Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking and Backpacking 2024

Best Hydration Bladder

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This is a gear review about the Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking and Backpacking 2024.

Water Bladders that are carried inside your hiking daypack, ultralight backpack, or Mountain Bike Backpack are a great way to carry water. They are especially good when you need to access a large amount of water such as hiking in summer or hiking in the desert.

Keep reading to find out which one is best for you.

How We Tested

All the Hydration Bladders in this review have been extensively evaluated and researched by the expert author who has many years of experience in Thru-Hiking, Backpacking, and Hiking. Some of the Hydration Reservoirs were purchased by the author for this review. They have been rigorously tested by the author over a period of months on thru-hiking trails and backpacking trails. The research, testing, and experience of the author have combined to come up with the Best Hydration Bladders for 2024. Read the Review Policy for further details.

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Best Water Bladders for Hiking 2024

The Best Water Bladders for Hiking 2024 are:

Best Ultralight Hydration Bladder 2024

Hydrapak Contour

Hydrapak Contour Hydration Bladder

> Lightweight
> Reversible bladder for very easy cleaning
> A bite valve and shut-off valve make it leakproof
> Nice internal baffle to prevent the water from moving around inside the water bladder
> Not the cheapest

Hydrapak is a small company in comparison to others in the outdoor industry. They deal almost exclusively in hydration systems. The newly released Hydrapak Contour has firmly taken over as the best hydration bladder for 2024.

The Hydrapak Contour is a very lightweight hydration bladder that still is durable enough to take the punishment when out in the backcountry.

It uses a quality slide-top closure that is not only leakproof but opens up quite wide to make it easy to fill at most water sources. It also comes with an external carry handle which makes filling the bladder easier, especially in shallow streams.

There is a handy internal bladder that assists in preventing the water inside the reservoir from sloshing around. Hydrapak has made cleaning the water bladder easier than almost all the other models. No need to purchase specially-shaped cleaning frames or brushes. Just wash the bladder and turn it inside out to dry.

The quality self-sealing bite valve and a closure valve make double sure it does not leak. There is a magnet to attach the tube and bite valve to your backpack straps.

It comes in 2L, 3L, and a 1.5L lumber version that is designed to sit in the lumbar section of your pack which can assist with weight distribution inside your pack. My preference is the 2L hydration bladder.

Overall, the Hydrapak Contour is one of the best hydration bladders for any hiker, mountain biker, or backpacker. As one of the lightest hydration bladders that is not only light in weight but durable.

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Best 3L Water Bladder

Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir

Osprey Hydraulics Hydration Bladder

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

The Osprey Hydraulics Hydration bladder has been completely overhauled and updated. I used and tested the previous model of the 3L hydration bladder when hiking the CDT and tested it in the desert of New Mexico. I found during the testing that it was a strong, worthy water bladder for hiking in the desert with a good hose, a good magnetic bite valve system with a magnetic clip, and a good amount of water flow.

It was already very good, but now the upgraded version is better. With improved stiffness, easier filling, and a better leakproof bite valve.

The new Osprey Hydraulics hydration bladders have the largest range of sizes of any of the models in this review. With sizes ranging from 1.5L to 3L, including a 1.5L lumber bladder for those who like to carry low inside their backpack. These are the same bladders that are used in Osprey MTB Backpacks.

Even with the range of water capacity, the design of the hydration reservoir means it would easily slip into a backpack while taking up minimal space.

The Osprey Hydraulics is a durable hydration bladder. The updated bladder is primarily made of a strong, flexible plastic called thermoplastic polyurethane, meaning it will last for as long as you need and even beyond.

Overall, the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir is one of the best water bladders for desert hiking.

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Best Water Reservoir for Hiking

Platypus Big Zip EVO Water Reservoir

Platypus Big Zip 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 Platypus 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 hydration reservoir to mold to your backpack and your body.

Thanks to this flexibility, the Platypus 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, the Platypus Big Zip is a great water bladder for day hikes.

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Gregory 3D Hydro

Gregory 3D Hydro Hydration Bladder

> Easier to clean and dry than some of the other bladders
> Lightweight
> Durable
> Like many other bladders in this review it is prone to leaking

The Gregory 3D Hydro is one of the most popular water bladders for hiking in 2024.

The Gregory 3D Hydro is durable and able to withstand a bit more abuse than some of the other bladders. They are also quite light considering how solid they are.

They come in several size options including 3L, 2L, and a wider version of the 3L called the 3L Trek.

Probably the stand-out feature of this water reservoir is the way it keeps its shape when empty which allows it to dry. This is a great feature for those that don’t plan on using it on a daily basis. And it is one of the easiest hydration bladders in this review to use.

