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Survival & Bug Out

8 Tips to Buying the Best Hydration Bladder

You need water. Whether you’re the fittest person on earth, or the sickest, everybody needs water. It doesn’t matter whether you are sitting at home reading a book or out hiking a 20-mile trail. You need to consume water and having the best hydration bladder by your side, will make things so much simpler.

As I’ve stated many times before, the human body will die without water within just 72 hours. That’s not a lot of time when you are caught in the middle of a bug out.

Remember that old adage about time moving faster when excited? A disastrous event has a habit of increasing your excitement level and that’s when time seems to fly the fastest.

But having the best hydration bladder in your backpack will make the journey so much easier, if you do your homework now. Understand what things to look for in a hydration bladder, and ensure it provides you with proper hydration, no matter where you are.

Text area which says "8 Tips to Buying the Best Hydration Bladder," followed by a photo of a man in a forest drinking from a hydration bladder

In this article, I will show you 8 specific things you should look for to ensure you buy only the best hydration bladder for you and your family. They are key identifiers that will make all the difference once you’re out in the field.

What Options Are There to Carry Water?

Many products exist with a single purpose. To provide its user with enough water in any given situation. Water comes in many forms and I’m not talking about some science lesson here. What I mean is that it’s stored and carried in many different ways.

  • Water Bottles
  • Water Filters
  • Water Purifiers
  • Water Emergency Packs
  • Hydration Bladders
  • Water Skins
  • Water Buckets
  • Water Barrels
  • Water Drums

Those are just some of the ways people carry water around. While many of them are nothing more than containers, others serve a greater purpose, such as making the water safe to drink or even making it more easily accessible.

A hydration bladder is one such item, popular with hikers, walkers, riders and those looking for a simple and easy way to carry and access their water supply.

While some of the above examples are great for holding vast quantities of water, they are too heavy and cumbersome to carry for long stretches of time. Others don’t hold enough water, which leaves you needing to either carry more or refill often.

What is a Hydration Bladder?

A well-researched hydration bladder will serve a number of purposes. While some bottles only hold half a liter of water, a hydration bladder can hold 1, 2 or even 3L of water.

Bottles are either handheld or kept in your backpack. Each time you want a drink, you need to pause and retrieve your bottle from your bag. This can lead to a lot of wasted time, especially if you’re riding a bike.

A hydration bladder has a water reservoir and a hose fitted to the bottom of it at one end and a mouthpiece at the other. You drink from the bladder at will, simply biting on the mouthpiece to allow water to pass through it.

The reservoir opening is normally wide enough to allow proper access to it. This is useful for cleaning and drying the chamber to avoid mold and mildew growing in it.

Hydration bladders are great because they allow you to continue doing whatever you are doing without needing to stop to access your water. Keep walking, running, riding or whatever else and slip the mouthpiece in and bite.

These types of bladders save time and effort, giving you the freedom to continue with whatever you need to.

Some Examples of Hydration Bladders

Below are a small number of hydration bladders for you to consider. They are perfect examples of how these devices help you when you have more important things to worry about, like distancing yourself from any possible disaster aftershocks.

Example #1: WACOOL 3L 100oz BPA free Hydration Bladder

Photo of Wacool hydration bladder

What I like about this hydration bladder is it’s huge 3L holding reservoir. While it does weigh a little over 3kg, it’s worth knowing you have an ample supply of fresh water with you. The water is also 100% odorless and tasteless.

A well-designed bladder, sealed with double-soldered edges to prevent leaks. It uses military-grade insulation and its interior is almost as smooth as glass to reduce sediment.

It’s classed as BPA-free and this ensures your water tastes the way it should and not with that horrible plastic taste often associated with plastic containers.

=> Check it out on Amazon

Example #2: CHERAINTI 2L Hydration Bladder

Photo of Cherainti hydration bladder

Another well-designed and thought out hydration bladder. The large opening is there to allow for proper cleaning between uses and the reservoir uses high-quality BPA-free materials that ensure a crisp clean taste.

