Check out this list of the best hydration bladders this past year and you be the judge which one to take out into the field on your next adventure.
Geigerrig Hydration Engine review by AJ:
I bought a Geigerrig hydration engine and took it for 11 days in the High Sierra, stuffing it into three packs (none made by Geigerrig) and carrying it on long hikes and alpine rock climbs. The pressurized Geigerrig Hydration Engine is a great concept and works well, especially when you’re moving fast at high altitude. Who can spare the energy for sucking hoses when they’re busy gasping for breath? It’s also good for sanitary sharing, spraying down your handkerchief for a swamp cooler effect, and irrigating wounds. I love being able to disconnect the hoses to keep them from dragging in the dirt on the way to the creek for a refill. (In fact, when doing an easy downhill hike or carrying only a small daypack I prefer to leave the pressure hose disconnected and use the bag like a normal hydration bladder.) I also love being able to turn the bag inside out for cleaning. The drybag-style slide eliminates the problem of cross-threading a big cap. The bite valve works great: it delivers enough water and doesn’t leak even when the bag is pressurized unless you squeeze it with a pack strap or something.
CamelBak Antidote Reservoir by Bill:
Doing 3 hour bike rides & all day snowboarding with this. The Camelbak 100 oz Antidote Replacement Reservoir nailed it with this design. Every feature they highlight is dead perfect and works as intended. I have only one long term concern: Will the clip-in part of the tube (where it connect to the bladder) eventually break? Only other problem is figuring out how to disconnect the mouthpiece from the tube for drying/cleaning. Very tight fit, I’m not sure it wants to come apart there. And based on experience, once I take it apart there, the tube will not be as tight and eventually start leaking. So I’ll just dry it out without disconnecting that part. Seems to dry with just having the opening at the other end, but I am a little concerned about something growing in the mouthpiece area.
Platypus Big Zip SL review by Alejandro:
I bought two of these in the 3L size. They work perfectly. No complaints at all! My worries of leakage (think of a zip lock bag filled with water) are all gone. The big zip on the Platypus Big Zip SL 2-Liter Hands-Free Hydration System makes them easy to fill, clean, and dry. The zip stays shut! The handle/zipper makes it easy to get the bladder zipped, and is a secure handle. I keep one in my Teton Sports Explorer 4000 backpack and one in my Osprey Stratos 24 day pack. To make it easier to get the bladders into a full pack, I made socks for the bladders from the sleeves of a long-sleeve XL excercise shirt. The spandex-type material of the sleeves really helps to get the bladders in and out. No sewing skills needed, just cut the sleeves from the torso, and the bladder slides right in. Instant bladder sock!
Source WXP Helix Valve review by Nick:
I purchased this as a requirement for a 10 hour athletic event. Part of the event (goruck.com, if you are curious) was to carry a bundle of bricks in a ruck sack. The very same ruck sack that this water bladder would be in. After all was said and done, being tossed about with 40lbs of brick, laid on, dropped without care, and otherwise abused, this water bladder survived where others (looking at you, camel pack) did not. Playful ribbing aside, the Source Tactical Gear WXP Hydration System is an absolute beast of a bladder, and easy to fill/clean to boot. I learned early on that the twist off cap really doesn’t serve a purpose in this context. Unfold the top, open the mouth wide and dump water in there. Fast, reliable, and maybe a little mess but it’s just water and sometimes speed is more important than a little spillage.
MSR DromLite review by J. Winter:
I bought a few of these MSR Dromlite bags for a backpacking trip to desert country in Arizona and Utah. Knowing my routes would take me through some mostly water-less country, I needed something lighter and more comfortable than than my old 2-liter plastic pop bottles. The MSR DromLite Bag is well made water storage bags. Though reasonably tough, they are lightweight, un-insulated, and made of fairly thin material, so aren’t meant to resist being stored outside the pack or dropped on sharp objects. Instead I carried them inside the backpack where they can be protected and insulated from excessive heat. I found the 2-liter and 4-liter sizes to be the most useful, not to mention easier to fill and pour. The soft, conformable design of the bag was a lot easier to pack than the old hard plastic soda bottles and made for a more balanced pack. You can attach a modern supply tube and bitepiece to these water bags, but I didn’t use that for my trips. I just poured the water as needed into a smaller insulated water bottle on my waist.
Nalgene ShapeShifter Reservoir review by Rosemary:
I have owned two Camelbaks and the Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir is a superior design.
The wide mouth makes it easy to clean and dry out, the clip that closes the bladder opening is very easy to use.
The mouthpiece design is very effective because it doesn’t need a shut-off valve to prevent it from leaking if pressed on accidentally. Plus, the tube detaches for cleaning. A really fine product.
Camelbak Omega Water Beast review by Doug:
I bought this bladder for my Maxpedition Condor II. It is the first hydration bladder I’ve owned so I have nothing to compare it to, but I am very impressed with the build quality of the CamelBak Omega Water Reservoir. The wide mouth that appears to be common on all hydration packs makes filling it up very easy even as it becomes heavy under the weight of the water. There is a nice handle integrated into the mouth that looks to be designed as to allow for not only at the sink fill ups, but also the ability to dip it into a stream and hang onto it as it fills on its own (of course you’d want to treat water gathered from a body of water).
Platypus Hoser review by BT:
I am a occasional hiker, quickly moving towards avid as the weather gets warmer. I purchased this 3L Platypus reservoir to go in a reservoir compatible small day pack I already owned. I found that the Platypus Hoser 3.0L Hands-Free Hydration System fit well in the pack, and I was able to use it easily. The biggest plus I found with this reservoir is that it had absolutely no taste what so ever. Even at the end of a 3 hour hike the water tasted as if I had just poured it into a glass from the fridge. I own the 3l (100oz) version of this and I really like the size of the reservoir, as it allows me to carry the majority of my water needs all in one container. This makes it excellent for a single person on a long hike, or even for sharing among family members. I always have a back up vessel in case of a problem, but assuming all is going well with a 3L reservoir I don’t have to worry about running out quickly and finding water sources on the trail.
I have no idea if the complaints of this newer model are valid but I heeded the warning.
If you check the website it is the .5 packs that are the newer models. Those are the 1.5 and 2.5 “LT” models. I gambled that the older ones are the 3L and 2L original (non-LT) packs. I ordered the Osprey Hydraulics 3-Liter Reservoir. What I got has a firm back, no leaks, no issues at all. It fits right in my Kestrel 48 and doesn’t bulge at all.
Questions from our readers
Question: Which do you prefer with Geigerrig vs Camelbak? Check out the info and video below. I wear a camel bak in my go bag pack and in my mtn bike pack.
Question: How about Source wxp vs camelbak antidote? Check out the info above about both packs.
Question: What do you think about the Camelbak vs platypus?
Answer: Both are great but I have been using the Camelbak and very pleased with it during endurance events. I mostly use the 100 ounce.
Check out this video with the Camelbak vs Platypus bags
Question: What about Source vs Platypus? Check out the reviews and info above. We are looking at doing a video.
Question: What about osprey hydraulics vs camelbak? Check out the video below with good information on both products.
Video on Camelbak vs Osprey
Question: What about camelbak vs source? I have had several camelbak packs and bladders and they are very reliable. I like gear that you can use and not have to worry about it and it is dependable in the field in a lot of situations. Camelbak always delivers.
Question: What is the best bite valve that you like? Camelbak is great and you can pick one up for about $7.
Question: Where can I find out more info on Army Special Forces? Check out the website here:
GORUCK G1 review