Best Hydration Pack
No matter the temperature or sport, staying hydrated is one of the most important aspects of any adventure. Hydration packs are a functional and easy way to carry water with you without being an inconvenience. Many packs leave extra room for other necessities, such as energy bars, a cell phone, and keys. When doing any activity, hydrating ourselves should be our main priority as if we do not, then our body quickly lets us know. Hydration packs also usually come with hydration systems that are ready to go and will allow you to take a sip whenever you need it, even while you are moving. These pieces of gear are convenient and should be a part of any runner, biker, or outdoor enthusiasts arsenal of gear.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Top 10 Picks
1. Osprey Skarab 18
Some had troubles with the bite valve
For a pack that is affordable, the Osprey Skarab 18 offers a lot of benefits, such as a 2.5-liter water reservoir, it's lightweight, and it is comfortable on the back. It might not have fancier additions, like a suspension system, but reviewers and testers agree, it still feels good on.Read more
With a 2.5 liter reservoir for water, you will be ready to hit the trails for a hike and with a moderate load. The women's version of this bag is called the Osprey Skimmer 18.
Ease of Use
While this quality of being a simple pack may not seem so great to some, to those who have used it, they rave about the easy usability of the water system and the overall feeling of comfort that the pack provides.
This pack is great for hikes that run a moderate level of time and difficulty. If your load is heavy, there are optional hip and sternum straps. Even better, the EVA foam and mesh back panel provide you with great comfort and ventilation as well. The great thing about this pack, the Osprey Skarab 18, is that it really gets down to business and does the job of providing you with comfort, durability, and hydration without too much extra distraction, muss or fuss.
2. Osprey Syncro 15
Lots of pockets
We love this pack because unlike some others that can be a bit bulkier, the Osprey Syncro 15 is excellent for warm weather conditions. With a suspension system that is meant to cool and keep you ventilated, you will feel great using it on summer adventures outdoors.Read more
The design is narrow and slim, which is optimal for bikers, but surprisingly, it still packs quite a large punch. You can still fit a number of items in this pack that also features a front organizational compartment. Not to mention, you will be able to fit 2.5 liters of water in the liquid reservoir.
Ease of Use
Most reviewers agree that this pack is fairly simple to fill and load. The “straw” features a bite valve for easy drinking.
Because of the Osprey Syncro 15's great mesh back panel that keeps you ventilated and cool, this pack is a sure option for hikers, bikers, or any other outdoor enthusiasts who itch to get out on a warmer day. There are both chest and hip straps that make the bag easier to carry when it's heavier. There are also compression straps to help provide more stability. Not only does the back panel offer airflow, but it also keeps those who have tried it feeling very comfortable, even on longer hikes.
3. CamelBak Fourteener 24
3 Liter water capacity
Spacious enough for a camera, phone, snacks, and other supplies
Might be too large for some
The CamelBak Fourteener 24 is a nice addition to the list, because it is highly durable, rugged for strenuous hikes, and will certainly keep you feeling hydrated with a 3-liter bladder. Not to mention, it is larger than some of the other bags, so you can fit all the essentials for a day's worth of trekking peaks.Read more
The CamelBak Fourteener 24 does a great job of hitting the mark for your outdoor's needs. It's comfortable, durable, and spacious enough to fill with important and essential supplies, like snacks, a towel, first-aid kit, and of course, the bladder system will hold your water. Boasting a 3-liter water reservoir, even the thirstiest of outdoor's enthusiasts should be fully hydrated.
Ease of Use
This pack is versatile and easy to use. The easily refillable Crux 3-liter hydration bladder is removable and has a large twist-off opening. You can easily add ice inside the bladder to keep your water cold for hours. The reservoir has an antimicrobial treatment that slows down the build-up for naturally occurring bacteria. The overall shape of the reservoir is comfortable and doesn’t slosh. Additionally, there is a water bottle pocket.
While this hydration pack is a touch larger than others, it certainly remains fully comfortable and breathable, that is, according to the many testers and reviewers. Just by looking at the back of the pack, you’ll see plenty of foam padding for optimal cushioning and ventilation. Heavier loads are handled easily with the semi-rigid suspension system on the back. This system of suspension seems to hold and distribute weight very well and in a comfortable fashion.