It has the auto shut off valve for when you remove the hose, and the hose is also wide enough to provide a proper flow of water. The hi-flo bite valve has a dust cover and the overall look of the pack speaks volumes towards its quality.

=> Check it out on Amazon

Example #3: PLATYPUS Big Zip Water Reservoir

Photo of platypus hydration bladder

One of the best names in the industry also provides one of the best products. This is a premium product with all the features you’d expect from such a well-known brand, but without the price tag.

A secure slide-lock system provides easy access to the interior, allowing for regular cleaning. The water tastes clean and fresh, thanks to its good use of quality materials. There’s a unique center baffle used, which allows the pack to remain relatively flat in a backpack.

=> Check it out on Amazon

Example #4: SPORTSTRAIL Hydration Bladder 2019 Design

Photo of sportstrail hydration bladder

Available in 1.5L, 2L and 3L models, this military-grade hydration bladder uses BPA-free material, ensuring fresh, clean water every time. The upgraded design includes a center baffle, attached head-puller and an upgraded CLICK-IN tube with the usual on/off bite valve.

The bladder is perfect for whatever sports or activities you’re into, providing a convenient way to carry a substantial amount of water with you. The wide opening is perfect for easy access to clean or for adding ice-cubes to your water supply.

=> Check it out on Amazon

What Things to Check for in the Best Hydration Bladders

There are quite a few things to check before buying your own hydration bladder. The first thing you’ll want to do, though, is to check what weight you think will be suitable for you to carry. While I might really prefer the 3L sizes, I don’t find them too heavy for me. You, however, might struggle with them after a while.

Try filling a couple of plastic bottles with water, up to each bladder size, then walk around with the bottles inside a backpack. It’s important to understand the weight requirements first and foremost, because if you select one that’s too light, you may do yourself an injustice. Yes, I said too light.

Choosing a 1L bladder when you can comfortably carry a 3L bladder means you’ll be refilling a lot more often. Remember that even with a 3L bladder, you don’t always have to fill it to the very top.

It might be more useful to buy a higher-capacity bladder and use it accordingly. Check out some of these specifics you’ll want to take into consideration when choosing the best hydration bladder available.

Item #1: The Reservoir Material

Nothing will matter to you more than the taste of the water you put into your hydration bladder. And nothing will affect that taste more than the material used in the actual reservoir itself.

That’s why knowing what the material is before you buy, will make all the difference. The other thing you don’t want is material made with plasticizers to make the bladder soft and pliable.

These chemicals are toxic and can lead to poisoning. While many manufacturers mention that their products are BPA free, you’ll also want to make sure they are BPS-free and Phthalate-free.

Manufacturers use plasticizers to increase the pliability of reservoirs as well as the transparency of them. These often lead to nasty additives to any water you add to them and making you sick when using the bladders long term.

Don’t be afraid to conduct some thorough research on your product, considering you are ingesting the water going into it.

Item #2: Taste

While on the subject of taste, other than the reservoir, there’s another piece of your bladder that will affect the taste. 2 of them actually. The rubber hose that runs from the reservoir and the mouthpiece attached to the end of it.

Both of these pieces use rubber and plastic and both will no doubt, affect the taste. Although manufacturers will often claim that their products are completely taste-free, those with sensitive taste buds will always find a little unpleasant taste associated with brand new plastic products.

The best way to remove the unpleasant taste is to thoroughly clean your reservoir, hose and mouthpiece with vinegar and baking soda. Make sure you rinse all the pieces with clean, fresh water to remove any aftertaste from them.

Item #3: Cleaning and Drying

Regardless of how clean the water is, the fact is, there will always be bacteria and germs living in it. And unless you are trying to create a perfect environment for them to grow, then you’re going to have to clean your bladder thoroughly.

The only way to do that effectively is to buy a hydration bladder that gives you easy access to all the components, including the inside of your reservoir.

You need to be able to access every part of your bladder, including getting a cloth into every corner of the reservoir. All the moisture needs removing, to prevent the build up of mold and bacteria.

