to clean and dry
  • Durable due to the quality material used in its construction
  • Has enhanced flexibility
  • Affordable with lifetime warranty
  • Comparatively more affordable than most other models
Cons
  • Limited capacity of only 1.5 liters
  • Limited to one color only

Bottom Line

A relatively new entrant into the market, the Hydrapak Velocity sports almost all the innovative features you would love to see in a hydration system. If you don't mind the 1.5L capacity, this is the best water bladder for you. It is lightweight and can be used for hiking, cycling, trail running, trekking, skiing and other outdoor adventures.


8. Unigear Water Bladder: Best Value Hydration Bladder

Unigear Hydration Reservoir

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Sporting a sleek low-profile design, the Unigear 3 liter water bladder prides itself in its unique double-welding that confers a massive pressure resistance to it. It can sustain a pressure of up to 60 kilogram equivalence.

When you first put your hands on the Unigear water reservoir, the one thing that will instantly strike your attention is the super-comfy, lightweight material it is made of. The food-grade Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) has a flexible feel, is BPA-free and FDA-approved.

Large Opening

At full width in diameter, its large screw-cap opening allows easy accessibility to the bladder's inner surfaces hence seamless cleaning and drying. Ice cube insertion and refilling are all made easy due to this large opening.

Remarkable Design

Without a doubt, the Unigear bladder was designed by qualified engineers.

First off, it features a midline welding that, apart from making it a low-profile bladder, reduces the sloshing of water within it. This, to a great extent makes it less bulky. The bladder can fit in many hydration packs including the Camelbak Mule.

Its quick disconnect hose enhances flexibility especially when refilling and cleaning the bladder. Instead of removing the entire bladder with its tube from your backpack, just disconnect the tube and remove only the bladder. The neoprene cover on the hose acts as an insulator maintaining the water temperature within it.

It features a mouth-piece cap to prevent dust and other contaminants from getting in contact with the suction piece. As such, you can expect clean water with every sip.

Pros
  • Affordable price tag.
  • Low-profile with minimal sloshing of water.
  • The quick-disconnect hose improves flexibility of the reservoir.
  • Leak-proof with great pressure resistance.
  • Comes with a cleaning kit.
Cons
  • The middle welding makes it a bit harder to clean, especially when one has big hands.
  • The suction valve a bit harder to use.
  • Has some plastic taste initially.

Bottom Line

For its affordable price and the remarkable design, the Unigear hydration bladder is worth its value. The initial plastic flavor disappears with repeated use.


9. Geigerrig Hydration Engine: The Most Innovative Bladder

geigerrig-hydration-engine-hydration-bladder-review

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The only pressurized hydration bladder we tested, Geigerrig performs spectacularly and is in the least reliable. Its most striking (and indeed innovative) feature is the pressure system. It has an ellipsoidal air pump that looks like that one you find in the old-school blood pressure machines. This pump connects to the reservoir's air compartment.

Pumping it fills the pressure compartment with air which forces the water to squirt out through the suction hose. Thus, unlike the other water bladders which need suction and pulling of water into your mouth, Geigerrig does the pushing for you.

Initially, the Geigerrig was designed for tech-savvy outdoor adventurers. Its popularity over the years has however proven that it indeed is a favorite of everyone; both the tech-savvy and the ordinary outdoor lovers.

Sufficiently leak-proof, Geigerrig is made of strong TPU and is BPA-free. It is a zip-top reservoir that opens full-width like a pouch and comes in three different capacities of 1.5L, 2L and 3L.

Versatile

Due to its pressure system, the Geigerrig water bladder has amassed for itself a plethora of uses and functions. This very system has seen it shift from being an exclusively hydration bladder to a versatile water system.

Its sprinkle of water can be used for cleaning your pet, cooling off, rinsing your cups and plates as well as washing dirt off your gear before stashing them in the car. One of our team members thought that the bladder would as well be a perfect sprinkler for watering indoor flowers.

A noteworthy fact is Geigerrig's ability to be used with a water filter if you don't trust your source of water. All you need to do is connect one end of the filter to the hose and the other end to the bladder's socket. The pressure forces the water through the filter and through the hose into your mouth. Specifically, Aquamira Frontier Max filter is the most compatible filter to be used with the Geigerrig hydration system.

Dishwasher-Safe

One of the few hydration bladders that flip inside-out, Geigerrig is dishwasher-safe. Just turn it inside-out and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher to clean.

Drying it is as well easy as the flipped reservoir has all its surfaces exposed to air.

The fact that the bladder itself is detachable from the tube via the easy disconnect system makes all these possible.

Easy to Fill and Refill

With its full-width, pouch-like opening, Geigerrig makes it a breeze to refill from virtually any water source. It is one of those bladders you can easily fill via the tap, using a cup or even on a moving stream.

Pros
  • Has many innovative uses.
  • Has a slim profile.
  • Has a pressurized system.
  • It is easy to fill and refill.
  • Safe to be used in a dishwasher.
Cons
  • It is expensive.
  • It has a small learning curve.
  • Excessive pumping of the pressure may damage it.