This pack is also full of pockets that cater to everything from snacks, sunglasses, and extra gear.
4. CamelBak Arete 18
Great for day trips
An excellent budget option
Not as durable as others
This little backpacker's secret is a convenient size so that you can pack it away in a larger backpack or a suitcase until you reach your hiking destination. While its reservoir isn't quite as large as others, it does allow for 1.5 liters of water, so you should definitely be set for a day making your way through new landscapes that consist of a lighter hike load.Read more
The water reservoir, which keeps 1.5 liters of water in it, will definitely have you hydrated for a day around of sightseeing and light trailblazing.
Ease of Use
The simplicity of this bag keeps makes it easy to fold, pack, and go at a whim's notice. The reservoir sits flat against your back for easy access.
If you are a no muss, no fuss kind of person who really wants to stick to the basics, this Arete 18 will definitely do the trick. It is both lightweight and affordable, so it suits backpackers on a tight budget. The CamelBak Arete 18 is constructed with durable, yet thin nylon, and it doesn't have a lot of extra padding. There is a removable sternum strap to help evenly distribute the weight of a heavy bag, but there is no hip belt. While it won't feel the best with huge, over-packed loads, it does feel comfortable with lighter packing for things like day trips.
5. Osprey Raptor 10
Could have more multi-use storage functions
Could have more durable straps
Another good choice for an all-around good hydration pack that can help you out if you plan on being outside for long periods of time is the Osprey Raptor 10 Hydration Pack. This hydration pack is designed to help you out on the longest and most difficult outdoor adventures you can take, and is made with a lot of durability.Read more
This bag’s capacity is 10L and the hydration reservoir can hold up to three liters.
Ease of Use
Osprey’s Raptor 10 Hydration Pack also features side compression straps to help make the load easier to carry and cross-functional compression straps for extra gear carrying assistance. Also, the lid lock attachment feature on this hydration pack can carry most bicycle helmets.
Osprey’s Raptor 10 Hydration Pack comes with a bevy of thoughtful features like a detachable tool roll, a helmet carrier, and a great suspension system so that you’ll stay balanced and stable as you move. The winged shoulder straps contour to your body as you move, ensuring your comfort while exercising. This hydration pack is also designed with a front panel top pocket and a side zippered pocket so that you can bring along any of the items you need and safely organize them. For ventilation, the back of the pack is lined with mesh.
Osprey’s Raptor 10 Hydration Pack also features a blinker light, which has a quick light attachment in case you need to make yourself more visible. You also get a roll-out tool pouch with its own zipper lock for easy access.
6. CamelBak M.U.L.E.
Easy to use
Simple to refill
Difficult to keep clean
Could have better ventilation
CamelBak’s M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack is traditional hydration back that’s been available on the market since 1996, and it continues to be a widely used and popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts. This hydration pack offers a lot of versatile features that help to make it a good all-around hydration pack for those outdoor enthusiasts that like variety.Read more
This bag can hold 9L of gear and 3L of hydration.
Ease of Use
CamelBak designed their M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack to give you up to twenty percent more water each time you take a sip and also includes a handle that provides simple refilling as well as an on and off lever so you don’t have to worry about leaking. Plus, this hydration pack also features a Magnetic Tube Trap, which helps to secure your tube and keeps it available to you each time you need to use it.
CamelBak’s M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack also gives you an air director back panel for extra ventilation, so that you stay cool and dry while you are on-the-go. For balance and even weight-distribution, there are compression straps, a waist belt, and sternum strap. You also get external hooks to help you carry your helmet along with you whenever you need to take it off.
Plus, this hydration pack comes with stretch overflow storage and allows you to stash an extra layer of clothing easily. Designed to keep you comfortable and going strong throughout your day, this hydration pack brings a lot of useful benefits to the outdoor enthusiast.
