Hydration bladders are a great companion for running, cycling or mountain hiking. Unlike drinking bottles, water packs are easy to access, mostly hands-free and help getting hydrated efficiently.
Most modern hiking backpacks are compatible with hydration bladders. These packs feature a designated compartment with an opening for the drinking tube. There is also a wide variety of water bladders in the market sold separately from the hydration pack, and so it can be a challenge for most people to choose the best.
In this article, I have selected and reviewed my top five best hydration bladders to make your life a little easier. You can scroll past the products to have a look at some of the key features you should look out for in the buying guide at the end.
What’s the Best Hydration Bladder?
After going through all kinds of brands of hydration bladders currently available on the market and their features, I have come up with a list of the best hydration bladders to look out for when shopping. Got any questions? You can check out the FAQs at the end of this article where I may have one or two of your questions answered.
Capacity: 3 Liters
The Osprey Hydraulics reservoir is my top choice, and you may find that it lives up to the high standards of the Osprey brand. This reservoir is available in the 2L and 3L models with a TPU construction. I would recommend getting the 3L which gives you more versatility for both short and long excursions.
The unique feature of this reservoir is its backplate. It helps the bladder maintain its structure and low profile when packed into a loaded hydration pack. Although the backplate has added some weight to the bladder, it is still in the acceptable range of 8 ounces.
Fold top openings are popular with users because they provide a wide mouth opening that is great for cleaning. Plus, the closure fastener is easy to manipulate than a zip-lock closure. On the downside, the filling process requires both hands to hold the bladder open wide, which can be an inconvenience for some users.
However, the reservoir design includes a carry handle to hold the reservoir when cleaning and filling. It also features a magnetic clip to attach the drinking hose to a sternum strap, a detachable hose, and a twist/turn bite valve.
- Rigid backplate to maintain its low profile,
- High flow twist/ turn bite valve,
- Wide top opening for easy cleaning and filling,
- Magnetic attachment secures the hose to the sternum strap
- At the beginning leaves a plastic taste in the water
Capacity: 2 Liters
The TETON Sports Oasis 1100 is a complete hydration set that features a hydration pack and a 2L bladder as a package, and it is also the premium option on my list. The backpack has an 18L capacity suitable for day hikes, and it features 600D ripstop polyester fabric with a polyurethane coating for water-resistance. It is also available in a wide variety of attractive colors for everyone.
The hydration pack features adjustable shoulder straps and a waist belt to fit all body types, although some male users have noted that the waist strap does not wear comfortably. On the upside, the backpack is comfortable for day-long excursions with padded shoulder straps and the back panel with air mesh covering.
The hydration bladder features a 2-inch wide screw cap opening that allows you to put in ice cubes. It may be as easy to clean as the Osprey bladder with this opening, but it lets you fill water almost to the brim. It comes with a kink-free drinking tube and a pull/push bite valve.
Overall, the Teton Sports Oasis hydration combo may be an excellent bargain for a first-time buyer. If you need to upgrade to a 3L bladder, the pack is compatible with hydration bladders from other brands such as Camelbak.
- Combination set of daypack and water bladder,
- Daypack fits both men and women,
- Multiple pockets and bungee cord for organization,
- Quality and durable construction for both
- Straps are tight for big people,
- The bladder may leak from the screw cap
Capacity: 3 Liters
The Marchway Tactical Hydration set is similar to the Teton Sports Oasis in that it comes in a combination package with a hydration pack and a 3L hydration bladder. Unlike the Oasis, the Marchway backpack is compact with the main compartment to accommodate the 3L water reservoir that it comes with. It also features other smaller external pockets for personal items such as your phone and wallet.
The hydration pack’s lightweight and compact design is suitable for cycling, climbing, or long-distance running. The adjustable straps help provide snug-fitting to reduce bounce, and the padding with air mesh is ideal for extended wear. The pack features high-quality and durable construction with 1000D water-repellent nylon, SPS zippers, and military-grade MOLLE webbing for extra gear.
The 3L hydration bladder that comes in this package features a thermoplastic polyurethane construction with a middle baffle to give it a low-profile. Low profile water bladders have reduced sloshing during high-impact activities such as running and keeps the reservoir flat.
The reservoir features a detachable drinking tube and mouthpiece for easy cleaning and a 9CM screw cap opening. It features a switch valve that is easier to use while cycling, and it rotates 360-degrees for easy drinking. The valve is small with reduced water flow, but it is detachable for upgrading to a high-flow mouthpiece.
