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Whether you are cycling or trekking, there is one thing that most sports enthusiasts and athletes do not ever go without: water.
Of course, we all have to drink a certain amount of fluids every day but everyone who is doing regular sports to keep fit and healthy needs much more water than the average.
Whenever we speak to hobby athletes, we get to hear the same reason why they do not drink enough water.
It’s simply not convenient to carry a big water bottle and even get it out of the bag every few minutes.
That’s why, most sportsmen opt for a hydration bladder, or also called a hydration pack.
With these handy products, you can keep your hands free and you don’t need to interrupt your workout.
Compared to the average water bottle, they also distribute the water that you carry in your backpack much better creating more stability.
This is especially important when you’re cycling where balance is essential.
With the huge rise in popularity of hydration bladders, we just had to try a few, and here are the hydration packs that we found to be the best in our test.
Hydration bladders are extremely useful when you want to focus on your workout.
We had a closer look at some of these popular products, and how they help you stay hydrated.
We better admit right from the start that this is our favorite, but don’t let this put you off from looking at some of the others because even this hydration pack has its shortcomings.
With a capacity of around 7.1 ounces, the Gregory 3D Hydro bladder allows you to take plenty of water with you on the go.
We found the easy-to-use design and durability especially convincing. It’s made from a soft yet thick polymer which makes it immensely resistant to punctures.
With a specifically designed body-length handle, it doesn’t lose its rigidity when you fill it up, and the screw-top lid keeps all the water safely inside.
When we took this out for a hiking trip, we were surprised by the excellent flow rate, and if your backpack has a magnetic chest strap, then you can attach the hose, so it doesn’t move around.
A great benefit of this hydration bladder is that you can take it fully apart.
While this makes it easy to fill, it is still difficult to get into the body of the bladder and clean it with a brush because the lid is relatively small.
You can buy the Gregory 3D Hydro on rei.com.
With this hydration bladder, you get the best value for money. It’s an affordable option, yet durable and lightweight.
The flow rate is just as good as the Gregory 3D Hydro. However, we noticed that there is no locking mechanism on the bite valve.
This means that the pack can be a little leaky when it is full and it moves around in your backpack.
Unfortunately, there is no option to change the bite valve, so if you do decide to give this hydration bladder a go, then try not to fill it up too much and keep it relatively steady on your back.
You can buy the Platypus Hoser from usoutdoor.com.
Just from looking at the HydraPak HydraSleeve, you can tell that this hydration bottle has an insulative tube cover that keeps your water cool.
You can remove the bladder inside, and put your own 3L hydration pack in. The insulation tube fits almost any bladders of this size.
You can also use the bladder on its own without the sleeve. However, the cover is extremely handy, if you are out hiking in very hot or cold weather.
It keeps the water from either freezing or getting too hot.
Despite its many positives, there are also quite a few disadvantages with this bladder as we found out in our test.
The quick-connect system at the bottom of the pack needs regular cleaning because it can get sticky after a while.
One of the biggest issues we found however is that the tube of the bladder pops off now and then when you try to remove the hydration bladder from the sleeve.
This then spills the water.
Saying this, this only happened when we tried to take the bladder out of the cover, and never on its own when it was still inside.
You can buy the HydraPak HydraSleeve from hydrapak.com and Amazon.
With a 3-in-1 closure lid, the MSR DromLite bag keeps your valuable water safely inside the bladder and makes sharing the water easier than other closing mechanisms we have seen.
The biggest advantage of this hydration bladder is that you can not only use it as a drinking bottle, but you can also turn it into a shower or handwashing station.
This lightweight and packable hydration reservoir has seen some steady improvements over the past years.
Its tough polymer can take a little bit of rough handling, not just inside your backpack but also just on its own.
Unfortunately, the MSR DromLite has a relatively wide profile which means that you cannot get it into the average-size sleeve.
You can buy the MSR DromLite Bag from rei.com or msrgear.com.
Hydration bladders are extremely useful when you are out and about, and you just want to keep your hands free.
Some of the bladders we tested were so versatile that you could even use them as a shower.
Whether you are hiking, cycling or running, hydration bladders have many great advantages over standard water bottles.
But what is a good hydration bladder? What do you need to look out for when buying your hydration system?
Here are some of our top tips for purchasing a hydration bladder that works for you on your adventure.
The majority of hydration bladders are made of a polymer or a polymer mix. When it comes to material, you need to make sure that it is tough and durable.
After all, you do not want to puncture the bladder and end up with a water leak inside your backpack.
