Your hydration bladder, also known as a hydration reservoir, is one of the most important pieces of equipment you can get for cycling and hiking.
Having a larger quantity of water for long excursions without needing to carry or retrieve a smaller water bottle adds a ton of convenience to your longer journeys, and despite being a recent invention, it’s hard to go on these sorts of adventures without one.
In this article, we put Osprey vs CamelBak in terms of each brand’s hydration reservoir. There will be a discussion of the proper backpack, daypack, and travel pack that carries them, but the main focus will be on each water bladder, as these are the key factor in having a portable supply of water with you on your journeys.
Some hikers and cyclists might think of them as one and the same, but each brand has different qualities and a different history that influenced how they make their hydration bladders and who they’re intended for.
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A Short History of the Brand
The history of Osprey is far more recent than many hiking equipment companies, but its care and quality are just as high as nearly any other in the market.
It was founded in Santa Cruz, California in 1974 as a small business run almost independently by owner Mike Pfotenhauer, but the first factory opened in a former Gore-Tex building in Colorado to create a larger brand and higher-quality products.
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(woman with Osprey backpack hiking in the mountains)
This factory would be the beginning of a massive and gradual expansion to the company as Pfotenhauer worked with Indigenous women of a nearby Navajo reservation to create large quantities of products with a hand-made feel.
With the challenges of US manufacturing, Pfotenhauer would eventually move to open factories in Vietnam, with one of the original employees coming with him to help train new workers.
From here, Osprey has cemented itself as a strong player in the world of backpacking, creating all sorts of hiking equipment with an affinity for fabric products, but has also ventured into hydration bladders that are compatible with their own and other backpacks.
Whatever the product, Osprey stands by a standard of quality and durability with anything they produce.
Materials and Manufacture
Since the Osprey hydration bladder is for its backpacks, they’re more structured than many other options on the market. It’s coated with a TPU film to provide an easy-to-clean straw tube and container while also being easy to drink from, thanks to a flexible hydration hose.
What sets Osprey’s reservoirs apart is that they’re designed with plastic ends at the top to hang the containers from, primarily so they fit into Osprey backpacks.
This design gives them a much more secure placement and prevents them from bouncing around too much and providing an uncomfortable carry.
Otherwise, the material of these products is relatively standard plastic, though less flexible than many other hydration packs at similar price points.
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Now let’s see some popular hydration reservoirs by Osprey.
Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir
Image: Osprey Hydraulics 2L Reservoir – from ospreyeurope.com
This product is a basic hydration sleeve or soft flask with either a 2L or 3L bladder capacity, depending on what you need. It’s a fairly vertical design to fit into most standard backpacks, but with the trademark, the plastic topper to let it properly hang and attach to compatible Osprey bags.
One of the main benefits that consumers find is that it still manages to fit with other backpacks quite well, particularly third-party backpacks from companies that might not necessarily make their hydration bladders.
It will fit into an Osprey pack best, but it’s especially relieving for it to fit in others if needed as well.
Osprey Hydraulics Lumbar 1.5L Reservoir
Image: Osprey Hydraulics Lumbar 1.5L Reservoir – from ospreyeurope.com
Most hydration bladders come in the form of a vertical bag, but there is a variety of landscape-shaped bags in recent years, too. These usually contain a smaller amount of water but are intended to fit in horizontal travel bags around your waist, letting you take a break from your upper back if you don’t need to carry as much water.
It’s a slightly odd design that fits snugly in Osprey bladder packs and has a clever shape, so it’s not too large when placed inside a bag.
It’s also divided into where the water is stored, helping it spread weight evenly to make it easy to carry.
Osprey hydration bladders come in at a low and accessible end, ranging from around $30 for smaller models to around $50 for the traditional 2L or 3L-sized ones.
These prices are certainly not remarkable highs, but they’re not at a noticeably lower price than products made by other companies.
Are Osprey Hydration Bladders Worth the Price?
