The best hydration pack will make drinking on the go efficient and very convenient. With most of the leading packs, you won’t even have to slow down or stop to enjoy a quick drink of water, all you have to do is grab the drinking tube that’s connected to the water reservoir and quench your thirst. However, there are many popular hydration packs on the market these days, which can make choosing the right one an overwhelming task.
Fortunately, I’ve done all the research for you by testing out many of the top-selling models and narrowing it down to six must-have packs that you won’t ever want to leave home without. I’ve also created a buyer’s guide that includes all of the features available to choose from, which features indicate quality, and the many benefits you’ll enjoy by investing in a new model. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each pack that made it onto my list, their top features, and how they rated.
Hydration Packs Comparison Chart
Osprey Syncro 12 Hydration Backpack
This dedicated cycling hydration pack comes with a 2.5-liter water reservoir and offers maximum ventilation via the air speed back panel and harness that’s cycling specific and designed to keep the wearer nice and cool as they pedal along.
The included pockets will allow you to store and organize all of your gear, keeping everything easily accessible. The pack also comes with an integrated rain cover that’s designed to keep your pack and its contents nice and dry. The pack itself is made out of 100 denier nylon honeycomb. Additionally, cyclists can also take advantage of the helmet attachment point and keep their helmet securely locked in place when riding is done for the day. The padded hip belt complete with webbing provides improved comfort and stability, helping to take some of the burden off the back.
- Breathable design
- Padded hip belt
- Magnetic sternum strap
- Lid lock helmet attachment
- Rain cover
- The pack can ride up too high, hindering visibility
This pack offers a decent amount of dry storage and includes some nice extras such as the integrated rain cover, tool organization pocket, helmet attachment point, and dual mesh side pockets. The water reservoir is the perfect size for a long day of cycling, with its ability to carry up to two and a half liters of cold drinking water. This model is a must-have for those longer cycling trips, and it will work well for both camping and hiking adventures.
CamelBak Classic Hydration Pack
CamelBak’s hydration pack is said to deliver up to twenty percent more water per sip. The pack’s ergonomic handle makes refilling the pack much easier and it comes with an on and off lever that will prevent the tubing from leaking, in between sips.
In terms of comfort, the pack’s back panel is lightweight and made out of a breathable mesh, so it will keep the wearer nice and cool. If you’re going for a ride or hike early in the day or at dusk, then you’ll appreciate the pack’s reflective accents that are designed to make the wearer highly visible in low light conditions.
Aside from a small zippered pocket on the pack’s exterior, this model does not offer any dry storage space. Instead, the design is mainly focused around the bladder. The small pocket can be used to store personal items such as keys, a wallet, and phone. The pack does not have a main dry storage compartment.
- Offers twenty percent more water per sip
- Breathable back panel
- Reflective accents
- No main dry storage compartment
If you’re looking for a pack you can take with you on a hike or wear cycling, this model won’t let you down. It’s designed solely for hydration needs, unlike other models on my list that also offer extensive dry storage. However, for the long-distance hiker or cyclist, this lack of dry storage can be a major drawback.
SHARKMOUTH Tactical Molle Hydration Pack
This pack weighs in at just twenty-six ounces and comes with chest, waist, and shoulder straps that are highly adjustable. The back-panel features padding that’s made out of breathable mesh, which is designed to keep your back nice and cool as you hike. Inside the pack is an insulating layer that’s made out of thick aluminum foil. This is where you’ll store the two-liter bladder. The insulating layer will keep the water nice and cool for up to four hours. The dry storage compartment is very roomy so you can bring along food, extra clothing, and other gear. On the front of the pack you’ll find a couple of zippered pockets that can be used to store small personal items, so your gear will remain organized and easily accessible. On the body of the pack is a Molle system that can be used to attach other gear, such as a sleeping bag, jacket, or anything else that you want to bring along that will take up too much space inside the pack.
- Large dry storage compartment
- Leak proof bladder
- Molle system
- Insulating layer keeps water cold
- Waist strap is very short
This pack can be used for hiking, camping, or cycling. It’s designed to store both water and any gear you want to bring along on your next outdoor adventure. The insulating layer does an excellent job of keeping water nice and cool, while the Molle system adds plenty of functionality to the pack and more storage options. This model is a great choice for short trips and comes loaded with all the features the hiker, camper, or hunter needs to stay hydrated and prepared when they’re on the go.
Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Backpack
This hydration pack by Musbasel includes a two-liter hydration bladder that’s made out of BPA-free materials. Inside the pack, you’ll find thermal insulation that’s designed to keep the water cool for up to four hours. There are also three storage compartments that are dedicated to dry storage. These compartments are rather small and can only hold smaller items, such as a wallet, phone, and some snacks. The bladder features a leak proof design with a large opening, allowing you to take a bigger drink.
