Hydration Bladders Buyers Guide
The first thing you should consider before you buy is its size and its compatibility and whether or not it’ll fit in your backpack’s compartment. Although most products are roughly the same shape, it’s the size that sets them apart. You’ll typically find two-liter and three-liter sizes, but they do make one-liter and 1.5-liters as well.
In general, most people go for the three-liter sizes because you get around twice as much water as a one or two-liter model for around the same price. This gives you the flexibility to fill your bladder up completely or only part way depending on what your plans for the day are. One of the main reasons you wouldn’t want a three-liter model is if you have limited space in your specific pack compartment. If you do a lot of trail running, your running pack may only have a maximum of two-liter capacity. Take a look at our sizing guide to get a better idea of which bladder will suit you the best.
- 1 or 1.5 Liter – This size is perfect for commutes, kids, and short hikes or runs because you won’t need much aqua and it’s lighter to carry around. It’s also a good choice if you know you can refill it often while you’re out and about.
- 2 Liter – If you do a lot of day trips, skiing, snowboarding, or hiking, consider a two-liter model. This will give you a decent amount of H20 to sustain you throughout the day, and it’s a great option if you’re not a fan of constantly refilling it.
- 3 Liter – If you don’t plan to fill up on your trip unless you can’t avoid it, this may be the perfect size for you. It gives you the option to carry smaller amounts of water, or to fill it completely. This is perfect for long trips, camping, or hiking places where H20 is scarce.
The profile is another important consideration. You can purchase models that have a wide profile, or some have a narrow profile. When you fill them, some are flat while others expand and get fat. Before you settle on any specific model, look at your Hydration Pack and its dimensions. Most packs that are compatible come with a sleeve that is built-in. Check how narrow or wide your hydration sleeve is, and this will give you a good idea about which hydration bladder to buy.
Pressurized or Non Pressurized
A pressurized hydration bladder will have two separate chambers with one for liquid and one for air. You use a pressurized pump to blow air up into your hydration bladder so you end up with a reservoir of water that you can access without sucking on the mouthpiece. They’re generally considered to be easier to clean, easier to use, and you can go longer between cleaning systems.
Bite Valve Size
Hydration bladders have bite valves that allow you to get your water out of the bladder, and many vary in size, and some also have a type of locking mechanism to prevent leaking. Your bite valve’s size directly affects how difficult or how easy it is to get water by sucking from the tube. Generally speaking, larger bite valves are more difficult to suck water through if you don’t have a pressurized system. Smaller valves are easier to suck through, but they usually don’t give you the larger flow you’d get from a medium valve.
If your bite valve comes with a locking mechanism to prevent leaks, it’s usually one of two types. You’ll have either a switch locking mechanism or a turn locking mechanism. The switch valves are usually easier to clean and operate one-handed because they’re less prone to sticking as the switch itself doesn’t usually come into contact with your liquid of choice. Turn valves can be more difficult to operate one-handed because they tend to stick due to buildup or sugar reside.
Almost all hydration bladders have some small area that is very difficult to clean and dry properly, and this can be the perfect place for bacteria to grow. If you intend to use one solely for H20, you won’t have to clean it as much because there isn’t a residue left behind. But, if you use liquid with sugar in it, you’ll want to clean your product out after each use because the residue will build up and be a breeding ground for bacteria. It can also affect how your drink tastes the next time you use it. You’ll focus on cleaning the bladder itself, the hose, and the mouthpiece as they see the most use.
If it’s possible, look for a model that has a wide mouth so you can easily fit a brush inside to reach everything, or you can flip it inside out to clean and dry it. Also, make sure it’s easy to take the hose and mouthpiece apart so you can clean every part of them. A quick release hose option is great because it lets you disconnect a hose from another hose quickly and easily to clean it or swap parts out. If it doesn’t have a quick-release mechanism, it’ll be more difficult to clean the hose thoroughly. Generally, a flip-top model that you can turn inside out and put in the dishwasher is the easiest to clean completely.
Compatibility of the Hoses
Ideally, you want the hose to have a quick-release mechanism that is vertically oriented. Some model’s hoses are horizontally oriented, and they have specific attachments. This limits what hoses you can switch out and use with your bladder. If your model has a quick-release mechanism that is compatible with other hoses and attachments, but it has a horizontal orientation while others have a vertical orientation. If you try to switch out your hoses to one that has a vertical orientation, it’ll stick out to the side instead of sitting up and down. This can create an issue with the durability, and it can shorten its lifespan.