If you already have an Osprey backpack or travel bag that will fit one of these, they’re going to be the most comfortable fit and worth the purchase.
If you don’t have a compatible bag, though, an Osprey hydration bladder doesn’t have many benefits that make it an exceptional deal.
A Short History of the Brand
Rather than more general hiking equipment companies like Osprey, CamelBak has been dedicated to making hydration packs and water bottles since its inception.
The company has rather humble roots through its founder Michael Eidson, a paramedic and cyclist who experimented in a race during 1989 by using an IV bag in a tube sock to provide easier hydration while biking without needing to handle a water bottle.
This would be the first known use of a hydration pack, and Eidson would go on to try a marketing and designing the product further under his new company of CamelBak.
(runner with CamelBak hydration system)
After some starting failures due to an unappealing appearance, CamelBak eventually reached critical fame with some strong marketing endeavors and became the first and only hydration bladder company for years to come.
Others have replicated the design, but CamelBak is the originator of an incredibly vital piece of hiking and traveling equipment. It’s now used by both athletic hikers, cyclists, and even soldiers to provide hydration without a loose prop that could be dropped or forgotten.
The design has also been perfected over the years, all thanks to its close ties with the invention of this vital tool.
Materials and Manufacture
Much like the Osprey bladder models, and many other brands, CamelBak’s containers use flexible plastic material.
It continues to be free of BPA, BPS, and BPF, but despite being the originator of hydration packs and hydration bladders, there’s not much in CamelBak’s materials that help it stand out, which is normal as we have also said in other articles, because these are all quality brands competing at a high level.
More of what makes these unique is the shape of their containers, which are usually much wider and more flexible, so it fits in a much wider variety of third-party bags. It’s also much easier to fill up in a sink or with a hose.
Even if there isn’t anything particularly unique in the makeup of a CamelBak hydration bladder, it makes up for it by being a fairly perfected design and reliable material.
By CamelBak we have picked:
CamelBak Crux Water Reservoir
This style is CamelBak’s standard hydration bladder, being the most general and common vertical design. However, you immediately see the difference from the Osprey model by being much wider.
What improves it further is a slightly more flexible container that fits into a much wider set of third-party bags.
Simply put, this product is the standard for nearly all hydration bladders. It isn’t that significantly superior to many other brands, but all of its features are exactly what most hikers and cyclists will want from their product, and there are few negative comments to be had.
CamelBak Omega Water Reservoir
Image: CamelBak Omega Water Reservoir – from camelbak.com
If you want something slightly more sturdy than the flexible CamelBak Cruz Water Reservoir, the Omega Water Reservoir is an interesting shift that’s much more similar to the Osprey models.
It’s much more vertical with a far thinner frame, but despite its odd shape, it’s surprisingly hefty by being able to hold up to 3L of fluids.
This design isn’t without its drawbacks, as the unusual size makes it much harder to fit in a container. It’s not as versatile as a standard CamelBak container, but it’s definitely worth the purchase if you want something with a bit more volume, especially if you already have a hiking backpack that you think would fit it well.
CamelBak products generally stay on the affordable end of hydration bladders, but their quality still comes with a higher price point than most other products.
Their hydration reservoirs are between around $35 and $50, making them only slightly more expensive than the Osprey models.
Are CamelBak Hydration Bladders Worth the Price?
These prices come with few downsides, making them substantially more worthwhile than nearly any other hydration bladder at this price point. You can find products at lower prices, but few will have such high quality compared to the price.
3. Which One Is Better?
Generally, we think Osprey hydration bladders are good but are not the best hydration bladders you can get at these prices. They are certainly functional, and they aren’t a waste if you think they’re a better fit for your bags or if you plan on also purchasing a compatible Osprey bag.
Is one of them better than the other?
At the end of the day, CamelBak is the better option between the two in our opinion, likely thanks to its ties to the origins of hydration bladders.
It’s a much more refined product that functions quite similarly. Thanks to a wider design and easier filling, it just provides more convenience and greater versatility for whatever your hydration bladder needs are.
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