When you’re preparing for a hiking or backpacking adventure, it’s very important to think of your hydration needs. And, when it comes to hydration, getting a hydration bladder is one of the most convenient and reliable solutions.

A hydration bladder allows you to take small sips of water when you’re on the go, hands-free. Most hiking and backpacking backpacks come with a pocket or sleeve that is designed for holding a hydration bladder. If you don’t love hydration bladders check this page for the best hiking water bottles.

Our Top Pick: Platypus Big Zip EVO

Features

  • Great water flow
  • Reliable
  • Easy to fill
  • Highly durable
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Hydration Bladder Reviews

Hydration bladders vary in size, shape, and performance. To help you find the right fit for you, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best hydration bladders on the market.

1. Source Outdoor Widepac 3L Bladder

Source Outdoor Widepac 3L Bladder

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 6.3 oz
  • Material: Polyethylene (BPA-free)

The Widepac features a glass-like liner that helps prevent bacterial growth and biofilm buildup. In case you forget to empty out the reservoir, water can sit in it for a few days without the bladder getting funky. Its simple design makes it one of the most durable bladders on the market.

Cleaning the Widepac is easy as well, thanks to its wide fold-top. The wide fold-top also allows you to easily insert ice or refill water. It comes with a Helix bite valve that is designed to prevent leaks. You can lock it with a simple twist.

The 3-ft hose sports a unique 90° design. It’s significantly shorter than the average hydration bladder hose and much more convenient. The model also comes in 1.5 and 2 L versions.

Pros

  • Easy maintenance
  • Durable
  • Antimicrobial properties
  • Valve cover
  • Convenient

Cons

  • The suction valve may be too big for some

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2. Platypus Big Zip EVO 3L Bladder

Platypus Big Zip EVO 3L Bladder

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 6.9 oz
  • Material: Polyethylene (BPA-free)

The simple design of the Platypus Big Zip bladder makes it perfect for backpacking. The Platypus brand has a loyal following among outdoor enthusiasts. They are known for making durable and convenient hydration systems, and the Big Zip EVO is no exception.

It comes with a versatile and well-designed tube-setup. You can plug it into a connection point halfway up the tube, as well as into the bottom of the bladder.

Thanks to the silver-ion technology, the Big Zip Evo is great at preventing bacterial growth. The polymer inside the reservoir doesn’t “flavor” the water either. The Big Zip Evo offers a faster flow than most other bladders of its size.

Since it’s built to last, it’s also heavier than your average hydration bladder. Ultralight backpackers may not like that, but the great build quality and the limited lifetime warranty the pack comes with should make the trade-off worth it. The model also comes in 1.5 and 2 L versions.

Pros

  • Leak-proof valve
  • Great flow
  • Versatile
  • Durable
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Not ultralight

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3. CamelBak Crux Bladder

CamelBak Crux Bladder

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 8.4 oz
  • Material: Polyethylene (BPA-free)

The Crux comes with a one-of-a-kind screw cap closure. Unlike most screw top opening, this one is quite wide.

The feature is brilliant as it allows you to easily reach inside the reservoir when you want to clean it. Refilling is super easy as well as the cap opens with just a slight turn.

Its easy-to-use bite valve is like no other and the hose has a wide diameter. This allows for higher water flow. On top of having many convenient features, the Crux is also quite durable. Thanks to the high-quality plastic polymer, the bladder can last for a long time.

If you’re the type of backpacker who counts every ounce, do know that this is not the lightest and most packable bladder out there. It does pack down nicely, but you won’t be able to roll it up so easily because of its large screw-top construction. Nevertheless, the usability of the Crux makes it one of the best reservoirs out there.

Pros

  • Great water flow
  • Versatile
  • Convenient
  • Easy to clean and fill
  • Durable

Cons

  • Can’t flip inside out

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4. HydraPak Shape-Shift Water Reservoir

HydraPak Shape-Shift Water Reservoir

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 5.7 oz
  • Material: Thermoplastic polyurethane (BPA-free)

The HydraPak Shape-Shift bladder is an excellent choice for lightweight backpacking. This slim and reliable bladder is even dishwasher safe. It comes with a nice hand holder that makes it easy to fill.

