Looking for the best hydration bladder to keep the thirst at bay on your next outdoor adventure?
This guide will help you to understand the main things that you need to look out for when choosing a hydration bladder system.
Whether you are looking for the Best Lightweight, the Best Value, the Most Innovative, or the Most Durable we have singled out a few pointers and key features on our five favourite hydration bladders to help you make the right choice.
Best Hydration Bladder for Hiking and Running
Best Hydration Bladder (Top Picks)
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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.
- CamelBak Crux Reservoir - Best Value
- HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir - Best Lightweight
- Geigerrig Hydration Engine
- MSR DromLite Bag - Best Durable
- Platypus Big Zip LP
Read our complete buyers guide for hydration bladders.
1. Best Value Hydration Bladder
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.
What we like
What we dislike
TheCamelBak 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. Best Lightweight Hydration Bladder
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.
What we like
What we dislike
3. Most Innovative Hydration Bladder
The pressurised system on the Geigerrig Hydration Engine 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.
Geigerrig Hydration Engine 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.
What we like
What we dislike
If you are looking for a multifunctional, smart and fun hydration bladder that does more than just keep you hydrated then Geigerrig Hydration Engine should be your pick. It is suited to a myriad of outdoor activities where being lightweight is not the highest priority.
4. Most Durable Hydration Bladder
The MSR DromLite Bag 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 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.
What we like
What we dislike
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. Good Overall Hydration Bladder
Though the Platypus Big Zip LP scored four stars, it can be considered as a great all-rounder hydration pack that performs well in most activities - adventure sports, in particular.
Platypus Big Zipis 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.
What we like
What we dislike
This Platypus Big Zip LP will work well in a hiking, walking or biking environment. Though it is not the highest scoring hydration bladder on the review it 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.