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Best Hydration Bladder

Best Hydration Bladder

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This is a gear review about the Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking and Backpacking.

What is the best way to carry water when out hiking and backpacking on the trails? Water bottle are good, but water bladders are better, specially when you need to access a large amount of water such as hiking in summer or hiking in the desert.

These nifty little bladders allow you to hold water on your back and let you drink by sucking through a tube that reaches round your head and into your mouth, allowing the wearer to move their hands freely.

Secure, safe, and easy, these hydration bladders are a vast improvement on a standard water bottle, but which one is the best of them? That’s a problem I’m here to help you solve today.

Best Hydration Bladder for Backpacking 2021

The Best Hydration Bladders for Backpacking 2021 are:

Best Hydration Bladder 2021

Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir

> Design makes fluid capacity easy to carry
> Simple and easy design
> Very sturdy

> Not much

Hydrapak is a small company in comparison to others in the outdoor industry. They deal almost exclusively in hydration systems.

Hydrapak have managed to produce the best hydration bladder, however it is only surprising on the surface, because when you take a closer look you can see exactly why it made the list.

On offer at 2 to 3 liters, the Shape-shift has ample variation to suit your needs and with its flexible design, filling this bladder to full capacity shouldn’t create a space issue in your backpack.

Speaking of flexibility, the design of the Shape-shift is made with ease in mind, the plastic is completely malleable, and it uses a slide off top for easy refills. The material used has you in mind as well, being easy to clean and dishwasher safe.

Finally, we reach durability, and this is where the Shape-shift shines. Being very flexible, it is incredibly sturdy and unlikely to break under pressure instead adapting to it, so you can rest easy knowing it will last the whole trip.

Overall, this is the best hydration bladder on the market in 2021 and the current water bladder I personally use.

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Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

> Large carry capacity
> Good design
> Durable material
> Mouthpiece can leak on very rare occasions

The first thing to look at with this hydration bladder is its carry capacity and with a range of sizes available – from 1 and up to 3 liters of fluids.

Even with the range of carry amounts, the design of the bladders means it would easily slip into a backpack, while taking up minimal space.

This brings us onto the second point, due to its slim design this reservoir can slip in and out of a backpack while causing minimal discomfort to the wearer, and with the shaped backplate molding itself to your spine, it should never have discomfort in the first place.

It is also incredibly durable with the bladder primarily made of a strong, flexible plastic called thermoplastic polyurethane, meaning it will last for as long as you need and even beyond.

I used this bladder when hiking the CDT and tested it in the desert of New Mexico. It is a strong, worthy water bladder for hiking in the desert.

Overall, it is one of the best water bladders for desert hiking.

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Platypus Big Zip EVO Water Reservoir

> Variety of different fluid capacities.
> Flexible designs

> Not as durable as other bladders

Being a company at the cutting edge of water technology and producing products to match, it’s not hard to see how they made it onto this list with the Big Zip EVO Water Reservoir.

Available in different sizes from 2 liters – for small adventures – to 3 liters – for more physical activities – its shape is more fluid than the previous entrants, allowing for the reservoir to mold to your backpack and your body.

Thanks to this flexibility, the Big Zip is incredibly comfortable to wear and utilize while maintaining its shape. Not only that, but it comes in a more standard elongated shape or an entirely horizontal shape designed to sit easier on the body.

It may not be as strong as many of the other water bladders when pressure is placed on the bladder inside an overfilled backpack.

However, its design and variation mean it’s perfect for short sojourns.

Overall, this is one of the best water bladders for day hikes.

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Platypus Hoser

> Fantastic range of variation in size
> Versatile design

> Can leak from overuse

Coming back to Platypus once again with their original hydration product: The Platypus Hoser.

Known by hikers throughout the backcountry, it may be difficult to see how it matches up to the Big Zip, but there are reasons it became a success and reasons why it still is.   

As before, the Hoser has a fantastic carry capacity at three liters, but this reservoir has also the biggest variation in size going from 1 liter to 3 liters, with 4 different sizes in total. That means the Hoser can provide hydration no matter the length of your trek.

The Hoser follows a more versatile design than its Big Zip counterpart, sacrificing the ease at which to refill it by getting rid of the top zip and having a hook instead.

With this hook, you can attach the Hoser to anywhere on your backpack. So, if you need to make space in your bag, you can simply hook the Hoser on the outside and go on your way. This also makes for one of the best water bladders to strap to the outside of a bicycle when on a bikepacking trip, or fit it inside the framebag.

Unfortunately, like before, durability is where the Hoser seems to stumble slightly. With the bite valve occasionally being prone to tearing, it can ruin your trip and leave you in a bit of a lurch during a big adventure.