7. Gregory Mountain Products Nano 18
Reservoir not included
The Nano 18 is a versatile pack that can be used around town or in the mountains. Although there is a dedicated sleeve for the hydration pouch and hose, the reservoir is not included. On the bright side, this sleeve can be used as a laptop sleeve when you don't need to bring multiple liters of water. There are also two mesh side pockets that are large enough to hold big bottles of water as well.Read more
Slightly different than the other additions on our list, the reservoir is not included with this pack. For some, this may be seen as a disadvantage, but it allows you to choose your capacity and system. As a whole, this pack holds 18-liters. If you already have a favorite reservoir and hose, this is a great bag to pair it with. While we couldn’t find exact measurements of the hydration pocket, we think you could fit a two to three-liter bag in it. For days when you don’t need a hydration pack, the pocket also doubles as a laptop sleeve.
Ease of Use
As mentioned, you choose the reservoir that you want to use with this backpack. As for threading the hose through, there is a designated route to thread it through. The hose arrives at the strap of the backpack and is held in place. Additionally, there are dual mesh side pockets that can be used for extra bottles of water or other liquids.
The straps and back panel of this backpack are perforated and breathable. The zippers are easy to grip and slide well, the included hip belt is retractable, and the shoulder harness has tube routing. This pack is made to move with you.
There is also a decent amount of organization present for a hydration pack. The main compartment has a U- shape and fully unzips, making it easy to locate your items. The front mesh pocket features a buckle closure and some organization. Additionally, you have the reservoir/laptop compartment as well.
8. Osprey Seral Lumbar Pack
A great alternative to a backpack
Easy to refill
The hose doesn't stay connected to the magnet
If you're a minimalist biker or just tired of carrying a backpack, this lumbar pack is a great option. It still provides enough space for personal items and a few tools. The bladder holds up to 1.5-liters and is a perfect size for short rides or races with refill stations.Read more
The hydration bladder of the Seral can hold up to 1.5-liters. For a short ride, or for races with refill stations, this is great. However, if you’ll be out for hours with no chance to refill the bladder, odds are that 1.5-liters won’t cut it. And if it does, you’re not drinking enough water.
Ease of Use
You’ll notice that the hydration bladder resembles a ziplock bag. It is thin and long and sits at your back. It is easily removed and put back into place and held securely in place with a divider sleeve and clip. The opening of the bladder is wide and allows you to small ice cubes if desired. Because the bladder is thin, the shape of the cube will be important.
The hose attaches to the belt with a magnet. Unfortunately, on a rough trail, it won’t stay in place. Many reviewers have created their own simple hacks to keep it from falling.
The AirScape back panel provides great comfort and breathability. There are compression straps on the sides of the bag and a pull-to-tighten waist strap for a great fit. The well-thought-out design of the bag keeps it from bouncing around on uneven terrain.
Aside from the hydration pack, there is ample room for other items as well. You won’t be able to fit a jacket, but a few tools, energy bars, cell phones, and keys would fit perfectly. There is a small organizational wall in the easy to access front compartment, as well as two zippered side pockets.
9. Teton Sports Trailrunner
Good all-around design
Can be hard to fill
Teton’s Sports Trailrunner Hydration Pack brings you an affordable option for a good, functional minimalist type hydration pack which could be a good choice for you if you are purchasing your hydration pack on a budget. While Teton’s Hydration Pack doesn’t come with many bells and whistles, it does give you a simple, efficient, and easy-to-use system.Read more
This pack can hold up to two liters of liquid. Unfortunately, there isn’t much room for anything else in this bag.
Ease of Use
With the Teton Sports Trailrunner Hydration Pack, you get two liters of liquid capacity and a strong, kink-free sip tube that works with a push-lock cushioned bite valve, preventing leaks and making it easy to sip your water while you are on-the-go.
If you need a versatile pack that can help you with long hiking, riding, or other types of outdoor adventures, this hydration pack can help keep you going strong throughout your day. It’s made to be lightweight, and it’s an excellent and comfortable backpack by design. It is fully adjustable and made to fit adults, children, men, and women. The straps are comfortably lined with mesh and for even weight distribution, there is also a sternum strap. Adding to the pack’s overall comfort, you also get a breathable mesh back panel to keep you ventilated and dry while you are active.
