Outdoor activities are something all of us here enjoy. They are fun and beneficial for both mind and body. Of course, in order to enjoy them fully, we must think in advance about certain things and plan it out carefully. One of the most important things to think about is water. Having fresh water is very important on any type of outdoor adventure. Whether you’re going hiking, camping or mountaineering, you need to bring water with you.
If you’re active and constantly on the move, a water bottle won’t be the best solution because you’ll need to stop to take a drink. Hydration bladders were invented for this reason. They are practical, compact, and allow you to drink while on the go. There are many benefits of owning one, as you’ll see. We have reviewed various types in our hydration bladder reviews, to try and make your choice easier. If you want to learn how to pick out the best hydration bladder for your activity, be sure to read our buying guide below.
How To Choose A Hydration Bladder – Buying Guide
The function of a hydration bladder is pretty straightforward – it works as a portable water reservoir with a hose and a valve, designed to conveniently hold water which you can quickly and easily drink. However, there are some differences between products, especially in terms of size and design. Take a look.
Capacity and Size
While there are some exceptions, the majority of hydration systems have a 1L, 2L or 3L capacity. Each size has it’s ups and downs, and the choice depends on what your needs are and how you’ll use it. The smallest one is best for short trips, when you want to keep your pack light, or you know you’ll have a water source where you can re-fill the bladder. The two-liter version is an excellent choice for hiking, as it should cover most of your daily water needs.
A three-liter bladder or larger is recommended if you’re summer hiking and therefore sweating more, or if you take part in an intense activity and you require more fluids. It’s also a good choice if you’re going on a long hike and don’t know where and when you’ll be able to re-fill your water supply. All drinking bladders are similarly shaped, but the dimensions aren’t the same. Before buying, make sure it can fit inside your backpack.
Hydration reservoirs are made from lightweight materials, and on their own they don’t really weigh that much – only a few ounces. They won’t be a problem even if you’re conscious about weight and carrying a lightweight backpack. Of course, the water inside the bladder adds to the weight, so the extra weight depends on bladder capacity and whether you fill it up or not.
When you decide to add a hydration bladder to your equipment, you should certainly get one which won’t be a health hazard (after all, you are using it for drinking water). Even though more and more attention is focused towards using safe and tested materials, there are still ones made from plastic toxic to humans. The material used should be free from BPA and phtalates, which are known to be harmful. Some materials have been inspected by the FDA and got their seal of approval, which can give you some peace of mind when it comes to safety.
The most common materials used for making hydration bladders are polyurethane (PU, TPU) and polyethylene (PE, PEVA). These are good choices because they are strong, hold water well without leaking but are still flexible. However, some products are better than others in terms of seals and thickness. You don’t want the bladder leaking, and low-quality material may be one of the culprits (if it gets punctured by something inside the pack). Finally, some bladders have an antimicrobial coating added, which is a big plus since it prevents bacteria from reproducing inside.
This is a feature which determines how easily you’re going to use your new hiking water bladder. A hiking bladder can either have a slide opening or a screw top. A slide opening has a clip which slides over the opening to secure it and keep the water inside. Underneath the clip, the bladder can either be similar to a Ziploc bag where you press it shut, or the top folds over itself before you put the clip on. The slider type (wide opening) is better for cleaning and drying, and sometimes also for filling up.
The alternative is a screw top opening. It’s a more secure solution because there is a smaller chance of leaking, for example if the bag flips upside-down inside the backpack. On the other hand, it can be more difficult to clean, especially in cases where the opening has a small diameter. You won’t have an easy access for your hand or the opportunity to flip it inside-out, meaning you will have to use brushes to reach difficult spots.
A hose transfers water from the bladder to your mouth, and as such it must be high quality too. They are usually made of rubber, and it’s a big advantage if they give you a good flow and are easy to clean. When buying, you should pay attention to the connection between the hose and the bladder. The best water bladders come with quick-release hoses, where you can detach it with a push of a button. This is very handy, because the hose can remain threaded through your backpack while you remove just the bladder to fill it up. There should also be a self-seal on the hose opening, so the bladder doesn’t leak when the hose is removed.
Alternately, you can get a screw-on hose which has an O-ring to prevent leaking. This is also nice, but there is a bit larger risk of leaking if you don’t tighten the hose properly. Some hydration systems have hoses which are pulled over an extension on the bag itself, but this isn’t very secure. If you practice cold weather hiking, your water can freeze when exposed to low temperatures, especially inside the hose. For this reason, some manufacturers sell insulated hoses to prevent this. If you have a regular one and worry this might happen, you can blow back into the hose after drinking to push the water back into the bladder and reduce the chance of ice blocking the system.
A good mouthpiece (bite valve) greatly determines the comfort when using a hydration bladder. It should be simple to use and give you a good flow of water. On the other hand, it should be completely tight and leak-proof when not in use. While size is pretty standardized, there are still some differences between mouthpieces. Larger valves may feel awkward to use, but will give a better flow. It’s the opposite with small ones, so you should get a product you feel comfortable using.
To use the bladder, you just bite down on the mouthpiece and suck on the hose until the water starts flowing (or it flows freely if you have a pressurized bladder). In addition, mouthpieces often have some kind of locking mechanism, to stop the water from accidentally going out, which is a plus.
Many users complain about the weird taste their water has when they start using a hydration bladder. This may come from either the bladder or the hose, because of the materials used. As we mentioned, make sure they are safe and non-toxic when buying. You can have a weird taste even if they are safe to use, in which case you need to clean it thoroughly as we’ll explain later. Also, in addition to being new, a bad taste can also form as a result of poor product hygiene.