However, once again for short journeys or weekend trips it’s a perfect companion.

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Camelbak Cruz Reservoir

> Large liquid reservoir and able to drink more in one go
> Well designed and tested for leaks
> Made to endure high-stress competitions

Can leak at the base of the bladder and hose

At 3 liters, Camelbak Cruz holds enough fluid for any athlete to finish their event, however it also allows for 20% more water per sip, while utilizing an on/off lever to prevent leaks and loss of water during your adventure.

The design of the Cruz means that it is very easy to refill with a big leak-proof cap for easy opening and closing and a handle for easy grip. The Cruz also comes in two designs: the elongated one and the horizontal lumbar one for added support, so you are always ready to go.

Aside from being put through multiple stress tests by Camelbak, this bladder is made of a strong plastic and has been tested and used by countless people and athletes through the years.

Overall, this is one of the original water bladders on the market. It is still very strong and one of the best hydration bladders for backpacking or bikepacking.

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Buyers Guide

When looking at the various hydration bladders available, it was important to think about why people buy them.

Most people buy them for an outdoor activity that goes on for a long period of time, a hike, or a day-long cycle, for example.

Since water is so important in these activities, it is vital that a person’s water be readily available, unlikely to be lost, and to not become a burden to that person. With that in mind, the criteria were narrowed to 3 things that every hydration bladder needs.

Fluid Capacity

The amount of water each bladder can carry is hugely important, especially if you are engaging in rigorous activity. Long periods without enough water can lead to dehydration, confusion, and, sometimes, death.

Therefore, it is imperative that the bladder can carry the right amount of water.

However, variation in bladder sizes was also a factor, as the right size is important for the right circumstances, a large, heavy bladder would be too much for a short race and a small, light bladder would leave you dehydrated on a long hike.

Most backpackers including myself find the 2 liter versions to be best. The larger 3L versions are almost too big for backpacking, however, the 3L hydration bladders are great for bikepacking in the desert.

Gear Testing the Osprey Hydraulic Hydration Bladder on the CDT


A good design is absolutely necessary for a hydration bladder, a poor design can lead to many problems, with number one being loss of water.

If the bladder’s cap is letting water escape it puts you at risk of dehydration, similarly if the bladder is uncomfortable you may be unable to continue with your activity due to the discomfort.

As before, this extends to variation in designs, as people have ways to make their body comfortable, if someone has a bad back they may want a bladder that doesn’t put too much pressure on it for instance.

Likewise, if the bladder isn’t sitting right, it may begin to cause problems as well.


Considering that most people buying bladders are doing a form of strenuous activity, you want the bladder you buy to match in durability. If a bladder breaks during a particularly grueling workout, you will be left without water and potentially in danger.

The bladder needs to be able to hold under any stress the customer buying it can put it through and needs to keep functioning as normal.

It also needs to last a long time, as there may be a period where the bladder is not needed. If this happens, and it is left for say months, when it is picked up again it needs to work like it did before.

Testing the Camelbak Hydration Bladder in cold temperatures of the Sierra on Mt Whitney


In this article, we looked at the best hydration bladders currently on the market, at their capacities, their design, and their durability.

A bladder is an incredibly important piece of equipment for any hiking or backpacking trip, and it’s important that it can hold up to the rigors that an hiker could put it through.

With the options laid out in this article, your fears can be allayed, and you should be ready to take the treks, hikes, or desert roads you’ve always wanted to without worrying about water.

Overall the best water bladders are:

Frequently asked questions

What are good water bladders?

Good water bladders are ones that you know will hold a good amount of water, will be comfortable for you to wear for long periods of time, and will not break when you are using them.
The best way to find good bladders is by looking at companies that specialize in making them for sporting events or have been making them for a long time. These companies often have a reputation to uphold or an ideal they follow, and they will often provide the best quality product.

Are hydration bladders worth it?

Absolutely. A hydration bladder has all the benefits of a water bottle with few of the negatives. They are hands-free, and you don’t have to struggle to pull them out or to put them back in a backpack.
They are a less obstructive shape, meaning more free room in your backpack or bag. Also, they take up less space when they are empty and are malleable, making them easier to store and clean.
All round, I think hydration bladders are a huge benefit for the person using them compared to other means.

How do I choose a hydration bladder?

Think about what you are looking for in a hydration system. Does it need to be light? How comfortable do you need it? Will you use it regularly or only occasionally? Do you suffer back pain? These are all important questions that you need to ask before choosing.
Since hydration bladders act as additions to a backpack or use a backpack purposely to carry the bladder, it is best to look at it from the perspective of: what is the effect on my journey? And: what is the effect on my backpack?

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Best Hydration Bladders

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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