In this article we want to take a look at the top hydration bladders, aka hydration reservoirs, for hiking in 2021.
In our opinion, bladders are the best way to carry your drinking water when out on the trail. As with any piece of hiking kit there are a whole host of reasons why we think this, but mainly it’s just because it is super convenient.
Again, as with any piece of hiking kit, there are a bunch of things to consider when buying a bladder, we cover those in detail in our buying guide, linked to below after the best bladders.
Suffice it to say, it is worth having a good think about what you need and prefer before you buy anything.
Fundamentally, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in terms of working principles between the varying models of bladders / reservoirs that are available on the market.
That is, they all basically work in the same way, with water being supplied to you via a drinking tube that is connected to a water reservoir in your day pack.
We start below with our #1 recommendation, followed by our favorite budget option, before finally listing out a bunch more bladders which are also excellent options.
If you can’t wait and want to know how to get our top bladder recommendation, then check out the Platypus Big Zip Evo Hydration Reservoir, it’s our number one recommendation!
1. Platypus Big Zip Evo – Our #1 Hydration Reservoir Pick
- Durable and tough design and construction using thick Polyurethane / Polyethylene plastic
- Simple to use
- All materials used are certified taste-free, BPA-free, BPS-free, and phthalate-free = Good tasting drinking water
- Shut off valve on drinking end of the tube
- No bite valve cover
- The bigger size options are wide so may not easily fit all types of pack
Platypus Big Zip Evo Hydration Bladder Features Summary:
- Secure SlideLock™: Slides both directions to easily open, securely close and fill reservoir
- Handy Pincher Grip: Allows for easy one-handed filling
- High Mount Quick-disconnect: Offers fast, easy access—no more digging down in your pack
- Leak-proof Shut-off Valve: Instantly stops flow and offers reliable stowing
- Semi-rigid Center Baffle: Offers low-profile support and makes for easy cleaning and drying
- HyFLO™ Self-sealing Bite Valve: Improves flow along with new, larger 5/16″ drink tube.
- Funk-free: Embedded Silver-ion protects clean water from mold & bacteria.
- Pure Platy Experience: All materials are certified taste-free, BPA-free, BPS-free, and phthalate-free.
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking, mountain biking
OK, in our opinion this is a much enhanced version of the Platypus Big Zip LP, which is further down our list and used to be our number one option. It’s another excellent hydration reservoir from Platypus.
Like it’s cousin, it comes in several different size options, 1.5 liters, 2 liters and 3 liters. So whether you drink a little or a lot, you are covered with one of these models.
The Big Zip Evo features a stop valve at the drinking end of the tube, which you can use to block off water flow should you wish to. It’s easy to operate and works well.
The bladder is made using thick Polyurethane / Polyethylene plastic and silicone in the bite valve. All materials used in the bladder are certified taste-free, BPA-free, BPS-free, and phthalate-free. Good for your health and this also ensures there will be no plastic or nasty taste when in use.
The drinking tube is easily detachable, and fits very securely to the water reservoir. This is one feature where it diverges from the Big Zip LP, as the drinking tube is secured at the top of the reservoir, a high mount quick disconnect, not at the bottom.
This is a simple but very nice modification, as you no longer need to reach down into the hydration sleeve in your pack to get at the tube connection point. You can easily access it from the top.
Why else is that good? Well, it means you can slide the full bladder into your pack first and attach the tube after. This just makes the set-up logistics that bit easier.
The slight concern with this was maybe that as the tube is at the top, the water flow may suffer. However, the new design and construction in the Evo ensures the opposite of this and it delivers a significantly higher flow rate.
Access to the reservoir itself is also a great feature. It’s a slide lock zip, so it opens fully wide and the zip can be slid on either way. This means, it is very easy to fill and very easy to access the inner bladder to clean it.
There is a very clearly marked water fill mark on the Biz Zip Evo. Just fill the bladder up to that mark, secure the SlideLock™ at the top into place, and you are good to go!
