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?
- 1. Source Tactical WXP 3-Liter Hydration Reservoir: The Most User-Friendly Pick
- 2. Deuter Streamer 2.0 Hydration Bladder: A Hiker's Top Pick
- 3. CamelBak Antidote Reservoir: The Most Trusted Pick
- 4. Source Widepac Hydration Bladder: The Most Balanced Choice
- 5. Badlands Hydration Reservoir: Best Hydration Bladder for Hunting
- 6. MSR Dromedary Bag: A Camper's Top Pick
- 7. Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir: The Most Reliable Pick
- 8. Hydrapak Velocity 1.5L Hydration Reservoir: Most Durable Hydration Bladder
- 9. Geigerrig Hydration Engine: The Most Versatile Bladder
- 10. Unigear Water Bladder: Best Value Hydration Bladder
1. Source Tactical WXP 3-Liter Hydration Reservoir: The Most User-Friendly Pick
My favorite pick, the WXP offers an array of irresistible features to anyone 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 the fold-top design for opening and closing. Both of these closures 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 folding top allows this reservoir to open wide 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, a material that is not only low maintenance but also free from chemicals and toxins.
The interiors of the reservoir and tube feature 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. This technology encompasses an anti-bacterial agent that is permanently embedded into the inner walls of the reservoir and its tube, to last the entire lifetime of the hydration system.
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 in 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, 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.
A Caveat: 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. The apposed sides tend to stick together, holding in some moisture.
However, a few tricks learned 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 on an empty glass of water.
The second hack is to hang it by the tube connector, and stuff a small dry kitchen towel into it.
The third hack is to fold its tube into a spiral and insert it into the bladder to keep it open.
- 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
- Somehow too tall hence a bit of a trouble fitting it in most hydration backpacks
- Needs some geeky hacks to keep it open while drying. Luckily, these hacks are easy to learn and implement.
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.
Read Full Review: Source Tactical WXP Hydration Bladder Review
2. Deuter Streamer 2.0 Hydration Bladder: A Hiker's Top Pick
Made of thick polyethylene material and coming in sizes of 2 liters and 3 liters, the Deuter Streamer hydration bladder offers an odorless flow of water that will see you stay hydrated 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 most other hydration bladders which have the hose connector at about one third of the distance from the base.
Bite valve and closing cap
The bite valve is just about the perfect size and has a nicely-fitting removable cap for deterring dust and other contaminants. Therefore, your water is kept sterile and you open the valve only when you want to sip the water. The twist-to-lock valve, together with the closing cap, ensure 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.
Ease of cleaning and hassle-free refilling of the Deuter Hydration Reservoir is all made possible by the fold-top closure mechanism that sees it open for its entire width. You can clean it 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 fold-top closure that is overridden by a sliding plastic clip, providing sufficient tightness. This seal is perfectly leak-proof and to be honest with you, you can never find a better kind of closure.
- 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.
- The fact that you have to open the bite valve cap every time you want to sip water from it makes it a bit cumbersome
- The plastic clip is not of the best quality.
If you are looking for a quality bladder 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.
Read Full Review: Deuter Streamer Hydration Bladder Review
3. CamelBak Antidote Reservoir: The Most Trusted Pick
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 material 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.
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 predecessors 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.
Built as a slim-profile water reservoir, the CamelBak has an uncanny ability to turn 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.
- Easy to fill and to refill.
- It has a large screw top opening.
- It has a medium-sized bite valve which is perfect for most users.
- It has a narrow profile which makes it compatible with different backpacks and hydration packs.
- It has midline zipping that prevents 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.
- It is difficult to clean and may need using of specilaized hydration bladder cleaning kits.
- It is usually harder to fill in trickling streams.
- Made of polyurethane hence water attains plastic taste. This however dissipates with time.
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.
Save for the initial plastic taste, we would recommend it for every ther aspect.