- Leak proof design
- Insulating layer keeps water cold
- Bladder is made out of BPA-free materials
- Sixty-day satisfaction guarantee
- Small dry storage compartments
This lightweight pack features straps that are highly adjustable, a large water bladder that can carry up to two liters of cold water, and a few dry storage compartments designed to store snacks and small personal items. While the pack may not offer much in terms of dry storage space, it’s adjustable design, comfortable fit, and durable construction make it a steal for the price.
Neboic 2Pack Hydration Backpack
This set of two hydration packs will give you plenty of bang for your buck. The lightweight packs feature a compact design and are perfect for short hikes, cycling, and running. The packs will feel snug and stable on your back as you bike, hike, or jog. The packs come with three small pockets that are designed for small items such as a phone, keys, and wallet. There is no main dry storage compartment, which may be a dealbreaker for the long-distance hiker or cyclist.
- Two packs for the price of one
- Large water capacity
- No main dry storage compartment
- No insulating layer
The packs are perfect for shorter trips and feature a highly adjustable design that promotes user comfort. Additionally, filling and refilling the bladder is a cinch, thanks to the quick disconnect tubing. Even better, the tubing’s wide mouth opening allows you to thoroughly clean out the bladder, so maintenance is a cinch. This two-pack is perfect for the hiker or camper on a budget and offers the type of high water capacity and adjustable design that most outdoor enthusiasts are looking for.
MIRACOL Hydration Backpack
This hydration pack is lightweight and highly durable. Its multiple storage compartments provide more than enough space to store gear, including clothing, snacks, and small personal items. The water bladder has a two-liter capacity and is made out of BPA-free EVA material. The bladder’s thermal insulation will keep water nice and cool for up to four hours, which will be a huge plus in hotter climates.
- Thermal insulation
- Several storage options
- Bladder sweats in hot weather, soaking the bottom of the bag
This pack is lightweight, durable, and designed to keep water nice and cool for up to four hours. Weighing just one pound, this military-grade pack is loaded with a variety of storage options that are designed to keep your gear safe and secure whether you’re hiking, hunting, or camping.
Hydration Pack Buyer’s Guide
When you’re shopping around for a new hydration pack, look for a model that’s designed for the activity you want to use it for. Next, you’ll want to take a look at any extra features, its fit, and what its capacity is. There are many different packs to choose from that are designed for a wide range of activities. The type you choose should be able to hold all the water you need, based on the length of your adventure, activity type, and where you’re headed.
Benefits of a Hydration Pack
When you’re headed out of the house for a bike ride, hiking adventure, or a run, it’s always wise to bring water along. However, a water bottle doesn’t allow you to really bring along all the water you need or enough water to get you through the day.
Using a hydration pack will ensure you stay hydrated and have enough water on hand to keep you cool on your next adventure.
This type of pack comes with several benefits, including:
- All over the world, landfills are full of discarded plastic bottles. This debris can end up in the ocean, floating thousands of miles and killing wildlife. If you normally purchase single use plastic bottles, they cannot be reused since the chemicals leak out of the plastic and can potentially lead to serious health issues such as cancer. A hydration pack is a better, healthier choice, both for you and the environment. These packs are designed for continuous use and can easily be refilled.
- Water reservoirs are significantly lighter than water bottles or canteens and can be carried on your back, freeing up your hands while evenly distributing the weight across your shoulders and upper back, so you can carry up to three liters comfortably.
- If you invest in one of these packs, depending on the size, it can also double as a regular backpack. These days, most manufacturers create packs that allow you to remove the bladder entirely, for users who want to use just the backpack. Additionally, the spacious design of many of the leading bags will provide more than enough space so you can fill up the bladder all the way and still have plenty of room to bring along all the gear and snacks you need.
- One of the major selling points of a hydration pack is the easy access to water they provide. Many packs will allow you to grab a drink of water while you’re running, hiking, or cycling, without breaking your stride. This is due to the innovative tube, bite valve, and portal design that makes the drinking tube highly accessible and easy to use.
- A hydration pack will cost slightly more than a standard backpack, however, considering their versatility and functionality, these packs are definitely worth every penny.
Using the specially designed water reservoir is better for the environment, it offers a space-saving design, and gives you fast and easy access to water when you’re on the go. If you exercise often and you’re tired of running out of water or having to bring along several bottles of water, then a hydration pack is the perfect solution and one that will allow you to bring along more than enough water to stay hydrated as you explore the great outdoors.
Now that you know more about some of the biggest benefits these packs have to offer, let’s take a look at the different types of packs available to choose from.