It comes with a very functional carry handle at the top of the reservoir which is practical and easy to use, great for hanging too. There is also a handy pincher grip, another really nice addition to previous models, which enables you to fill the reservoir using only one hand.
I didn’t think that Platypus could improve on the Big Zip LP hydration reservoir design, but they have! Hat’s off to them for that. In summary, this is an excellent bladder for any type of hiking, backpacking, etc.
2. Aquatic Way – Best Budget Bladder
- Good bang for your buck
- Functional and easy to use
- Easy release hose and self-seal valve when tube is removed
- Shut off valve on drinking end of the tube
- Insulated drinking tube
- Some users reported a plastic taste after multiple washes
- Reports of leaking issues e.g. the tube connector port
Aquatic Way Features Summary:
- Constructed using BPA free and FDA approved food-grade antibacterial bladder material
- Thick bladder is pressure and wear tolerant
- Manufactured with leak proof sealing technology
- Wide opening for easy access for cleaning and drying
- Soft silicone mouthpiece is durable, soft and anti-microbial
- Easy access shutoff valve
- Insulated tube cover is made from premium quality neoprene that resists temperature changes in hot and cold weather
- Thermal tape at each end prevents insulation from sliding and wearing off
- Quick release tube can be detached for easy storing and auto shutoff valve prevents leaking when the tube is detached
- 100% MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE: No-questions-asked 60-DAY FULL REFUND
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking, hunting, biking
Next up we have our best budget / bargain bladder. For this, we looked for a bladder that was primarily very wallet friendly, while also having a lot of good user experience and scoring in the field.
The Aquatic Way reservoir, comes with three size options, 1.5 Liters (50 fl oz), 2 Liters (70 fl oz) and 3 liters (100 fl oz).
The next thing that caught our eye, was that Acquatic offer this guarantee in their sales material:
‘YOU’LL ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS OR IT IS ON US: If there is a leak, or bad taste, or ANY other reason why you’re not 100% happy with this hydration bladder, simply let us know & we’ll do a full refund.’
Now, it’s hard to argue with that and with the excellent price point thrown in, it’s certainly worth a second look.
The bladder is made from food-grade BPA-Free material, which is extremely resistant to mold and microbes.
The premium quality TPU material and leak-proof sealing technology also offer a secure reservoir, so you can expect it to be leak free. The bite valves are made from silicone, so you will get a lot of good use from them.
The drinking tube is insulated and comes in at a healthy 37 inches, so plenty of length to work with. The reservoir has a self seal valve, so you can fill the bladder with the tube disconnected, definitely our preference.
Water is easily accessed using the bite valve, which sits at a 90 degree turn so it is easy to access.There is also an easily accessible on/off valve to stop the flow of water, if you need to completely shut it off.
The reservoir is accessed using a screw top seal, which is easy to remove to fill with water, or to clean. It also prevents water from leaking from the main reservoir. It has slits at the top which could be utilized to hang from something as a water bag at camp.
Overall, we really liked the functionality that the Aquatic Way Hydration provides, at a very good price point, topped with a nice call out of their ‘return within 60 days if not happy, no questions asked’ policy.
3. Camelbak Crux
- Very Durable
- Easy to fill
- Easy to access for cleaning
- Good flow of water
- Good price
- Reports of leaking issues at the main cap
Camelbak Crux Features Summary:
- Quick Link system lets you easily disconnect the drink tube and remove the reservoir from your pack (an auto shutoff valve prevents leakage)
- Integrated reservoir baffles create a low profile for easy pack loading and reduce water sloshing
- Hydrogaurd antimicrobial technology inhibits the growth of bacteria in the reservoir and tube
- Big bite valve is easy to use and self seals after each drink
- Leakproof on/off lever at bite valve offers water when you want it and prevents leaks when you don’t
- Large access port makes it easy to clean and fill
- Ergonomic handle makes it possible to fill with one hand
- Wash reservoir with hot water and mild soap and let dry after each use
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking, biking, multi-sport
We move now to the Camelbak Crux Reservoir, a really popular option with lots of happy customers. This model has been around for a while, so it has stood the test of time well and it has also been improved on based on user feedback, from out in the field, over time.
