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Hands-on Gear Review
CamelBak Crux Reservoir Review
Cons: Somewhat difficult to clean, harder to fill in trickling streams
Bottom line: The highest value hydration bladder that we've tested thus far.
The Crux wins our Best Buy award because it scored very highly, is extremely easy to fill, easy to drink from, and one of the least expensive bladders you can find. It is also comes with a limited lifetime warranty which further enhances its long term value. We highly recommend this bladder if you're on a budget and if don't mind a little extra work cleaning (if you use sports powders). If you're willing to spend a bit more and want the extra features of a pressurized system, we recommend you check out the Editors' Choice Geigerrig Hydration Engine.
The Crux replaces the CamelBak Antidote. There are three key changes that we note below.
The Crux is latest Camelbak bladder in a lineage that goes back decades; it may be the oldest running hydration reservoir. Over the years CamelBak has continually modified this bladder. Compared to earlier versions, it now has a large wide mouth opening, large grab handle for filling, two chambers for water so it sloshes around less, removable hose and drying plastic tabs. The bite valves were also our favorite. Not too big, and not too small. We also liked that the bite valves weren't as easy to come off and lose like previous models.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hydration Bladders of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This Best Buy winner stands out for its bomber wide ¼ twist top with a great handle. While a lot of companies have moved to zip or flip tops, CamelBak so far has stuck with the twist top. This was our favorite bladder with this design.
Differences between the Antidote and The Crux
The Crux replaced the Antidote Reservoir in 2017. There are three key differences:
1) The Crux has a bigger and easier to use handle that resembles a shoehorn. It makes filling the reservoir in a sink even easier.
2) The Crux has a wider tube and new bite valve that is easier to drink from. CamelBak claims it's 20% easier to drink from, which seems about right.
3) All these changes make the Crux about an ounce heavier than the Antidote.
Ease of Use
This is our favorite bite valve. After testing, we attached the bite valve and tube to other hydration packs with a compatible tube attachment. Even though the CamelBak is not pressurized, the water flows easily. It also has the most intuitive lockoff mechanism: the yellow lever contrasts well against the blue valve which reminds you to lock it off when not in use. In short, it's easy to use and comfortable to bite. Other valves did not compare.
We loved that the quick release system was compatible with all other release systems.
Ease of Care
CamelBak's get easier and easier to clean with every bladder revision. Compared to early generations, the wide opening makes it very easy to get a brush inside. The CamelBak Cleaning Brush Kit that is sold separately works effectively at cleaning out the hoses. Many other bladders either did not offer hose cleaning brushes or came with brush cleaning kits that were not long enough to clean the entire hose.
All that said, the Crux is not nearly as easy to clean as a zip or flip top hydration bladder like the HydraPak Shape-Shift Reservoir or the Geigerrig Hydration Engine. These (designed by HydraPak) offer a much wider mouth opening and can be flipped inside out. Better yet - they can be thrown into a dishwasher. The Camelbak, on the other hand, is difficult to empty as water gets caught in crevasses and other hard to reach areas. We like how the mouthpiece was easy to take apart to clean and put together. Consider a tablet such as the Hydrapak Bottle Bright, a non-chlorinated tablet that removes stains and odors.
Ease of Filling
This is one of the easiest hydration bladders to fill, especially in shallow sinks. Unlike other bladders that have a flip top, like the HydraPak Shape-Shift, it is harder to fill in trickling streams. You can really fill up every last space in the bladder as opposed to some other bladders where it is hard to get it completely full. One nice advantage over the other bladders is that the lid peels all the way back and out of the way when filling the bladder. You also don't have to screw it much to seal it and it is very clear when the lid is totally closed. We also liked the plastic connector that keeps the lid fastened to the reservoir.
CamelBak hoses and bite valves are some of the most durable tested.
After putting this bladder in the freezer, setting it in the sun, filling it up, and flipping it around, we found it to be quite durable. We liked the heavier material that (in our opinion) makes it a little less prone to punctures than lighter materials used in other models like the Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir. Of the many CamelBaks we have owned, we have never been able to get the reservoir bladder to leak, though some of our readers have reported some leakage problems in the past; in some cases, you may get a lemon. In that case, contact CamelBak, as they offer a limited lifetime warranty (it excludes misuse, normal wear and tear, etc.). As a result, this bladder earns top marks in this category.
The CamelBak is in the middle of the road for weight. Everything about it is very light except for the large plastic handle and large opening. Of course, it's this large opening and handle that makes the CamelBak so easy to fill and clean. That is the tradeoff. Most CamelBak users and ourselves prefer the slightly heavier and more convenient design. But folks who are obsessed on traveling as light as possible should check out the HydraPak Shape-Shift (Our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures).
The Crux excels at hiking, mountain biking and dirt biking. For backpacking, we would go with the MSR DromLite. For running, we recommend the HydraPak Shape-Shift as it's a little lighter.
We recommend using the trick of blowing the water back into the bladder and "clearing the lines" to ensure water does not freeze in your tubes during cold weather. If that does not work, consider checking out the CamelBak Crux Insulated Tube which is an extra insulated tube and bite valve.
This is the best value bladder in our review both because of the price and because of the durability (cost per use).
For many people, this is the hydration bladder to get. It scores high and is a great value. The only reason not to get it is if you appreciate the ease of cleaning and bonus pressurization features of the Geigerrig. Or the durability of the MSR Dromlite.
— Amber King and Chris McNamara
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