4. Source Widepac Hydration Bladder: The Most Balanced Choice
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-cleansing 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% (20 times), 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 wide fold-top, made in a user-friendly manner, enables easy refill, ice-insertion and cleaning. The high-quality slide-closure puts at bay any possible leaks.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Read Full Review: Source Widepac Hydration Bladder Review
5. Badlands Hydration Reservoir: Best Hydration Bladder for Hunting
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's drinking 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
I have learnt from experience that hiking, cycling, backpacking and especially 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.
- 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.
7. Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir: The Most Reliable Pick
A long-standing choice, the Big Zip Low Profile reservoir has proved its quality and reliability. One of the few low-profile bladders that easily stash into any backpack or pack, the Big Zip Platypus hydration bladder comes in three different sizes; 1.5 liters, 2 liters and 3 liters. The variation in sizes allows users to select the size that suits their water reservoir sleeves and adventures.
Constructed from a combination of polyethylene and polyurethane material, the Platypus Big Zip reservoir is one of the few that put emphasis on health. It is BPA-, BPS- and Phthalate-free. Additionally, it is embedded with silver-ion that confers to it protection against mold and bacterial infestation.
While those bladders made of polyurethane tend to add plastic flavor in water, the Big Zip utilizes a clever combination with polyethylene to make sure that no flavors are added to your water. As you will recall, polyethylene is favored by Source Bladders due to its durability, flexibility and taste-free feel. These characteristics are well featured in the Platypus Big Zip Hydration Bladder.
The Platypus Big Zip comes in a clear, see-through color. This enables you to see how your water looks like, negating any possibilities of consuming dirty water.
Just like the many water bladders that open full-width, the Platypus Reservoir has a wide opening. This means that filling, cleaning and drying are all made easy. The handy pincher on one side of the reservoir, meant for handling while refilling, is a greatly helpful feature that lets you use one hand while filling. We largely rely on these factors to determine the user-friendliness of any given hydration bladder.
The slide clip for locking the zippered parts secures well, meaning there won’t be any unprecedented leaks. The only thing we didn’t like about the plastic clip is that the part meant for carrying the bladder looks pretty thin and likely to give in eventually.
The drinking hose easily disconnects from the reservoir via the quick-disconnect socket. This means that compatibility with parts, flexibility in handling and washing, in addition to the fact that a damaged part doesn’t render your reservoir useless, are all features of this particular bladder worth buying into. The hose, although not insulated, can be easily replaced with an insulated one via this very socket.
The bite valve proved to be sufficiently reliable in terms of water flow and leak-proofing capabilities. The Hilo self-sealing bite valve features a unique design that completely shuts off water to prevent any leaks. Although not our favorite type, the switch locking for the valve works effectively in this reservoir. You just turn it to either open or close the valve.
- BPA-, BPS- and Phthalate-free.
- Feature silver-ion that protects it from bacteria and molds.
- Taste-free; no funny flavors added to water.
- Durable and extremely reliable.
- Easy to use, clean and dry.
- The hose is not insulated.
- Flimsy handle on the clip slide closure.
- Limited to only one color choice.
A water bladder that puts an immense emphasis on quality and safety, the Platypus Big Zip will be worth every cent of your bucks. You have the liberty to choose either of its three capacities, whichever suits your needs.
Even then, an improvement on the handling and insulation could go a long way in adding more value to the Platypus Big Zip Reservoir.
8. Hydrapak Velocity 1.5L Hydration Reservoir: Most Durable Hydration Bladder
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.
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.
- 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
- Limited capacity of only 1.5 liters
- Limited to one color only
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 skiing, cycling, trail running, trekking, hiking and other outdoor adventures.
9. Geigerrig Hydration Engine: The Most Versatile Bladder
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 air compartment creating a pressure 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.
The Most 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 thirst-quenching device to a versatile water system.
Its sprinkle of water can be used for cleansing your pet, sharing water with your mates, cooling off, rinsing your cups and plates as well as washing dirt off of your gear before stashing them into 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 water source. 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.
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 refill at the tap, using a cup or even at a moving stream.
- 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.
- It is expensive.
