Hydration bladders, sometimes called water reservoirs, are becoming increasingly popular for hikers, cyclists, and other adventure-seekers due to the convenience they offer. Although they come in different volumes, the 3-liter reservoirs are more versatile because you can fill them up fully or halfway, depending on your hydration needs. They are ideal for long excursions such as hiking and backpacking, where the fill-up points are further apart.
What is the Best 3L Hydration Bladder?
Hydration bladders allow you to drink water on the go without taking up too much space in your backpack. Although most people know bladders for hiking and backpacking, they can also be useful in the work environment, such as in professional photography. If you are looking for bladders with a lower capacity, you can check out my article on the best hydration bladder.
I list some of the best 3-liter hydration bladders in the market that you can buy and answered some of your questions in the FAQ section to help with your decision-making later on in the article.
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Like most Platypus products, the Big Zip water reservoir features a polyethylene construction that offers taste-free water for your outdoor adventure. This 3L hydration bladder comes with a secure slidelock function which offers secure closure while remaining easy to open.
The zip opening is wide enough to allow you to use cleaning brushes or add ice cubes while the pinch grip makes it easy to fill the bladder using only one hand. The quick disconnect drinking tube enables easy access due to its high mount position and allows a high flow of water due its large size and fast flow valve.
- Features a fast flow bite valve,
- Shut-off valve to prevent leakage,
- Has embedded silver-ion to prevent mold and bacteria,
- Quick disconnect drinking tube,
- Wide zip opening for easy cleaning
- Bite valve may leak
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Capacity: 3 Liters
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The hydrostatic backer plate gives this bladder a low profile structure that makes it easier to pack into a hydration pack. The hydraulics reservoir is made with a robust and flexible BPA/PVC-free TPU film with welded seams to improve reliability.
The Osprey 3L Hydraulics reservoir comes with a slide-seal opening that is wide for easy cleaning, while the TPU handle and Pour Shield feature make it easy to refill this bladder using only one hand. This reservoir is also available in the 2L and 3L models with a TPU construction.
Lastly, the reservoir design includes a carry handle to hold the reservoir when cleaning and filling. It also features a magnetic clip to attach the drinking hose to a sternum strap, a detachable hose, and a twist/turn bite valve.
- High flow twist/ turn bite valve,
- Wide top opening for easy cleaning and filling,
- Detachable hose with fast water flow,
- Magnetic clip secures hose to the sternum strap
- Ensure a few rinses in advance to rid of plastic aftertaste
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The Marchway Hydration Bladder features a TPU material construction that is flexible and cold-resistant. The TPU hose is insulated with a waterproof neoprene sleeve to keep the water from heating in hot weather, although it may freeze in extremely cold temperatures. The hose is also notably long at 40 inches and fits better on hydration packs than shorter hoses.
The bladder features a 2-inch screw cap opening that ensures convenient filling. However, some users may find it harder to clean the bladder compared to a slide seal opening. It also comes with a baffle to maintain its flat profile and also prevents water from sloshing around.
Marchway is the best budget hydration bladder on this list and is compatible with most hydration packs. The company also offers a 90-day money-back guarantee and has excellent customer service when it comes to handling complaints.
- Quick release drinking tube for easy filling,
- Features a detachable fast flow switch valve,
- Long insulated drinking hose,
- Features a dust cap to keep the bite valve clean
- Gives water a plastic taste
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The WACOOL 3L Hydration bladder features two opening options with a slide top opening and a screw cap. The slide top opens wide to make it easier to clean and dry the bladder, while the screw cap opening allows you to fill the pouch fully. The reservoir also features double soldering sealing and a 0.6mm thick lining that makes it rigid to withstand a pressure of up to 60kg without leaking.
Made with BPA (bisphenol A) free EVA material, this bladder is lightweight and durable. Although EVA is not as flexible as TPU material, its rigidity gives the bladder a naturally flat profile. On the other hand, the reservoir comes with a pull/push valve that is typically harder to use than the alternative. However, it gives you a higher flow rate which also makes freezing the hose more unlikely.
- Comes with a 4 piece cleaning kit,
- Extra thick lining to tolerate pressure,
- Double opening design,
- Features a high flow pull/push valve
- Leaky screw cap,
- Inaccurate measurement marks on the bladder
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The Thule Hydration pack is a premium quality 3L pack that comes with a 1.75L water reservoir. Its design features a low center of gravity for even weight distribution and side panels to ensure maximum comfort.
The hydration backpack features a lightweight and well-ventilated Nylon material construction. The main storage compartment comes with pockets to help you keep your things organized, while the side panel pockets are great for stashing quick access snacks.
This pack is the best premium choice as it is a complete hydration system complete with a bag and water bladder. The Hydrapak bladder features a slide top opening for easy filling and cleaning, while its baffle split prevents sloshing and maintains a flat profile when full.
