The Apidura Frame Pack Hydration Bladder is one of those innovative ideas that makes you wonder “Why did nobody think of this sooner?” It’s a bikepacking-specific water bladder, a hydration bladder shaped like a frame bag, which makes it the most flexible and space-efficient way I know of to carry water in your frame triangle. It beats bottles by a long shot, fits better than a regular hydration bladder, and is more versatile than the similarly innovative Cranktank.
As a small-ish person who loves bikepacking in the desert, I’m constantly experimenting with ways to carry more water on my small bike. It’s not unusual to cram 6 – 8 liters into my bikepacking setup, and a hydration bladder in my frame bag is one of my staples. The location is great — low and centered for good bike handling — and I love the convenience of drinking from a hose while I ride.
Since moving from my Fargo and its roomy Salsa EXP frame bag to my Stella’s smaller triangle and sleeker Rogue Panda bag, I can no longer fit three liters in my frame triangle. Thus the Apidura frame pack bladder caught my eye while prepping for a recent bikepacking trip in Morocco. Honestly it was a little too pricey for my taste, but my husband thought it was neat and I needed a birthday gift for him. So I bought the 3 liter Apidura bladder for “him” and hoped he might let me “borrow” it in the future. Happy birthday dear! 🙂
We / he used the frame bladder daily for two months of bikepacking in Morocco and touring in Portugal. Since getting home I’ve been borrowing it here or there for “testing” purposes. This review shares our combined impressions of the 3 liter Apidura Frame Pack Hydration Bladder.
Note: The blue hose and valve you see in these pictures are not the originals. We swapped ours out for ones that integrate with our Sawyer gravity filter setups; more on that here if you’re interested.
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Apidura Frame Pack Hydration Bladder Review
Capacity: 1.5 L and 3 L
Price: $51, $63
Weight: 120 g, 150 g
Our rating: 4.4 / 5 stars, thoughtfully designed and works well, but value-for-money will depend on your setup
Our conclusion: The Apidura Frame Pack Hydration Bladder is one of those innovative ideas that makes you wonder “Why did nobody think of this sooner?” It’s the most flexible and space-efficient way to carry water in a frame bag, and the details are well-executed. We especially like the 3 liter size for its versatility, but the 1.5 liter size is still a space-saver. For the relatively expensive price, however, not every rider will find the incremental capacity increase worth the cost.
What We Love:
- More space-efficient than a regular hydration bladder
- Well-designed with thoughtful details
- Doesn’t leak (if you close it correctly)
- Helpful volume markings
- More durable than it looks
What Could Be Better:
- More expensive than regular hydration bladder
- Hard to find in the US (especially 3 liter size)
- Valve isn’t the best (but you can swap it out)
- Not as versatile for other uses and activities
Size and Shape
When this bladder first arrived I had trouble believing it would actually hold three liters. I had to fill it up to check! It does indeed, though it looks much smaller than the traditional 3L Platypus hydration bladder I’ve been awkwardly stuffing into my frame bag for years. The Platypus bladder works, but it can’t be filled completely in my small frame bag and it leaves oddly-shaped empty spaces around the sides.
The secret to Apidura’s bikepacking water bladder is obviously its shape. For one thing, the bag has a uniform 6.5cm width / thickness all around the sides rather than narrowing to a single seam, so it can hold more than you’d expect if you’re used to flat hydration bladders like the Platypus. Then of course there’s the triangle shape, ideal for carrying more water in a triangular space.
You can see a detailed dimensions diagram at Apidura’s website, but the 3L bladder is 29cm across and 20cm tall at its largest points. The 1.5L bladder’s corresponding dimensions are 19 x 14.5 cm. Both sizes have a thickness of 6.5 cm, and the 3L has a connector in the middle to prevent the bag from pooching out.
Apidura is a European-based brand primarily known for their high-end bike bags, and this hydration bladder is first and foremost an add-on to their frame bags. Presumably it fits Apidura’s own bags like a glove, but it will work in nearly any frame bag large enough to fit it.
We’re using ours in Rogue Panda custom frame bags on bikes with slightly steeper downtubes than is optimal for the bag’s bottom corner. We might loose out on a few fluid ounces of capacity due to the sub-optimal fit, but it’s still way better than a traditional hydration bladder.
This is the main attraction, the reason to shell out the cash for a fancy bike frame hydration bladder like this: it allows you to carry more water while taking up less space in your frame bag. Sure, you can cram a regular hydration bladder in there, but nooks and crannies will remain unfilled. If space is at a premium for you, that may not be good enough.