But, the super-fast flow of water it offers may be its strongest perk. It’s all thanks to the well-built bite valve and high-quality, interchangeable hose. Its clip also contributes to the value of the design as well since it is low-maintenance.

You can flip it inside out for easy care. When it comes to maintenance, the HydroPak may indeed be the best hydration bladder.

The only downside of the HydraPak is its plastic construction. It’s not as thick as that of other high-end reservoirs. It still durable, but one can’t expect it to last as long as thicker plastic. Nevertheless, considering how reliable and convenient the Shape-Shift is, it’s not a deal-breaker.

Pros

  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Easy to clean
  • Internal zipper reduces sloshing
  • Slim profile
  • Lightweight
  • Quick-release hose

Cons

  • Thin plastic construction

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5. Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 7.8 oz
  • Material: Thermoplastic polyurethane (BPA-free)

Unlike most hydration bladders, the Osprey Hydraulics comes with a rigid backplate. While the backplate adds a few ounces to the reservoir, it allows you to insert the Osprey Hydraulics in your backpack’s hydration sleeve with great ease.

When forced into the sleeve, the Osprey doesn’t bend at all—even when it’s fully loaded. The reservoir features an elongated spout and a slim profile. Its weight doesn’t make it the best choice for running vests, but it’s still more than great for hiking or backpacking.

The hose is very easy to unclip as it connects halfway up the line. The bite valve is leak-proof, thanks to its twist-locking mechanism. If you want, you can switch both the hose and the bite valve for any other option.

Because of its rigid backplate, you can’t flip out the reservoir. This can make cleaning a bit difficult. However, the Osprey Hydraulics is dishwasher safe.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Easy to fill
  • High flow bite-valve
  • Durable
  • Dishwasher safe

Cons

  • A bit difficult to clean by hand

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6. Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Engine

Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Engine

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 6.4 oz
  • Material: Thermoplastic polyurethane (BPA-free)

When it comes to versatility, the Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Engine is hard to beat. It features a bulb that you can use to turn the bladder into a solar shower. It comes in handy when you need to clean your dirty equipment.

The flow rate is quite high when the bladder is pressurized. The bladder has two chambers—one for water, and one for air. Thanks to the pressurized system, the Hydration Engine is very easy to drink from.

The bladder is also incredibly easy to clean. You can flip it inside out if needed and you can also throw it in the dishwasher. The pressurized system even helps keep the tubes clean—there’s no backwash at all.

Since it’s like no other bladder on the market, the Hydration Engine comes with a small learning curve. It also comes with an initial “plasticky” taste, but it goes away quickly.

Pros

  • Easy to fill
  • Pressurized system
  • Slim profile
  • Lightweight
  • Innovative
  • Highly versatile

Cons

  • Initial “plasticky” taste

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7. MSR DromLite

MSR DromLite bladder

Specifications

  • Capacity: 4L (135 oz)
  • Weight: 5.1 oz
  • Material: Polyurethane (BPA-free)

The MSR is an inexpensive hydration bladder with an above-average liquid capacity (4 L; 135 oz). It also comes in a smaller version (2 L; 68 oz), and a bigger one as well (6 L; 200 oz).

Despite its impressive capacity, the MSR DromLite is lighter than some 3 L models on our list. But, do know that this is just a bladder, not a hydration system. It doesn’t come with a bite valve or a hose.

It’s packable and very versatile. The MSR DromLite is also highly durable, especially for a budget option. Feel free to strap it to the back of your backpack because the plastic it’s made of sure can take a beating.

Accessing the water is easy since the bladder features a 3-in-1 top. You can even share it! The manufacturer sells a myriad of accessories that can be used with the MSR DromLite.

You can turn it into a bottle, shower, handwashing station, and more. If you are looking for a highly customizable reservoir, this may be the best choice for you.

