Best Hydration Bladder – Expert Review

Updated: February 12, 2024
Best Hydration Bladders

If you are a serious hiker, you will definitely need a hydration pack, hydration bladder, or even a hydration engine as they're often called. 

The best hydration bladders save space, weigh less and allow you to carry more water with less effort. You also get instant access to it if you need a sip. This is very important if you are feeling lightheaded while trekking. 

Hydration bladders might not work as well for a once-off hike, but for continuous multi-day hiking use - they are very useful.

Best Hydration Bladder (Top Picks)

CamelBak Crux 1.5-Liter Water Reservoir - Hydration Bladder - Faster Water Flow Rate - Leak-Proof Water Bladder - Ergonomic Shape - Big Bite Valve - BPA-Free - 50oz, Blue

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Hydrapak Shape-Shift 3L Reversible Reservoir, Clear

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Best Durable

MSR DromLite Bag

MSR DromLite Bag Water Reservoir, 4-Liter , Grey

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Top Hydration Bladders For Hiking

We reviewed over 15 hydration bladders for this article. Below are the best hydration bladders that made our short list.

  1. CamelBak Crux Reservoir - Best Value
  2. HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir - Best Lightweight
  3. Geigerrig RIG 500 Hydration Pack
  4. MSR DromLite Bag - Best Durable
  5. Platypus Big Zip EVO

Read our complete buyers guide for hydration bladders.

Best Value Hydration Bladder

1. CamelBak Crux Reservoir

CamelBak Crux 1.5-Liter Water Reservoir - Hydration Bladder - Faster Water Flow Rate - Leak-Proof Water Bladder - Ergonomic Shape - Big Bite Valve - BPA-Free - 50oz, Blue

5/5 Overall Rating
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Scoring highly on a number of the key features that should be considered when purchasing a Hydration Bladder made the CamelBak Crux Reservoir the winner of the title Best Value Hydration Bladder.

Not only does it have the best bite valve, its’ screw top makes it is easy to refill to the brink and it has a nifty quick release hose system that makes it compatible with other systems.

The CamelBak Crux Reservoir also scores highly on its durability and quality and one of its major selling points is that it is the only bladder that comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Have a look at the CamelBak bag that fits this hydration pack perfectly. 

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Main Features
  • Large screw top opening
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Easy to fill
  • Interchangeable quick release hose 
What we like
  • Amazing bite valve
What we dislike
  • Harder to clean
Key Takeaway

The CamelBak Crux Reservoir is a general all-rounder that comes with great accessories, which make it a popular choice when swapping out unsuitable components on other hydration bladders. It is great for hiking, dirt biking, and mountain biking where a durable bladder is required.

2. HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir

Hydrapak Shape-Shift 3L Reversible Reservoir, Clear

5/5 Overall Rating
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The slim profile and ultra-light weight of the HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir made it our winner of the Best Lightweight award.

HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir’s small and slim profile means that it fits into all shapes and sizes of backpacks and running packs and it can be made even smaller by zipping it up. 

This internal zip lock divider design also reduces water sloshing whilst you are moving and a magnetic clip on the hose helps to keep it in place.

The interchangeable bite valve and quick release hose ensures its compatibility with other bladders and gives you the choice to use the components that work best for you.

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Main Features
  • Small & Slim Profile
  • Internal zip lock divider
  • Interchangeable bite valve
  • Quick release hose
What we like
  • Super light & compact
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to use
  • Can hold energy drinks well
What we dislike
  • Not as durable

3. Geigerrig RIG 500 Hydration Pack

Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Pack - RIG 500 - Citrus

4/5 Overall Rating

The pressurised system on the Geigerrig RIG 500 Hydration Pack makes it a very useful and nifty outdoor tool which is why we chose to name it the Most Innovative Hydration Bladder.  

In addition to making it very easy to drink from, when the bladder is pressurised, the water stream and hose can be used to fulfil a variety of tasks such as cleaning muddy shoes after a hike, rinsing salt off after a surf, or acting as an outdoor shower.

