Top 6 Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking

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For a long time, I considered hydration bladders to be a fad, something more fashionable than useful. So, I continued carrying plastic bottles on my hikes in what I now see as an act of stubbornness to try something new.

What changed my mind was a trip to Arizona and Utah in the middle of summer. I got to explore some of the most scenic and iconic hiking locations in the country including the Hole in the Rock, Burr Trail, and Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Top 6 Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking

One day, I went on a day-long hike in the Escalante area with the goal of visiting two slot canyons—Peek a Boo Canyon and Spooky Canyon. The trail is somewhat challenging because you have to walk in the desert for an hour to reach the canyons and then, to complete the hike, you are constantly spotting one another as you climb massive rocks.

Long story short, I dropped my water bottle and was unable to retrieve it. This left me without water as I walked through the desert back to my car. It finally hit me that I needed a better solution than carrying plastic bottles with me on my hikes.

The water bladder was a logical solution. I embraced hydration packs and have not looked back since.

In recent years, the hydration bladder has become one of my favorite hiking accessories—the silent guardian of all my trips.

Unfortunately, and like all essential and unessential products, the internet offers a wide variety of hydration bladders that makes selecting the right one confusing at times. Here, I offer my take on what I think is the best hydration bladder on the market and how to select the right hydration pack for your needs.

How Does a Hydration Bladder Work?

This is for y’all beginners too embarrassed to ask. A water bladder is a uniquely designed waist bag or backpack that’s typically made up from a hydration reservoir or bladder (obviously), a capped mouth and a hose. The hose usually crosses the shoulder and is clipped to a chest strap. There’s a “bite valve” at the end of the hose that allows drinking hands free.

Why You Need a Water Bladder for Backpacking?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering what difference does it make to buy a water bladder or a plain water bottle. They’re both hydration reservoirs, right? Wrong. A water bladder is significantly better for your back, your comfort and your thirst. Here’s why:

  1.  The volume of the water in the bladder is evenly distributed on the whole back, making it much lighter and easier to carry around.
  2. Because of its uniform distribution, nothing pokes uncomfortably at your back.
  3. You can carry larger amount of water in smaller backpacks.
  4. You can have frequent little sips to stay hydrated and avoid bloating.
  5. You don’t have to stop, take off your bag, unscrewing the lid, drink, close it, you know how it goes. You can just sip water hands free from the hose on the go.

Now, that might sound like shameless marketing, it doesn’t take that long to open a water bottle anyway, right? Well it depends on how you define that long. Time during hiking can be tricky. I’ve certainly had times in which I’ve fallen behind or held back my hiking group, times in which I had a tight schedule to get to a certain hut before sunset, times I was too tired to do all the previous steps or too cold to take off my gloves. I think these situations are too familiar for most hikers.

Quick Summary

Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking and Backpacking

  • Cheranti Hydration Bladder 2 Liter
  • Homitt Hydration Bladder 3L
  • Unigear Hydration Water Bladder
  • WACOOL 3L Hydration Pack Bladder
  • Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Reservoir
  • Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir for Hydration Packs
Cheranti Hydration Bladder
OUR TOP PICK

Capacity: 2L, Empty Size: L 14.2″ x W 6.8″, Weight: 200g, BPA free: Yes
Homitt Hydration Bladder
BEST VALUE

Capacity: 3L, Empty Size: L 16″ x W8″, Weight: 204g, BPA free: Yes
Unigear Hydration Water Bladder
BEST BUDGET BLADDER

Capacity: 2.5L, Empty Size: L 19” x W 10”, Weight: 210-350g, BPA free: Yes
WACOOL 3L Hydration Pack Bladder
MOST DURABLE

Capacity: 3L, Empty Size: L 16″ x W 8″, Weight: 250g, BPA free: Yes
Geigerrig Hydration Engine and Reservoir
BEST PRESSURIZED BLADDER

Capacity: 3L, Empty Size: L 16.75″ x W 7.25″, Weight: 185g, BPA free: Yes
Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir for Hydration Packs
MOST INNOVATIVE DESIGN

Capacity: 3L, Empty Size: L ‎17.2” x W 8.8”, Weight: 250g, BPA free: Yes

How to Choose a Hydration Bladder?

Capacity and Compatibility

Hydration Packs usually range from 1-3 liters. Factors to consider before buying is the size of your backpack, the length of your trails and whether or not there are fill-up stations on the way.

  • 1 liter could be appropriate for small treks or for children.
  • 2 liters is usually a better option if it’s a day hike or a longer trails.
  • 3 liters is considered the best and most versatile option by most hikers. It’s around the same weight and cost of the others, but with a lot more freedom. You can choose to carry a lot or a little water. You can go the whole day not needing to stop at fill up stations and making the most out of your time. Only case in which it’s not recommended is if it’s incompatible with your backpack size.