Teton’s Sports Trailrunner Hydration Pack also comes with safety features, which include reflective trim and strap clips to keep you visible in lower-lit conditions. Also, this hydration pack comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
10. Teton Sports Oasis
Doubles as a dry-bag
Zippers and buckles could be tougher
This hydration pack is perfect for day hiking as it doubles as a dry bag as well. This 18 L bag can be used to store your day hiking gear or if you want to use it solely as a hydration pack then you can insert the hydration bladder and stay hydrated. Great price for a great pack!Read more
Overall this hydration pack offers a variety of benefits and is worth the investment. It's capacity, of 18L and 2L of water, and multi-functional features make it hard to beat.
Ease of Use
The reservoir itself features a 2-inch opening. This makes cleaning a breeze and also gives you the option to add ice into the pouch. The drinking tube is kink-free and uses a bite valve.
This pack can be used as a day pack and a hydration pack which makes it a multi-functional backpack that is ideal for day hiking. The adjustable shoulder straps ensure comfort and support for your back. Side straps on the bag allow you to tighten as needed to secure your belongings. Additionally, the waist belt and sternum strap help to evenly distribute weight, making the pack comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Even in the heat, you'll be comfortable with this pack. The back panel features air-mesh ventilation to keep you cool throughout your entire trek. This bag also comes with a rain cover.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When trying to figure out the size of your hydration backpack, you’ll need to think about what you’ll most likely be doing while you are outdoors. If you know you need a hydration backpack for road cycling and you only plan to be outside for a couple of hours, then getting a more simple, lightweight pack would probably suit your needs and save you money.
However, if you are the type of outdoor enthusiast who likes to be outside for several hours, and you like to plan a lot of long-term activities, then you will probably want to consider a larger pack that will also provide you with extra storage options. Also, depending on the activity you partake in, like mountain biking or climbing mountains, then you’ll probably need more gear carrying capacity in your hydration backpack anyway since you’ll need to carry more with you based on what you might encounter when you are outdoors.
If you’re doing anything for long periods of time in the mountains, you’ll need to carry a lot of water with you, but you’ll also need to hold extra food and extra clothing, and you might even need some type of emergency shelter. Hydration packs designed to hold several liters of water typically offer these other benefits, like the CamelBak M.U.L.E.
Ease of Use
Hydration Systems and Ease of Drinking
When you are selecting a hydration backpack, you’ll want to see how easy the hydration backpack is to use each time you need to take a drink, since some hydration packs work better than others in this category. Typically, higher-priced hydration packs perform very well each time you take a drink and usually provide you with hands-free options so you can get the water you need while you stay active. Also, if leakage is a concern, then look for a bite valve that features an on and off switch.
When you’re considering what hydration backpack to buy, you want to make sure the hydration backpack allows you to easily drink from it while you are actively moving. Also, you want to make sure you don’t wind up with anything that will leak onto you and create discomfort. So, look for hydration packs that have easy-to-drink from systems that are hands-free, and feature valves that can be turned on and off easily.
Another thing you’ll want to factor in is how easy the hydration backpack you are considering for purchase is to refill while you are outdoors and on-the-go. You want something that is both easy to drink from and easy to fill so that you won’t have frustrations when you are in the middle of your outdoor adventures and active.
So, how do you check your hydration bladder choices to figure out how easy each one is to fill? First, you need to see how easy the pack is to fill by trying to access the hydration bladder in the pack. Some hydration packs make their hydration bladders easier to access than others, usually by design.
To check and see where the hydration bladder is located in your hydration backpack, lift up the hydration pack’s cover, and look through the opening. Then, you’ll be able to see where the hydration bladder sits within the hydration back.
Some hydration packs still provide easy access because they feature hydration sleeves that keep the bladder in a zippered area of the pack. Hydration packs designed like this gives you full access to your hydration bladder without you having to totally take your pack apart.
Either one of these hydration backpack styles offers easy refill hydration systems, and you want to think about which style you prefer by analyzing where you are likely to be refilling your pack. Almost all hydration bladders are easy to refill from a kitchen sink, but if you need to refill from more shallow sinks or natural bodies of water, then you might want something that has a quick disconnect fitting. Hydration bladders that feature this make it easy to both access and refill them.