Choosing a Reservoir Style
Filling up is another significant consideration you have to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a new one. Things like how easy it is to fill, the environment types you plan to fill it in, and how easy it is to open and close all factor in. You have the choice of a zip top, screw top, or a fold top.
The top of a fold top style model flips up and folds over. When you fold it over, you slide a think closing mechanism over the fold to secure it closed. The opening is usually fairly wide, which allows you to easily fill them from your tap, shallow streams, or areas with limited water sources. The opening itself has a very slender profile, so you don’t need deep water to fill it properly, which is a huge advantage in areas where you have limited resources. Additionally, you can usually turn this type inside out to clean and dry it easier because you can reach everything with a brush or with your hand.
The zip-top hydration bladders are very similar to the fold top hydration bladders. The tops of these bladders look like a large zip-lock bag that your press close and slide a closure over the top of the zipper portion. The openings in these bags are also fairly wide, and they have a lower profile, so it’s easier to fill them in slow-moving streams or at home under the tap. These types of bladders are slightly harder to clean than the fold top styles because you need a brush to clean the inside, and you usually can’t flip them inside out to reach everything.
Models with screw tops do take slightly longer to open and close, but they’re one of the easiest types to fill in shallow water. You hold these water bladders either horizontally or vertically to fill them, and this allows you to quickly and easily fill them in a water fountain or from the tap. This is a significant bonus if you’re trying to fill it up in a public restroom where you don’t necessarily want your product touching more than necessary. Additionally, you can fill these completely, where you may have to leave a slight space with the fold to zip tops to close them properly. However, these models may be slightly more difficult to clean because you can’t turn them inside out and it can be harder to get your brush inside to reach every small area.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Water Should You Drink in a Daily Basis?
- If you’re doing endurance activities, you want to try and drink between 17 and 25 ounces of H20 every hour. For most activities, you should try and drink between 18 ounces per hour, and more if it is hot and humid out. If you’re not sure, check this hydration guide.
How Do You Clean Your Hydration Bladder?
- To start cleaning and drying, get very hot water and add a little bleach along with two tablespoons of baking soda. Make sure that the solution runs throughout your water bladder, and leave it to soak for 30 minutes. When the 30 minutes is up, rinse thoroughly and take a small brush and scrub the insides and around the hose connectors and mouthpieces. Leave it to air dry completely, turning it inside out if it’s possible.
How Often Should You Clean Your Hydration Bladder?
- This largely depends on how often you use your product as well as what you put in it. If you use it with sugary drinks, you want to clean it thoroughly after every use. If you just put water in it, you can clean it maybe once a month.
Can You Buy High-Quality Hydration Bladders Online?
- Yes, you can purchase high-quality models both online or in many sporting goods stores. You can even buy them straight from the brand’s website for added convenience.
Do You Have to Drink Just Water?
- No, you can use any liquid you like. However, any strong-flavored drink you use may leave a taste residue behind. Also, sugary drinks mean you’ll have to clean more often to prevent buildup.
Best Hydration Bladders: The Results
Geigerrig Hydration Engine and Reservoir
The Geigerrig Engine features a large 100-ounce filling capacity with wide-mouthed slide top design. You’ll be able to fill easily, empty, and clean this product because it is reversible and dishwasher safe. It comes in 1.5-liter, 2-liter, and 3-liter sizes.
You can also easily transform this model into a filtration system by using an Aquamira Frontier Filter system. The power bulb allows you to have on-demand water sprays just by squeezing your hand. The Geigerring comes with a lifetime guarantee against wear and tear or leaking.
The tubing on this product comes with a quick release mechanism, and this prevents water flow in the event that the drink tubing or the pressure line aren’t connected properly. The bite valve is also nice, and it comes with an easy to use shut off valve for your convenience, but it does intend to leak slightly when you’re not using it. When you inflate this produce fully, it can become slightly uncomfortable to wear it due to the size.
- Comes in several sizes
- You get a lifetime warranty
- Pressure stream makes it easier to drink
- May leak around the bite valve
- Pressure can make the bladder inflate to uncomfortable levelsBottom-Line: This product is best for distance athletes because of its large capacity and powerful water stream
This lightweight, slim, and sleek model by Hydrapak comes with a zip-lock divider that prevents your fluids from jostling around as you move. The top is a flip top design that makes it easy to use and easy to clean. It comes in 32-ounce, 50-ounce, 2-liter, and 3-liter sizes.
The blaster valve allows you get to your H20 without having to suck hard, and tube stays in place because of the quantum clip. The bite valve also features a locking mechanism so you won’t have to worry about spills or leaking when you’re on the go.
