Alright, we’ve talked about the two most essential hiking gear: a good pair of hiking boots or shoes and hiking socks.  Now let’s talk about one of the best hiking purchases I have made: my Osprey’s Three Liter Hydraulics Reservoir.
IMG_2425I remember clearly my first hike — I was huffing and exhausted and all I wanted was water, gallons upon gallons of it.  At the time I was only carrying water bottles so I had to pause every few minutes to drink, making my beginning hikes quickly summarized like this: Walk, walk, walk.  Pause.  Get my water bottle from my pack.  Catch my breath to drink.  Unscrew the water bottle.  Drink.  Screw the lid back on.  Put the water bottle away.  Then repeat.  And repeat a lot.  So much so that I felt guilty by how much I was stopping those with me.  That’s when I realized I needed — desperately needed — a hydration bladder.  Cut to now — True, I’m not a beginning hiker anymore, but darn it!  I still like to drink tons of water and drink it easily, which is why my hydration bladder is with me on every hike, long or short.

  • Pros
    • This bladder has never leaked, which is a real accomplishment.  I’ve had it for over a year and a half and really tested it too — shoving it in full packs, taking it in and out of packs constantly, using it on every hike — and it is still just like new.   I will say, too, Andy started with a different brand bladder but his leaked immediately; right after that, he also got Osprey’s three liter bladder and also has never had a problem.
    • Osprey finally makes bite valve covers!  Bite valve covers are awesome because any and everything cling to the rubber bite valve.  (For instance: Load your pack in the car?  Grim from the floor, seat, or trunk get on the valve.  Put your pack down while hiking?  Dirt, leaves, and sticks cling to it.  It’s not hard to clean off [just squeeze the bite valve and clean it with the water that comes out]; however, it is unsanitary and annoying to have to do that every time.)  Be warned though: Like most companies that sell hydration bladders, the bite valve cover is not included and is an extra $6.00 a piece!
    • The quality of the bladder is great — It is lightweight but thicker material than other brands (which may be why it hasn’t leaked).
    • The hose is really close to the bottom of the bladder so there’s practically no water pooled at the bottom that I cannot suck up.  There is a larger space from bottom-of-bladder to hose with other brands.
    • The bladder is super easy to clean and dry.
    • The backerplate makes it easy to take in and out of packs.  Many other brands do not have this.  The backerplate also makes the bladder more stable and protected.
    • Osprey has a great guarantee of any reason, any product, any era.  With something like a bladder that could leak and be done for, this is really reassuring.  Plus, their employees are super nice and want to help.

 

  • Cons
    • Largest con: When hiking in cold temperatures, the water freezes in the hose.  I think this is more an Osprey pack issue than a hydration bladder hose issue; none-the-less, it bares saying because I’ve been out in below-freezing hikes, taken one sip of water with my bladder, gone to get another drink moments later, and the whole thing is frozen.  If this was the only water source you had, no water equates to danger.
    • Osprey’s bladder is a bit more pricey than the other brands (yet keep in mind, there is a guarantee).  Standing at $42 for the three liter, it is an investment for only water storage.  Top brands like CamelBak, Hydrapak, Platypus, and more offer comparable bladders that are less than or in the $30-range.
    • Andrew says there is a rubbery taste every time he drinks from his bladder; however, I either don’t notice it or I’m not bothered.  Admittedly, I feel a rubbery taste is far better than the metallic taste many say other bladders have.
    • Osprey does not offer an insulated bladder.  Competitors do and, to be honest, this is only a few bucks to ensure your water stays cold (which is one of few welcomed luxuries you may want on the trail).
    • While this is not necessarily a knock against Osprey’s bladder, there is little design innovation that sets it apart from other brands.  I believe if a company wants to be the best, it has to surpass the best.  Saying that, Osprey would stand out in comparison to other companies if they provided the following:
      • A water gauge to show how much water is left.  On backpacking trips, I find myself worrying about running out of water.  Futuristic-talk here, but it would be awesome to see how much water is left on a gauge . . . as long as it doesn’t increase pack weight much!
      • An alternative free-flowing valve to quickly release water for uses such as cooking.
      • The bite valve cover.  I recognize other brands do not include this with their bladders; however, other brands bladders are also less expensive.  Osprey could still make a profit including these covers with the bladder for $42 or $45.  Honestly, I think this could even increase sales too.

 

  • Rating: It scores  IMG_2397IMG_2397IMG_2397IMG_2397 out of Five Vistas
    This is ignoring the innovate designs that could make every bladder on the market better because, put simply, Osprey’s bladder is still a top product.
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We had run out of water so once we found a stream and filtered it, I was gulping my fill from my bladder before I even put my pack back on.
  • Tips when tracking down your own hydration bladder
    • Read reviews to determine if people say there is an aftertaste.  Loads of people have ruled out certain brands because metallic, chemical, or rubbery aftertastes are so strong.
    • Read reviews also to see if people have experienced leaks. I’d stay away from the product if multiple people make the same report.
    • Determine what size you want.  I personally love my three-liter because I don’t have to stop as often for water fill-ups on backpacking trips. Plus, I use the water not only to drink but also cook with and clean the dishes.  Realize though a larger size does mean you will carry more weight, and hikers love to say, “Water is weight,” meaning it is the heaviest thing most carry.
    • Definitely pick up a bite valve cover.  I know — It’s annoying to have to spend about $6 on such a small item but, trust me, it is a purchase you’ll want the moment dirt-and-all-else cling to your bite valve.

 

  • Why you should consider a bladder
    Many people do not trust bladders because they leak and this is a serious concern because bladders can be your sole source of water.  However, I am pro-bladder for the following reasons:
  •  Bladders make your hikes more efficient.  They can basically be summarized like this: Walk, walk, bite the valve and drink water while you walk, walk, walk.  Repeat.  Simple.  Don’t be like me in the beginning because I struggled.  Plus, if others are with you, everyone does not have to stop each time you drink and heck, for this reason, alone hikes are more efficient too.
  • I feel mine keeps me more hydrated because water is easily accessible.  More hydration, always a good thing.

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Happy trails!

2 thoughts on “Gear Review: Hydration Bladders

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