My choice is Hydrapak Shapeshift 3L. This is my third hydration pack and third manufacturer, and I couldn’t be happier except a couple of wishes.
I have had it for a while now, and I couldn’t have been happier with this system.
Ease of closing/opening: Roll top. This is a huge game changer. Especially when you’re filling it in the field with dirty hands. Because of the stiffness of the plastic of the opening, you can open and close this bladder without touching the inside the fold part, which is important in keeping its seal. If the seal does get dirty, all you have to is wipe it or wash it clean. This is a huge advantage over any screwing system (camelbak) or zip (track) system.
Not only that, it doesn’t add bulk or weight like camelbak, and it doesn’t need to be zip-sealed inch by inch (which is incredibly hard after losing your grip after a day of rock-climbing).
Keeping it clean: Dishwasher (top rack) safe! This is the difference between this and other brands of the near-identical systems.
The line can be clipped off very easily.
Durable bladder: It’s got that soft silicone feel. Like a thick latex glove kind of soft, you know? In my use, it hasn’t got any wrinkles or folds. It creepily still looks new. I chose the Shapeshift, which I imagine is more prone to damage than the original because of the addition of the spine. Still good as new.
Big-flow valve: It’s ok. It does offer a decent volume output, and the line is stiff enough to prevent kinks. The seal of the valve is a ring around a plastic, which is what a lot of companies are doing (except Platypus and Camelbak?). When you bite into the soft part (behind the plastic), it distorts the circle, allowing water through.
For the rest, this leaves me wanting more. The act of opening the valve is uncomfortable. The part that can be bit is rather narrow, so you kind of have to line up your teeth to it, instead of just biting at it at an angle you like. And because the flow is decent but not great, you’re expected to keep the pressure on till you sucked enough.
Because of the shape and mechanism (see above), I just can’t shake the idea that there could have been a way they could have let the users use their hands to open the valve by pushing the back or squeezing the side. All it takes is for the biting section to be a bit wider (currently, if you squeeze that spot, you can’t really get your mouth on it) or allowing us to pull back on the silicone.
So I decided to look it up. Ironically, the one that could be hand-operated is from Hydrapak! But I can’t find a quick video for it, and so far it doesn’t look like anything special. Don’t they want to sell it?
Plug and Play:
This is standard now on hydration systems, I believe.
It does make me think about the thousands of dollars my parents spent on alignment of my teeth. But, overall, a huge game changer by the “roll top” system and being dishwasher safe (top rack).