The Crux comes at a very accessible price point which is a winner for sure, so it’s good quality, but it won’t break the bank.
The Camelbak Crux, comes in the three typical options, 1.5 Liters (50 fl oz), 2 Liters (70 fl oz) and 3 liters (100 fl oz). Here we are focused on the 3 liter option, although they all are built and operate in the same way.
The bladder is made using polyurethane, a durable and sturdy material for a bladder, although there may be a plastic taste to begin with but that can usually be removed easily enough. The material is also BPA/BPS/BPF Free.
The Quick Link system lets you easily disconnect the drink tube and remove the reservoir from your pack, there is an auto shutoff valve to prevent leakage.
The drinking tube has a functional big bite valve which sits at a 45 degree angle. It is easy to use and it self seals when you stop drinking. There is also an easy to use leakproof on/off lever at the bite valve, which stops the flow of water, if you need to completely shut it off.
The Crux also utilizes Camelbaks ‘Hydroguard antimicrobial technology’, which helps to stop unwanted bacteria developing in the reservoir or the tube.
The main water reservoir is accessed using a screw seal which is very easy to use. One of the really nice things about the Camlebak Crux is how easy it is to access for cleaning, it definitely gets the thumbs up in that regard, although you can’t flip it inside out.
There is a handy handle on the front of the bladder which makes it easy to fill, as you can hold it in one hand, while the other hand is free to operate taps or whatever your drinking water source is.
Overall, the Camelbak Crux hydration bladder is a very functional piece of kit, at a very wallet friendly price. Definitely worth a further look!
4. Platypus Big Zip LP
- Sturdy construction from the thick plastic polyethylene construction
- Easy to use
- No plastic taste on drinking
- Shut off valve on drinking end of the tube
- No cover for the bite valve
Platypus Big Zip LP Features Summary:
- Material: Polyethylene
- Volume: 1.5L / 50 fl oz, 2L / 70 fl oz and 3L / 100 fl oz options available
- Dimensions: [1.5L] 13.4 x 7.9 in, [2L] 15.6 x 7.9 in, [3L] 17.2 x 8.8 in
- Claimed Weight: [1.5L] 5.4 oz, [2L] 5.6 oz, [3L] 6 oz
- Wide-mouth opening makes cleaning and filling easy
- Low-profile design sits comfortably in backpacks
- Quick release hose is easy to attach/detach
- Treatment prevents mold and bacteria from growing in the bag
- Angled shut-off valve prevents water from leaking
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking, biking, ski touring
This is our former number one option, mainly as I (the person writing this) have been using one of them for the last four years, and it is still going strong.
It comes in several different size options, 1.5 liters, 2 liters and 3 liters. Being a very thirsty hiker 🙂 I went with the 3 liter option and it has been a great addition to my hiking kit.
The Platypus Big Zip LP features a stop valve at the drinking end of the tube, which you can use to block of water flow should you wish to, in truth though, I rarely need to use it. The bladder is made using thick Polyetyhlene plastic, but leaves no plastic taste when in use.
The drinking tube is easily detachable, and fits very securely to the water reservoir. It is attached with no leakage, and it’s very easy to use. My favorite thing about this bladder, is the access to the reservoir itself.
It’s a zip loc, so it opens fully wide, and so is very easy to fill and very easy to access the full bladder to clean it, no fiddling into awkward nooks and crannies required!
There is a clear water fill mark on the Biz Zip LP, and when you fill it up to that line, you just zip close the two top ends using the click rivets (If that’s what I can call them). Then slide the attached sealing guard to ensure your water is safe and snug in the reservoir so it won’t leak out.