If you want you bladder to be pleasant to use, you need to clean it properly. Some products are much easier to clean than others – for example bladders which have a wide opening, because you can easily put a brush inside to scrub them. Some can be turned inside out for better access, while some are even dishwasher friendly. We often find it tiring to clean the bladder, so buying one you can wash quickly is a big plus. Always wash and dry it before storing, especially if you used it for anything besides water (drinks that contain sugar). Doing this will prevent mold, mildew and bacteria, as well as the weird smells and taste.
Pressurized vs Non-Pressurized
These are two basic types of hydration bladders available on the market. Non-pressurized are more common, and it’s the one we mostly discussed so far. You have a single chamber (which holds water) and you need to suck on a hose to get the water to flow. On the other hand, a pressurized bladder has an air chamber too. You get a hand pump to pump the air inside, and in turn it puts pressure on the water chamber so water flows freely. It’s a bit more complicated mechanism and somewhat more expensive, but it may be great for some people, especially when there’s need to pour or spray the water.
There us a large degree of mutual compatibility between components, even if they come from different manufacturers. You can buy a bladder you like, and then put a different hose on it if you don’t like the one that came in the package. However, pay attention to the orientation of the hose as well as the connection system. Most are vertical with quick-release systems, but there are some exceptions. It’s also important that your backpack or hiking daypack is compatible with a bladder – it will make everything much easier. Your backpack should have a separate compartment (or sleeve) for the bladder where you can secure it in an upright position and thread the hose through a special port.
How long your new bladder will last depends on two things – materials used to make it and the way you take care of it. Even if it means spending a bit more money, you should get a top rated water bladder which won’t be easily punctured by the content of your backpack, and won’t burst after a few uses. Furthermore, if you clean it regularly you will stop microorganisms from colonizing it and it will remain pleasant to use for a much longer time.
Q: What Are The Benefits Of Hydration Bladders?
A: These products are exceptionally convenient for outdoor enthusiasts. This is perhaps the easiest way to stay hydrated, which is very important for your health and well-being. You can take a sip whenever you feel like it, without needing to reach into the pack and grab a water bottle. It’s not just about practicality – a hydration bladder also saves space in your backpack (compared to water bottles), and they become even smaller as you empty them. You can also get a special hydration backpack, which was designed to work with hydration pack bladders and offers high functionality. However, keep in mind that these are often very small and you won’t be able to pack much additional gear to take with you.
Q: What Size Hydration Bladder Should I Buy?
A: This mainly depends on how much water you need to bring, and how much space you have. However, keep in mind that the weight difference between sizes is almost insignificant (when they are empty of course). Because of this, it can be a plus to go with a bigger hydration bladder. You don’t always need to fill it up to the top – you can have a 3L bag and pour a single liter of water if you’re going on a short hike. But the versatility allows it to hold more water if you’re going on something more demanding. If you want to learn how to best keep yourself hydrated, follow up on our article on hiking hydration.
Q: How To Clean A Hydration Bladder?
A: Good hygiene is an important part of owning a bladder. It will get moldy if you neglect it after using it, and will pretty soon become useless. After each use you should drain it, wash it, dry it and then store it. The easiest way to thoroughly clean it is to soak it in a solution of water and bleach or baking soda. After you’ve drained it, add hot water and bleach or baking soda, close the bag and shake it to mix everything. Open the bite valve manually to let some of the solution through the hose, and then leave everything for at least half an hour. Afterwards, drain it and rinse it.
After this, you can use a mild detergent and a brush if you need to scrub it. Rinse it thoroughly and leave to dry. You can put a paper towel or a rag inside to retain its shape and allow air circulation. When it’s completely dry, close it and pack it. Instead of baking soda or bleach, you can use products like denture cleaner tablets, lemon water of white vinegar to sanitize your hydration bladder.
Q: Can I Drink Other Liquids Besides Water From My Hydration Bladder?
A: Basically, you can drink other things too, but you must be careful. Sometimes the manufacturer specifies which types of drinks should be poured inside. In general, you should avoid fizzy drinks because they can damage the bag. Your best bet is to use it for water only, because then you can get away with just rinsing it off when you get home (instead of fully cleaning it).
However, many hikers like to add electrolytes or drink energy drinks on the trail. This is a risk because some of these have added sugar, which is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. If you do this, be sure to thoroughly wash the bladder when you get home. Furthermore, some drinks are strong (teas or spirits for example) and can leave a residual taste in the bag, which you will have the next time you use it.
Q: Where Should I Store The Hydration Bladder When Not In Use?
A: As we mentioned, you need to make sure there isn’t any moisture left when you store it, because this will result in mold. As for storing location, many people like to keep their bladders inside a freezer. You can roll it up and put it inside, and this completely prohibits bacterial growth between uses. If you don’t have enough space in your freezer (or just don’t want to keep it there), you should keep it somewhere completely dry.
Globo Surf Overview
Proper hydration is very important for our health, and it becomes even more so when we engage in physical activities outside. We must have adequate water intake, and hydration bladders solve this in a most convenient way possible – you can drink without making a stop. As you had the opportunity to see, bladders are fairly similar but there are some differences. Selecting the best water bladder depends primarily on your taste and needs, but we hope our buying guide helped you make an easier choice. Have fun on your adventure and stay hydrated!
More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:
- Backpacking Stove
- Backpacking Food
- Backpacking Sleeping Bag
- Hiking Pants
- Trekking Poles
- Down Jacket
- Backpacking Sleeping Pad
- Lightweight Backpack
- Hiking Sandals
- Hiking GPS
Have you tried a hydration bladder that made it onto our list? Was the size good for you? Was it easy to use and clean? Please share your experience with us in the comment section below.
Globo Surf Hydration Bladders Reviews