- Compact set for short excursions,
- Durable and high-quality construction,
- Detachable mouthpiece for easy cleaning,
- Molle suspension for extra gear
- Small mouthpiece with reduced water flow,
- TPU construction leaves the water with a plastic taste
Capacity: 2 Liters
The Cherainti hydration bladder comes with the largest screw cap opening on my list. The 4-inch opening allows you to insert your hand inside to clean and dry the reservoir. Another feature I like is the double side sealing which improves the durability in two ways. First, it makes the bladder leak-proof on the seams.
Secondly, it helps to keep it pressure-resistant, which also reduces leaking on the screw cap. However, some users have noted that the reservoir leaks at the drinking tube quick detach button. Another downside is the PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) construction which makes the reservoir rigid. Although the rigidity gives it a low-profile, it also reduces the capacity of water. Many users have noted that it is 1.6L down from 2L.
Also, the drinking tube is marked as insulated against hot temperatures, but it is not. However, the bladder opening is wide enough to put in ice cubes to make your water cold for longer.
The upside is that it has good quality construction, and it is affordable. The drinking hose is detachable for easy cleaning, and it has a soft mouthpiece with a high flow pull/ push bite valve that comes with a dust cover. The PEVA material may have a plastic taste which you can rinse out with water and vinegar solution.
- 4-inch wide screw cap opening for easy cleaning,
- Pressure tolerant with double side sealing,
- High flow pull/ push bite valve,
- Good value for the money
- Low capacity due to rigid construction,
- No insulation on the drinking tube
Capacity: 2 Liters
Last on my list is the budget choice Miracol hydration bladder. It looks similar to the Cherainti above, and it is also of the same size but slightly cheaper. It features a 3.1-inch screw cap opening which is smaller than the Cherainti. However, it comes with a fast flow pull/ push bite valve and detachable drinking tube.
The difference is that Miracol comes with an insulated drinking tube sleeve to keep the water in the tube cool when it is hot outside. The bladder also features EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) construction that is rigid but allows for easier filling. Another difference is that Miracol uses a threaded screw hose connector compared to the quick detach button that the other bladders have on my list. On the downside, it does not have a valve on the hose attachment which means you cannot detach the hose when filling.
On the upside, the bladder does not leak because of the threaded hose connector and its excellent tolerance to pressure. Also, the mouthpiece comes with a dust cover, and the construction material is anti-bacterial. Overall, it is of decent quality, affordable, and is ideal for light use.
- It comes with an insulated tube sleeve,
- High-flow bite valve with dust cover,
- Rigid construction with EVA material,
- No detachment lock at the hose connector
Now that you have a better idea of the hydration bladders available in the market and what features to look out for, it might be easier to choose which one works for you. My favorite choice is the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir. I prefer its fold top opening to the screw cap opening of other bladders. I also like the twist/ turn bite valve compared to the pull/ push valves that the others have.
Its rigid backplate gives it a low profile without compromising on capacity, and I like the brand quality and reliability that I’ll get with this hydration bladder. I would love to know which one is your favorite and why in the comments section below.
What You Should Know Before Buying Hydration Bladder
Hydration Bladder Material
The commonly used materials are polyethylene and polyurethane, and here are some of their benefits.
Thermoplastic polyurethane is flexible, durable, and lightweight plastic that offers excellent temperature resistance properties. However, TPU bladders often leave a plastic taste in the water, which is a disadvantage of this material.
On the other hand, polyethylene or PET is also a high-quality material that can withstand high pressure. Although PET and LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) bladders are not the best for hot water or for storing water, they are safe to use with other liquids such as carbonated drinks, and they have a plastic-free taste. One disadvantage of this material is that it gets brittle after prolonged use and makes the bladders prone to developing cracks.
High-Density Polyethylene is a low hazard plastic with excellent heating and freezing abilities but is stiff and not the best for hydration bladders.
Mouthpiece and Water Flow
The water flow on your bladder depends on factors such as the type of bite valve, width and length of the drinking hose, and the pumping system.
There are two types of pumping systems, which include the pressurized and non-pressurized systems. The former allows you to spray the water in your mouth without having to suck on the hose, while the latter does not.
Pressurized hydration bladders have two chambers – one for air and one for water. You use the pressurized pump to fill the air chamber with pressure to spray the water into your mouth. These systems are versatile for use and are cleaner because there is no backwash going back into the drinking tube. The disadvantage is that it is heavier because it comes with a pump, and requires more effort to maintain.
Non-pressurized hydration bladders are the common models, and they come with different types of mouthpieces to regulate the flow of water.
Mouthpieces come in different sizes, and the large bite valves are harder to suck water from, while small valves have a low water flow. Therefore, it might be better to get a bite valve that falls in-between.