There is also a nice carry handle at the top of the Platypus Big Zip LP which means it is easy to mobilize, but could also be used for hanging, if you wanted to hang it as an external reservoir, say at your tent when backpacking.
Overall it’s a winner of a bladder, and it’s stood up well over time for me after a lot of use and abuse, and it is still going strong. Enough said!
5. Camelbak Omega
- HydroGuard™ Technology helps combat bacteria growth plastic polyethylene construction
- Easy to use
- No plastic aftertaste
- Shut off valve on drinking end of the tube
- Insulated drinking tube
- Hose port does not self seal, so must have hose attached when refilling
- Only a 3 liter option available
Camelbak Omega Features Summary:
- HydroGuard™ Technology to inhibit the growth of bacteria on reservoir and tube surfaces
- Patented Big Bite™ Valve made of medical grade silicone, provides an easy water flow
- Volume: 3 liter option available
- Wide OMEGA® fillport opening makes it easy to clean and fill
- Taste-free multi-layered Pure Flow™ drink tube has been proven to keep water tasting fresh with no plastic taste
- 100% Free of BPA and BPS
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking
Next in line we have the Camelbak Omega Reservoir. It’s truly a water Beast! At 3 liter capacity, it is at the beast end of the scale in terms of volume, for sure.
The bladder features the Camelbak patented Hydrolink Big Bite Valve which is made of chemical grade silicone. It works exceptionally well and it is easy to get a good water flow on the move with it.
The bladder also features a stop valve at the drinking end of the tube, which is easy to use, should you need extra pressure to block the flow of water.
The drinking tube is insulated and easily detachable via the quick disconnect Hydrolink Port Plug. The tube fits very securely to the water reservoir, and prevents leakage.
One downside is that the drinking tube needs to be in place when refilling the reservoir i.e. it doesn’t self seal when the tube is not connected. While not a deal breaker, it is not ideal in terms of functional use for refilling.
Access to the bladder itself, is done via the wide OMEGA® fillport opening. This is again easy to use, and makes the bladder easy to clean and fill. It is screwed open and closed and so provides a very secure bladder to house your drinking water and prevent it from leaking.
The Camelbak Big Beast also features Camelbaks HydroGuard™ Technology. While this inhibits the growth of bacteria on the reservoir and tube surfaces, it should be noted that it does not fully protect the user from bacteria or other disease-causing organisms.
You would need some kind of filtering system in the bladder for that capability, which is not applicable in most bladders.
The Taste-free multi-layered Pure Flow™ drink tube and bladder, is 100% Free of BPA and BPS taste, always a must for a bladder, nothing worse than tasting plastic when you drink!
The bladder features a hook at the top, so it can be hung up, say as a water bag if you’re camping on a backpacking trip. Overall, it’s a very functional water bladder, that is easy to use and work with on the trail.
6. Hydrapak Shape-Shift
- Very functional closure seal
- Easy access for cleaning
- No bite valve cover
- Some user concerns re: leaks
Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir Features Summary:
- ADJUSTABLE BAFFLE: Low-profile and increased stabilization for high impact activities
- Unlock baffle for full volume
- PLUG-N-PLAY CONNECT SYSTEM: Easily disconnect the drink tube (an auto shutoff valve prevents leaking) and remove the reservoir from your pack for convenient refilling or in-line filtering
- NEW HIGHER-FLOW: Engineered with high performance features including the Blaster Bite Valve with a twist on/off valve
- 100% BPA FREE & EASY TO CLEAN: Made from the highest quality materials, fully reversible and dishwasher safe
- BEYOND LIFETIME WARRANTY: Leak-proof design with patented Slide-Seal top technology opens wide for easy filling and closes securely
- Available in 2 liter / 70 fl oz and 3 liter / 100 fl oz
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, running
The Shape-Shift from Hydrapak is a nice hydration reservoir option that covers most of the bases a hiker needs from a good bladder.
It is made using lightweight TPU, HDPE and Silicone. It is tough, flexible and abrasion resistant while still being lightweight and 100% BPA and PVC free.