The Geigerrig RIG 500 Hydration Pack is slim, lightweight profile makes it a compatible fit with most backpacks and running packs and the fold top allows for quick and easy refilling when out on the trail.  

Another notable feature of the fold top opening is that is easy to turn inside to clean, and this particular bladder is safe to use in the dishwasher.

Main Features
  • Pressurized system that makes for easy drinking
  • Dishwasher safe and easy to clean
  • Slim profile that fits into most backpacks and running packs
What we like
  • Variety of nifty and practical uses when pressurized 
What we dislike
  • No measurements on bag 
Key Takeaway

If you are looking for a multifunctional, smart and fun hydration bladder that does more than just keep you hydrated then Geigerrig RIG 500 Hydration Pack should be your pick.  It is suited to a myriad of outdoor activities where being lightweight is not the highest priority.

4. MSR DromLite Bag

MSR DromLite Bag Water Reservoir, 4-Liter , Grey

4/5 Overall Rating
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The MSR DromLite can be categorised as a water storage reservoir as opposed to an activity bladder which is what the other four hydration bladders reviewed in this article are categorised as.

MSR DromLite bag has a unique 3in1 top that changes the way that water flows out of the bladder depending on which setting you choose.  

The range of optional accessories such as a spigot cap, a shower kit or mouth piece that can be purchased for this bladder make it versatile and handy to have around camp.

Unlike other bladders which are made from a plastic polymer, this one has a nylon material type exterior which makes it a hardy, durable, multi-purpose water storage bladder that is perfect for outdoor use.

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Main Features
  • Unique 3 in 1 cap
  • Multi-functional
  • Durable outer fabric
What we like
  • Amazing practicality and versatility
  • Handy accessories
What we dislike
  • Hose not quick release or compatible with other bladders
Key Takeaway

The MSR DromLite Bag can be considered as a welcome addition to any outdoor camp or setup.  Its versatility and durability make it a hit with anyone who needs a practical hydration bladder that can accomplish what is asked of it even when bumped around a bit.

5. Platypus Big Zip EVO

Platypus Big Zip EVO Taste-Free Water Reservoir/Hydration Bladder, 3-Liter

4.7/5 Overall Rating

The Platypus Big Zip EVO can be considered as a great all-rounder hydration pack that performs well in most activities - adventure sports, in particular. 

The Big Zip is the only zip top hydration bladder on this list and like the fold top bladders, is easy to use and can be turned inside out for easy cleaning. 

Though this Platypus does not have as many accessories as some of the other bladders do, it does have an interchangeable mouth piece and hose that is mostly compatible with other hydration bladders.

Its’ new slimmer profile means that it fits better into most backpacks and running packs and the thick plastic outer layer of the hydration bladder means that it is not easily punctured.

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Main Features
  • Standard zip-top bladder
  • Made out of thick plastic  and is less prone to punctures
  • Fits inside most backpacks
What we like
  • Divided compartments mean less sloshing
  • Interchangeable mouthpiece and tubes
What we dislike
  • Larger bite valve makes it harder to suck
Key Takeaway

This Platypus Big Zip EVO will work well in a hiking, walking or biking environment. As one of the highest scoring hydration bladder in this review, The Platypus Big Zip EVO is of decent quality and will perform where needed.

Hydration Bladder Buyer's Guide (Key Features)

There a few factors to consider prior to purchasing your hydration bladder, one of the most important being its’ purpose and this is because there are different features on the bladders that make them better suited to certain types of activities than others.  

Are you hiking, trail running, biking, exploring a city on foot, or looking for something multi-functional that will serve a purpose other than purely hydration?  How easy is the bladder to clean?  Can I swap out the hose and mouth piece if I am not happy with my own or if wear and tear means I need to change them?  

These are all questions that need to be considered before making your purchase. Here are some of the main features to look out for when making your selection.  

Size and Profile

Most Hydration Bladders come in 2L and 3L storage capacities, but you can find smaller and larger variations too. One of the most obvious effects of the storage capacity on the bladder is its’ weight and the obvious general rule is the greater the storage capacity, the more weight you will be carrying around with you when the bladder is filled.

