HydraPak HydraSleeve Review
Cons: Expensive up front cost, hose comes out of quick connect and can spill a bit
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The HydraSleeve uses a unique insulative pocket and hose that'll keep your drinks liquid in the winter and cold in the summer. It's a favorite amongst our testers that love to backpack and hike with icy cool water all day long. Use it without the pocket, or change out the insulative tubing for a regular hose. This bladder can be modularized and is the most versatile that we've tested so far.
Ease of Use
What makes this bladder our top pick is the insulative sleeve and tube that it comes with. This additional insulation offers better temperature stasis for longer periods of time. If you like to hike with super cold water in the summer, slide this model inside your pack, and expect icy slurps all day long. If you love to adventure in the winter, but struggle with hydration bladder tubes icing up, this system will help to prevent that, too. In addition, the mouthpiece offers exceptional water flow, doesn't slosh when you walk, and all parts can be changed out if needed. All in all, this is the most versatile hydration bladder that we've tested because of its insulative qualities.
Let's start with the most unique feature - the sleeve itself! Built with insulating foam and a reflective liner, this roll-top design doesn't only accommodate the bladder it comes with but can accommodate those that are wider or of different brands. We tried it out with five different types with five different brand names — and most worked.
Our only caveat with this sleeve is the connecter window at the bottom. Before pulling out the hydration bladder, you have to try and disconnect the tube, which is cumbersome. More often than not, the tube just popped right off, spilling a small amount of water.
The insulative tube is nice and thick, offering the same diameter tubing as other hydration bladders made by HydraFlask. As a result, flow is ample and always available. The high flow mouthpiece can easily be pinched between the teeth to yield a nice, generous stream of water.
If you want to parse down this system, feel free! You can use just the bladder, which is the HydraPak ShapeShift, our favorite lightweight system, which slims down your carrying weight. You can also switch out the insulated tube for a regular one. Typically most tubes from different brands are interchangeable. So look at the anatomy of the quick connect to see if it'll work. Plus, you can switch out the mouthpieces if you're not a fan. That said, we love the mouthpiece it comes with.
During our testing period, we took the time to really see how well this sleeve insulates. We timed how long the bladder took to freeze during objective testing in our freezer. We also looked at how well the tube kept water from freezing in a test that most regular bladders would easily fail. We also took each out into the field while skiing and backpacking in both cold and hot weather to see how the sleeve worked in comparison to other bladders.
After it all, we learned the insulative sleeve keeps water from freezing twice as long as regular hydration bladders, while the body of the bladder keeps the reservoir itself from freezing, even after being exposed to 0F temperatures for over 24 hrs!
In the field, we didn't have any issues with tubes freezing, even when skiing in the cold temperatures of the mountains all day long. In addition, the sleeve kept our water nice and cool during a 6-hour hike when temperatures got over 90F. This is our favorite insulative bladder that'll help keep water from freezing in the tube during the winter and cool in the summer. It keeps water from freezing in tubes twice as long as a regular bladder and keeps drinks cool in the reservoir 3X as long as normal bladders.
Ease of Care
Care is like any other bladder in this review. To ensure that it stays clean, be sure to empty it out after every use. We found that simply rinsing the insulating bladder sleeve was sufficient to keep it debris free.
The bladder can be put into the dishwasher (top rack) and flipped inside out. The bite valve disassembles completely so you can scrub it easily. Since you can't see the tube (insulation is black and can't be taken off), be sure you blowback the water after every use. If you suspect the tube to be dirty, be sure to purchase a tube cleaning kit and soak it regularly.
Ease of Filling
Filling is quite simple. The bladder has a tiny little handle that you can use, or you can pinch it open. It'll fill easily under a sink or hose. You can keep the bladder inside the sleeve to fill it, or take it out. If you take it out, you have to unclip the base of the hose and reattach it when sliding in - which takes more time. Filling up in streams is easy too, but you'll have work harder in stagnant sources (if you're in the backcountry).
Quality and Durability
Of the bladders tested, this set-up is the most durable and high quality.
The sleeve provides an additional level of protection from abrasion and wear and tear. It's composed of 21D Nylon ripstop that is waterproof. We were able to strap it to the outside of our packs, hang it with ease, and throw it around camp without worrying about punctures. The long and short - you can be rough with it.
The hydration bladder inside is the HydraPak ShapeShift which offers a decent level of durability on its own. Just know, it's been our experience that the quick connect at the base of this bladder gets gummed up after serious use and requires periodic lubrication. Even then, we've had to replace this bladder ever two years or so because we can't get the hose to click into the connect contact point. That said, we use the ShapeShift weekly (likely much more than typical users), and it's still never leaked on us, even after testing it for five years and counting!
Weight and Packability
Of all systems tested, it's not surprising that this one, with all its components, is heavy in comparison to systems without the sleeve. The bladder itself is lightweight and if you wanted to use it without the sleeve, you can. This cuts the weight significantly. Plus you can change out the insulated tube for a regular one.
The total weight (12 oz) accounts for the hydration bladder and tube (6.5 oz), and sleeve (5.50 oz). The sleeve features a rolltop construction that is compatible with only some hydration bladder hangers in most backpacks. A backpack that works the best will have a big hanging loop with lots of room to fit around the roll top. We typically slide this in at the base of our packs, or if there was no room, we put it on the outside, which still kept our water cool. It also features nifty attachment points to strap to a bike, boat, or backpack. We never really used these, but we could see how they'd easily work with a piece of webbing, cord, and a carabiner.
If you've been seeking a hydration system that'll keep your water cool in the summer, this offers the best value out there. The price is about 40% higher than most hydration bladders but comes with a lot more than your traditional hydration system. While most people may not see the value in this extra price, many that love cold water for hours on end, and don't mind carrying a little weight, will easily justify the initial investment.
The HydraPak Hydrasleeve is a unique system that provides insulation all the way around both the bladder and the tube. This helps to prevent your tube from crusting up in the winter (which stops water flow) and also keeps your drinks cool and fresh for the summer. No other hydration system we've tested performs as well or provides this level of functionality. When you don't want to use the sleeve, simply remove it and use the high-quality bladder inside on its own.
— Amber King