- Magnetic mechanism keeps the hose secure on the strap,
- Comes with a sternum strap for increased comfort,
- Features a zippered pocket for essential items,
- Tail light for safety when cycling at night
- Comes with a 1.75L reservoir
Unique features such as the embedded silver-ion antibacterial feature and the fast flow bite valve on the Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir puts it at the top of my best 3L hydration bladders reviews. It offers convenient features such as a leak-proof slide-seal opening with a pincer grip to allow for one-handed filling, a quick connect system, and a self-sealing bite valve, all at an affordable price.
What You Should Know Before Buying Hydration Bladders
With the wide variety of options available, it might be hard to choose the best 3L hydration bladder for you. In this section, I will highlight the main features you should consider when making your choice.
Hydration Bladder Material
Water bladders are made with soft and flexible plastics such as PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). PEVA is non-chlorinated vinyl and is also commonly used to make many other household goods. It is durable and resistant to mold, but it is also rigid and does not expand when filled.
TPU is a more commonly used material due to its flexible and lightweight nature. It often leaves a plastic taste in your water, but you can treat your bladder with a simple lemon and baking soda cleaning solution to remove the taste.
Another popular material is PET (polyethylene), which is high-quality plastic. The advantage of PET is that it does not leave a taste on the water, and it can withstand high pressure without leaking. However, it is not as durable as PEVA because it eventually develops cracks.
Water Flow And Bite Valve
The water flow on a hydration bladder is determined by the size of the bite valve and the locking mechanism. Bite valves come in small, medium, and large sizes, with the medium being the preferred size.
The bite valves use either one of two types of locking mechanisms. The twist/turn bite valve is easy to use as it requires a simple turn and bite to allow water flow. Although slightly harder to use, the push-pull valve is ideal for extremely cold conditions as its free water flow design significantly reduces the risk of freezing.
The bladder opening is a critical consideration because it determines the ease of filling and cleaning the reservoir. The main opening types are:
Fold top – The top part folds and is held in place with a fastener to seal it. This opening type makes cleaning extremely easy as you can turn the bladder inside out. It also makes refilling more convenient, especially if you will be doing it at a river or stream.
Zip top – This type of closure is similar to the closure on a ziplock freezer bag which opens wide for easy cleaning. However, it cannot be turned inside-out like the fold top design.
Screw Cap – Hydration bladders with a screw cap are popular as this style mimics that of a regular water bottle. However, they have several limitations when it comes to filling and cleaning due to the smaller opening.
Most hydration bladders have a bottle-like shape, although they are flexible to hold more capacity without taking up much space. Due to their flexible construction, water reservoirs can alter their profile to fit into a hydration pack. Features such as the hydrostatic backplate and baffles found in some bladders help maintain the shape for packability.
The water bladder’s construction also determines its weight and includes the material used and additional features such as carry handles. However, its capacity is not directly proportional to its weight, and it is not uncommon to find a 3L bladder that is lighter than some 2L units. The ideal weight for a 3L water bladder is around 250 grams (9Oz) when empty.
The capacity of the 3L hydration bladder is one of its key advantages. However, you may want to keep in mind that some hydration packs can only accommodate smaller reservoirs. You should check the specifications of your hiking backpack or get one that can accommodate a 3L hydration reservoir.
Additional features in 3L hydration bladders include:
Storage Hooks – Water bladders often come with a loop, clip, or hook to attach to the hydration pack to ensure the bladder stays in place.
Carry Handles – Hydration bladders with carrying handles are significantly easier to fill and handle in general.
Quick connect valves ease the process of refilling your bladder as you don’t have to detach the drinking tube entirely from your bag.
Some bladders feature magnetic clips to attach the mouthpiece to the chest strap for easy access and water filters in the drinking tube.
Cleaning And Drying
While some bladders are dishwasher compatible, most need to be cleaned by hand. The fold top reservoirs can be reversed inside-out, which makes them relatively easy to clean. In comparison, other units will need a cleaning kit with brushes to reach the deepest parts. The bladder should dry completely after cleaning to prevent mold and bacteria.
Questions and Answers About Hydration Bladders
Can you put a 3L hydration bladder in any backpack?
A 3L hydration bladder will not fit in packs with an allowance for 2L reservoirs and less. However, larger hydration packs and most hiking backpacks have the capacity for 3L water bladders.
Can you put ice in a 3L hydration bladder?
Yes. Adding ice cubes to your hydration bladder will help keep the water cold for longer. Another option is to fill it halfway with water and put it in the freezer, then fill up the rest with fresh water when you are ready to go. In this way, the ice takes longer to melt, keeping the water cold for longer and also keeps everything cool in your backpack.
How do I treat a 3L hydration bladder?
You can treat your hydration bladder using various cleaning agents such as baking soda, lemon juice. A solution of any of the above left to soak overnight will thoroughly disinfect the bladder. There are specially formulated effervescent cleaning tablets for reservoirs that you can get for cleaning your bladder outdoors. Alternatively, you can freeze your dry bladder to kill germs and prevent mold.