Bladder Profile

Bladders come in all different shapes; tall and short, wide and narrow, fat and flat. The one you choose depends mostly on its compatibility with your hydration pack. However, tall and slim usually works well with most people.

Size

It’s important to pick a hydration pack that fits well your torso size. You don’t want to be wobbly or too tight restricting your breath. Chest and waist straps and back length vary, and although all packs are adjustable, a smaller hiker will be more comfortable with a small bag.

Also check: How to Select the Ultralight Hiking Chair

Weight

Weight doesn’t always correlate with volume. 3 liter bladders could weigh less than their 2 liter counterparts. Thus, pay attention to the weight, regardless of size, shape, or volume. If you’re buying one online, its weight is usually listed. I recommend weights around 200-250g, higher could be too heavy when you’re exhausted, and lighter could compromise durability.

Also check: Ultralight Solution to Protect Yourself from Rain While Hiking

Filling Mouth

You might want to give some thought to the simplicity of filling your bladder and the sources of water around you. This also determines how you clean it. There are 3 main styles of filling openings:

  • Fold Top: This is known to be the most practical of types. You just fold the top over and slide closure over the fold and voila! No leaks. It’s also a wide opening which allows easy filling from shallow streams and outdoor sources as well as tap water at home.
  • Zip Top: This one is similar in concept to fold top bladders, but takes longer to open and close and is more difficult to clean since it cannot be flipped inside out. It resembles a large ziplock bag in which you slide a closure over once it has been shut. Like the fold top bladders, its large opening allows refilling from outdoor sources and basins.
  • Screw Top: It’s made up of a large round opening and a screw cap closure lid. Although it’s more difficult to open, close and clean, it has a great advantage of easier refill from shallow sources. It can be held horizontally or diagonally which can prove useful in camping restrooms. It’s important to know that water to completely cover the opening in order to fill it.

Bite Valve and Locking Mechanisms

Bite valves come in different sizes and shapes. And although all sizes are beautiful, you might want to try them first to find the one best for you. Large sizes could be awkward and uncomfortable thus making it harder to suck water, small sizes can restrict the amount of water intake leaving you thirsty and tired. Therefore, medium sized is the safest choice for a sufficient amount of water, comfort, and ease.

As for locking mechanisms, there are 3 types; turn valves, switches and push and pull. The simplest and most natural to use is the switch.

Material

Two new advancements in hydration bladders is using non toxic BPA free plastics and using an antibacterial material. Both ensure the safety of your experience and help keep the bladder plastic taste free.

Best Hydration Bladders

Hydration Bladder 2 Liter Leak Proof Water Reservoir, Military Water Storage Bladder Bag, BPA Free Hydration Pack Replacement, for Hiking Biking Climbing Cycling Running, Large Opening, Green

Cherainti Hydration Bladder 2L

Capacity: 2L
Empty Size: L 14.2” x W 6.8”
Weight: 200g
BPA free: Yes
Price: Check the latest price here

This hydration bladder from Cherainti is not well known, but it definitely has a lot to offer. It’s extremely durable even in the worst of conditions; tolerating pressure and temperatures from -20 to 50 degrees Celsius well. It has a wide mouth allowing easy filling and cleaning and soft bite valve designed for smooth sipping.

Moreover, the insulated tube size is great for a good water flow. Furthermore, it’s made of antibacterial material that’s FDA certified and is found to be plastic taste free. Finally, you get a free magic bandana and a money back guarantee. For a relatively obscure product, Cherainti does really stand out with several benefits and an exceptionally low price.

Pros

  • Easy cleaning and filling
  • Lightweight
  • Compatible with most backpacks
  • Taste free
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Some say its actual capacity is less than 2 liters.

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Homitt Upgrade Hydration Bladder, 3L Water Bladder BPA Free Military Class Leakproof Water Reservoir with Wide Opening Self-Locking Valve for Hiking Climbing Cycling Running and Any Outdoor Sports

Homitt Hydration Bladder 3L

Capacity: 3L
Empty Size: L 16” x W8”
Weight: 204g
BPA free: Yes
Price: Check the latest price here

Homitt attracts my attention for their commitment for quality and satisfaction of customers. It’s made of FDA approved food grade PEVA strong material and their new upgrade hydration bladder is quadruple times protected from leaking. It’s also combines a lot of the benefits of the other hydration bladders, being odorless, tasteless, durable and easy to fill and clean.

Pros

  • Strong Plastic and no leakage
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Value for money
  • Large capacity

Cons

  • On and off lock difficult to operate.
  • Sipping is a bit difficult.