Pros

  • Packable
  • Lightweight
  • Folds nicely
  • Incredibly versatile
  • Durable

Cons

  • Hose and bite valve not included

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8. Platypus Hands Free Hoser Bladder

Platypus Hoser Water Bladder

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 3.8 oz
  • Material: Polyurethane (BPA-free)

The Platypus is one of the lightest hydration systems money can buy. On top of that, it is simple and affordable. It doesn’t offer as many high-end features as the EVO does, but it comes at half the price. Still, it is sure to give you a bang for your buck.

Like the EVO, the Hoser has great antimicrobial properties. It features the same silver-ion coating that keeps bacteria and mold at bay. You can rest assured it will keep your water taste-free.

Also, there’s almost no suckage required, the flow rate is high enough. However, there is no locking mechanism. Despite being ultralight, the Hoser is quite durable. The bladder comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It also comes in 3 smaller versions.

Pros

  • Good flow rate
  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Bite valve doesn’t lock

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9. Source Tactical WXP Bladder

Source Tactical WXP Bladder

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3 L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 8.9 oz
  • Material: Polyethylene (BPA-free)

When it comes to filling options, the source Tactical WXP is one of the most versatile bladders. It comes with a screw-top option and a flip-top opening.

This model is great for both once-a-year hikers and avid outdoor enthusiasts. The bite valve is super easy to unclip. WXP hoses are easy to detach and they are compatible with other brands.

Cleaning the WXP is easy as well. You can take it apart in a cinch. Scrubbing away tough spots takes almost no effort thanks to the screw top and zip-top design. The bladder features a “self-cleaning” film that blocks bacterial growth.

If you forget to empty it and leave it like that for a few days, you don’t have to worry about any nasty germs smelling up your WXP. Still, it’s best to rinse it and dry it after each use. Even though it’s easy to clean by hand, the WXP is not dishwasher safe.

Pros

  • Puncture-resistant
  • Versatile filling options
  • Easy to clean
  • Insulated tube
  • Durable

Cons

  • Weight

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10. Deuter Streamer

Deuter Streamer

Specifications

  • Capacity: 3 L (100 oz)
  • Weight: 6.5 oz
  • Material: Polyethylene (BPA-free)

The Deuter Streamer is a great choice for those looking for a straightforward hydration system that’s built to last. It has everything you need for on-the-go hydration. The co-extruded polyethylene construction offers great durability. The thicker film makes it more puncture-resistant.

The slide-top design makes it easy to use. It allows you to turn the bladder inside out, which makes cleaning very easy. You can fill it from a tap or outdoor source without any effort because the opening is large enough.

The Streamer should fit nicely into most backpack sleeves since it has a slim profile. The bite valve is unique as it shoots out water with a bit more pressure than other models.

However, the bite valve is not interchangeable. But, you can replace the hose with pretty much any other option you can find.

Pros

  • Easy care
  • Easy to use
  • Durable film
  • Packable
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Bite valve is not interchangeable

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Hydration Bladder Buying Guide

Before you make your purchase, there are a few factors you need to consider. If you want to get the best hydration bladder for your journey, make sure to pay attention to the following:

Bladder Size, Profile, and Compatibility

You need a bladder that will fit your backpack. If you haven’t bought one for your journey yet, make sure to choose a backpack that has a hydration bladder sleeve. Focus on the length and profile of the sleeve. Is it narrow or wide?

When filled, some bladders are fat while others are flat. If the sleeve in your backpack is wide, it can fit a bladder with a wide profile. If it’s narrow, you should get a bladder with a slim profile.

The average hydration bladder has a 2 L (68 oz) or 3 L (100 oz) capacity. Generally, it’s best to go with a 3 L bladder as 2 L versions usually cost the same and weigh the same as 3 L versions.

Since you can fill your bladder just partway, getting a 3 L version is a more cost-effective choice. Larger bladders are usually more versatile as well.

Hole Opening

How easy it is to fill and clean a hydration bladder depends on the type and size of its opening. The fold top design is usually the most convenient. A fold top blader has a large opening that allows you to easily fill it up in outdoor environments. It’s also easy to refill from a tap.

To seal it, you fold the top over and slide a closure over it. Zip top bladders are similar to fold top models. The opening on a zip top bladder is similar to that of a ziplock bag. They are simple and convenient like fold top openings.