The reservoir is available in 2 liter / 70 fl oz and 3 liter / 100 fl oz capacities, so you can easily cover your water volume needs for a day out on the trail.
The bladder comes with a Shape-Shift High Flow Blaster Big Bite valve which seals after use. It also has a twist on / off valve so you can securely seal it fully when not in use. Overall, users reported a good water flow from the design.
The drinking tube is detachable via a plug-n-play connector system and the reservoir has an auto seal valve, so when the main tube is disconnected, it prevents water from leaking out. There were some user concerns expressed about the bladder leaking though.
Access to the bladder itself, is done via the Shape-Shift slide lock. This seals the reservoir along the top. This provides a wide opening to fill the bladder and seals tight when you need to start hiking. This also enables easy refilling.
The bladder can be reversed easily and can be put into the dish washer for cleaning. However, some users indicated that the reversible feature is tricky to utilize. The bladder can also be put into the freezer which is nice, a great way to have cold water on a hike.
The next up point of note is the Hydrapak Beyond Lifetime Guarantee. This provides a strong warranty if you have problems with your reservoir. Always nice to have!
Overall, the Hydrapak Shape-Shift hydration reservoir is a nice offering at a good price. While there seem to be some users experiencing some issues with it, there are also a lot of very satisfied customers. A good potential option for your hiking adventures.
7. Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Engine and Reservoir
- A wider range of functional capability than a standard bladder e.g. spray cleaning
- Water flow takes no effort to draw out, it flows
- Can be fitted with filters to enable you to drink from water sources you find on the move
- Heavy duty material means no leakage
- Lifetime warranty against leaks
- Some users experienced problems with the air pump
The Geigerrig 3 Pressurized Hydration Engine and Reservoir Features Summary:
- Constructed using durable material
- 3 size options, 1.5 Liters (50 fl oz), 2 Liters (70 fl oz) and 3 liters (100 fl oz)
- Slide top and wide open mouth for fast refill and easy access to clean
- Reversible, dishwasher safe reservoir
- Lifetime warranty against leaks
- Filter ready for use with the Aquamira Frontier Max filter or Geigerrig filters (Not included)
Best Uses: Backpacking, camping, hiking, hunting, biking
Next up, we are moving away from the standard bladder construction into something a little more dynamic.
With the Geiggerig bladder, there is a pressurized hydration engine which is operated using a power bulb. The advantage of this, is that the water will spray out, without you having to suck.
This is useful in the context of drinking, say if you are gasping for breath after a good push uphill, you don’t need to gather breath to suck in. It is also useful in several other ways.
First, the spray generated can be used if you wanted to spray your face to cool down, as well as drink water. It also makes sharing water from it more hygienic, as you don’t need to put your mouth around the drinking valve.
Finally, the spraying capability also comes in handy if you need to clean something e.g. while you are out hiking or backpacking.
Another interesting dynamic with this bladder is that it can also work with a Geigerrig water filter. This could be very handy should you need to drink river water or from another source of outdoor water on the move.
Be sure to be careful and take the appropriate precautions if you plan to do this though.
The Geigerrig comes with three size options, 1.5 Liters (50 fl oz), 2 Liters (70 fl oz) and 3 liters (100 fl oz). The bladder is made from heavy duty material that is strong and tough, so the bladder won’t leak.
The bladder is reversible and has a nice cleaning feature in that it is dishwasher safe which should make cleaning it much more straightforward!
The Geigerrig bladder comes with a lifetime warranty against leaks, so you should have this for years and years of use.
Water is easily accessed via the mouthpiece and the reservoir itself is accessed using a slide top, so you can easily open to fill it up full. This also means you have plenty of room to get your hand in, should you need to get at a nook or cranny for cleaning purposes.
The Geigerrig hydration bladder is definitely a more technical affair, providing a wider range of capabilities which may be of use.
