If you seek a versatile and lightweight hydration bladder, the MSR DromLite is our best recommendation. During our tests ranging in locations from the Grand Canyon to the 14,000 ft peaks of the Colorado Rockies, we battered this bladder to see if it would hold up to the durability standards of its predecessor. We hung it from rocks, bushwhacked with it on the outside of our pack, stuffed it into tight spaces, froze it, and heated it up. After these tests (and many others), we are happy to report that this newly redesigned bladder is still incredibly durable and provides better performance (minus the taste). It is lightweight and folds up to the size of its cap, making it easy to pack into small corners of your already overloaded backpack. It also provides many functions that surpass that of just a water reservoir. It works well as a camp pillow, solar shower, hand washing station, hot water bottle…and even a dog bowl! And of course, it does a pretty good job at holding and distributing water. As a result of its multitude of functions, it's our Top Pick for backpacking.
MSR DromLite Bags Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, super packable, durable material, inexpensive, incredibly versatile
Cons: Poor taste, does not come with hose or bite valve, doesn't pack easily into backpack sleeves
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This Top Pick boasts an insanely packable design that isn't only durable but incredibly lightweight as well. It's a perfect option as an additional reservoir for day hikes, backpacking missions, or hanging out around camp.
Ease of Use
The DromLite is an easy to use hydration reservoir that can be turned into a bladder. The key feature is its well-engineered 3-in-1 cap that can be used in three different ways. First, the Nalgene-sized open houses a durable and sturdy tab that makes holding the bladder easy while filling. This opening is compatible with the MSR pump and a plethora of other accessories. Second, there is a second screw top opening that attaches to the first screw-top lid which provides a medium flow of water, perfect for filling up a water bottle or hydration bladder. The third is the trickle spout. This is an even smaller spout, perfect for taking a quick drink.
The hydration kit that can be ordered separately from the DromLite is rudimentary at best, attaching to the second opening. The bite valve is comfortable and offers a shut-off valve open that doesn't get sticky or gummed up after multiple uses. Also, the bite valve can be switched out for other options that are compatible with HydraPak or Camelbak if you prefer another mouthpiece. Our major caveat is that the hose is (obviously) not quick-release and is not compatible with other hoses.
This bladder is not designed to fit inside of smaller running packs or thinner profile hydration packs. That said, it did well, fitting into larger hydration packs with a wider profile. Some backpack sleeves tested could not house it. Overall, we'd recommend assessing how you want to carry this reservoir before buying it to ensure it fits in your back.
Ease of Filling
Equipped with a durable and burly handle that allows you to fill your DromLite bag from a tap or river easily, the filling is simple. That said, while the handle is sturdy and doesn't deform under the weight of the bag while it fills, we felt that other hydration bladders are easier to fill from trickling streams or super shallow mediums.
While you can place this bladder down on the rock or trickle, this design cannot capture as much water as the Hydrapak Shape-Shift Reservoir that features a fold-top design and can easily collect water from trickling streams. You simply place the fold top collector on the rock, allowing water to trickle inside. The screw-top design doesn't allow this use. That said, it's perfect for plunging into a lake or raging river, collecting water quickly.
Ease of Care
This bladder is more difficult to care for than other models tested in this review. The Nalgene-sized opening is small, and you can't fit a hand inside to clean the opening. Luckily, the 3-in-1 cap comes apart quickly and is super easy to soak and scrub. The exterior plastic material is translucent so you can monitor any potential bacterial growth, which is an improvement from the previous design.
To clean this bladder, use a cleaning tablet or be diligent about making sure you rinse and dry your bladder after use. In our testing period, we simply rinsed and dried and didn't notice any build-up over time. If you plan on using a sugary drink (which you can with this new design), be sure to use both a small brush and cleaning tablets. Then, throw it into the freezer (without water inside) after it is dried to ensure no bacterial growth.
If bacterial growth does ensue (for example; you forgot to clean your bladder and left it in your backpack for a week or longer!), be sure to scrub it well with a small brush and, again, use a cleaning tablet. The construct of this bladder will make it difficult to reach every nook and cranny.
Weight and Packability
This is one of the lightest and most compressible hydration bladders you'll find on the market. The outer materials are durable yet flexible, folding efficiently and effectively. The new design is not nearly as bulky as the last model, making it a packable option for any sport that requires lightweight travel. This is a big reason that it's our best recommendation for backpacking.
Quality and Durability
Constructed of a new film with welded seams, MSR says that it offers "reliable durability," and we agree. Through our testing period, we threw it into backpacks, loaded it into coolers, put it in the freezer, and smashed it all around the crag. We hung it (and it fell numerous times) from rocks and sat on it too many times to count. We even had the dog drink out of it and play with it for a while. After all this abuse, the film, seams, and cap held up!
We pulled at the welded seams, trying to see if they would delaminate, and they don't budge an inch. When filling the bladder and squishing and squeezing it in all directions, the cap didn't leak at any of the screw points (despite some potential failure points).
While this new construction makes us want to take care of the bladder a little more carefully than the previous version, there are no noted durability issues in our time with this bladder. In hand, it feels less durable because the materials are thinner than the previous design, but performance-wise, it's still a beast! The durable exterior is designed to withstand punctures, making it an excellent option for hanging from trees or rocks around camp.
The DromLite provides Herculean versatility. It can be hung pretty much anywhere, packed into tight backpacks, or put under pressure. It can function as a hot water bottle, hand wash station, sunshower, a water reservoir, and more! It can be strapped to the outside of your pack (if needed) or packed away to fill the smallest spaces in your backpack. Also, it can be frozen or even warmed up, maintaining its integrity through all of it. All of this in combination with its durability makes it our favorite for backpacking, although that's not all it's limited to. Nearly any outdoor adventurer can find a place in their kit for the Dromlite.
This product is super high value! If it hadn't already won a Top Pick, it would be our Best Buy award winner. It comes in 2L, 4L, and 6L options with retail prices ranging from $27 to $33. A steal for the value of the product.
The MSR DromLite Bag features a new design that is still durable but more lightweight and packable than its well-known red predecessor. It comes in a variety of sizes and proved to be one of the most versatile hydration bladders tested. Because of its lightweight versatility that won't fail you on the trail, it's our go-to for backpacking and hiking.
— Amber King