When it comes time to clean the Hydrapak, you simply open it up, flip it inside out, and pop it in the dishwasher or scrub it with a brush. You’ll also be sure it dries thoroughly between uses because of the reversible design. It comes 100 percent welded, and it has very few seams to add to its durability.
- Can freeze or hold warm liquids
- Very lightweight design at 4.85 ounces
- Locking mechanism on the bite valve
- Can zip close for a more slim fit or open for a larger fit
- Easy to clean
- Large mouth for easy filling
- Dishwasher safe
- Difficult to fill in a shallow pool
- Attachment piece comes off easilyBottom-Line: Probably the most lightweight race-ready, best water reservoirs available.
Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir
The Osprey Hydraulics is very lightweight, and it comes BPA and PVC-free. The three-quarter turn wide mouth opening is perfect for filling up and closing it securely once you’re finished. You can purchase it in two or three-liter sizes.
You’ll get an easy, quick disconnect hose, and the bite valve features a magnetic closure that’ll allow you to use it when you need it and not worry about leaks when it’s not in use. You’ll also get an on/off twist valve that helps to prevent leaking.
The wide opening makes this model easier to clean, and a brush fits comfortably so it can reach every corner of the bladder. The hoses and bite valves also come apart, which makes cleaning easy.
- Backpacker plate stops the bladder from swaying.
- Magnetic bite valve comes with a magnetic sternum attachment.
- BPA and PVC-Free
- Wide mouth opening for easy filling
- Magnetic bite valve
- Durable and puncture-resistant material
- Has a strong plastic taste
- May leak around the handleBottom-Line: One of the most inexpensive and all-around versatile products available.
MSR Dromedary Bag
The MSR Dromedary comes with a collapsible design, and it can handle everything from freezing to boiling temperatures. The exterior of this bladder is 1,000-denier heavy-duty Cordura with a durable polyurethane film. The interior of the bladder features a BPA-free food grade lining for an improved taste.
The bladder has a 3-in-1 cap that allows you to fill, pour, and drink with ease. The perimeter webbing allows you to hang this pack up when you’re resting or hang it on your pack. You can purchase this bladder in 4-liter, 6-liter, or 10-liter sizes.
The large opening makes this model very easy to top-up and very easy to lock closed. It’s larger size makes it easy to take a lot of H20 with you when you go for long trips. Additionally, you can purchase several accessories that make this product very versatile.
- Has a 1,000-denier heavy-duty Cordura exterior.
- Collapsible design.
- Handles freezing to boiling temperatures.
- It comes with a no-hassle attachment feature.
- Durable, safe materials
- Comes in very large sizes
- Can be used to pre-heat fluids.
- Have to buy the hydration kit separately
- WeightBottom-Line: This model works best for camping or extended trips.
Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir
The Platypus Big Zip has a large opening at the top of the bladder wit a secure Slidelock close design that makes it easy to fill, clean, and empty. The low-profile design allows this product to ride flat when you’re moving. You can buy 1.5-liter, 2-liter, and 3-liter sizes.
It features exclusive embedded silver ion, and this helps to protect against mold and bacteria in the inside of the bladder. The hose has a quick-release mechanism along with a shutoff valve that helps stop leaks and drips. It also features a larger holder along the top of the bladder that allows you to carry it or hang it up easily.
The thick material makes this product a durable option that can survive normal wear and tear very well. You’re also able to switch out hoses and the bite valves as you like quickly and easily.
- It has a low-profile design to lay flat.
- Interior is embedded with silver ion to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
- Durable handle makes it easy to carry and hang up.
- Slide locking mechanism is secure and durable.
- Flat design
- Bite valve seals tightly between uses
- May be too wide for many carrying sleeves
- Difficult to fill fullBottom-Line: The Platypus Big Zip is excellent for day hikes, long walks, or light biking activities.
The Aquatic Way features a very large top opening that has a twist cover for a secure fit. It comes with several sizes including 1.5-liter, 2-liter, and 3-liter all with durable TPU bag material.
The bite valve on this bladder is made out of silicone, and this makes it very durable, soft, and anti-microbial. You’ll get an easy-to-operate shutoff valve to help prevent leaks as well. The tubes detach with a quick-release function for easy cleaning, and the insulated tube covers help to prevent temperature changes.
The large opening allows you to quickly and easily clean this bladder with a brush, and you can leave it open to air dry once you’ve finished cleaning it. You can also disconnect and reconnect the tubing with on click when it’s time to clean the entire system.
- You’ll get a 37-inch long drinking tube.
- The material is food-grade and BPA-free.
- The large opening makes cleanup a breeze.
- The screw cap fits tight for a secure fit.
