If you are constantly on the go, whether hiking, cycling, or enjoying long walks, stopping now and then to sip on some water may slow you down or even frustrate you. The hydration bladder for backpacking can be a useful companion in such times to keep you refreshed effortlessly on the go.
Hydration bladders go hand in hand with compatible backpacks that feature an insulated sleeve or pocket for the reservoir. I hope this article provides you with all the necessary information to help you get one for your next adventure.
What You Should Know Before Buying Hydration Bladder For Backpacking
Weight and Compatibility
If you are an ultralight hiker, then you would know that every ounce counts. Water bladders weigh differently depending on their construction, and it is not uncommon to find a 2L unit that weighs more than a 3L one. Water reservoirs that weigh below 250g may be a good bet because they can deliver a decent balance between weight and quality.
It is important to note that the ease of filling or even cleaning a hydration bladder will depend on the type and size of the hole opening. I recommend the fold top design as it is the most convenient. It is a wide opening that allows you to fill in the bladder quickly, and you can also easily clean it by flipping it inside out.
Zip top bladders are also popular but may give you a more challenging time cleaning since they cannot flip inside out. The snap cap closure is also a typical design, but it also does not allow for easy cleaning.
Bite Valve Locking Mechanism and Size
I recommend that you buy a backpacking water bladder with a bite valve that you can quickly connect and disconnect. It should also be of a reasonable size for easy replacement when it gets damaged.
There are two types of locking mechanisms; the pull/push valve and the twist/turn valve. The twist/turn bite valve is the most convenient because all you need to do is give it a simple twist and bite to open the water and start drinking. On the other hand, the pull/push valve is harder to use because it requires you to twist and pull up the bite valve to drink.
To prevent sloshing in the water bladder, you will need to turn the bladder upside down and suck out all the air inside. This technique removes the air space in which the water was sloshing in, giving you a quiet ride.
Bladder Material and Durability
Plastic and rubber are the most commonly used materials in hydration bladders. The best quality reservoirs are made from soft, flexible plastic such as TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) or PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate). These materials allow the bladder to be expandable when full and flexible enough to fit in a tight pack. You may also want to consider plastics that are BPA (bisphenol A) free as these are safer for your health.
Ability to Replace Components
As you buy your reservoir, ensure that the components are readily available in the market. Also, consider if the manufacturer provides accessories such as cleaning kits and tube insulators for cold weather. It will ensure that you can easily replace the parts and maintain your unit.
What are the key benefits of hydration bladders over water bottles?
- Access: With a hydration bladder, you can access water easily without having to stop or slow down like you would when using a water bottle.
- Space: Unlike water bottles, hydration bladders mold into any space and reduce in size as they empty thus saving space in your hiking backpack. Alternatively, you can consider a collapsible water bottle.
- Weight: Hydration bladders tend to be lighter than water bottles of the same capacity.
What’s the Best Hydration Bladder For Backpacking?
After having gone through the features to look out for, this section will now guide you through five of the best hydration bladders for backpacking that I have found in the market. Hopefully, it will help you settle on which bladder suits you best.
I have also included a section frequently asked questions at the end to help you learn more about the product you are about to buy.
Capacity: 2 Liters
The Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir is my top choice for its smart features and reliable performance. The shape-shift design used on this hydration bladder features an adjustable baffle that allows you to clip the reservoir walls together in the middle to create a slim profile and unclip it to increase fluid volume or to clean and dry it.
The bladder also features a patented wide slide top opening that allows you to refill the bladder quickly and turn it inside out for cleaning. It features a 0.25 mm thick thermoplastic polyurethane construction, which makes it durable and flexible. The material is also BPA and PVC free for both the 2L and 3L size.
Another convenient feature is the Pug-N-Play connector that allows you to quickly disconnect the drinking tube for convenient refilling while preventing leaks. It also has its downside because some users have had problems with leaks from faulty connectors. However, you can get free repair or replacement for any defective parts from their excellent customer service.
- Features a high flow bite valve,
- Reversible for easy cleaning and drying,
- Durable construction with lightweight TPU material,
- Free repair and replacement in case of any failures
- May leak at the bottom valve,
- Baffle does not lock back easily
Capacity: 3 Liters
This military-grade backpacking water bladder features durable construction with premium, abrasion-resistant TPU material and welded seams that allow for superior elasticity. It is also safe to use as it is 100% BPA and PVC free, and users have noted that it does not have the plastic taste that you would find in TPU bladders.
You can enjoy your water while it is cool since the flexible Hydra Fusion drinking tube is insulated. The mouthpiece features a twist on and off valve that also comes with a snap-on dust cover. It also features a leak-proof slide-seal top opening that makes the water reservoir reversible for cleaning and allows for easy refilling.
- Heavy-duty and abrasion-resistant construction,
- Insulated drinking tube to keep the water cool,
- Slide-seal top allows for easy cleaning,
- Comes with a bite valve snap-on dust cover,
- It comes with a lifetime warranty
- It has no/off valve on the drinking tube connector,
- The drinking tube maybe 1-2 inches short
Capacity: 2.5 Liters
The Unigear water bladder offers premium quality, as it features high-quality food-grade TPU construction that comes taste-free and odor-free. The reservoir has been tested to ensure that it is leak proof. However, some users have noted that the screw cap closure may not seal completely, which may cause leaks.