The profile of the bladder should be considered too as some are wide whilst others are tall. Most backpacks and hydration packs come standard with a sleeve that will accommodate your bladder so check the size of this to ensure you get the right fit. The slim profile bladders tend to be more comfortable for carrying as they sit better against your back.  

Hydration Bladder Opening - Fold Top, Zip Top or Screw Cap

The type of opening on the bladder affects how easy the bladder is to refill and clean. The fold top tends to be the most practical of the opening types. Once the bladder is filled you fold the top over and slide a closure over the fold in order to seal the bladder and prevent leaks.  

It has a large opening which makes it easy to refill from shallow streams or outdoor sources when you’re out hiking. It is also relatively easy to refill from a tap at home provided that the basin is fairly deep as any folding over of the bladder whilst refilling makes it slightly harder to fill to capacity.

A zip top is similar in concept to the fold top though it does take slightly longer to open and close up than the fold top.  

It has a zip lock which you slide a closure attachment over once it has been pressed shut. Like the fold top, refilling in the outdoors or in a deep basin is easy thanks to the large opening.

Screw tops have a large round opening which is sealed by a screw top closure lid.  

The bladder can be held vertically or horizontally and this feature makes it very easy to refill to full capacity from a tap in a shallow basin especially, but it can be slightly tricky in a shallow stream where water has to flow over the opening in order to fill it.

Bite Valve Size

The bite valve size dictates how easy or otherwise it is to suck liquid out of the bladder. 

Too large and they can be uncomfortable in your mouth and make it harder to suck liquid through the tubes due to the reduced pressure. Too small and the flow of liquid into your mouth is restricted.  

Therefore a medium sized bite valve is generally the best pick. Most bladders feature either a turn valve or switch locking mechanism. The switch mechanism is better rated as it is easier to clean and easier to use whilst you are out exercising.  

If not cleaned properly after using sugary drinks the turn valve can become stuck which is not something anyone wants to worry about when out and about.  

Ease of Cleaning

Keeping your hydration bladder clean can be tricky, especially if you use sugary drinks in it. The three main parts that need to be kept clean are the reservoir, the hose and the mouth piece.  

Before buying a hydration bladder take a look to see how easy it is to dismantle and clean.

Some of the bladders can be turned inside out and put into a dishwasher which makes it very easy to clean, whilst others require a separate cleaning brush or pack to be purchased with the bladder so that you can get into the nooks and crannies to remove any residue.

It is also important to maintain the O-ring on the bladders that feature the quick release hose system and failure to do so will result in the bladder leaking. Except for the MSR DromLite Bags, all the bladders reviewed have an O-ring in the quick release hose system.

Component Compatibility and Interchangeability

Most hydration bladders use interchangeable components that are compatible with other types of hydration bladders. For example, you may find you prefer the mouth piece on one unit to another and wish to swap them out.  

Pay attention to the orientation of your hose as whilst the majority are vertically orientated there are some that are horizontally orientated and this can present problems if you need to change it.  

When choosing your hydration bladder, look out for one that has accessories that are compatible with others so that you can optimise it to suit your needs and preferences.  

About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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  1. Hi Mountain IQ,
    You’re missing out on the best of all bladders: Widepac by SOURCE.
    Take it from Deuter, millions of bikers, hikers – and soldiers. Virtually self-cleaning and virtually zero maintenance, the Widepac would easily make no1 here in this ranking.
    Let us know if we can provide you with a sample to convince you!
    Enjoy the Outdoors with SOURCE!

  2. Do these bladders need to be hanged inside your pack? I pulled mine out of one pack to put it in another and the one I pulled it from had a hanging system, but the pack I’m putting it in doesn’t have a hanger to hang it from. But it is clearly Hydration pack ready because it has the hole up top and the hose clip on the shoulder straps. I’m wondering if this matters much. From what I can tell if the Bladder just falls to the bottom of the pack the hose will be pulled down with it and probably be too short. So this makes me think all bladders need to be hanged inside your pack?

    1. Hi, generally a hook is not required as the hose or pipe acts as the support to the bladder when one pulls it through the output hole of the bag. Hope this helps!

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