Mouthpieces also feature locking mechanisms to prevent water from flowing when you are not sipping. The switch valve mouthpiece offers the easiest access to water as one needs to bite on the valve to suck in the water. The water stops flowing when you stop biting on it.
Other types include the twist/ turn lock that requires more care to handle and the pull/ push lock that requires the most effort to use.
Bladder openings play a crucial role in choosing a hydration bladder because it allows for easy refilling and cleaning. I’ll highlight the three types available in the market.
The fold and slide openings are the easiest to open and close as well as clean. This type of opening folds at the top and a clip-like plastic is slid over the fold to hold it in place. The advantage of this opening is that you can turn the bladder inside out to clean and dry it whereas it is not possible with the other types.
The screw cap bladder is another popular type in the market. Although this opening allows you to fill the reservoir to the brim, it has a low leak-proof resistance when pressure is applied to it. It is also not easy to thoroughly clean a screw cap reservoir because the opening gives you limited access to the inside.
The zip-lock opening is a new variation and is similar to the fold and slide opening, but the edges are grooved to create a zipper. The opening is full-width wide for easy cleaning and you can also turn the bladder inside out for quick drying.
On a side note, you can opt to get a bladder that combines the screw cap opening and the fold top opening such as the Source Tactical WXP reservoir. It comes with the benefits of both opening and closure types and you can see a review of this bladder in my best hydration bladder for backpacking article.
Storage Hook and Carry Handle
The storage hook allows your bladder to stay in an upright and secure position in your bag. It also allows you to hang the reservoir on bike handles or basically on anything strong enough to support it when it is not in your bag.
The carry handle is mostly attached to a fastener or the closing mechanism at the top of the bladder. The handle allows easy portability to and from the water source and also helps to stabilize while refilling. However, some hydration bladders do not feature carry handles to keep their weight down.
Shape and Weight
The shape or profile of the hydration bladder determines its compatibility with your hydration pack. Low profile bladders have an adjustable zipper in the middle to lock the opposing wall together. This feature makes the bladder compatible with most backpacks and also reduces sloshing in the reservoir.
Water bladders come in different sizes, and the size can affect their weight. The 2-liter bladders are excellent for light expeditions such as day hikes and running. However, I recommend getting the larger 3-liter reservoirs ideal for long excursions such as hiking and trail running. They are more versatile because you can fill them up with less water for short hikes. The ideal weight and durability balance for a 3-Liter reservoir is 8 ounces, and I’m going to write a review of the best 3L hydration bladders here.
Some of the extra features you may want to consider with the hydration bladder include hydration backpacks, cleaning kits, water filters, tube insulating sleeves, and magnetic clips to attach the mouthpiece to your shoulder strap. You can get better value for your hydration bladder when you have all the extras coming with it.
Other features include the ease of detaching your hose. A detachable hose makes the refilling of water much easier because you do not have to remove the whole unit from your backpack, just the water container. The connector point should have a sealant so that the water does not leak out if it comes off accidentally.
Questions and Answers About Hydration Bladder
Can you put a hydration bladder in any backpack?
No, you cannot. You would need a backpack with a hydration bladder sleeve or compartment with a clip to attach the bladder and a drinking tube portal. Fortunately, most modern packs are hydration bladder compatible, and you can fit whichever water bladder that fits in the backpack.
Alternatively, you can get a hydration pack which is a backpack designed specifically to carry a hydration bladder and other small personal items. These packs are suitable for short excursions such as long-distance running, climbing, or cycling.
Can you put ice in a hydration bladder?
Yes, you can add ice to your hydration bladder to keep your water chilled. However, avoid putting in too much ice as it will cause everything in your backpack to get cold. Filling it less than half of the bladder is ideal, and if your bladder opening is too small for ice cubes, you can opt to toss it in the freezer with water for a few hours before the excursion.
How do I treat a hydration bladder?
If you want to clean a new hydration bladder, use hot water with two spoons of baking soda and let it sit for about 30 minutes, and then wash it with hot water and mild soap. Rinse it out with clean water and air dry. You can use the same process with the addition of white vinegar to the baking soda to remove mold.
To treat the plastic taste, fill the bladder to about three-quarters full with water and the juice of one lemon and toss it into the freezer overnight. Thaw, rinse it out with clean water and fill it up with drinking water for your excursion.
What other liquids can I put in a hydration bladder?
Although hydration bladders are mostly used to hold water, there is no rule on the type of liquids that they can hold. However, it is not advisable to pour carbonated drinks in the bladder because sloshing may cause them to fizz and cause a mess. What is important is to ensure that you thoroughly clean the water bladder after every use.
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