Any time a box of gear lands on your doorstep, you get a bit excited. Just recently, a box full of hydration bladders landed on my doorstep to run through the review gauntlet. There was one from the market standard, Camelbak, called the “Antidote”, one from Osprey called the “Hydraform”, a clear bladder from Platypus called the “Big Zip SL” and one from the new kid on the market, Geigerrig, simply called the “Hydration Pack Bladder”.
(L-R Giegerrig, Platypus, Osprey, Camelbak)
I’ve been using hydration bladders now for over 10 years starting with a bladder from MSR, then moving over to a Camelbak after my pack got stolen, then a Platypus Big Zip SL once my Camelbak was ruined by leaving a flavored beverage in it. Since I started hiking with hydration bladders, I don’t see myself going back to bottles alone, as it’s the surefire way for me to stay hydrated.
At the end of the day, however, a bladder is a bladder right? I mean, sure, there are a few subtle differences between them such as shape, flow, color, etc, but is there really a big difference? Well today, I put them to the test to find out. I reviewed them based upon five criteria:
- Ease of filling (water, ice cubes, powder, etc)
- Ease of filling on the go (from little trickles of streams, with filters, etc)
- Water accessibility
- Ease of cleaning
- Use in high aerobic activities
Below the video is a text version of the review…
Camelbak Antidote (www.camelbak.com)
- 100 0z
- Screw top opening
- quick release hose
- unique feature: built in drying structure
Osprey Hydraform (www.ospreypacks.com)
- Screw top opening
- fixed hose
- unique feature: rigid body with handle
Platypus Big Zip SL (www.cascadedesigns.com/platypus)
- Ziplock bag-type opening
- Quick release hose
- Unique feature: clear bladder
Geigerrig Hydration Pack Bladder (www.giegerrig.com)
- Fold-over top
- Quick release hose
- Unique feature: pressurized system, ability to turn inside out
How easy is it to fill?
The Camelbak was easy to hold and had a nice opening easily fitting water and ice cubes, however, the way that it folded under the plastic handle might cause a little bit of work for adding powdered drinks. The Osprey was easy to hold, fill from the tap and easy to put in powdered drinks. The Platypus takes a bit of holding properly, but once it does, it is easy to pour in water, ice and powdered drinks, but it can get a bit squirrelly if you’re not careful making this great and terrible all in the same sentence. The Geigerrig is very similar to the Platypus in having to squeeze the sides to get it to open, however, the design allows it to open easier and is easier to hold, although the grip won’t be as great as the first two bladders that have plastic handles.
How easy is it to fill on the trail?
The Camelbak, the Platypus and the Geigerrig all make it easy to get out of your pack while keeping hoses routed in your pack because of the quick release hoses. If you have a water filter that has a quick release hose on it, all of these become a breeze to refill without having to mess around with trying to balance the bags, unlike the Platypus with its fixed hose. The one that really stands out here is the Geigerrig. Being a pressurized system, it can be used with an inline filter allowing you to scoop up unfiltered water with the bag, hold the bag under a trickling stream, etc and filter as you drink, minimizing the need for extra equipment and a pool of water big enough for a filter to be placed in.
How easy is it to get out?
As far as drinking out of tubes, the Platypus has the least amount of flow, followed by the Geigerrig, while the Osprey and the Camelbak have the greatest flow. One advantage of the Geigerrig, is that it is pressurized allowing you to share it with friends without others sucking on your nozzle. If you need to fill a pot from your bladder, the Geigerrig can also be used without even taking it out of your pack! The other bladders require you to either squeeze the bladder to force water out the nozzles or pour through their openings. Because the pressurized system is so easy to use, you’d be more likely to use it as a way to rinse off your body, gear, wounds, etc whereas the others might be capable of spraying with squeezing, but because of the effort involved, it doesn’t seem likely.
How easy is it to clean?
The Camelbak is easy to clean as its opening is large and you can reach down to the bottom very easily. The rib in the middle that is used to aid in drying makes cleaning a bit harder as you have more surfaces and just gets in the way. The Osprey was a bit harder to clean because of the opening and rinsing out the soapy water was terrible. Because it doesn’t have a detachable hose, you will constantly fight the hose as well. Also, the Osprey has a sort of canvas type back to it that takes forever to dry unlike the other bladders with their plastic bodies. The Platypus had a smaller opening (to be fair, we tested the 70oz and their 100oz opening is bigger) making getting to the bottom a bit of a pain. The Platypus has a clear bag, so it is easy to see inside to make sure you get it all cleaned out and no frills internally makes it easy to rinse and pour. The Geigerrig is unique here as it can be completely inverted and allows you to even put it in the top rack of the dishwasher making it hands down, the easiest to clean and dry.
How does it fare in high aerobic activity?
The Camelbak and the Osprey both have excellent flow which allows you to consume large quantities of water, fast. The Platypus was stingy on the flow and would be fine for most backpacking, but not great as a trail running bladder. If you like to spray water into your mouth (think like a water bottle), the Geigerrig stands alone. I usually don’t drink that way and found the supplied nozzle to be a little less than the Camelbak and the Osprey.
While loading is great for the Osprey, I would definitely pass it over for the other bladders. I have been a die-hard advocate of the Platypus, but the upgrades to the Camelbak may have me changing my tune for a traditional no-frills water bladder. I really like the ideas behind the Geigerrig and think the implementation is sound. It can do things that the others can’t because it’s pressurized and can be completely inverted for cleaning. The downsides to the bladder are that it remains very large while pressurized consuming quite a bit of pack space and the pump mechanism is another hose and another part you takewith you.
After letting the water sit in the bladders overnight, I went ahead and tasted to see which bladders had flavored the water and which ones didn’t. All of the water in the hoses was flavored, but once you got into the reservoir water, only one bladder didn’t flavor the water… the Platypus. The material they use is definitely different than the others and it shows up in this test way ahead of the others.