The Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking


Source Outdoor Widepac 3l

Source Outdoor Widepac 3l

A hydration bladder comes in very handy on hiking trips of all durations as it provides easy access to water and you have your hands free when drinking. Therefore, a hydration bladder allows you to take small sips of water throughout the hike which is recommended during strenuous activities as it ensures that the water gets absorbed efficiently as well as prevents any splashing sensation in the stomach. Furthermore, hydration bladders also keep the water cooler (in warm weather) and can withstand a longer period of use than water bottles. However, hydration bladders also have shortcomings; they are hard to use in very cold conditions (tube freezes, refilling is difficult while wearing gloves etc.) and they should only be used for water as other beverages might cause growth of microorganisms in the bladder and the tube. For an in-depth analysis of advantages and disadvantages of hydration bladders, please read Hydration Systems VS Water Bottles. Most backpacks available nowadays are hydration bladder compatible; they come with a sleeve/pocket that holds the hydration bladder and have an opening for the tube at the top. However, only a handful of backpacks actually come with a hydration bladder included – it is much more common that the hydration bladder has to be purchased separately.

In this review we selected and reviewed the best hydration bladders for hiking in order to make your buying decision easier. We were especially looking for products that are easy to use and offer great durability and functionality. We only included hydration bladders with the volume of 3-liters (100 oz.) as they are the most versatile – they can be used on long as well as on short hiking trips (filled according to your water requirements). However, many hydration bladders listed in this review also come in 1.5-liter and 2-liter versions. If you are unsure how much water and thus how big a hydration bladder you need for your hiking trip(s), please read How much water to take on a hiking trip.

If you are looking for a hydration bladder compatible backpack, please check our reviews of the Best Daypacks, Best Medium Size Backpacks (40-50 liters) and Best Big Backpacks (+ 50 liters). We have also made a review of the Best Hydration Packs for Hiking and Trail Running which includes packs that are designed to only carry water and a few accessories such as a rain jacket, power bars etc. These packs come with a hydration bladder included and are best for short hiking trips where being lightweight and fast is a priority.

1. Buying a Hydration Bladder – What is important?

Weight:

Hydration bladders are in general slightly heavier than (disposable) water bottles as they are made of tougher and more durable materials. However, a hydration bladder should be, like all other hiking equipment, as light as possible.  In this review we only included hydration bladders that unloaded weigh less than 250 grams.

Durability:

While water reservoirs themselves rarely cause leakages, the joints at points such as the mouthpiece/tube and tube/water reservoir are more common to leak. Therefore, a hydration system’s durability greatly depends on the quality of these joints. It’s a great benefit if the hydration system has a detachable tube and mouthpiece as this allows you to change particular worn-out or damaged part instead of the whole hydration system. In this review we only selected high-quality hydration systems which offer great durability and are equipped with detachable tubes.

Closure Type:

Hydration systems are either equipped with a snap cap closure or a wide slide closure at the top. Both closure types allow easy refilling. However, the opening of the hydration system should be also wide enough to put your hand inside for easy and thorough cleaning. In this review we only included hydration bladders that are equipped with relatively wide closures for easy cleaning.

Some hydration systems feature both closures so that the wide slide closure is primarily used for cleaning while the snap cap closure is used for refilling. This system is convenient but it also adds some weight to the hydration system as closures are made mainly of relatively heavy and durable plastic. Due to the added weight, we didn’t include such hydration systems in this review.

Mouthpiece:

All hydration systems in this review use bite valves which offer the most hassle-free access to water – by applying pressure on the mouthpiece the valve gets opened and the water is ready for drinking. The other popular type of mouthpieces is the push/pull valve which is slightly more difficult to use as it requires that you close the valve (with hands or teeth) after drinking. As we believe that bite valves are easier to use, we only selected hydration systems with bite valve mouthpieces for this review.

Accessories:

Certain accessories can improve the performance of your hydration system according to your needs. Manufacturers often offer accessories such as tubes with water filters, magnetic clip for mouthpiece, tube insulator for cold weather, cleaning kit, flow meter etc.

2. The Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking Review

Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking

Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking

  1. Source Outdoor Widepac 3l
  2. Platypus Big Zip LP 3l
  3. CamelBak Antidote 3l
  4. HydraPak Shape-Shift 3l
  5. Osprey Hydraulics 3l

Comparison

Feature/Product Source Outdoor Widepac 3l Platypus Big Zip LP 3lCamelBak Antidote 3lHydraPak Shape-Shift 3lOsprey Hydraulics 3l
Weight (empty)180 g 170 g
195 g 162 g 220 g
Liquid Capacity 3 liters 3 liters 3 liters 3 liters 3 liters
Material PolyethylenePolyethylenePolyurethaneThermoplastic UrethaneThermoplastic Polyurethane
Dimensions (Width x Length)21.5 x 42.5 cm 22.3 x 43.7 cm 17.2 x 42.2 cm 16.5 x 44 cm 18 x 39 cm
BPA Free Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mouthpiece Bite Valve Bite Valve Bite Valve Bite Valve Bite Valve
Closure TypeWide Slide ClosureWide Slide ClosureSnap Cap ClosureWide Slide ClosureWide Slide Closure
Detachable TubeYesYesYesYesYes
Also available capacity1.5 liters, 2 liters 1.5 liters, 2 liters 2 liters2 liters2 liters
Source Outdoor Widepac 3l