Types of Hydration Packs
There are a couple of basic types of hydration packs: waist packs and backpacks. There are also packs that are made for specific types of outdoor activities such as snowboarding, skiing, cycling, mountain biking, running, hiking, and more. The feature that’s common among all styles of packs is the included water reservoir, which is what makes drinking on the go so easy. There are also some packs that include a water bottle instead of a reservoir.
These packs are designed much like standard backpacks for hiking and often come with plenty of cargo space that you can use to store clothing, food, and other essentials that you need to bring along. These packs range in size from small packs designed for shorter trips to models that are large enough for an overnight adventure.
These models are specifically designed for use on mountain bikes and other types of bicycles. They’re designed for the road and are usually low-profile and compact, so they’ll feel stable and light on your back and will not create a lot of wind resistance, which can definitely slow you down.
Running Vests and Backpacks
For running, these packs are available in a vest design that fits snugly against the body. These running vests are very similar to hydration backpacks in that they’re carried on the back and over the shoulders, however, they usually feature a lower profile and come with some pockets on the front of the shoulder straps. Unfortunately, they don’t come with a hip belt like most of the hydration backpacks do. Some models will come with a dedicated spot for storing bottles of water. These vests are usually designed to accommodate a hydration reservoir, which is perfect for the runner who enjoys taking a sip from a tube as they run.
The running backpack is very similar to one that you’d use on a day hike, but with features that are running specific, such as a simple hip belt or a low-profile design, in addition to several pockets that you can easily access while running. These backpacks can provide more storage compared to the vests, which will make them a great choice for longer runs that require extra gear and food. Most of these packs are designed to accommodate a water reservoir for convenient sipping on the go. Many models will also come with pockets that are located on the sides or shoulder straps for runners who prefer to use water bottles.
Models designed specifically for snow sports are winterized in order to prevent the supply of water from freezing. This means that there’s usually a thick layer of insulation found on the drinking tube and water reservoir. There may also be insulation on the bite valve cover. Some packs that are snow sport specific will also include carry straps or lash points which will allow for hands-free transport of your skis or snowboard.
These waist packs are worn around the waist. Many models will come with water bottles instead of a water reservoir. The cargo space is also significantly smaller than a backpack style model. These packs can be a better choice for fast and short adventures such as a trail run or hike, or any type of activity where you don’t need much gear, or you don’t want to be loaded down with supplies.
Other Important Features
Aside from determining the type of hydration pack you need, there are many other features you’ll need to consider such as water and gear capacity, fit, hip belt adjustability, and much more. Below, I’ll touch on each of these important features to help you choose a model that will work perfectly when you’re out and about.
Before you choose a pack, make sure the model you’re interested in is large enough to carry your gear and the amount of water you need.
Water isn’t exactly light. In fact, one liter of water weighs around two pounds. Because of its weight, it’s important to consider how much water you’ll need and what you’ll be able to carry. You should also determine whether your route will have a way to refill your pack along the way.
Of course, you don’t have to fill up the reservoir all the way. For shorter trips, in order to keep the weight low, try to only bring along the amount of water you anticipate needing. As an example, if you have a pack that comes with a three-liter reservoir, try just filling it up halfway for a shorter hike.
The gear capacity many packs offer ranges from less than five litters up to fifty liters. In order to determine how much space you’ll need, you should write down a list of your inventory. Can the pack you’re interested in accommodate all of your snacks and clothing and other essentials?
Packs that are five liters or under are designed for short hikes, runs, or cycling. Their low-profile compact design will provide enough space for a few essentials, such as snacks and an extra layer of clothing.
Packs that are six to ten liters are a good choice for trail running or mountain biking. They offer enough space for users to easily store a couple of layers of clothing and enough food for the day.
Models with an eleven to twenty-liter capacity are often designed for mountain biking, hiking, trail running, and come equipped with some extra pockets that are designed to help the user to remain organized. This larger capacity will allow the wearer to carry enough emergency equipment, food, clothing, and any extra gear for a longer adventure.
Packs with a capacity of twenty-one liters or more are often designed specifically for hiking. These packs offer enough room and load-support features, which allows them to perform well on longer hikes. They’re also a great choice for overnight adventures.
Once you have determined the type of pack you need and the right capacity, you’ll need to make sure it fits you properly. A pack that fits correctly will be a size that works with your torso length, and one that offers a snug grip on the hips.
Some packs are available in several size options ranging from extra small to extra-large. These sizes will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Other packs will come with a suspension that’s adjustable so you can modify it to fit your torso. This will be helpful for people who are usually in-between sizes.
The hip belts found on hydration packs are designed to fit a wide range of hip sizes ranging from twenty inches up to forty inches or larger. Make sure you pay attention to the manufacturer’s size chart to determine whether or not the pack offers a hip belt that will work for your waist size and comes with the level of adjustability you need.