Overall, the Gregory 3D Hydro is one of the most durable water bladders on the market and well suited to someone wanting a durable bladder.

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Platypus Hoser

Platypus Hoser Water Bladder

> Good range of sizes and variations
> Versatile design
> Bite valve 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 Platypus Hoser has a fantastic carry capacity of 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 Platypus Hoser 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 reservoirs to strap to the outside of a bicycle when on a bikepacking trip, or fit inside the framebag.

Unfortunately, like before, durability is where the Platypus 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 Crux Reservoir

Camelbak Crux hydration bladder

> 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, the Camelbak Crux Reservoir 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. They also offer a smaller version which is right up there as the best 1.5L hydration bladder.

I used and tested this hydration system while thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I found it easy to use and the bite valve was leak proof. I did have some small drops of water escape from the base of the water bladder where the hose joins the bladder. A little bit of o-ring grease solved this issue.

The design of the Camelbak Crux reservoir means that it is very easy to refill with a big leak-proof bite valve and 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 strong plastic and has been tested and used by countless people and athletes through the years. Camelbak is one of the original names when it comes to hydration packs.

The hydration bladder opening means it’s not as easy to clean compared to a hydration reservoir with a larger opening. There are also some hydration bladder accessories such as a cleaning kit and a slip-on insulated tube so it can be insulated in hot and cold weather. The bite valve and quick release hose also work well.

Since using and testing the Camelbak bladder, I liked it so much, I bought a smaller second hydation bladder to use in conjunction with my favorite hydropak bladder on day hikes.

Overall, the Camelbak Crux Reservoir is one of the original hydration reservoirs on the market. It is still very strong and is a great hydration bladder for backpacking or bikepacking.

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Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir

Hydrapak Shape Shift Water Bladder

> Great leakproof valve system
> Simple and easy design
> Very sturdy
> Discontinued so not as easy to find

Hydrapak recently released the new Countour model which is the updated version of the Hydrapak Shape Shift.

I have been using this water bladder for several years on many hiking and backpacking trips. It is not so easy to get a hold of as it is now discontinued. So if you want a good hydration bladder at a good price then check it out while there are still some left.

Hydrapak has managed to produce some of the best hydration bladders. 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 Hydrapak 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 Hydrapak 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, it’s easy to clean and dishwasher safe. In fact, this is one of the easiest hydration bladders to clean.

Finally, we reach durability, and this is where the Hydrapak Shape shift shines. Being very flexible, it is incredibly sturdy and unlikely to break under pressure, so you can rest easy knowing it will last the whole trip. It comes with one of the best high-flow bite valves in the business with great water flow out of the valve and a great locking mechanism.

This is the current water bladder that I use when hiking and trail running. I have been using and testing this product for well over 3 years. And it still has several more years of use in it.

Overall, the Hydrapak Shape Shift is still one of the best hydration bladders for hiking 2024 and the current water hydration system that I personally use. As it is discontinued be sure to pick one up soon before they are gone.

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Tested the Osprey Water Bladder hydration system while thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail
Gear Testing the Osprey Hydraulic Hydration Bladder on the CDT

Hydration Bladder Comparison Table

BrandCapacity Valve TypeWeight
Hydrapak Contour Hydration Bladder1.5L, 2L, 3LSlide5 oz
Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir1.5L, 2L, 2.5L, 3LSlide8.3 oz
Platypus Big Zip EVO Water Reservoir2L, 3LSlide6 oz
Gregory 3D Hydro2L, 3LSlide6.5 oz
Platypus Hoser1L, 1.8L, 2L, 3LBite3.6 oz
Camelbak Crux Reservoir1.5L, 2L, 3LSlide7 oz
Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir2L, 3LSlide5 oz
Source: Manufacturers

Fluid Capacity

The amount of water each bladder can carry is hugely important, especially if you are engaging in rigorous activity.

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

Most water bladders come in a capacity of between 1.5L and 3L. A 2-liter hydration bladder is the sweet spot between water-carrying capacity, size, and weight. While I prefer a 2L water bladder when hiking in dry areas I much prefer 3L versions, especially when backpacking in the desert. But 3L can be too heavy and too much water for most hikes.

Fluid Capacity of Hydration Reservoirs


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

clip on hose tube on hydration bladder

Ease of Use

There are a couple of factors to consider with ease of use.

  • Easy refilling
  • Quality Bite Valves
  • Easy to clean

Easy to Fill

Screw cap lids are very easy to fill and are very familiar to most people. The zip lock style lids used to be a little more difficult to fill. But in recent years they have improved to the point that the zip lock style openings on the bladders are a much better option than screw cap lids.