- It has a small learning curve.
- Excessive pumping of the pressure may damage it.
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. Unigear Water Bladder: Best Value Hydration Bladder
Sporting a sleek low-profile design, the Unigear 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 without tearing at the seams.
Still, its three different capacities of 2L, 2.5L and 3L are a great versatility feature that offers many choices to its users.
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.
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.
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.
If anything, Unigear is a perfect hydration bladder for backpacks.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
For its affordable price and the remarkable design, the Unigear hydration bladder is worth its value. The initial plastic flavor disappears with repeated use.
Top 5 Best Hydration Reservoirs: Specifications
|Bladder Name||Construction Material||Capacity||Dimensions [When Empty]||Dimensions [When Full]||Closure|
|Source Tactical WXP||Co-Extruded Polyethylene||2L, 3L||[2L] 12.2"x7.1"x1.6"
|Screw cap & Fold-top|
|Deuter Streamer||Co-Extruded Polyethylene||2L, 3L||[2L] 14"x8"x0.8"
|Camelbak Antidote||Polyurethane||3L||17"x7"x0.4"||16.62"x6.75"x2.5"||Quick-snap Screw Cap|
|Source Widepac Hydration Bladder||Co-extruded Polyethylene||1.5L, 2L, 3L||[1.5L] 14"x6"x2"
|Badlands Hydration Reservoir||TPU||1L, 2L, 3L||[1L] 9.5"x6"
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.
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:
- Zip-Top Bladders have a ridge and groove on appossing sides of the zipper portion. The two sides zip together then a closure is slided over to reinforce the zipping. These kind of hydration bladders are usually leak-proof, easy to clean with a cleaning brush due to full-width opening, and as well easy to dry. Refilling them from trickling water sources such as taps and slow-moving streams is easy peasy.
Though with the aforementioned accolades, we found that zip-top reservoirs were not so easy to open as they took time to separate the zipping sections.
- Fold-Top Reservoirs are folded at the top then a closure slided to hold the folded portion. These reservoirs proved to be the easiest to open and close.
In some models such as the Deuter Streamer, the top closure doubles up as a handle since it sports a curved space for the hand or for hanging.
Most of the fold-top reservoirs such as the Source bladders flip inside-out. This makes them easy to clean either via hand or in a dishwasher and also easy to dry. Without a doubt, fold-top reservoirs proved to be the favorite of a majority of our team members.
- Screw-Cap Bladders require twisting of the cap to either open or close. In most cases, the clockwise motion will close while the counter-clockwise one will open them. Unlike with the slide-top water bladders, the screw-cap bladders take longer to open or close though not as long as with the zip-top ones.
Of the three types, the screw-cap reservoirs are the hardest to clean. Most of them allow limited access to their deep-seated nooks which favor molds and other micro-organisms.
Having said that, the screw-cap reservoirs are the only type that allow a refill to the brim. Unlike the zip-top and the slide-top reservoirs which need an allowance of closing space to avoid spillage, screw-cap bladders can be fully-filled and the cap screwed on without spillage and leakages. Even then, we found that most screw-cap reservoirs had a lower leak-proofing capabilities especially when you mount some pressure on them.
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.
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 two chambers - water and air chambers. Using the provided pump, inflate the air chamber to create pressure. The pressure will push water out of the bite valve without sucking.
The question of which type of hydration bladder to buy - whether pressurized or non-pressurized - should be answered by your specific needs. Pressurized hydration systems are user-friendlier and have that touch of luxury.
10. Hose Compatibility
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 (consider insulation).
11. Winter Consideration
When temperatures drop below the freezing point, chances are that the water inside the tube and in the mouthpiece will freeze forming stony ice.
It is advisable that during winter one blows the water back into the main bladder. This clears the hose after each sip leaving nothing to freeze.
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 to stash your reservoir in adds to the features that make a water bladder suitable for use in winter.