This is reflected in the price, although we think it is good value for money. Keep in mind though, that you have to buy filters separately if you want to utilize them. Overall, a very nice piece of kit!
8. Wacool 3 Liter
- Good value at a very attractive price point
- Practical with all the basic hydration reservoir functions you need on the trail
- Self seal valve when tube is removed, so easy to fill
- Bite valve on drinking tube works well
- Insulated drinking tube
- Some users experienced that the main screw cap didn’t stay closed and leaked
The Wacool 3 Liter Features Summary:
- Constructed using BPA free, antimicrobial EVA
- Dimensions: 15″ x 7.8″
- Wide screw cap opening provides easy access to clean and dry
- Sliding mouthpiece is protected by dust cover
- Self lock shut off valve enables drinking tube disconnection without leakage
- Insulated tube cover is made to military grade standard with both ends locked by rubber binds
- Water should be between -20 and 50 degrees Celsius
- Soak with warm salt water for one hour before use
Best Uses: All types of hiking, backpacking, hunting, biking
Next up we have the Wacool 3 Liter Reservoir. Again, we are in the wallet friendly area, with the Wacool bladder offering a lot of performance and functionality for a very accessible price point, while also scoring well in the field.
The Wacool comes in one size option, 3 liters (100 fl oz). The bladder is made using BPA-Free EVA material, with an aim to eliminate any plastic taste.
The material is also anti microbial, to help prevent mold and bacteria. The hydration reservoir itself is double soldered at the edges, to help ensure a secure seal, so you can expect it to be leak free.
The bladder utilizes a self seal valve at the tube connector port, so you can disconnect the tube, without water leaking from it.
Again, this is definitely our preference, as it enables you to fill the bladder without the tube being attached to it. The drinking tube also features an insulated cover, which is military grade, which locks at both ends using rubber binds.
Water is easily accessed via the mouthpiece, which is accessed by sliding it open, and it is protected by a dust cover and has a self lock to prevent leaking.
The Wacool bladder is accessed using a screw cap which is attached via an attachment handle. It is easy to remove to fill with water or clean. The bladder also has slits at the top which could be utilized to hang from something e.g. as a water bag at camp.
Note, the Wacool bladder is not suitable for juice, milk, soft drink, liquor, etc., just water.
It also comes in two color options, green and blue. Overall, we really liked the functionality that the Wacool Hydration Reservoir gives, again at a very wallet friendly and accessible price.
Some Tips Before you Buy
Before we continue on into the rest of our favorites, we wanted to have a quick look at buying advice. Again, as with any piece of hiking kit, there are a bunch of things to consider when buying one.
We cover those in detail in our buying guide, but suffice it to say, it is worth having a good think about what you need and prefer before you buy anything.
Remember, you need to have a suitable pack to comfortably utilize a hydration bladder.
You can learn more about that in our day pack buying guide, but in brief summary you need your pack to have an internal pouch for it, with a port for the tube to run through to be secured out front, so you can easily access it to drink from as you hike.
Although you can hang a reservoir in a pack without a purpose built pouch, we strongly recommend getting a pack that has a purpose built pouch and water port for your hydration reservoir.
You can also utilize a bladder for backpacking as well as hiking. They are handy while on the move and can also be hung up as a water bag at your campsite. So if you’re looking for the best water bladder for backpacking, the same one you use for day hiking should do the job perfectly!
There are also plenty of little nuances and differences in how you access the bladder for filling with water, cleaning and so on. We prefer a self seal valve on the bladder when the tube is disconnected, this makes it easier for filling the bladder, without having to have the tube connected.
Having a drinking tube cover on the bite valve can be good, but it is not a necessity. The bite valve does a good job of keeping dirt out of your drinking tube, you just need to be careful where the tube lies when you set your pack down on the ground.
Similarly, a stop valve to your water at the drinking end can also be useful to prevent leakage.
So, to summarize, as always, start with what you need your bladder for, and then consider the points listed below before buying your preferred option.
