Coming up in the woods of New England in the 1990s, the hikers and campers were the water bottle people. But the mountain bikers were hitting the trails carrying hydration reservoirs. The blue or opaque white bags looked like they had escaped a lab, but made it so bikers could hydrate without loosening their grip on the handlebars.
Eventually, paths crossed and the walkers and riders shared tips and tricks. And hydration reservoirs and packs became universal to anyone and everyone who took to the outdoors. We’ve all been benefitting from the crossover ever since.
Where it could be argued that CamelBak introduced the world to water reservoirs, it’s HydraPak that’s kept its eye on the prize and has focused its efforts on making the best reservoirs in the world. It has partnered with brands like Osprey and Salomon over the years, always determined to design better reservoirs. The brand created new ways to carry the reservoirs and new ways to clean them. It made them universal, to fit in any existing pack, and made them largely impervious to whatever the trail could throw at them.
And HydraPak is still upgrading its hydration systems. For 2023, not only has it improved existing lines of reservoirs, it has also expanded its innovations, introducing a whole new line of reservoirs known as the Contour. I tested one of these new reservoirs to see what HydraPak upgraded, and how it performed.
In short: The Contour is the type of water reservoir designed to stay outside longer and to be limited maintenance. This is Hydrapack’s first 3D-welded reservoir and includes a host of features like Shape-Loc and a side tube exit port that makes the HydraPak Contour line of water reservoirs one of its most versatile, yet. It fits universally in any pack and keeps a low profile even when it’s filled to the brim.
HydraPak Contour Hydration Reservoir
- 3L weight 155 g
- 3L dimensions 429 x 190 mm
- Materials TPU, ABS, POM, PP, EPDM, silicone, 304SS, TPU-coated nylon fabric
- Keeps a low profile in your pack
- Allows for interchanging tubes
- Is compatible with a filter system
- 3D-welded to fit ergonomically into any pack
- Universal hanger
- Bite valve rubber might need eventual replacement
HydraPak Contour Reservoir Review
I spent a week treating the HydraPak Contour horribly — or at least trying to. I left the same water in the reservoir for 4 days to see if it would pick up any off-tastes. It didn’t. In fact, the water tasted the same as it did on day one by day four.
I also threw my pack around as much as I could to see if I could get the hose to disconnect or the closure to open, and I failed at that as well. So, as far as durability is concerned, it’s not a concern.
HydraPak has been using Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) for its reservoirs for 20 years. TPU is wildly durable (able to stretch up to eight times its original size), and it’s three to six times lighter than plastic or stainless steel. And it’s 100% BPA- and PVC-free.
The one thing that really stands out, however, is that the slim profile of the HydraPak Contour allows you to slide a full reservoir into your pack sleeve with ease. Most other reservoirs balloon out and essentially turn into a tube. But in this case, the HydraPak Contour flattens out more, taking up more space from left to right instead of front to back.
That’s largely thanks to the 3D-welded construction HydraPak used on the bottom panel. I can’t tell you how much of a treat it is to be able to refill a reservoir and not empty your pack to get it back in.
There is one thing I feel I need to bring up (and it very well could just be me). I feel that, over time, I will eventually cut through the bite valve’s rubber. I’m not concerned about it failing in the course of the next few trips. But it might not be a bad idea to keep a spare in your pack.
The Contour Hydration System: What’s New?
3D-Welded Bottom, Slimmer Shape
The 2L and 3L Contour Reservoirs are the first the brand has ever made using a 3D welding technique on the bottom and side tube exit port. That improves the slim shape of the reservoir. The bottom panel is seamlessly welded to the rest of the TPU components. That keeps it from bulging and distorting your pack and impacting the storage space inside.
The innovation is aided by two blue Shape Loc baffles baked into the face of the reservoir. Those divert the water into empty spaces instead of allowing it to bulge out and turn into a tube, like many other reservoirs on the market will.
No More Drips and Magnetic Clips
The concept of a hands-free bite valve isn’t new. But the idea of a bite valve that actually seals back up when you’re done biting down on it is what the new Comet, self-sealing bite valve is all about. It locks after every sip and can be opened/closed with a single hand.
You can get a considerable sip of water out of the Comet Bite Valve and not have to worry about it dripping down your arm, pack, or in the back of your vehicle on the ride home. That keeps things from getting messy. But it also means that you don’t unintentionally lose water. That’s a big deal. Leaky bite valves aren’t just annoying, they can be dangerous — especially if you’re out on the trail and don’t have a means of refilling.
The tube also has a new magnet clip. It works with any pack and simplifies managing the hose while you’re on the trail.
Grab and Go
The new light and flexible grab tab makes installing, adjusting, and removing the Contour from your pack a breeze. It’s a handle on your reservoir. You just snag the grab tab, or slide your hand through it and grab the pouch.
The Contour Hydration System: What’s the Same?
Like its Velocity and Force lines, the HydraPak Contour line brings over its Slide-Seal opening which allows for easy filling. And even more importantly, it makes cleaning and drying a cinch. Instead of trying to force open a screw top that’s been locked in place with suction, you just slide the plastic crimp off to fill or clean the reservoir. Then slide it back on to seal it up.
This system also makes HydraPak’s reservoirs lighter than a lot of competitors. According to the brand, its system uses four times less injected molded plastic, significantly reducing weight.
This may not seem like a ground-shaking advancement, but the Slide-Seal top was designed with a universal hanger. That allows it to adapt to a majority of the baked-in hangers in today’s packs. So it hangs as well in a Gregory backpack as it will in a North Face, Salomon, or Osprey backpack. And it will hang as easily in a daypack as it will in a backpacking pack. (It even has a 1.5L Contour reservoir that fits in lumbar packs.)
This little feature makes the Contour a very versatile reservoir. No matter how many backpacks you own, you only need one Contour. It will likely fit in all of them.
Additionally, HydraPak has ported over its Plug-N-Play connect system. So, you can swap from a standard tube to one of HydraPak’s insulated tubes depending on what you’re doing outside. It can also be used to replace a broken tube or one that’s just old.
In-Line Filter Compatibility
The Contour line will also retain the ability from HydraPak’s other reservoir lines to use its inline 28mm filter kit. That will allow you to refill your water from streams, wells, or springs safely. It removes 99.99% of all pathogens and bacteria per EPA Guide Standards.
Flip It Inside Out to Dry
To me, the thought of flipping a hydration reservoir inside out to clean it is like setting up a tent in the rain and hoping for the inside to be dry: impossible. But due to the Contour’s internal drying tab, you can reach down inside and flip the reservoir completely inside out with ease. That makes cleaning and drying the bag a breeze. (Note: This feature is only on the 3L and 2L models, not the 1.5L lumbar model.)
After using different brands of reservoirs and watching how they’ve changed and improved over the last 20 years, I’m overly impressed with the form and function of the Contour. In terms of durability, ease of use, and — oh, man — ease of cleaning, I’m wicked impressed.
I tested the 3L contour. But the HydraPak Contour line also comes in 2L sizes for packs and a 1.5L size for lumbar bags. Any of these new hydration reservoirs will work great on the trail, in boots, on two wheels, in high heels, or whatever you’ve got going on.