Hydration Bladder 101: Understanding the Hydration Bladders
Hydration bladders, otherwise referred to as water bladders or hydration reservoirs, are considered a must-have gear for backpackers and other outdoor adventurers. Designed from mostly flexible material such as polyethylene and TPU, modern hydration bladders are compatible with most hiking backpacks hence more handy than conventional water bottles.
Advantages of Hydration Bladders over Traditional Water Bottles
- As opposed to water bottles which are commonly made of aluminum, glass or plastic, hydration bladders are made of flexible materials making them more lightweight while still being able to hold larger capacities of water.
- Hydration bladders can be compacted hence more portable. Water bottles are impossible to compact and will need more space that may be hard to come by.
- Another interesting feature of hydration bladders is the fact that they have seals between the tube and the bag. This feature makes them safer than conventional water bottles.
- Hydration bladders are more convenient since most of them have straws or tubes making them hands-free and ideal for active outdoor sports such as trail running, trekking, biking among others.
- Unlike water bottles, most hydration bladders use modern technology that allows built-in water purifiers, filters and tubes or straws for convenience and ease of use.
- Larger hydration bladders (6 to 10 liters) are suitable for camping due to their expansive capacities.
With that said, it is important to note that even though hydration bladders share most of the above advantages over water bottles, they come in different types. While all hydration bladders are essentially designed for easy and safe drinking of water when you are on the go, they can still be broadly classified into two categories.
Types of Hydration Bladders
Broadly, there are two types of hydration bladders reviewed in this guide - pressurized and non-pressurized types. However, taking other factors into account, it is possible to have a plethora of classes for the hydration bladders.
For instance, we can use size, shape and material to classify the hydration reservoirs. To find out the many different types of hydration bladders, read this article.
For the sake of this article though, we shall use the most obvious technology to have two broad categories of the hydration bladders:
- Pressurized Hydration Bladders
- Non-Pressurized Hydration Bladders
This is a more modern type of hydration bladders. These systems have two chambers separately reserved for air and water. Using the built-in air pump, one can inflate the air chamber until fully bloated.
In order to use, bite or squeeze the valve and water will efficiently come out of the bite valve without sucking.
It is important to note that even the non-pressurized systems are still easy to suck water from. However, the pressurized systems are more versatile hence come with many other advantages.
During camping, you can use pressurized hydration systems to enjoy a shower, give water to your dog or even wash your dishes. The versatility of these systems is not limited to camping and outdoor expeditions alone - you can also use the pressurized hydration bladders to water tree or vegetable nurseries.
Since there is no possibility of backwash going up the tube, these hydration bladders are cleaner, not easily susceptible to bacteria and mold build up and may not require frequent cleaning. It is however recommended that you flush them with a lot of water every time you use them with sugary or sports drinks.
As expected, pressurized bladders cost slightly higher than non-pressurized hydration bladders. The additional cost is nevertheless worth the benefits that come with them.
Initially, all hydration bladders were classified as non-pressurized as their reservoirs had only one chamber meant for holding water.
Using a non-pressurized hydration bladder is simple but still requires total involvement of the user. Most of these systems will require biting of the valve and gently sucking to bring up water.
While they are not the most luxurious type to use, these hydration bladders are more affordable. Another downside of this type of hydration bladders is that they require frequent cleanups as they are more susceptible to clogging and back flow.
Frequently Asked Questions about Hydration Bladders
Q: Why should I purchase a hydration bladder?
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.
Q: How do I use my hydration bladder?
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.
Q: Can I use a hydration bladder to carry other drinks during my outdoor activities?
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.
Q: How do you clean a hydration bladder?
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, microorganisms prone to colonizing it as well as the type of hose attached to it.
Generally, the following are the major techniques applicable in cleaning of hydration bladders:
- Using baking soda or bleach
- Using denture cleaner or efferdent tabs
- Using lemon water or white vinegar
- Using a dishwasher (for applicable reservoirs)
To understand the above techniques profoundly, read this guide on how to effectively clean hydration bladders.
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 guide 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 above list of only the best. If you really have to buy the best water bladder, pick one from our list.
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.