Bite Valves and Tubing
While the bite valve may not seem important, it’s crucial that you find a model that comes with a bite valve that’s durable and comfortable to use. These valves are often made out of soft rubber. Some models will require just a squeeze to allow the water to start flowing, while others will require the user to push a button with their tongue. Almost all types of bite valves will come with a shut off feature or a lock, which will be invaluable when it comes to tossing your pack into your car or stuffing it into a bigger bag.
The tubing on most packs are trimmable. On the backpack itself, there will be hose guides and clips that prevent the tube from flopping all over the place during use.
Shutoff Switch for Bite Valve
Some models of bite valves will twist open and shut, while others will come with a switch that ensures the water doesn’t leak,
A tube portal is a slit that will allow users to thread the drinking tube through the interior to the exterior. Many models will come with a couple of portals, allowing the user to position the tube over either shoulder, while other packs will only come with a single centered portal.
Many models will come with a clip located on one of the shoulder straps. These clips are designed to keep the tube positioned correctly for easier access.
Tubes with Quick Disconnect
Some packs will come with a drinking tube that’s easy to disconnect from the reservoir’s body, which will come in handy when it’s time to refill the water reservoir during a hike. All you have to do to disconnect the tube is press a button as you pull the reservoir out of the pack. This will allow the tubing to remain in place, which will come in handy if you have the tubing routed through the tube portal.
Add-Ons for Inclement Weather
You can also find a variety of winterized add-ons that you can use for your hydration pack, such as bite valve covers, reservoir covers, insulated reservoirs, and insulated sip tubes. These can come in handy, however, they’ll add weight and bulk to your system.
If you’re worried that you’re going to pop the bladder in your hydration pack should you fall during use, don’t. The water reservoirs are designed to withstand the force of impact. However, you can also take the protection a step further. Some pack manufacturers have incorporated body armor padding and plates that are designed to absorb impact in order to enhance protection and to protect both the water reservoir and the wearer.
With a hydration pack, cleanliness will be essential. Ideally, you should completely empty out the water reservoir and hang it out to dry. Many manufacturers make drying inserts that will keep the internal surfaces separate. Keeping the water reservoir in the fridge is another solution, since the temperature will prevent mold and bacteria from growing.
Never put another type of liquid in a reservoir other than water. Other types of drinks will make it impossible to clean out the reservoir properly, which can lead to bacteria growth.
Filling the Water Reservoir
When it comes to how to access the water reservoir, hydration pack designs tend to vary. Some models feature a water reservoir that will reside inside the main pack. This type of design helps to save weight. Other models will come with their own dedicated compartment which protects the bladder from damage due to bumping and rubbing against your other gear.
To make refilling a reservoir easier, many packs will come with a detachable hose. In order to fill up the bladder with a permanent hose, you’ll need to slip the hose out of the bag, or you can carry the entire bag to the faucet.
Manufacturers have really gone above and beyond in terms of organization. Many packs now come equipped with a wide variety of features such as headphone ports, expandable compartments, helmet carry straps, elastic cords that will secure a jacket or sweater, hooks for keys, and small pockets designed to hold a pump.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Hydration Packs Worth it?
One of the biggest benefits of owning this type of water reservoir is the space-saving design compared to what you’d get from using a couple of large water bottles. The water reservoir features a more streamlined design without the awkward shape that can take up too much space in a backpack.
How big of a hydration Bladder do I Need?
When you’re shopping for this type of pack, the biggest consideration is what capacity to buy. These packs are available in a wide range of sizes from small one-liter daypacks to massive three-liter overnight packs. The type you choose should depend on how you plan to use the pack, whether it’s for a short bike ride or an overnight camping trip.
What Can You Put in a Hydration Pack?
You can fill up a water reservoir halfway with some ice and place the bladder in the freezer, or you can use a frozen ice brick. In hotter weather, the ice isn’t going to last very long without good insulation.
Can You Put a Hydration Pack in a Regular Backpack?
Most new models of hydration packs don’t come equipped with a reservoir that’s designed with an interior sleeve that can hold a bladder. If you need to bring a lot of water along on your next outdoor adventure, then purchase a dedicated hydration backpack or daypack, both of which will allow you to bring along as much water as you need. The difference between a regular backpack and a hydration pack is the dedicated space that secures and protects the bladder.
How Long Can Water Sit in a Camel Bag?
If the inside of the water reservoir is clean, then the water can last for up to six months. However, in reality, if you’ve drunk from the camel bag, this allows bacteria to grow, so the water should be replaced after two to three weeks.
The best hydration pack will suit your needs when you’re out for a run, hiking a trail through the backcountry, or out for a ride on your bike. The model you choose should provide the water capacity you need, whether you’re out for a short day trip or you’re on a long camping trip in a rural area. The packs that I’ve included here offer the versatility many buyers are looking for and they’re available at a price that won’t break the bank.