How comfortable your hydration backpack feels when you wear it will depend on a wide variety of factors which include support, ventilation, and the straps on the system. We’ll cover each in a bit more detail below.
How much support you’ll need from your hydration backpack will depend on the amount of gear and items you typically bring along with you. If you tend to need a lot of gear when you are outside, then you’ll definitely want a hydration backpack that features extra support. Most manufacturers know this and design their hydration packs to fit this concept. Minimalist packs won’t give you a lot of pockets or carrying space for extra storage. So, if you plan on taking longer outings and know you can run into a variety of weather conditions, you need to consider purchasing a larger pack that will bring you both more support and comfort when you need it.
Larger packs are designed to carry more deals, and also feature better overall support systems to balance out this need. Most larger hydration packs give you more padding in your waist area, in your should strap, and also have a back pad. Also, some larger hydration packs are still made to be fairly lightweight and feature wireframes. Having extra support will give you more comfort when you know you’ll be going longer and need to carry more items with you.
Most high-quality hydration packs feature good ventilation systems, meant to help air out your back, shoulders, and waist as you move and sweat. It’s nice to keep both yourself dry and your back dry as you perspire and stay active, and most hydration packs offer a decent amount of breathability to assist with this issue. Remember, the hotter the temperature is when you are outside, or the more you sweat, the more ventilation you will need out of your hydration backpack.
To get a hydration backpack that offers a good ventilation system, consider hydration packs that have open mesh construction to enhance breathability and keep you cool. Most hydration packs have mesh-covered foam back pads that also have air channels to boost breathability. One pack on our list that offers a great ventilation system is the Osprey Syncro 10 because it has a mesh back pad and a lightweight wireframe.
Straps and belts
Depending on the amount of gear you’ll be carrying when you venture into the outdoors, you’ll need to factor in what you need for your straps and belts. The more gear you decide to bring along with you, the stronger your shoulder straps and waist belts need to be designed. Some packs give extra padding in the shoulder strap area and use wider design materials. Wider straps mean you have more strap contact with your shoulder, which decreases the number of pressure points you’ll feel in that area of your body.
Waist belts are typically designed with the same features of functionality in mind, and hydration packs that are made to be more stable will also be designed to spread the weight across your waist. Similar to shoulder straps, the thicker and wider the design, the better the support you’ll get from the waist belt area.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
It is frowned upon by some to add flavor to your hydration pack. Honestly, it isn't the end of the world. The worst part is that you probably will not be able to fully get the flavor out the pack and you may be stuck with the lingering flavor of whatever you added. Think twice before filling your pack with anything besides plain water.
Some people get annoyed with the constant sloshing of water as they hike through the mountains. A trick to minimize this is to make sure that you squeeze all of the excess air out of the pack after you fill it. This will create a tighter seal and less movement for the water.
Has your water ever frozen in the hose? This can be a real annoyance when hitting the outdoors in the winter. A functional way to avoid this headache is to insulate the hose. Many companies offer these hose "sweaters" at an additional cost, but you could also get creative and make your own if you wanted to. Luckily, the pack itself is usually held so close to your body that it won't freeze.
Other Factors to Consider
How heavy or lightweight you need your hydration backpack to be is another factor you’ll need to consider before you make your purchase. If you need something lightweight, then you’ll be opting for a hydration backpack that won’t carry as much water or feature as many pockets. The more lightweight the hydration backpack, the less water it holds, and the fewer extra benefits you get.
Minimalist packs tend to be the hydration packs that are lightest in weight, but they typically don’t hold much more than just a little bit of water and aren’t really built for those people who plan on being outdoors for long periods of time. However, minimalist packs are comfortable, easy-to-use, and they are also very easy to carry.
If you need something that’s going to get you through a full day of outdoor activities, then you’ll want to consider a larger pack. Larger packs offer a lot of options for carrying extra items and also allow you to carry plenty of water along with you on your outdoor adventures.