- Insulated drinking tube
- Quick click connect/disconnect feature
- 100 percent money back guarantee
- Slight plastic aftertaste
- May leak around the hose attachment pointBottom-Line: Probably the best product for runners due to its lightweight design.
The MSR Dromlite bags feature a unique 3-in-1 cap that allows you to quickly and easily open it to have a wide mouth, a smaller flip open spout, or a medium spout for drinking. It also has a durable plastic handle that makes it very easy to fill the bladder full. However, it only comes in a single 6-liter size.
The opening of this bladder is slightly smaller than average, and this means that to clean it you’ll need a brush to get into every corner of the bladder’s interior. This is a very compact designed bladder, and it is capable of folding down to the size of the cap.
The top of this bladder features a loop that makes it very easy to carry around or hang. The RF-welded seams and film construction make this model a very good choice for anyone who likes to hike or mountain bike.
- Has a 3-in-1 lid.
- Lightweight and compact design.
- Very versatile design
- Can handle freezing temperatures
- Easy to store
- Loop makes it easy to hang and carry
- Food-grade construction
- Have to purchase the hydration kit separately if you want tubing
- Opening is on the smaller sideBottom-Line: This product is the most compact product on our list.
The Salomon SS16 is lightweight and comes with a very slim profile. You and quickly and easily monitor your liquid volume with the printed fill scale along the side of the bladder. It features a wide mouth with a zip-lock seal for an easy and secure fit. You can purchase this product in 1.5-liter or 2-liter sizes.
The bite valve is soft and can handle a high flow of liquid. It comes with an easy one-handed lock and unlock feature to help prevent drips and leaks. The tubing itself features a quick-release mechanism so you can take it apart to clean quickly and easily. It also has a plastic mechanism that lets you point the tubing the direction you want it to go.
The reservoir is replaceable, and it fits into all Salomon Skin packs. This model is also very easy to clean as you can flip it inside out, scrub it, and allow it to air dry.
- It has a slim and lightweight design.
- The reservoir is replaceable.
- Plastic guide allows you to easily adjust the tubing’s direction.
- Reservoir fits any Salomon Skin
- Fill scale helps you monitor liquid levels
- One-handed locks
- Mouthpiece may not lock properly
- Tubing can be difficult to attach/detachBottom-Line: This product ranks as the easiest to clean and care for on our list.
Camelbak Backpacking Antidote
As with most Camelbak bladders this product comes with an easy-open quarter turn valve, and it locks closed for an airtight seal. This large mouth makes it very easy to fill and clean the inside of this bladder, and it comes in 50 ounce, 70 ounce, and 100 ounce sizes.
You’ll also get a quick link system that lets you quickly and easily add a filter or add a liquid flow meter so you can track how much you drink. The quick-release valve makes it a hassle-free process to disconnect and reconnect the tubing, and the bite valve is very large.
Once you’ve finished drinking, the bite valve self-seals to prevent any drips or leaks. You’ll get a high flow rate with no moving parts to worry about cleaning and maintaining. There’s also a low profile design that makes it easy to store and carry this model.
- Very large mouth with quarter-turn lock.
- Center welded low-profile design.
- The bite valve is large and it self-seals.
- You get a 35-inch tubing system.
- Easy to clean
- Folds out for faster drying times
- Easy to store
- Strong plastic smell and taste
- May leak by the tubing connection pointBottom-Line: The product features one of the largest openings on our list.
The Deuter Stream has a top close zip-lock seal for a leak proof finish. It’s also easier to clean due to the large opening. The transparent material makes it very easy to monitor your fluid intake levels, and it comes in 2-liter and 3-liter sizes.
The Deuter Streamer is BPA-free, and it has a drip-proof Helix valve system that can deliver a steady stream of liquid without interrupting your activities. The bite valve is soft, and it comes with a snap on cover to keep it clean between uses.
You’ll have a slim, sleek, and slender profile with this product, and this makes it easier to fit into many different sized packs. The tubing has a quick-release valve, and this system allows you to take it apart and clean the entire system quickly and easily between uses.
- Tubing detaches with a quick-release valve system.
- Helix Valve prevents leaks when you’re carrying it.
- Transparent material allows you to monitor your fluid intake.
- Wide mouth lets you clean and dry your bladder quickly and easily.
- Snap on cap for the bite valve
- Slim design
- Bacteria-resistant bladder lining
- Bite valve may require a lot of pressure to work
- Only held upright in your pack by Velcro or if your pack has a sleeve to hold your hydration systemBottom-Line: This product is best for short hikes or runs, or shorter trips because of it’s lightweight and slim design.
Last update on 2020-04-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API