Easy Fill Hydration Bladder

Bite Valves

The bite valve is arguably one of the more important devices on the bladder. It is the part that allows the water to flow into your mouth. There are a couple of different designs such as the twist-type valve which I love and the switch-type valve. Many also have a bite valve that locks off and prevents water from flowing out of the valve when not in use.

Twist Style Bite Valve

The twist style works well and is my preferred option as it is reliable and allows for a high-flow bite valve system. The water flow on these styles of valves is usually great. But I have found if you are hiking with kids they find this design difficult to use and it also means you might have unhygienic hands and fingers touching the bite valve. That is the big negative about these devices.

The Switch Valve

The switch style bite valve is the style used on Camelbak and this system also works well. It doesn’t feel like it has the same water flow rate as the other styles but it is simple to use and is a more hygienic option as dirty fingers don’t touch the same place as the mouth. It is reliable and works well.

Well used Bite Valves on hydration bladders
A couple of very well used valves on hydration bladders

Inline Water Filters

All hydration bladders will be compatible with some inline water filters. An inline water filter is a backpacking water filter that fits onto the water tube to allow you to fill the bladder with unfiltered water. As you suck the water through the bite valve it is filtered as you drink.

I’ve tried this method and find that while it works OK, you need to suck on the hose quite a bit more than without the filter. And you will need to clean the bladder more often as it gets coated with dirt and slime.

Hydration Backpacks

Some of the hydration packs above can be purchased with specific Hydration Backpacks. These are usually smaller in size and best suited to short day hikes or trail running.

Most day hiking backpacks and Backpacks for Backpacking are water reservoir compatible so the hydration bladders can be safely placed into an internal hydration sleeve inside the backpack. Most backpacks also have an exit hole for the tube and some even have a plastic clip for the drink tube on the shoulder harness. Maybe it is a good idea to look for a hydration bladder-compatible backpack when you are next looking for a pack.


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 hard workout, you will be left without water and potentially in danger.

The hydration pack needs to be able to hold up under any stress you put it under. All the items in the review above are solid with a durable bladder, strong hydration tube, and bite valve. Nothing worse than when you notice the bladder leaking all over the rest of the contents of your backpack.

The bite valves are the weak point on many of the water carriers and are replaceable if needed. Having said that I would not expect the bite valve to fail.

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

Be aware that when using the hydration bladders in cold weather it can cause the water to freeze and can break the whole system. Frozen bite valves are a particular issue that you need to try and avoid.

Testing and using the Camelbak Hydration bladder while thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Testing the Camelbak Hydration Bladder in cold temperatures of the Sierra on Mt Whitney


For the most part, a hydration bladder will be heavier than a water bottle. So if you are a weight conscious backpacker then these may not be for you. Having said that, if you are carrying 3 x 1L water bottles, these might add up to a heavier option than 1 x 3L hydration bladder. Ultralight thru-hikers will usually only consider an option like this when hiking in the desert regions. Which is what I’ve done on most of my desert thru-hikes.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Cleaning the hydration bladder is a necessary chore that needs to happen from time to time. For most bladders, it is as simple as using mild soapy water and a dish brush to clean and flush the system. A mix of bleach and baking soda also makes a good cleaning solution.

A hydration pack that has a wide opening zip lock style closure or fold-over closure is easier to clean than those that have a screw top lid.

Be sure to clean all three sections, the bite valve, the bladder, and the hydration hose with mild soapy water to prevent bacteria growth. Ensure it is flushed with clean water to remove any soap. Also, make sure it is air-dried.

When it comes to cleaning some are able to be turned inside out and placed in a dishwasher but be aware that not all hydration packs are able to do this.

When you buy a new hydration bladder it is a good idea to give it a thorough cleaning and flush clean water through the system to remove any plastic taste that seems to be on most new products.

The Gregory 3D Hydro and the Hydrapak are some of the easiest to clean due to the design that keeps the water storage section open when it is empty. This makes it easy to clean and easy to air out.


While even the best hydration bladder is not cheap, it is not that expensive either. Sure, you could carry water in recycled and repurposed water bottles that are either cheap or free but they will not give you simple access to water in the same way. One thing to consider with the cost is that these hydration bladders can be used in multiple backpacks from daypacks, backpacking packs, mountain bike backpacks, and trail running packs.


Overall the best water reservoirs for hiking in 2024 are:

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

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Frequently asked questions

What are good water bladders?

A good water bladder is one 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 negatives. They are hands-free, and you don’t have to struggle to pull them out or 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 around, 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?

Read More:

Best Hydration Bladder for Hiking and Backpacking
Best Hydration Bladders

BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

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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 Chile.

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