A hydration bladder is very useful for hiking trips of all durations because it provides easy access to water and you have your hands free while you are drinking. Therefore, it allows you to take small sips of water throughout the hike which is recommended during strenuous activities because it ensures that the water gets absorbed efficiently and prevents any splashing sensation in the stomach.
Hydration bladders also keep the water cool (in warm weather) and have a longer lifespan than water bottles. However, they also have shortcomings; they are hard to use in very cold conditions (tube freezes, refilling is difficult if you are wearing gloves etc.) and they should be only used for storing water as other beverages might cause growth of microorganisms in the bladder and the tube. To learn more about hydration bladders, check out our article Hydration Systems VS Water Bottles.
Most backpacks are hydration bladder compatible; they come with a sleeve or a pocket that holds the hydration bladder and have an opening for the tube at the top. However, only a handful of backpacks come with a hydration bladder – it is much more common that the it is sold separately.
In this review we selected and reviewed the best hydration bladders for hiking to make your buying decision a little easier. We only listed hydration bladders with the volume of 3 liters (100 oz.) because these are the most versatile – they can be used for long and short hiking trips (filled according to your water requirements). However, many hydration bladders in this review are also available in 1.5-liter and 2-liter versions. If you are not sure how much water do you need for your hiking trip(s), read How much water to take on a hiking trip.
If you are also looking for a hydration bladder compatible backpack, check out our reviews of the Best Daypacks, Best Hiking Backpacks (40-50 liters) and Best Backpacking Packs (+ 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 and are best for short hikes where being lightweight and fast is a priority.
1. Buying a Hydration Bladder – What is important?
Hydration bladders are in general slightly heavier than (disposable) water bottles as they are made of tougher and more durable materials (usually polyethylene or other plastic). However, a hydration bladder should be, like all other hiking gear, lightweight. In this review we only listed hydration bladders that unloaded weigh less than 9 ounces (250 grams).
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, 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 the worn-out or damaged part instead of replacing the whole product. In this review we only listed high-quality products which provide great durability and are equipped with detachable tubes.
Hydration bladders have either a snap cap closure or a wide slide closure at the top. Both closure types allow easy refilling. However, the opening of the hydration bladder should be also wide enough to put your hand inside for easy and thorough cleaning. In this review we only listed hydration bladders that are equipped with relatively wide closures for easy cleaning.
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 mouthpiece 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 know that bite valves are easier to use, we only listed hydration systems with bite valve mouthpieces.
Manufacturers often offer accessories for their hydration bladders such as tubes with water filters, magnetic clips for mouthpieces, tube insulators for cold weather, cleaning kits, flow meters etc.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking Review
The Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking – List
- Source Outdoor Widepac 3l
- Platypus Big Zip LP 3l
- CamelBak Crux 3l
- HydraPak Shape-Shift 3l
- Osprey Hydraulics 3l
|Feature/Product||Source Outdoor Widepac 3l||Platypus Big Zip LP 3l||CamelBak Crux 3l||HydraPak Shape-Shift 3l||Osprey Hydraulics 3l|
|Weight (empty)||6.3 oz.||6.0 oz.||8 oz.||5.7 oz.||7.8 oz.|
|180 g||170 g ||226 g||162 g||220 g|
|Liquid Capacity||3 liters (100 oz)||3 liters (100 oz)||3 liters (100 oz)||3 liters (100 oz)||3 liters (100 oz)|
|Material||Polyethylene||Polyethylene||Polyurethane||Thermoplastic Urethane||Thermoplastic Polyurethane|
|Dimensions (Width x Length)||8.5 x 16.7 in.||8.8 x 17.2 in.||9 x 18 in.||6.5 x 17.3 in.||7.1 x 15.4 in.|
|Dimensions - Metric (Width x Length)||21.5 x 42.5 cm||22.3 x 43.7 cm||23 x 46 cm||16.5 x 44 cm||18 x 39 cm|
|Mouthpiece||Bite Valve||Bite Valve||Bite Valve||Bite Valve||Bite Valve|
|Closure Type||Wide Slide Closure||Wide Slide Closure||Snap Cap Closure||Wide Slide Closure||Wide Slide Closure|
|Also available capacity||1.5 liters, 2 liters||1.5 liters, 2 liters||1.5 liters, 2 liters||2 liters||2 liters|
1. Source Outdoor Widepac 3l
The Source Outdoor Widepac 3l 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 material which is treated with an antimicrobial agent to prevent the growth of bacteria. The polyethylene material also features Source Glass-Like technology which makes it super smooth and thus easy to clean. The bladder is equipped with a wide slide closure at the top for easy refilling, 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 silicone material and can be locked with a twist 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, cleaning kit, magnetic clip for the mouthpiece, 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).
2. Platypus Big Zip LP 3l
The Platypus Big Zip LP 3l is another simple but very handy hydration bladder that is perfect for hiking, mountaineering and similar activities. The bladder is made of a 2-layer polyethylene material; the inner layer ensures that the water is taste-free while the outer layer is more robust and provides durability. Furthermore, the inner layer is silver-ion treated and thus protects the reservoir from bacteria and mold. The reservoir has a wide slide closure at the top which allows easy refilling, cleaning and draining. The tube can be 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 – the cover is sold separately. The Platypus Big Zip LP has a very slim shape and thus it fits nicely in most hydration system compatible backpacks. Useful accessories offered by Platypus include a tube insulator, a mouthpiece clip and Hyperflow bite valve, which has a faster flow rate.
3. CamelBak Crux 3l
The CamelBak Crux 3l hydration bladder differs from other products in this review in closure type – it has a snap cap closure. The snap cap closure is very big and thus it allows you to easily reach inside the bladder for thorough cleaning. Furthermore, the snap cap opens/closes with only a quarter of a turn which makes refilling super easy. The CamelBak Crux 3l is made of very durable and elastic polyurethane and thus it provides great durability. The material is also treated with an antimicrobial agent to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. The bite valve is made of durable silicone material and has a very fast flow rate. CamelBak also offers some accessories for this reservoir – an insulated tube and a cleaning kit. However, it is disappointing that this water reservoir doesn’t have the Quick Link system, like older reservoirs from CamelBak. Quick Link system was compatible with many accessories such as water filters, flow meters etc.
4. HydraPak Shape-Shift 3l
The Hydrapak Shape-Shift 3l has 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 it is very slim (it measures merely 2 centimeters in depth) and therefore fits nicely in most hydration system compatible backpacks. The Hydrapak hydration bladder is also reversible – it can be turned around for easy cleaning and drying. 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 the growth of bacteria and mold. It 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.
5. Osprey Hydraulics 3l
The Osprey Hydraulics 3l differs from other products in this review because it has a rigid back plate. The rigid back plate allows you to easily insert the it in the backpack’s internal or external hydration sleeve even when the backpack is fully loaded – it doesn’t bend when forced into the sleeve. However, the rigid back plate also adds some weight to the hydration bladder – unloaded it weighs 8 ounces (220 grams) which is more than the competitive products. It 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 a bite valve. The bite valve can be locked with a twist to prevent leakages during the transport. Osprey also offers several accessories such as an insulated tube, magnetic clip and cleaning kit.