- Establish what size works best for you
- Check it will fit into the pouch in your day pack or backpack
- Look for a self seal when the drinking tube is detached
- Stop valve on the drinking end of the tube is nice to have
- Look for a functional and easy to use bite valve
- Watch out for any bladder that is built with plastic that leaves a plastic taste in the water, not a runner!
OK, so that’s the initial introduction with some things to be thinking about. Next ,some Frequently asked questions.
In this section, we wanted to list out some of the typical questions folks have when they are new to buying a hydration reservoir. We will be adding to this as we need to. We hope you find it useful.
Q1. What should I look for when choosing a hydration bladder?
We touched on the main items to consider in the buying advice section at the top of this page. However, we also did an article giving buying advice, which will walk you through everything you should consider before making a purchase decision.
Q2. What is the difference between a hydration pack and a hydration bladder / reservoir?
A hydration pack is both a pack and a bladder. It is usually one purpose built unit, whereas a hydration bladder / reservoir is only the bladder / reservoir itself.
A purpose built hydration pack is a viable option, especially for certain activities like trail running. As the whole pack is designed to work together, you should not experience any size or capacity issues, or the like.
When you buy only a bladder, you are buying that to utilize in conjunction with a separate pack i.e. not an all in one unit from one manufacturer.
For the purposes of hiking, we recommend buying the bladder separate to your day pack, but be sure to get a good day pack that is compatible with a hydration reservoir i.e. it has a hydration pouch for the bladder, a H2O port, etc.
Our main reason for this, is that we prefer the wider choice of options this provides, it gives you a whole world of bladders to choose from.
Also, hiking day packs generally need to be a bit larger, to enable you to carry extra gear like your rain gear. Most purpose built hydration packs are not, in our opinion, large enough in capacity to accommodate this.
Q3. How do I clean the reservoir?
We did a whole article on this which you can read here, but we recommend washing your reservoir in a 5-7% salt water solution for an hour when you first get it, just to give it a good initial clean following it’s trip from a factory some place to your house.
Rinse it out with water thoroughly several times after the soaking is finished.
For regular cleaning, we recommend rinse washing with water after every use, you can also add a bit of cleaning soap.
Somewhere between 10 and 20 uses (We just can’t remember to be honest 🙂 we like to do a more intense cleaning and soak the bladder and tube using water and denture tablets, you can read more about that here.
However, we recommend setting your own marker on this. We only ever put water in a bladder and think a bladder should really only be used for water. However, it is feasible to add other fluids.
If that is the case, more stringent washing with very specific cleaning products may be required after every use.
Also, there are cleaning kits which you can get which also provide a very helpful and viable cleaning option.
We provide the above as a guideline for what we do, but as always, use your common sense to decide how often you feel you need to clean your hydration bladder 🙂 If it’s looking nasty after a use, for whatever reason, give it a good clean.
Q4. Is a bladder with a pressurized engine better than a standard one?
The answer to this question, all depends on what you need it for. For the average day hiker, the standard bladder is perfectly fine. If however you are backpacking, having a pressurized spray option, or the option to attach a filter, may be a really good idea.
Be clear on what you plan to use your hydration bladder for, and that will answer this question for you.
Q5. My hydration reservoir has a nasty plastic taste, what can I do to remove it?
As per question 2 above, go through the soaking in salt process a couple of times, and then try a final soak with denture tablets. That may help. Check out this article too for more tips on how to remove a plastic taste from a bladder. Sometimes though, the plastic taste is just part of the material.
If that is the case, and you can’t get rid of it, maybe take it back to the manufacturer for guidance, they may replace it if under warranty. If that still doesn’t work, you may just have bought a bad quality bladder, and so you need to look elsewhere.
Some people notice this more than others too, possibly because they have more sensitive taste buds, but we don’t know that for sure 🙂
Q6. I see that there are usually 1.5 liter, 2 liter and 3 liter options available, which should I choose?
