If you’re the adventurous type whose hobbies include scaling mountains and hiking, then you know the importance of packing all essentials before an adventure. And nothing could be more important than hydration, especially if you’re engaged in rigorous outdoor activities! That’s when hydration bladder comes in.

Image used under Creative Commons from Paxson Woelber

Hydration bladders are portable water reservoir that you can tote around in your backpack for a worry-free adventuring! But because there are many factors you need to consider to find the right product for you, here’s our review:

The Best Hydration Bladders for Hiking

Image
Name
Pros
Cons
Bottom line
BONL Hydration Bladder
BONL Hydration Bladder
  • Micro ban anti-bacterial material
  • Dual-opening design
  • Holds 2 liters of water
  • Durable construction
  • Not 100% leak-proof
Camelbak Antidote™ Reservoir
  • Comes in 3 sizes: 1.5 liters, 2 liters, & 3 liters
  • Low Profile fit
  • Quick Snap Cap for faster filling
  • Quick Link system
  • Not 100% leak-proof
Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir
Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir
  • Wide-mouth opening with Slidelock feature
  • Sleek, low profile design
  • Taste-free, BPA free material
  • Silver ion treated material
  • Quick-release hose and shutoff valve
  • Reported quality issues
Aquatic Way Hydration Bladder
Aquatic Way Hydration Bladder
  • Holds 1.5 liters of water
  • Durable construction & compact design
  • BPA-free, food-grade material
  • Advanced leak-proof technology
  • 100% Money-back guarantee
  • Weak water flow

BONL Hydration Bladder

BONL Hydration Bladder
BONL’s hydration bladder is a water bladder made from micro ban anti-bacterial material for safe water drinking. It features a dual-opening design (screw cap and sliding opening) to customize water drinking too! According to the brand, this product could be the most rigid of all hydration bladders on the market. We agree that the product is indeed rigid and durable so there’s no fear that the material will break down from frequent use. We also loved the mouthpiece and hose connector, which made water flow very smooth. These components feature a patented design that prevents leaking.

BONL’s hydration bladder comes in two colors (blue and emerald) and each one can hold up to 2 liters of water. While this product performed exceedingly well, we did notice slight leaking when kept in the backpack after filling the hydration bladder completely. Also, the water bladder tends to “sweat” when filled with cold water. For this satisfied customer, the BONL’s hydration bladder is the perfect hydration bladder on the market:

I took this backpacking for 6 days in Yosemite and it performed perfectly! The insulated tube is a nice touch, plus the top opening is perfect for cleaning! It fit perfectly in my 65L Mountain Hardware backpack’s hydration bladder slot which no issues at all. The locking mechanism on the mouthpiece is also a nice touch. It means that you needn’t worry about it flapping about dripping water.

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Camelbak Antidote™ Reservoir


Camelbak’s Antidote™ water reservoir is a hydration bladder that comes in 3 sizes (1.5 liters, 2 liters, & 3 liters) and features an advanced air-tight fill port for reduced weight and bulk. This is a sleek hydration bladder with a low profile fit that will save you plenty of space in your bag. The Antidote™ water reservoir also comes with a quick-snap cap that seals the liquid in completely, making filling a breeze.This product also boasts of the brand’s Quick Link system that lets you switch out different hydration bladders effortlessly. We love that the Antidote™ water reservoir comes in a large size so you can pack more water without wasting precious space in the bag. Also, the quality of this product is very impressive plus it’s easy to clean.

However, when you fill the hydration bladder completely, it will leak slightly. We feel that the issue is due to the twist-lock cap, which doesn’t put enough pressure on the cap to seal the liquid in when the product is filled completely with water. Still, this Amazon user says the Antidote™ water reservoir is one of the best hydration bladders he ever used and loved its performance during a marathon:

I love the Camelbak products. This is my third bladder now. The quality is really great and I absolutely love the quick release button on the hose; makes it very easy to clean everything out.

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Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir

Platypus Big Zip LP Reservoir
Platypus’ Big Zip water reservoir is a sizable hydration bladder that comes with a wider mouth opening for easy cleaning and refills plus a cap that locks securely to prevent leaks. It features a low profile design that sits flat in your pack, saving you space in your bag. The brand also guarantees that the material is 100% taste-free and BPA-free.Big Zip water reservoir is also treated with silver ion to keep the water tasting fresh for longer. The quick release hose and shut-off valve are easy to operate, offering smooth water flow when in use. This product comes in 3 sizes: 1.5 liters, 2 liters, & 3 liters.

While the Big Zip water reservoir is one of the highest rated hydration bladders on the market, some users are complaining about the overall quality of the product. Some say the components are rather flimsy while others claim their Big Zip water reservoir was prone to leaking. Our only gripe is that the opening can be a little too stiff so drinking is cumbersome when you’re not used to it. Minor issues aside, this user says his search for the perfect water bladder ended with the Big Zip water reservoir:

Best of the best–I’ve used them all and this one is PERFECT! The Playtypus Big Zip LP Reservoir, 3-Liter is about as close to perfect as a hydration system can get–and yes, I’ve used them all.