The types of hydration packs that will give you the most features and options tend to be full-sized hydration packs. Most of the hydration packs on our list above come fully sized, and they will give you extra carrying space, and at least a standard-sized bladder. These hydration packs are also meant to hold larger bladders if you need to use one for extra hydration. They won’t be as lightweight, but they’ll give you everything you need to get the job done on your longer outings.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What amount of storage do I really need to consider when I purchase my hydration pack?
When you are considering the amount of storage you really need for your hydration backpack, think about how much water you really need to carry. If you know you won’t be outdoors for long periods of time, then consider minimalist hydration packs, since they are more affordable and will offer a lightweight design that can meet your needs, especially if you don’t plan to carry along too much gear with you. So, if you don’t need to carry much with you, then getting a hydration backpack that doesn’t offer as much storage should work just fine for you.
Remember, though, if you are the type of person that tends to like to take a lot of “just in case” items along with you, then you won’t have enough room if you seek out a minimalist hydration backpack design. What you’ll wind up with is an overflowing pack, which will probably make you realize you should have gotten a larger pack. If you do tend to bring more than you need, and you wind up with a bigger hydration backpack than you really need to carry, you might not feel comfortable when you are carrying more weight than you need and you find the extra items you brought shifting on your back. So, make sure you look at how the pack is organized and consider what you might bring along, and figure out if that fits your needs when you are on the go. If you like quick access to your items, then consider a hydration backpack that gives you extra pockets for that necessity.
However, if you are the kind of person that isn’t worried about being overly organized, then getting a smaller pack that has fewer pockets and pouches in it might work better for you. Many hydration packs come with a wide variety of options in storage features like hydration sleeves, helmet carrying capabilities, padded pockets, and more. So, decide what you really need, what you want, and then you can figure out what amount of storage you’ll really need in your hydration backpack.
q: What do I need to consider about hydration pack weight before I make my purchase?
When you’re looking into purchasing a hydration backpack, you do need to consider how heavy the hydration backpack will actually fit on your back, since weight is a thing many people need to consider prior to buying. Typically, most brands of hydration packs tell you how much they weigh and what they can carry, and whether the packs are minimalist or lightweight, or full-size and heavier. To determine the weight you need, you’ll need to consider how long your outings are, and how much gear you plan to take with you. If you know you will go on shorter outings and won’t carry much gear, a minimalist, lightweight pack should be fine. However, if you plan to go for longer outings and tend to carry more gear, then you’ll need to opt for full-sized hydration back to meet your needs.
q: What do I need to know about cleaning my hydration pack?
Most hydration packs that are easy to fill are also easy to clean. A hydration bladder that opens fully on one end is usually the easiest type of hydration bladder to keep clean. This style of hydration bladder makes it very easy to reach into the bag, wash and scrub the bladder, and keep the bladder clean. If your hydration bladder has a narrow opening, it will be harder to totally clean it.
If you tend to drink sports drinks with sugar in them while on the go, then you’ll definitely need to clean your hydration bladder more often. Sugar helps to create a bacterial build-up in the hydration bladder, which can cause illness and other health problems. So, you’ll want to make sure you are able to keep the bladder clean so it doesn’t wind up tasting terrible, getting you sick, or creating other problems for you.
q: If I spend more money, does that ensure I will get a better hydration pack?
When looking at investing in a hydration pack, do not think the more expensive the hydration pack the more durable or better quality it will be, as that just is not the case. The best thing to do when looking for a durable hydration pack to last you years to come is to look at the material and also the reviews to see how the hydration pack has held up for other consumers that have put them to the test. Do not solely be swayed by price as you may end up with an expensive hydration pack that will not hold up, make an educated purchase and does the research before buying.
q: What types of hydration packs are available?
Hydration packs can also come in different types that feature different options and features. Some hydration packs are made for specific activities, like climbing or biking, while others are made to be more versatile to handle a wide variety of sports, and you can adapt them as you see fit.
Hydration packs that come full-sized will bring you more versatile features for all-around outdoor activities. However, if you plan on doing only one type of outdoor activity, then you might want a hydration backpack that’s specifically made for that type of activity since it will bring you more benefits and features to meet the type of sport you plan to perform often.