Bottom Line

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.


10. Crystal Creek Hydration Bladder: All Weather Hydration Bladder

crystal-creek-hydration-bladder-review

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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.

Insulated Sleeve

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.

Pros
  • 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.
Cons
  • Slightly more expensive than most hydration bladders but it is worth the price.

Bottom Line

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.


Top 5 Best Hydration Reservoirs: Specifications

Bladder Name Construction Material Capacity Dimensions [Empty] Dimensions [Full] Opening
Source Tactical WXP Co-Extruded Polyethylene 2L, 3L

[2L] 12.2" x 7.1" x 1.6"

[3L] 17" x 8" x 1"

[2L] 11.1" x 6.2" x 3.6"

[3L] 16" x 5.9" x 3.7"

Screw cap & Fold-top
Deuter Streamer Co-Extruded Polyethylene 2L, 3L

[2L] 14" x 8" x 0.8"

[3L] 17" x 8.5" x 0.8"

[2L] 13.2" x 7.6" x 2.5"

[3L] 16.6" x 8.2" x 2.9"

Fold-top
Camelbak Antidote Polyurethane 3L 17" x 7" x 0.4" 16.62" x 6.75" x 2.5" Quick-snap Screw Cap
Source Widepac Hydration Bladder Co-extruded Polyethylene 1.5L, 2L, 3L

[1.5L] 14" x 6" x 2"

[2L] 14" x 6" x 2"

[3L] 6.5" x 13.8" x 1.5"

[1.5L] 12.6" x 7.3" x 0.8"

[2L] 14" x 7.7" x 0.8"

[3L] 16.7" x 8.5" x 0.8"

Fold-top
Badlands Hydration Reservoir TPU 1L, 2L, 3L

[1L] 9.5" x 6"

[2L] 9.5" x 9"

[3L] 17" x 6.5"

[1L] 9.5" x 6"

[2L] 9.5" x 9"

[3L] 17" x 6.5"

Fold-top

The Hydration Bladdder Buying Guide: What Should You Consider?

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. Whether it is in the winter or summer, hydration during outdoor excursions is mandatory and means you stay alive and get the most out of your trip. It is no wonder then that hydration bladders have taken the outdoor world by storm in the recent years.

Becoming widely popular from early 90s and first featuring among cyclists, hydration bladders have no doubt become an essential necessity for outdoor excursions. During their breakthrough in the market, they were marketed and purchased in hydration packs and this led 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:

1. Construction Material

The material used in the construction of a hydration bladder determines its durability, how you should clean it and whether your water will have plastic taste or not. TPU and Polyethylene are the most common material used in the construction of hydration bladders.

As a general rule, those bladders made of TPU will have an initial plastic taste. You should however note that this plastic taste dissipates with time.

Hydration reservoirs made of polyethylene on the other hand, do not add the plastic taste to water. They are sufficiently durable and reliable.

Some hydration bladders make use of a combination of several material at ago. The Hydrapak Velocity for instance, makes use of TPU, HDPE and Silicone. Such a combination adds to some properties of a hydration bladder such as elasticity, durability and resistance to the elements.

You will want to look keenly at the material used in the construction of a water reservoir to determine whether or not a given reservoir is suitable for you.

2. Size and Compatibility

It is imperative that you choose 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 ranging from one-liter to three-liter capacities.

3L capacity hydration bladders are recommended compared to 1L and 2L bladders because of the increased capacity despite the slight price variation. Still, you will have the liberty of either filling your bladder partly or to the brim depending with your situation. A 3L capacity hydration bladder is not recommended in instances where the bladder compartment of your backpack is tiny.

Sizing Guide

In general, one should drink between 17 and 25 ounces of water per hour. The intake is usually higher than this during exertion. Other variables such as temperature and humidity will as well vary your water requirement. As a general rule of thumb, take water whenever you feel thirsty.

Basing off of the above and depending on how you have planned your trip, you can easily choose the bladder size to settle with.

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. 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 and hiking. 3 Liter capacity is a favorite because you have the option of carrying either a large or a small volume of water.

Above 3 Liters. Above this capacity, most water reservoirs cease to be hydration bladders and become water bags. MSR Dromedary Water Bag is an example with capacities of 4 liters, 6 liters and 10 liters. Most often than not, these are the best water reservoirs for camping. They will ensure that you have enough water to last you the entire period of your camping trip with the option of refilling when your trip is of a significantly longer duration.

3. Bladder Profile

The build of the bladder determines its profile. To guage the bladder profile, look at the dimensions when empty and when filled.

Low-profile bladders tend to have a zipping between its apposing walls. This, apart from reducing the sloshing of water within it, makes it easily compatible with most backpacks and hydration packs.