Source Outdoor Widepac 3l

1. Source Outdoor Widepac 3l

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

The Source Outdoor Widepac 3l hydration bladder is due to its simplicity and durability very popular among hikers, mountaineers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The bladder is made of a 3-layer polyethylene film which is treated with an antimicrobial agent in order to prevent growth of bacteria. The polyethylene film also features Source Glass-Like technology which makes it super smooth. Source states that it is very easy to clean this hydration system due to the glass-like smoothness of the reservoir and the tube surfaces. The bladder is equipped with a wide slide closure at the top which allows easy filling, draining and cleaning. The tube can be easily disconnected from the reservoir by pushing the button on the joint. The Helix bite valve is made of silicon and can be locked with a twist in order to prevent leakages during transport. The bite valve also comes with a cover which protects it against dirt, sand etc. As for the accessories, Source offers a tube with a Sawyer water filter, tube brush kit, mouthpiece magnetic clip, a mouthpiece shoulder strap attachment kit (docking station), tube insulator and a universal tube adapter which allows you to refill the reservoir directly through the tube (from a tap or water bottles).

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Antimicrobial performance
  • Easy to clean (smooth surfaces)
  • Valve cover included
  • Available accessories

Cons:

  • /

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Platypus Big Zip LP 3l

Platypus Big Zip LP 3l

2. Platypus Big Zip LP 3l

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

The Platypus Big Zip LP 3l is another simple but very efficient hydration bladder which is perfect for hiking, mountaineering and similar activities. The bladder is made of a 2-layer polyethylene film; the inner layer ensures that the water is taste-free while the outer layer is more robust and provides the needed durability. Furthermore, the inner layer features silver-ion technology which protects the reservoir from bacteria and mold. The reservoir has a wide slide closure at the top which allows easy filling, cleaning and draining. The tube can be easily disconnected from the reservoir by pressing the release button which is located on the reservoir/tube joint. The bite valve is equipped with a twist locking mechanism for additional security. Unfortunately, the valve does not come with a cover for protection against the dirt – it is sold separately. The Platypus Big Zip LP has a very slim design and thus it fits nicely in most hydration system compatible backpacks. Useful accessories offered by Platypus include a valve and tube insulator, lapel clip and hyperflow bite valve, which has a faster flow rate.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Easy to clean
  • Antimicrobial performance
  • Slim

Cons:

  • /

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CamelBak Antidote 3l

CamelBak Antidote 3l

3. CamelBak Antidote 3l

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

The CamelBak Antidote 3l hydration bladder differs from the other hydration bladders listed in this review by having a snap cap closure. The snap cap closure is very big and thus it allows you to easily reach inside it for thorough cleaning. Furthermore, the snap cap opens/closes with only a quarter of a turn which makes refilling super easy. The hydration bladder is made of very durable and elastic polyurethane and thus it offers great strength. The material is also treated with an antimicrobial agent in order to prevent growth of mold and bacteria. The tube/reservoir joint uses a Quick-Link system which allows you to easily disconnect the tube from the reservoir as well as attach accessories such as a water filter to the reservoir. The bite valve is made of durable silicone and has a very fast flow rate. Additionally the CamelBak Antidote 3l hydration bladder is equipped with integrated dryer arms which make drying the reservoir hassle-free. CamelBak also offers numerous accessories for the reservoir – including a flow meter that shows you have much water you have left in the reservoir.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Dryer arms
  • Easy to clean
  • Antimicrobial performance
  • Available accessories

Cons:

  • Hanging hook is very narrow

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HydraPak Shape-Shift 3l

HydraPak Shape-Shift 3l

4. HydraPak Shape-Shift 3l

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

The Hydrapak Shape-Shift 3l hydration bladder uses an innovative design – it is equipped with a center baffle that holds the bladder together and prevents the water from sloshing around. Due to the center baffle the hydration bladder is also very slim (it measures merely 2 centimeters in depth) and therefore fits nicely in most hydration system compatible backpacks. The hydration bladder is also reversible – it can be turned around for easy cleaning and drying. The Hydrapak states that the bladder can be washed in a dishwasher without a problem which is a great advantage. The tube is detachable and uses a high-flow bite valve with a twist locking mechanism for safe transport. The reservoir is also treated with antimicrobial agent to prevent bacteria and mold. The hydration bladder comes with the Quantum Clip – a magnetic clip for attaching the tube to the backpack. As for the accessories, HydraPak offers a mouthpiece cover, tube cleaning brush, tube insulator, extended tubes and different bite valves.

 

Pros:

  • Reversible
  • Easy to clean and dry
  • Center baffle – slim design

Cons:

  • /

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Osprey Hydraulics 3l

Osprey Hydraulics 3l

5. Osprey Hydraulics 3l

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

The Osprey Hydraulics 3l hydration bladder differs from other hydration bladders in this review by having a rigid back plate. The rigid back plate allows you to easily insert the hydration bladder in the backpack’s internal or external sleeve even when the backpack is full as the hydration bladder doesn’t bend when forced in the sleeve. However, the rigid back plate also adds some weight to the hydration bladder – unloaded it weighs 220 grams which is slightly more than the competitive products. The hydration bladder is made of durable thermoplastic polyurethane and is anatomically shaped. It features a carrying handle for easy transportation and is equipped with a detachable hose and bite valve. The bite valve can be locked by twisting it, which should prevent leakages during the transport. Osprey also offers several accessories such as an insulated tube, magnetic clip and cleaning kit for this hydration bladder.

 

Pros:

  • Rigid back plate
  • Carrying handle

Cons:

  • Weight

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