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My Life Outdoors

Hydrapak 3L Hydration Bladder – Review

When I was a little I loved to take straws from restaurants and attach them end to end to make one long epic straw. I don’t know what the fascination was, but it seems to be a pretty universal one. I have seen countless children, in countless restaurants making the same types of straws. Then you have crazy straws that loopy loop or form glasses or other crazy shapes. There’s just something about long straws that captivates the little kid in us. Maybe that’s why we like hydration bladders. In essence they are just really long straws.

Hydrapak 3L Bladder

The first and only hydration bladder I have ever owned is Camelbak. I actually own several and they have served me well through the years. But I recently had the opportunity to try a different hydration bladder called Hydrapak. It was my first time to see and use features another brand had to offer. And I was impressed with what they had come up with.

Hydrapak 3L Bladder

Even though Hydrapak graciously sent me a bladder and 17 liter Laguna daypack, I opted to just review the Hydrapak 3 Liter bladder. I had a backpacking trip planned to the Capitan Wilderness in New Mexico and decided to use the Hydrapak instead of my trusted Camelbak. One of the favorite features of my Camelbak is my filter adapter that allows me to fill my bladder without taking it out, or even opening my pack. If I am running low on water all I have to do stop at a steam, pull out my filter and pump straight into the drinking tube. When I first decided to take the Hydrapak I started to see if I could rig my filter adapter on their tube. Which would work but not with their bite valve. Since the bite-valve was part of what I would be reviewing I had to leave the filter adapter at home. So for the first time in a long time I found myself pulling my bladder completely out of my pack to refill. But when I did I was surprised.

The Hydrapak has a quick release or “Plug N Play” connector where the tube connects to the bladder. This allowed me to quickly release the tube and pull the bladder completely out of the pack leaving the tube with the pack. Once the tube was released the bladder stayed completely sealed even under pressure. The connector looks a lot like the connector used on my filter adapter. I decided to give it a try and found they were compatible. It wasn’t as convenient as pumping straight into the drinking tube, but it wasn’t as hassling I thought it was going to be.

Hydrapak “Plug N Play” connector with Camelbak filter adapter.

One of first things I noticed about Hydrapak was the unique opening. Camelbak (as well as other bladders I have seen) all have screw top closures. But Hydrapak, has a fold over closure similar to a dry-bag. To close and seal the bladder you simply fold the bladder over once and slide the clip over the fold to hold it tight. One of my frustrations with Camelbak is how hard it is to open and close the bladder’s lid. Like trying to open a stubborn new jar of pickles. But the Hydrapack is very simple and easy to use and is water tight even with a over stuffed pack applying pressure on the seal.

Hydrapak Opening
Hydrapak Opening
Hydrapak Opening

Another interesting feature, but one I didn’t find much use for is the “shape shift” low profile baffle. The Hydrapak has a single baffle down the center of the bladder that can be disconnected to allow more water, or reconnected to keep the bladder small. The baffle connects and disconnects much like a ziplock bag. But when I did try to connect the baffle I found it extremely hard to do so. I had to reach into the bladder with my dirty grubby hands to get the zip started. Then I tried to continue zipping the baffle outside of the bladder but could only zip it half way. After a few minutes of messing with it I gave up.

The bite-valve is different than others I have used. The valve forms a circle around a small plastic center. When you bite, the rubber becomes oval shaped allowing water to pass on either side of the plastic center. Despite their claims for a “high flow valve” I found myself sucking hard to get the amount of water I felt I needed. When out of breath hiking up hill the last thing you want to do is suck hard for water.

Hydrapak Bite-valve

Despite what seems like a low flow I did like the twist shut off. Half of my Camelbak bladders have shut off valves and half don’t. If you have ever hiked with a bladder that doesn’t have a shut of valve then you know how easy it is to accidentally pinch your valve and lose all your water while simultaneously getting your gear wet. The fact that all Hydrpaks come standard with a shut off valve is a nice feature.

The Twist Shut Off Valve. The cap is part of the Performance upgrade
Standard Hydrapak tube and the Performance Upgrade tube. The Performance upgrade is an insulated tube with a valve cap. 

All in all I really like the Hydrapack. I think it will become my primary bladder with one small adaptation. I am going to swap out the bit-vavle for my standard camelbak valve with water filter adapter. I give the Hydrapak bladder four out of five stars with the only negative being the low flow bite-valve. With the hybrid between the Camelbak valve and the Hydrapak bladder, its a solid five stars.

Would you like to win a Hydrapack with a 17L Laguna daypack? You can right now as par of our Outdoor Winter Giveaway. Simply use the raffelcopter interface below and you can win this and a ton of other great gear.

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  • Kevin Smith

    November 17, 2012

    Thanks for the review but I'll stick with my filter and litter bottle. a little more weight but in my mine any way more reliable.

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