Still, some reservoirs come with built-in sleeves. In some cases, such a sleeve can act as an insulation mechanism such as with the case of Crystal Creek Reservoir. In most cases however, the sleeve increases the reservoir's compatibility with a backpack. Taking a look at the sleeve should inform you of how wide or narrow a reservoir is hence helping you in making your choice.

4. Hydration Bladder Opening: Zip-Top, Fold-Top, or Screw-Cap?

Your source of refill water, ease of opening and closing, and leak-proofing capabilities are a few factors that should determine the type of opening to go for. The three opening options fair differently in different conditions:

It is worth noting that the most adavanced reservoirs nowadays tend to combine some of the opening/closing mechanisms onto their reservoirs. The Source Tactical WXP reservoir for instance, combines the slide-top and the screw-cap features. This makes them more versatile than the traditional reservoirs which adopted only one closing/opening mechanism.

Since a majority of people would like to use their reservoirs in different environmental conditions and weathers, such combinations are becoming a necessity rather than a luxury.

In scorching-hot summer weather for instance, one may think of stashing a few ice cubes into their bladder. This is made easy and indeed possible by the wider slide-top opening. Most screw-cap reservoirs, especially those with smaller caps, would prove a bottle-neck to such an attempt.

5. Bite Valve Size and Locking

The size of the valve affects how easy or hard it is to suck water from the tube. Some bite valves are larger while others are smaller. 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 were the best bet.

Three locking mechanisms stand predominantly for the bite-valves; twist valve, switch valve and the push-and-pull valve as shown on the picture below repectively.

twist, switch and push-pull locking valves

Our favorite pick of locking mechanism is the push-and-pull lock such as those featured in Source Hydration Reservoirs. These locking mechanisms are easy to use and mostly hands-free.

The other two locking mechanisms are the switch and twist valve-locks. Switch locks are simpler and easier to use than the twist locks. Twist locks are more delicate and need people who are a bit more careful.

6. Ease of Use

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.

7. Ease of Cleaning

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.

8. Ease of Filling and Refilling

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.

9. Pressurized Versus Unpressurized

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.

10. Hose Compatibility

quick-release bladder-and-hose mechanism

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 flexibility when filling and cleaning the bladder. In addition, you get the liberty of interchanging the hose with your preferred choice.

11. Winter Consideration

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 such as that found in the Badlands Hydration Reservoir. Winter-tailored kits are designed to insulate the hose and prevent the water in it from freezing.

An insulation sleeve adds to the features that make a water bladder suitable for use in winter.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hydration Bladders

  1. Q: Why should I purchase a hydration bladder?
  2. If you are enthusiastic about outdoor sports and activities, then you most definitely need a hydration bladder. In fact, hydration bladders are no longer a luxury for backpacking enthusiasts but a necessity. Dehydration during enduring activities is not only uncomfortable but also a health concern. Dehydration, when severe and extended for a considerable period of time, will cause severe injury to your kidneys and as a result to your other internal organs. Therefore, hydration bladders are indispensable and a good way to access clean and safe water throughout your outdoor activities.

  3. Q: How do I use my hydration bladder?
  4. Depending on the type of bladder you opt to buy, simply bite the valve and suck to enjoy your water or drink. However, with pressurized hydration bladders, you do not need to suck. Simply bite the valve and water will freely flow.

  5. Q: Can I use a hydration bladder to carry other drinks during my outdoor activities?
  6. Depending on the type of a hydration bladder, you can use your hydration bladder to carry any drink that gives the needed motivation for your favorite outdoor activity. These could be energy drinks or sports drinks. What you ought to do is check what kind of advice the manufacturer gives about their hydration bladder. However, these drinks provide a conducive environment for bacteria and other micro-organisms to grow by providing them with the source of food. It is therefore important to thoroughly clean the bladder after each use with these kinds of drinks.

  7. Q: How do hydration bladders compare to water bottles?
  8. Water bottles were a traditional means of accessing water while on the go during activities such as hiking and trekking. They were popular years back until the advent of hydration bladders.

    Hydration bladders, unlike water bottles, are hands-free. Once tacked into their hydration backpacks, access to water is easier via their suction hoses.

  9. Q: How do you clean a hydration bladder?
  10. Ranging from using a dishwasher to lemon water, there are many ways to clean your hydration bladder. Cleaning a hydration bladder is sometimes a subtle art that requires critical knowledge of its construction material, organisms prone to colonizing it as well as the type of hose attached to it. Read this guide on how to effectively clean hydration bladders.

Final Verdict

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 review has 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.

Author-bio

ABOUT DANIEL MSANII

When he's not camping or adventuring the outdoors, you'll find him grinding hard on his keyboard to put up some super-awesome content on campingmaniacs.com. Starting off on camping escapades back in 2011, he has grown fond of the activity over the years. His exposure to a myriad of different camping terrains, gear and the outdoor atmosphere has hitherto changed his perception of the entire outdoor life. He enjoys sharing the experiences of his adventures and gear reviews with the awesome camping community on this platform. Read more about us.

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