The Apidura Frame Pack Bladder lives up to its promise here. On my size small Stella, the 3L Apidura bladder fills every square inch of my frame bag while holding ~2.5 liters of water. It’s a tight fit, but the zipper closes. My older Platypus bladder, by contrast, can only hold about 2 liters in this frame bag. I tried filling it with the exact same 2.5 liters that fit in the Apidura, but it was too bulky to zip. So the Apidura bag gives me an extra 0.5 liters of capacity in my space-constrained frame triangle.
My husband has a larger frame triangle (jealous!) that can already fit a full 3L Platypus bladder. So technically the Apidura 3L bladder doesn’t increase his capacity, but it does use his bag space more efficiently. He’s able to arrange things more neatly and fit additional long and skinny items on top of his water bladder.
Filling and Closing
At first glance the system for filling and sealing the Apidura hydration bladder seemed odd, but the design rationale quickly became clear. The extended collar area (for lack of a better term) at the top allows you to unroll it and pour water in while it’s still in your frame bag. It also provides a bit of extra volume so the main compartment can squish enough to wrestle it into your frame bag, if you took it out to fill it.
The collar area closes with a press action, almost like a burly ziplock bag. The first time we closed it a little too casually, it leaked. Since then we’ve been careful to always press it closed completely, and it hasn’t leaked again. I’m actually surprised by how secure this closure system is, as I’ve seen similar types of closures on other bladders that don’t work nearly as well.
In addition to the press-closure, the top collar rolls down and secures with velcro. We found this part fairly secure too. Even when the bag is filled to the brim and there’s pressure on the opening, it hasn’t unrolled or spilled.
Hose and Bite Valve
I’ve seen other reviewers complain about the Apidura bladder’s lackluster bite valve, and we agree it’s not the most comfortable or high-flow valve we’ve tried. Fortunately the hose is a standard 1/4 inch diameter, so you can easily swap out the bite valve (I like the HydraPak Blaster) or change the entire hose if that’s easier.
The blue hose you see in most of these pictures is NOT the original. We use Sawyer water filters with a gravity setup and quick-connect kit that allows us to filter directly into the bladder through the hose. You can read more about this setup here.
The bladder is made from a clear, flexible, almost soft-feeling material. Honestly it didn’t seem super durable when we first saw it. But it passed our test: two months of daily use in sometimes very rugged conditions (hot, rocky, sandy) with basically zero signs of wear.
Price and Value
The Apidura frame bladder is one of the most expensive hydration bladders money can buy. At $63 the three liter version is nearly twice as much as a Platypus 3L Hoser, currently available for $34.
I can’t say I blame Apidura, as this innovative bladder must have required far more design work, trial and error, and nuanced manufacturing than the ubiquitous backpack-style bladders. However, if budget-friendly bikepacking gear is a priority for you, this bladder might not be.
In my case, the extra half liter of water it allows me to carry in my small frame makes this bladder worthwhile. I’m not sure I would find it compelling enough, given the price, if I could already fit a 3 liter bladder in my frame bag (albeit less efficiently). I’m also not sure I would find the 1.5 liter version worthwhile, since I can already fit 1.5 liters in a regular bladder (albeit less efficiently, again). In short, there is a narrow range of frame bag sizes where this bladder makes a substantial difference. For everyone else it’s a minor optimization.
One more thing to keep in mind: Unlike regular hydration bladders, you can’t swap this one over to a backpack for double-duty in other contexts (well technically you can, we’ve done it, but it’s not ideal). I also use hydration bladders for hiking and sometimes prefer a hydration backpack for bikepacking, so that makes the cost-per-use for my other bladders even better.
If your setup is truly dialed and this is the final piece in the puzzle of packing perfection, it’s probably worth it. If you struggle to carry enough water on your bike and an extra half liter or so would make the difference, this is your water bladder. If money is no object and you especially enjoy the satisfaction of a tight and efficient packing job, you’ll probably like it. But if you’re just getting started, I don’t think this is something you need to run out and buy.
The Big Picture
For most bikepackers this water bladder will be one part of a larger hydration system. In particular you’ll probably still want a bottle for camp, since hydration bladders are less convenient for cooking, sipping water in your tent, washing up, etc.
To keep the hose in place for easy sipping, tape or zip tie one of these retainers to your handlebars. If you want to be really fancy, here’s a magnetic one (though I wonder if it might bounce loose on bumpy ground).
If you’re really serious about carrying as much water as possible in your frame triangle, and you plan to do so consistently for a long time, check out the Cranktank. I’ve heard good things from other bike travelers. The main drawback is that the Cranktank takes up the same amount of space all the time, even when empty. The Apidura bladder can be underfilled or folded down when your water capacity needs are lower, making it much more versatile.
More Bikepacking Resources
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Or visit the bikepacking section for lots more!
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