The material also affects how long your hydration bladder will last.
Although this depends on how often you use it, a good hydration bladder made of the right material can last a number of years, with good care.
In addition, the material also impacts how flexible the hydration system is.
When you are out and about, you want to carry as little as possible, and you want to avoid any rigid bottles that do not just add to the weight of your backpack but also make them awkward to carry.
Make sure that your hydration can be rolled up easily, so then you do not use it, or if you just use half of the capacity, you can save space in your bag.
Much of the quality and durability of a hydration bladder depends on the material and how it has been designed.
A bladder should last for many years, no matter where you take it.
Whether you are trekking through the snow in freezing temperatures or you are running a marathon through the desert, your hydration system should be resistant to punctures and anything that you throw at it.
When you are on the go, you want to carry as little as possible. Water is one of the heaviest loads that an athlete carries with him.
Water can weigh around two pounds per liter.
When you then add the weight of the hydration bladder, you are suddenly carrying quite a lot (just to keep you hydrated!).
A good hydration pack will be lightweight, and still, allow you to fill a large amount of water.
In addition, the bladder should be flexible enough to roll up when you do not use it.
Another thing that you need to look out for when buying a hydration pack is the locking mechanism.
The lock and valve keep the water inside the bladder without any leaks.
Plus, a good locking mechanism will also allow you to drink from the pack with ease and you will be able to care for it easily.
One of the key factors for the locking mechanism is the water flow.
The mechanism shouldn’t be too complicated to get water out but it should also keep it securely inside.
A good hydration bladder commonly uses a tube with a large diameter and a high flow valve.
This allows enough water to come out at a steady speed.
This one goes hand in hand with the locking mechanism. You do not just want to get water out, but it also has to be very easy to fill your bladder up.
Ideally, you will need a sturdy handle at the top that allows you to carry and hold the bladder when you fill it up.
Additionally, the construction of the bladder should be quite sturdy, so it isn’t too floppy when filling.
There are typically two types of fill-up mechanisms, either horizontally or vertically. We found that both can work very well.
How exactly you feel more comfortable filling up your hydration bladder is up to you but it’s good to make sure that it is quick and easy
Together with the weight and packability, size is another important consideration when buying a hydration bottle.
They come in many different sizes but ideally, you want your bladder to be as small as possible when empty.
The exact size you want when full depends on its filling capacity, and how much water you want to carry with you.
Most hydration bladders allow you to carry a minimum of three liters. This should allow you to drink plenty of water during a day trip.
The price of hydration bladders can vary a lot, depending on the material and quality. It’s worthwhile checking any reviews for a bladder that you are interested in.
They will give you a good understanding of whether the bladder is good value for money.
Generally, the more expensive a hydration bladder, the more durable, but we found that even some of the cheaper hydration packs can take a rough beating and they are just as puncture-resistant as some of the branded products.
That’s why it’s a good idea to take a close look at the features and spend a little more if you know that you will be using your hydration bladder regularly.
This may not be a deciding factor for everyone, as not every sports enthusiast is out and about in all weathers.
However, hydration packs with a protective insulation sleeve or cover can keep your water at a steady temperature.
This is especially important when you want to keep the water inside your hydration bladder from freezing.
While the insulation will not fully prevent water from freezing in extremely cold temperatures over hours, it can stave off some of the worst.
Not all hydration bottles come with an insulation sleeve, so you will likely have to buy them separately for the size of your bladder.
Luckily, many hydration packs do fit the standard sleeve size, but it’s important to make sure that the sizes match.
Hydration reservoirs need regular maintenance and care to keep any bacteria growth at bay and make sure that the water inside your bladder always tastes fresh.
There are a few things to consider here when it comes to caring for your hydration pack.
For example, is the lid opening big enough to get inside the bladder with a brush to give it a proper scrub?
We found that some openings of different bladders are too small to get a brush or anything sufficiently large inside for cleaning.
However, some of them could be flipped inside out, so you can clean the inside much easier.
In addition, it’s also a good idea to look out for how easy it is to disassemble the mouthpiece and tube, as they will need a thorough cleaning regularly.
Another thing to bear in mind is the material, and how well it deteriorates.
A cheap material will wear very quickly with regular cleaning, so look out for a high-quality polymer.
While hydration bladders look very simple, they can really transform your workout routine and how you keep yourself hydrated during training.
You do not have to get your water bottle out every minute, and you do not need to carry around an awkward weight.
When buying a hydration bladder, check out our top tips in the buying guide above, and you’ll quickly find the pack that works for you.
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