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The Apidura Frame Pack Hydration Bladder is a new twist on an old bikepacking hack – storing water in a bag, not a bottle. Well designed and made from sturdy materials, it will get your water low and efficiently stored for those really long days out.
Of the three ways to carry water on your bike – backpack, bottle or bladder – a bladder in a framebag is the most space-efficient, secure and comfortable. Keeping your heavy water down low is good for bike handling as well, if that matters.
Historically, people have been bunging generic bladders into frame bags for years – brands like Platypus being oft-cited as a good solution. My review of the Platypus Hoser Bladder covers the good, bad and ugly of using a traditional bladder in a frame bag.
Last year I reviewed the Apidura Backcountry Full-Frame Pack, and noted its excellent hose routing features. Turns out those were designed specifically to suit the bladder on review here. Apidura's website has a compatibility chart for its own bags, so you can mix and match a solution that works.
Weighing a scant 120g in its 1.5L size here (there's also a monster 3L version that features an internal divider that holds the sides in), the feel of the bag is premium – nice welds, chunky ziploc-seal, and secure click-fit hose.
To fill the bladder you unroll and open a ziploc-style flap at the top, with plenty of room to use a tap or to scoop water from a stream. Once it's full you pinch together the top and fold it over, finally securing it with the Velcro patch. It's a secure system that didn't let me down.
The port at the bottom where the hose attaches is clever, not allowing water to flow without the hose attached, so once it's full you can take your time wrangling it back into the frame bag and clipping the hose in place. Not having to unthread the hose or faff about trying to align a threaded hose cap with a bladder while trying to keep the water from sloshing out is a huge plus.
You can always leave the bladder in place and refill from a hose or bottle if available. The wide mouth will also make cleaning a breeze, if things get a bit manky.
The hose measures 1.2m, which should be long enough for all but the lankiest of frames – and can be cut shorter if needed. How you route the hose around your stem, bar and into your face is very much trial and error, depending on how accessible you want it – drinking on the go, or pulling over and bending down to take a sip. The hose is flexible, but if bent too far it can kink. This isn't an issue if you get your routing right.
A couple of omissions I'd like to see Apidura sort are a cover for the bite valve to keep it clean, and a hose clip that can secure it to a bag, brake or shift hose, to keep it out of the way. Fortunately, both are available aftermarket, but I'd like to see Apidura offering them as an option. I settled on closing the bite valve and tucking it into the map pocket on the left of my frame bag, holding the hose in place by running the zip closed against it. This both secured it and protected it from muck flung up by the front wheel.
The bite valve is good enough, with a simple pull-to-unlock that can be done on the go, then you bite with your teeth against a spring-loaded plunger to open the flow. Being able to push it closed and locked is handy for storing in a bag as luggage if needed. You do need to be aware that if you pull the valve too hard to open it, it comes right off – but a fair bit of force is needed. If this happens, it pushes back on easily enough – assuming you didn't swallow it.
One inherent drawback of putting a bladder at the bottom of a well-packed framebag is that as you drink, it collapses, meaning that unless your frame bag has a dedicated lower section, whatever is on top of it collapses too. So pretty soon your carefully packed framebag is a jumble of loose stuff rattling around and likely to cause damage to itself or your bag. Then when you come to refill it, you have to repack the entire bag – not great. It would be good to see Apidura offer a frame accessory of sorts that encompassed the bladder when full, which retains its shape when the bladder is empty to facilitate ease of refilling without repacking everything.
As for the competition, as mentioned above the Platypus Hoser is cheaper (and bigger), but lacks the ease-of-use features the Apidura provides. Yes, you're paying a premium for this function-specific product, but there's really no other framebag-specific bladder out there I could find, so chapeau to Apidura for innovation.
The shape is designed to fit Apidura's own bags perfectly, but as those are designed to fit most bikes, the bladder should fit most framebags. This includes shorter bags that don't go to the bottom of your frame, but fit under the top tube.
To conclude, the bladder worked well over long days in the saddle with multiple refills from cafe taps, and Highland burns via a water filter, was easy to drink from on the go and didn't leak anywhere. If you're into keeping hydrated easily on big days out and want to be as efficient as possible with use of your frame space, this could literally be your bag.
It's a great way to store water low down and in a small space
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Apidura Frame Pack Hydration Bladder 1.5L
Size tested: 1.5L
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's for people with framebags, wanting to carry water in a faff-free way.
Apidura says: "The Frame Pack Hydration Bladder is a convenient solution for carrying water when you don't have space for bottle cages in your bike's main triangle. Available in 1.5L and 3.0L capacities, the shaped hydration bladder is easy to fill without needing to be removed from your frame pack and connects to the accessory clip in Backcountry Frame Packs for improved stability.
"As the first bikepacking-specific frame bag hydration bladder, it makes efficient use of space, so you don't need to compromise between carrying water and other essentials. The hydration bladder is compatible with all Apidura Full Frame Packs and packs of a similar size, with a 1.2m long detachable hose designed to route through the hydration port to your cockpit for easy use while riding."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Frame Pack Hydration Bladder has a PVC free construction and is certified safe to EU and FDA standards. The pack includes a detachable 1.2m hose with mouthpiece.
The Innovation Lab Frame Pack Hydration Bladder is compatible with all Apidura Full Frame Packs and Frame Packs of a similar size
The materials and fit are high quality.
Once set up, it works really well.
Still looks like new.
Pretty light considering the alternative of two bottles and cages.
The bite valve is nice to use.
There aren't any other framebag-specific bladders out there, so a comparison for value is hard; £37 is rather a lot for a plastic bag and hose, but then again, it's only £11 more than a generic bladder like the Platypus Hoser, with better functionality. You're paying a premium for ease of use, and I'd say it's perfectly justifiable.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed very well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Ease of use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of hose accessories.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's very good, and although £37 is rather a lot for a plastic bag and hose, I'd say it justifies it.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.