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Unigear Hydration Water Bladder Reservoir BPA Free FDA Approved and Taste Free for Backpacking, Biking, Hiking and Camping (Blue, 2L)

Unigear Hydration Water Bladder

Capacity: 2.5L
Empty Size: L 19” x W 10”
Weight: 210-350g
BPA free: Yes
Price: Check the latest price here

This product can be problematic. It has a lot to offer, but also a lot of unsupported claims. It has a large opening from which you can slip ice in addition to the advantage of easy cleaning and refilling.  Moreover, It’s a convenient design with a built in backpad that provides comfort and insulation.

Furthermore, the drinking tube is insulated with a built in dust cover. However, Unigear claims that it’s FDA approved with no certificate to prove it and that there’s a return guarantee but some reviewers have found difficulty in finding that option.

Pros

  • Breathable ergonomic foam back
  • Emergency whistle
  • Good value for money
  • Excellent cleaning kit

Cons

  • No FDA certificate.
  • Leakage issues in some pieces.
  • Hard to seal.

Check Latest Price & Reviews


WACOOL 3L 3Liter 100oz BPA Free EVA Hydration Pack Bladder, Leak-Proof Water Reservoir

WACOOL 3L Hydration Pack Bladder

Capacity: 3L
Empty Size: L 16″ x W 8″
Weight: 250g
BPA free: Yes
Price: Check the latest price here

WACOOL has given its bladder the gift of functionality. They added a self seal valve at the insuated tube connector port so you can disconnect the tube without leakage. They have also molded it to be probably the most rigid bladder in the market, therefore making it more durable and pressure and temperature tolerant. Moreover, water is accessible through mouthpiece without effort, unlike some of the previous models.

Pros

  • Easy sipping.
  • Good value for money.
  • Easy to fill.

Cons

  • Weak main screw cap.

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Engine and Reservoir - 3 Liter, 100 Ounce

Geigerrig Pressurized Hydration Engine and Reservoir

Capacity: 3L
Empty Size: L ‎16.75” x W 7.25”
Weight: 185g
BPA free: Yes
Price: Check the latest price here

A lot of people were skeptical of the development of the pressurized system. Most bladders are easy to drink from, why does it promise to solve a problem that doesn’t exist? But not me. I was fascinated by it and I think this argument is a bit reductive for what it has to offer. Pressurized system allows the bladder to be incredibly versatile and functional to be used for drinking, showering, cleaning equipments and more.

 It’s also the easiest to drink from with no need for sucking and the easiest to clean by being dishwasher safe. However, it’s a bit difficult to figure out and still has some minor problems with the difficulty of the on and off switch.

Pros

  • Pressurized
  • Dishwasher Safe
  • Spray Function
  • Easy drinking
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Connections get jammed
  • Squeaky sound when inflated
  • Expensive
  • Tubes aren’t durable
  • Poor customer service
  • No measurement system on side of the bag

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir for Hydration Packs, 3-Liter

Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir for Hydration Packs

Capacity: 3L
Empty Size: L ‎17.2” x W 8.8”
Weight: 250g
BPA free: Yes
Price: Check the latest price here

The Platypus Big Zip doesn’t score very high on most reviews, but I think that despite its flaws it deserves a chance. It offers most of the benefits of the previous bladders, but with a zip top for an even easier and less time consuming cleaning and filling. However, it doesn’t have a lot of adaptations nor is it of high quality like the others. This is also one of the few models that the bigger capacity isn’t recommended as the wide profile could be incompatible with your pack.

Pros

  • Durable polymer plastic
  • Quick disconnection of mouthpiece so easier to clean
  • Wide zip opening for cleaning and refilling
  • Divided compartments and less sloshing of water

Cons

  • Large bite valve
  • Difficult to suck water
  • Wide Profile

Check Latest Price & Reviews


The Final Verdict

To be completely honest, even after extensive research, the choice is pretty tough and the race is close. My favourites are Geigerrig’s and Cherainti’s and I’ve been going back and forth between them. Although I’ve been fascinated by the technology of the pressurised system of Geigerrig’s, I think it’s still a work in progress and I find it a bit overpriced.

However, Cherainti’s hydration bladder is a great deal. It has the lowest price of all six with, more or less, similar durability, ease of use, quality and safety. Cherainti also has a terrific customer service with either a refund or a replacement in case of dissatisfaction with the product. I’m a sucker for a company that cares about its customers, and also for its hydration bladders. (pun intended)

Finally, I hope this has been useful to you and that you find the product that makes your hiking trails more comfortable and stress free. Hit me up with any inquiries or reviews.

Also visit: Hiking with the Ultralight Sling Backpacks

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