Best Hydration Bladder for Rucking

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Have you ever had a water bottle leak into your hiking rucksack, making the entire contents of the bag wet?

Have you ever wished that you could have a water source available while running without having to tote around a heavy, sloshing water bottle? Wouldn’t it be simple to sip out of a straw while exploring rather than having to stop and mess with water bottle caps?

A good hydration bladder is a ruck march essential – almost as much as your boots or your rucksack.

Source Tactical Gear Widepac Low Profile 3-Liter Hydration Pack, Foliage

If you are tired of these scenarios, then you are in luck. A device called a hydration bladder can eliminate all of these pesky situations while freeing up your hands for outdoor activities and providing you with ultimate hydration.

Why is this bladder the best for rucking?

Durability – The material used in these are thicker than that used in your average bladder. It is not uncommon for these to outlast by several years competitors such as CambelBak.

Modularity – Being able to part out the bladder is a huge plus. You can change the valve and hose, for example. We do recommend that you upgrade to the bite valve from Source.

Refilling by just unplugging the hose and taking out just the bladder makes it convenient so you don’t have to unthread the hose from the pack.

Covered Valve – There are all sorts of situations where having the covered valve of the Source bladder pay off. For example, when laying the ruck down in the sand or dirt, setting it down for a quick break, or throwing it into the back of your car. Having a covered drinking valve helps keep the valve from leaking or getting dirty.

Fit – The Widepac fits perfectly into the GORUCK bags as well as most day pack or assault pack sized rucks.

We do recommend you upgrade to this bite valve for the most convenience (the Widepac only comes with a push-pull valve.)

Source Tactical Exclusive Helix High-Flow Bite Valve with Minimal Bite Pressure (Black)
  • Helix Bite Valve: provides high water flow with just a soft bite at any angle; sophisticated spring sealing mechanism prevents leaking even under high pressure.
  • Safety lock: twist-lock for complete shut-off during transport or storage.
  • Dirt-Shield: protective cover keeps valve free of dirt, sand, dust, and pollution.
  • Design: Easy assembly and disassembly of drinking valve for cleaning.
  • QMT: QMT quick connector with auto-sealing mechanism for easy connection of Helix Bite Valve to any SOURCE Drinking Tube featuring QMT.

What is a Hydration Bladder?

Hydration bladders are simplified water reservoirs with a spout-like attachment that allows individuals to wear their source of water on their back while having easy access to hydration. As a system that functions like a backpack, the CamelBak was the original hydration pack and was often used by soldiers and avid outdoorsmen.

Popular by demand, hydration bladders began to evolve and became available by many different manufacturers. Boasting various price-points, hydration bladders made their way from specialty stores to chain retailers. One might say that they have come a long way from the IV bag in a tube sock, as the original design stood (

Anatomy of a Hydration Bladder

Each type of hydration bladder is comprised by 4 main components: an internal bladder that is used to store water, an outer shell that keeps the water cold and allows the bladder to be worn, a tube that draws the water from the bladder towards the user, and a mouthpiece that controls the flow of water into and out of the transfer tube.

Manufacturers play around with different types of textiles, straps, bladder material, and cooling features in order to develop various unique layouts. In order to choose the best option for oneself, it is important to consider the activities that it will be used for and the needs of the wearer. There are many options that are available to participants of every sport including hiking, running, cycling, and hunting.

Once you have decided on the type of bladder you want, it is a good idea to get some input from an expert on fit and sizing. Depending on the activity you are using the hydration bladder for, you may want more or less support. Typically, the size of a hydration bladder is based on the torso length of each individual. However, for specific activities you may be advised to size the bladder based on a snug grip on the hips. Women- and youth-specific versions are typically available to provide shorter and narrower dimensions for a better fit.

Why use a Hydration Bladder?

One of the main benefits of using a hydration bladders is its hands-free feature. With a soft structure that forms to the spine curvature of the wearer, it is lightweight and ergonomic. When the bladder is empty, the bladder takes up minimal space and can be folded, rolled, and/or stored away for convenience.

Hydration bladders are increasingly sanitary and can be thoroughly cleaned as opposed to other hydration options. In fact, by simply scrubbing a the bladder with dish soap and hot water and then leaving it to dry your hydration bladder is clean and ready to use on your next adventure. No specialized cleaning products or complicated processes are required (

Features of the Best Hydration Bladders

Many bladders are now available in various capacities. From 5 liters to 20 liters, there is a bladder option for every user. However, keep in mind that the large the volume of water the bladders holds the heavier it will be when full. Common bladder sizes are as follows:

0.5 liter or less (16 fluid ounces or less)

This option is great for walking or running. A waistpack that is accompanied by one or two water bottles is the typical setup.

1 liter or 1.5 liters (32 or 50 fluid ounces)

This size is good for both adults and children. If you want something that you can just shrug on for a quick bike commute or short hike, this would be a good choice.

2 liters or 2.5 liters (70 or 85 fluid ounces)

The most popular reservoir size. This option boasts a reasonable amount of weight/bulk while also providing an adequate amount of water that will only require intermittent refilling.

3 liters or more (100 fluid ounces or more)

Made for those who don’t like to frequently stop to refill or require more water intake, this larger option is ideal. This type of bladder is also good for individuals who will be hiking or exploring where water sources may be scarce.

Minimalist designs that eliminate wasted space, interchangeable hydration tubes, bite valves that reduce or eliminate leaking, BPA-free components, and wide openings for easy cleaning are some of the most desirable features of modern hydration bladder designs.

Hydration Bladder vs Water Bottle

When considering the investment of a hydration bladder there can seemingly be a few cons. For example, it will have to be cleaned out after each use and they are more costly than bottles. However, the long-term benefits of utilizing a hydration bladder over a water bottle far outweigh the negatives.

In general, bladders hold a larger amount of water than any other comparable bottle. This is made possible by the wearable design of a hydration bladder. They are also easier to carry, especially when running, hiking (especially with children), and carry other items. An easily accessible spout allows users to stay constantly hydrated with smaller sips of water, eliminating the sloshing feeling of water in the stomach.

Hydration bladders are also more friendly to the environment. The amount of plastic waste is reduced via discontinuing routine use of plastic bottles, and the hydration packs quickly pay for themselves in this aspect. While other stainless steel bottle options are available, they are seldom lightweight enough to carry around while filled with liquid.

Alternatives to Hydration Bladders

Bladders are the most convenient way to hydrate -they also have great capacity.

But, an old fashioned canteen or water bottle is an option too.

You can store those using a variety of MOLLE compatible water bottle holders.

In Conclusion

Overall, hydration bladders are just more convenient than any other hydration option. They are economical, environmentally-friendly, easy to use, and hygienic. With options available for everyone in your family, hydration bladders provide a universal way to stay hydrated while on-the-go.

For more beginner ruck advice – see rucking for beginners guide.


Camelbak. World Wide Web. “About us.”

REI Co-Op. “How to Clean a Hydration Bladder.”

Last update on 2023-09-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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