Item #4: Capacity

There are many sizes of bladders available. While some of the larger ones might seem to be more practical, consider how you will be using yours. Is a large 3L capacity going to be practical if using the system for marathon running?

Think about how much water you will consume during your activity and then compare it to the many sizes available. With the larger capacities, the size will come into play and you’ll need to weigh up how it will fit into your current set-up.

Item #5: Mouthpiece

The mouth-piece on any hydration bladder will be a make or break object. Not only do you need one that is comfortable to use and easy to access the water with, but it also needs to hold the water safely when not in use.

Cheaper hydration bladders will sometimes use less-than-perfect materials for constructing bits and pieces. Some mouth-pieces have a propensity to fail after several uses by leaking after being bitten a few times.

Other mouth-pieces may not work unless bitten a specific way, too much pressure or at a weird angle that feels wrong. The entire set-up can hinge on whether you feel comfortable using the mouth-piece or whether it leaves you frustrated and wet from a leaky valve.

Item #6: Opening

There is no single way to access the inside of the bladder’s reservoir. While some manufacturers elect to use simple screw caps, others prefer a sliding-lock system like Zip-Lok. While both systems work, it may come down to you and your needs.

Will you be jumping, climbing and hanging upside down with the bladder? A screw cap may be the better option in that case. But how good are you with fiddly caps? Some screw caps take a little more effort and calm fingers to get them just right, otherwise cross-threading may happen.

For me personally, I’ve always preferred screw-tops. I just take a little more care when closing them. When done right, they provide a good, clean seal without the risks of accidental leaks.

Item #7: Hose

The hose is another important part that you’ll want to put consideration into. It takes time to thread the whole set-up into your chosen backpack. And once in place, the last thing you’ll want to do is undo it all.

But for some, that is exactly what their bladder requires, to painstakingly unpack the whole thing and start again every time they need to refill the reservoir.

They could have avoided the whole frustration by looking for a hydration bladder that uses a quick-release hose. These are as simple as snapping off and snapping on, letting you remove the rest of the bladder quickly and easily, without all the rigmarole of unwinding the hose again.

When researching quick-release hoses, make sure they guarantee to seal shut when removed. The last thing you want is a leaking end that spills water into your bag. There’s always going to be a little leftover inside the hose. With the right equipment though, it may avoid unfortunate flooding entirely.

Item #8: Layout

This last one is more for those needing to store the bladder in a backpack. Some will come ready to be used as a backpack, complete with straps, etc. While others will need storing in a backpack, together with the rest of your belongings.

The layout will affect how the bladder sits in the bag. In this case, you need to consider whether the bladder is flat-packed or whether the reservoir has baffles.

Baffles will reduce all the water from sitting in the bottom of your bag, keeping the bladder upright and suitable for storing flat against one side of your bag. This helps with increasing the storage space available, once a filled bladder is thrown in.

If everything is sitting just where you like it, then it’s a perfect fit for you. Other questions to ask yourself include whether the hose is long enough. And, whether the bladder sits comfortably inside your chosen backpack.

Final Thoughts

As with everything purchased online these days, the best way to start any research is to look for both positive and negative reviews. Too many people look at the number of reviews without going into the finer details of them.

While some products might have thousands of reviews at a 4-star average, you may find that the 100 people who left a 1-star review were all hikers like you. They found that the reservoir, hose, and mouthpiece would make the water taste very plasticky after holding water for several hours.

Unless you looked into the reasons for these reviews, you’d never know, assuming it was a great product with such a high star average. Research needs to be specific, especially with products that serve more than one type of customer.

Prices for the best hydration bladders range from very cheap to very expensive and everything in between. I have always believed that you get what you pay for.

With these products holding a valuable resource that you’ll be ingesting, ensure you confirm that it is constructed from food-grade plastics and built to verifiable standards that are deemed safe in your country.

Discover more water conservation tips here: 6 Tips to Conserve Water for Survival