This Best Buy winner stands out for its huge 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. It's our favorite bladder with this design.
The discontinued Antidote on the left and the current Crux on the right. As Camelbak continues the evolution of their bladders, we're pleased to find they keep getting better.
Ease of Use
The CamelBak shows compatibility with all hoses and comes with a quick-release system.
The Camelbak Crux
is easy to use with its numerous features and lavish bite-valve technology. The bag itself has a thin profile that fits into most backpacks. The tube is long enough to reach around for easy water access, and the bite valve is fantastic! The rubber is large with a huge opening that allows ample water flow. It also has the most intuitive lock-off 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. The only drawback is that when not locked, it leaks more than other models tested.
Another great feature is the versatile compatibility offered by the CamelBak pieces. The quick-release system for the hose is found at the base of the bladder and can be changed out with any other Camelbak product or HydraPak product. If you don't like the bite valve, choose a different one that you do like and switch it out.
A comparison of all three switch-style bite valves. The Camelbak valve on the right is the easiest to drink from.
Ease of Care
While this isn't the easiest bladder to clean out there, it's not the hardest to deal with either. CamelBak bladders get easier and easier to clean with every revision. The wide opening allows room to fit a cleaning brush that makes it very easy to get inside. Also, the opening as little plastic tabs that help to keep the cap off the front of the bladder to aid in the airing out process.
While it has its positives, the Crux is not as easy to clean as a zip or flip top hydration bladder like Geigerrig Hydration Engine. These models (designed by HydraPak) offer a 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. Aside from that, we like how the mouthpiece is easy to take apart clean. If you need to clean out the hose, consider the Camelbak Cleaning Kit to aid in that process, especially if you find a bladder that you forgot about weeks or months later.
A tablet such as the Hydrapak Bottle Bright
, a non-chlorinated tablet will remove stains and odors to fully clean your bladder.
Ease of Filling
This is an easy-to-fill bladder, especially with shallow sinks and taps. The reinforced handle is heavy duty and doesn't bend under force, making it easy to fill with just one hand, and the opening is so large that it collects water easily from a tap, lake, or a heavy flowing stream. Unlike other bladders that have a flip top, like the Geigerrig Hydration Engine, it is hard to fill in trickling streams.
You can fill up every last space in the bladder as opposed to other options which are hard to fill completely. One nice advantage is that the lid peels all the way back is out of the way when filling it up. It is also obvious when the lid is closed. We also like the plastic connector that keeps the lid fastened to the reservoir.
The Crux is super simple to fill right to the brim from a faucet.
Quality and Durability
After putting this bladder in the freezer, setting it in the sun, filling it up, and flipping it around, it proved quite durable. We like the more substantial material that (in our opinion) makes it less prone to punctures than lighter materials used in other models.
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.).
A look at the seams and construction of the four main bladder types. Top left: HydraPak varieties (hosted in Osprey, Geigerigg, and HydraPak) feature seamless technology with minimal welded seams. Top right: The CamelBak features smaller, more durable seams. Bottom left: Platypus features large seams that we could literally pull apart. Bottom Right: MSR features super strong welds in the fabric outer.
CamelBak hoses and bite valves are some of the most durable tested.
Weight and Packability
The Crux is in the middle of the road for weight. Everything about it is lightweight except for the large plastic handle and large opening. Of course, it's the large opening and handle that make the Crux so easy to fill and clean, which is a tradeoff. Most CamelBak users and ourselves prefer the slightly heavier and more convenient design. Besides, it's not the most packable option out there.
This bladder excels at pretty much any on-the-go activity. Think dirt biking, mountain biking, hiking, and more! It works fine for backpacking, too, as long as you can rely on large sources of water. It's not ideal for collecting water trickling over rocks, though.
Running the Santa Cruz trail in the high Andes proved to be a great testing ground for our hydration bladders.
The Crux is the best value bladder in our review both because of the price and because of the durability (cost per use). We can't find a high-quality design with a price tag lower than this one at $35.
For many people, this is the hydration bladder to get. It scores high and is a great value. If you don't need the extra features other models provide, save some cash and go with the Camelbak Crux. For general use, this one gets it done.