It’s really up to you. If you tend to get very thirsty and drink lots of water on the trail, a 3 liter capacity is the way to go.
If not, why carry the extra weight? It isn’t a bad idea to buy the bigger 3 liter option, and only fill it half full it you usually only need 1.5L of water. That way, you have the option to carry more should you need to.
If this never arises, just go for a smaller capacity option. Whatever you choose, make sure it is compatible, i.e. it will fit, in the hydration pouch in your day pack or backpack.
Q7. Should I go with a slide top or a screw top on my bladder?
Again, this is very much down to personal preference. We prefer slide top options as they usually allow greater access into the reservoir, which is handy for cleaning purposes. Whatever you prefer though, is all good.
Q8. I’m worried about a bladder leaking, does that happen often?
This is a genuine concern, and one than can and does happen. However, in my many years of hiking experience, it has been pretty rare. The key thing is ensuring you have one that is of a good enough quality, so it shouldn’t leak.
If a bladder does leak, it can be a real pain, as it can leak out into your gear making it wet. This is another reason carrying gear in dry bags in your pack is a good idea, but that’s another topic 🙂
A more worrying concern with leaking could be running out of water. However, broadly speaking, if a bladder leaks, you should feel it or it will be noticed before the entire reservoir leaks into the pack proper, which will hopefully give you time to try and save some of the water.
As long as you pack sensibly e.g. without having pointy objects sticking into the bladder, and check the health of the bladder each time you fill it by turning it on it’s head and move it around to look for leaks, this is more or less just bad luck if it happens.
It’s always good to be prepared so you can carry a spare water bottle as an emergency supply, if required. I only do this when backpacking, or if I am heading out on a very long hike.
On normal day hikes, I am usually always fine to survive without water till I get back to civilization, I’ll just be rather thirsty when I do 🙂 I always leave a bottle of water in my car too, just in case!
Q9. Do I need a hydration reservoir that can work with compatible filters?
This really depends on what you need your bladder for. For most day hikers, they pack their water before they head out on the trail, so drinking from an external source is not a requirement. However, on very long hikes, or if you’re backpacking this could be something you might need.
That being the case, getting a bladder that is compatible with water filters is potentially a good idea. If you need to drink water from rivers, external sources, etc. be sure to purify the water first before drinking or using.
Be sure to educate yourself well in advance to know what specific process you need to follow, in the area you are hiking or backpacking in, to ensure you have clean drinking water.
Q10. Is it OK to put something other than water in my hydration bladder?
For hiking, we don’t recommend it. We think that water is the only liquid you should be using in your bladder. This will not only help the life of the bladder, but it will also help with hygiene.
We totally understand that some folks may want to add other things to their water e.g. electrolytes, Gatorade, or even drink something other than water.
If you want to do that, just be sure you have a tough bladder than can withstand the fluid you are putting into it e.g. fizzy drinks are never a good idea anyway, but in a bladder it will be tough on the materials.
Keep in mind that if you are using additives with water or some combination of water and squash or whatever, your cleaning routine becomes much more important.
You will need to give it a full and proper wash after every use, not just a good rinse, as the additional components will likely encourage bacterial growth.
Further Reading and References
In this section we list out more resources that we think have some excellent information on this that you may find useful. It’s a mix of links to some of the manufacturers, other information articles, etc.
Platypus – This is the home of our favorite bladder, lots of great information available at this site.
Camelbak – Another excellent provider of great bladders and other hydration solutions.
Good article on REI – This is a good article from the folks at REI covering many aspects on hydration packs for other sports and activities, not just hiking. A good read with some useful information.
Forum Discussion – a few folks talking about how they choose and use their hydration bladder for hiking.
OK, so there you have it. We hope you enjoyed this spin through the best hydration bladders for hiking available in 2021! As you can see, there is a wide range to choose from, with all budgets catered for.
We’ll be keeping this up to date as new bladders come on the market, so remember to bookmark and check back. Please also share around your networks if you found this useful.