If you are on a tight budget, this may be the best hydration reservoir for you. It features a low profile design that fits easily into your backpack. The baffle construction also reduces sloshing and makes the bladder stable during high impact activities such as running. It also features a large hole opening that enables you to clean your bladder with ease, plus it comes with a 4-piece cleaning kit included in the package.
The bladder comes with a durable and soft mouthpiece that allows you to sip your water effortlessly. It has an on/off shut valve that some users have noted that may also cause leakage. It does come with a 40-inch tube that is more flexible to use than the 36-inch Hydrapak hydration tube. However, Unigear gives a 180-day warranty on the hydration reservoir that is much less than the Hydrapak lifetime warranty.
- It has a low-profile design that reduces sloshing,
- Includes a 4-piece cleaning kit,
- Soft mouthpiece that delivers fast water flow,
- It comes with a large opening, thus easy to clean
- May leak at the mouthpiece,
- Screw cap closure does not seal properly sometimes
Capacity: 3 Liters
The Source hydration bladder WXP features a wide slide opening and a screw cap opening that gives you versatile options to fill and clean your bladder with ease. The drinking tube features a UV-blocking weave cover that delivers excellent performance in keeping your water cool.
This bladder comes with a no-bite push-pull valve with an integrated shut-off mechanism, which some users may find inconvenient to use compared to a helix bite valve. However, I like the quick release mechanisms that allow you to disconnect the mouthpiece and drinking tube without leakage.
The GrungeGuard Technology is a self-cleaning mechanism that inhibits dirt inside the reservoir to keep the water clean and taste-free even if you leave it inside the bladder for days or weeks.
- Grunge Guard technology keeps the bladder bacteria free,
- Bladder keeps water fresh for weeks,
- Taste-free polyethylene construction,
- Features both wide slide opening and screw cap opening
- Storm valve mouthpiece requires effort to use,
- The drinking cap may leak
Capacity: 2 Liters
The high-quality material used on this hydration bladder is BPA-free, tasteless, and odorless. It also comes with a cleaning kit with one flexible tube brush, a bigger brush, one extra bite valve, and one collapsible drying hanger rack.
The Wacool hydration pack bladder features a rigid profile since it comes with a 0.6mm extra thick liner. It helps the bladder handle pressure from compression without bursting and also improves durability. It features a wide top opening design that enables you to refill and clean it easily. The quick-release mechanism on the hose, together with the 90-degree twist and pull soft silicone mouthpiece, make this bladder extremely easy to use on the go.
- Designed with a wide top for easy cleaning and refilling,
- Military-grade construction with tasteless PEVA material ,
- Comes with a 4-piece hydration cleaning kit,
- (0-degree rotated soft mouthpiece
- The measurement markings are slightly off,
- The bladder may leak from the tube connector
After going through five of the best hydration bladders for backpacking, my top recommendation is the Hydrapak Shape-Shift reservoir. It is not only BPA and PVC free but also features a wide slide top opening that makes it super easy to clean and refill.
The profile flexibility of this hydration bladder allows it to fit neatly in your backpack. It has a durable construction and high flow bite valve that will give you reliable performance in your next outdoors activity.
Questions and Answers About Hydration Bladder For Backpacking
Is a hydration pack worth it?
Hydration packs offer decent weight distribution and convenience to carry your hydration bladder. One of the major cons of a hydration pack is that it is hard to tell where the water level is in the reservoir. It can also be hard to refill your bladder while you are out on your adventure if it does not allow easy detachment from the drinking tube. Also, you may find it difficult to use in freezing temperatures. However, you can insulate your water bladder inside the pack to keep the water drinkable.
However, benefits such as convenient access to your drinking water and the flexibility to use it as a backpack should outweigh the cons, especially for regular adventure seekers.
What is the best capacity hydration bladder for backpacking?
Depending on how long you are on the move, I recommend that you get a bladder with sufficient capacity to sustain you until the next time you can refill. However, the 3L reservoir gives you most versatility because you can fill it halfway for short hikes or to full capacity when you need more water.
Can you put ice in a hydration bladder?
If the hole opening is large enough, you can add ice cubes to your hydration bladder. However, adding too much ice may cause your bladder to freeze, so I recommend just filling it halfway with ice. If the hole opening is too small, you can opt to toss your reservoir in the freezer, but make sure to remove it before it gets frozen.
How do I clean my hydration bladder?
Bacteria and mold can easily grow in your hydration bladder and proper cleaning is therefore vital. Wash your hydration pack with warm water and soap or baking soda. For complete cleaning, you may leave the cleaning solution in the bladder for about 30 minutes. The brushes included in cleaning kits are great for cleaning out the tubes.
You might want to go a step further and use a sterilising solution on your reservoir and tubes. It is extremely important that you allow your hydration bladder to dry sufficiently as moisture provides the perfect breeding environment for bacteria and mold.
How do I get the plastic taste out of my hydration bladder?
Cleaning agents such as soap and baking soda may help get the plastic taste out if you soak for a few hours or overnight. Another popular method is to use a combination of baking soda and lemon or lime juice. In this method, use two tablespoons of baking soda and two cups of lemon juice for every liter of water until the hydration bladder is full. Let the mixture sit for at least a few hours or overnight for maximum effect.
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