However, zip top bladders are not as easy to clean as you can’t flip them inside out. Some bladders have a screw top closure lid. Screw top bladders are the easiest to fill in shallow basins, but they take a bit longer to open and close. Screw tops are great to use in camping restrooms and other places where you don’t want your bladder to touch more things than needed.

They are more difficult to clean than zip tops and fold tops as you need to make an effort to get to those hard-to-reach corners with a brush. However, a cleaning tab may do the trick.

There are also bottle top bladders. Bottle top bladders are super easy to fill with just one hand, but they are a bit difficult to clean. A bottle top bladder is a good choice if you prefer small openings. Bottle top bladders usually have the best leak-proof properties.

Water Flow Rate

The diameter of the hose and the size of the bite valve determine the flow rate. The wider the diameter of the hose, the higher the flow rate. But, wide-diameter hoses are typically burlier. The position of the hose can also have an impact on the flow rate.

Small valves allow you to suck the water easily, but they don’t offer a high water flow. Larger valves are harder to use, but they offer a higher water flow. However, this doesn’t go for pressurized systems. Pressurized bladders are usually the most convenient when it comes to drinking.

When it comes to valves, there are three types of bite valve locking mechanisms. These are: switch, turn, and push-pull. Push-pull and turn valves require a bit more effort than switch valves. Switch valves are most natural to use of the three types.

Component Interchangeability and Compatibility

The great thing about bladders is that most of them come with interchangeable components. For instance, you can swap your bladder’s mouthpiece with a mouthpiece that’s manufactured by a different brand. However, there are some exceptions.

Also, it’s important to note that horizontally-orientated hoses are more difficult to change than vertically-oriented hoses. If you are looking to upgrade your bladder with some accessories, make sure it comes with interchangeable features.

Durability

The durability of a bladder depends on the quality of the plastic and the thickness of the film. Reservoirs with a thicker film are more durable, but they are also heavier. Bladders that are specifically designed to be puncture-resistant are also a bit heavier, but carrying a few extra ounces is usually worth it.

Joints around the tube and mouthpiece are more likely to leak than the reservoir itself. This is another reason why it’s good to have a bladder with detachable parts as you can replace them if they get damaged.

Bladder or Water Bottle

I must admit for short hikes where I can fill up with water along the way I am more of a fan of water bottles or flasks. If I am hiking all day with no access to water and the terrain is challenging then a bladder is great. Here are some of my water flask and bottle reviews:

How to Care for Your Water Bladder

Even the best hydration bladder can easily go to waste if you don’t take good care of it. To avoid dealing with gnarly bacteria, it’s best to clean your hydration bladder on a daily basis.

When you are not using it regularly, it’s best to store it in your freezer. This will prevent bacteria growth.

Empty the bladder out after each use. Make sure to properly air it out. Puff a few hearty breaths into the tube to blow the water out.

If possible, flip the bladder inside out. Use warm water, a bit of mild soap, and a non-abrasive pad to scrub it gently.

For screw top and zip-top bladders, you can use a simple brush. However, using a hydration bladder cleaning kit is a much more efficient and convenient solution as such kits are specially designed for this purpose. The CamelBak cleaning kit can make the job much easier and it costs less than $20.

If the opening is too narrow, you can use a cleaning tablet instead of the whole kit. They are simple to use, just follow the instructions on the label. The CamelBak reservoir cleaning tabs are a great choice.

While cleaning tabs can be of great help, you should always make sure to do a good job of cleaning the mouthpiece, the hose, and the O-ring. Also, avoid putting hot drinks into your hydration bladder. The plastic may be temperature sensitive. It’s also best to avoid putting sugary drinks into your hydration bladder as bacteria feeds off sugar.

Best Pick

Your hydration bladder will keep you hydrated, healthy, and happy while you are out there exploring the world. But, even though hydration bladders seem super simple on the outside, not all of them perform the same. The Platypus Big Zip EVO is our choice for the best of a very good range of bladders.

Make sure to consider what you need from your hydration bladder. And, don’t forget to check your backpack sleeve first.

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