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Aquatic Way Hydration Bladder

Aquatic Way Hydration Bladder
The Aquatic Way hydration bladder is made from premium quality, food-grade material that’s BPA-free, pressure tolerant and virtually life proof. This product utilizes the advanced leak-proof sealing tech to ensure a leak-free, wear-proof use every time. We love how thick and durable the material is and the large opening for easy cleaning. The soft mouthpiece is also a nice touch, which by the way, is treated with anti-microbial treatment for safe and effortless sipping.For a hydration bladder, this product is surprisingly packed with innovative features! The Aquatic Way hydration bladder also features a temperature tolerant insulation tube that won’t fail during hot and cold weathers. The thermal tape at the ends of the insulated tube is designed to present insulation from sliding and wearing off. This product also comes with a quick-release mechanism and auto-shut off valve. This product also gets brownie points for offering 100% money back guarantee.

As for the downsides of using this product, water flow is so much less than expected because the auto shut off feature inhibits a much smoother water flow. Also, the water developed a slight plastic taste during the initial testing but this went away as we continued with the testing. Minor issues aside, the Amazon reviewer recommends the Aquatic Way hydration bladder and gave the product 5 stars:

Let me start by saying these were excellent! The bags are soft and flexible, but appear to be pretty tough. The opening is large and the bag is well balanced if you hold the plastic ring around the filler neck. You can easily get 2L in and avoid air pockets that will lead to “sloshing” while walking. The insulation on the hose was a nice feature.

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Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Hydration Bladder

Water bladders are handy water containers that lay flat so they are easy to carry. These products are designed to provide access to water outdoors. Although hydration bladders are a relatively new concept, they do come in various types and finding the right water bladder for you will depend on your needs. Below are the most important factors you need to consider before purchasing a hydration bladder:

Size and Compatibility
You want to make sure the hydration bladder you got will fit in your backpack. Hydration bladders usually come in a similar flat shape but the size will vary a little bit. Generally, water bladders are available in 1, 2, or 3 liters. We’d recommend the largest hydration bladder available just so you can pack more water before a rigorous activity.

Profile
Hydration kidneys are extremely thin when empty but become fatter on the sides when filled with liquid. Some products are fatter than others when filled. If possible, go for a hydration bladder with a built-in sleeve so you can see how wide or narrow the water bladder is. Ideally, go for water bladders that are long and narrow when filled so they don’t take more space in your backpack.

Opening
There are three different types of water bladder openings: fold top, zip top, and screw top. Our advice is to for the kind of opening that makes cleaning easier for you. Although water bladders do not require frequent cleaning, mineral and sugar residue do build up inside the hydration bottle over time. So the narrower the opening is, the harder it is to clean. Opt for water bladders with a wider opening, those that can be disassembled during cleaning so it’s much easier to remove unwanted buildup inside the product.

Pressurized or Not Pressurized
Some water bladders are pressurized, others aren’t. The concept behind pressurized water bladders is to make water drinking much easier between sips without sucking the hose. A pressurized water bladder has two chambers, one for the air and the other for water. This product utilizes a pump that you can blow up to create pressure. On the other hand, non-pressurized water bladder has only one chamber.

Hose Compatibility
Go for hydration bladders with a quick release mechanism in a vertical orientation to save more space in your backpack. This way, the hydration bladder will be easy to use and even easier to clean. Also, these products make replacing the hose and bite valve much easier, which is a plus for the uninitiated.

Image used under Creative Commons from Your Best Digs

The Dangers of Dehydration during Hiking

Hiking is a physically demanding activity that’s why it’s important to stay hydrated at all times. The high altitude exposes the body to decreased pressure and this makes breathing harder. When the body is not getting enough oxygen, there is an increased gas exchange and water vapor gets lost in the process, forcing the body to work harder and deeper to breathe.

The most common signs of dehydration includes:

  • Dry mouth, lips, and nose
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Deep, rapid breathing
  • Rapid, weak pulse of 100bpm at rest
  • Dizziness and feeling light-headed

If you don’t drink water even after experiencing these symptoms, the signs will progress to:

  • Sunken, dry eyes
  • Blue lips
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscles cramping
  • Painful kidneys
  • Confusion

Unfortunately, it’s so easy to forget about hydration when the mind and body are distracted when engaged in a physically demanding activity. One way to prevent dehydration is to carry enough bottles of water to get you through any adventure. That’s why a hydration bladder works best if you’re hiking because this water reservoir is portable and lightweight. You can take it anywhere so you don’t forget to drink water whenever!