We have reviewed the best hydration packs so you can get the one that’s right for you. Don’t spend any more of your time digging around in your backpack to stay hydrated and fueled. Whether it’s hiking, running, or biking, staying properly hydrated is key to powering through the most challenging workouts. We’ve looked at 33 hydration packs and covered more than 142 hours of research and testing (training) to create this guide, in which we recommend that the Camelback Classic Hydration Pack stands out as the best hydration pack to buy for most people.
1. Camelback Classic Hydration Pack
This specific pack started the hydration pack industry and is still the best hydration pack for for most people. Ironically, this is the most plan hydration pack we tested. This hydration pack can hold two litres of water easily. There is also a smaller compartment for any other things you might need like a sandwich, protein bar or your cell. This might seem like a small amount of space, but this is designed for people going on a one-day hike, bike ride or run. This light-weight pack will keep you moving easily, the shoulder straps are comfortable and ventilated, plus it is easy to fill and drink from. This scored as the best hydration backpack to buy for most people.
Why our reviews are trustworthy
I have wrote about, used and reviewed outdoor sports equipment all of my life, being that I love everything outdoors and have been running, riding, playing and rowing from my early years with my family. Since I was asked by a friend to recommend a hydration pack (I must confess I had only used one at this point), I decided that in order to give him great advice. I was going to have to take some time to look into them properly!
That was a few years ago and the review has since developed to include the testing of the packs by selecting our participating experts, members of our consumer product testing panels who test the products and provide us with their feedback, and of course ourselves. We have looked at large number of different types and makes, plus completed tons of research and consulted with experts, sports men and women and specialists to create this review. We always keep up with other well known companies that also review or test products, such as, Which? and ConsumerReports.
*This review covers best hydration backpacks on the market before and since the last time we updated this guide.
Who should get this
Anyone who wants to save time and hassle choosing the best hydration backpack to buy or if you have one already that is not giving you what you need, is bust, or you want a hydration pack for another activity. I am sharing with you the results of all of our extensive research and testing in the hope that I can help you save hassle, time, and improve your performance.
How we selected
There were many consideration to be taken into account with these packs, so we started by finding and listing all of the hydrations packs and bladders that we could find online and in stores.
Then it was time to start wading through thousands of reviews that had been made by people that had purchased them, we looked at study papers and information from the manufacturers. We listed 33 packs this year alone.
There are so many variables to get right: the pack size, the materials, the weight, the hydration system, the ventilation, the shoulder straps, best hydration bladder, and ease of drinking. There are a number of types of hydration packs available, and choosing the right one is pivatol to the success or failure of your purchase.
A consideration when making your decision is in what types of activities you are going to participate in the most. If you are like most people, to be found on the road, running or riding for one or two hours at a time, then simple and small hydration packs are better. For those of you, like me who are much more likely to spend several hours out at a time, especially in sparse or mountainous areas, you are going to be looking for a big hydration pack with more water storage. For activities like mountain biking, you are going to be carrying more gear like bike accessories, spares, extra layers and food too.
Shoulder Straps and Waist Belts
The more substantial the weight in your pack, the better quality your shoulder straps and waist belt need to be. For shoulders, some large hydration backpacks shoulder straps are widers and some are padded. This is done to increase the surface area of the pack weight across your shoulders better, spreading the load to help to reduce pressure points. Waist belts use the same principle with thicker or wider materials used, giving greater support and comfort around your hips.
Storage is a question only you can ultimately answer, but I can help you with some suggestions to take on board. To start with, you need to be realistic about your needs here. Are you only going to be out for a couple of hours of activity at a time, so you only see the need to carry water? Then the best running hydration packs with less storage are the way to go. On the other hand, if your going to be out for a longer duration or need to carry additional equipment then large hydration packs would suit your needs better. If you’re someone who wants to have quick and easy access to individual items often, the your best looking for ones with more compartments.
A good hydration backpack should be ventilated where it comes into contact with your back, shoulders, and waist to help to regular your body temerature. Manufacturers have at last realized this, and the majority provide great breathability these days. The higher the temperatures you are in and the hotter your body temperature tends to run at, making increased breathability a must to keep cooler. Look for construction with lots of mesh and fabrics that are open through the material since this encourages better breathability to keep you cool. For more ventilation, some packs also incorporate a lightweight wire frame that keeps the pack contact with your back at a minimum.
Ease of Filling
The first step in determining how easy a pack to fill is in accessing the hydration bladder. Some packs place the access point right up front and center. So you just need to lift up the cover, and you’ve got full access. Other packs make things easier to get to with sleeves with the hydration bladder in a separate zippered compartment. Which filling style you’d prefer depends on what you anticipate the water sources you’re likely to fill up from, a deep kitchen sink, shallow sink or natural water sources, you may want to go with a pack that comes with a quick disconnect fitting making it easier to access the hydration bladder.
Ease of Drinking
Ease of drinking is easily one of the most important requirements from a hydration backpack. There are significant variances in waterflow rates. There are compatibilities between some of the drinking systems and you can sometimes pair one brand’s drinkling tube with another ones hydration bladder. Most hydration packs also include an on/off valve on their drinking tubes.
We found that manufacturer’s claimed weight could be somewhat misleading and we know that when you’re choosing a hydration pack, the standard weight of it as likely to be a factor for your decision. So we had all of the packs weighed as part of our testing.
Ease of Cleaning
We found that hydration bladders that completely open on one end were the best type to keep clean easily. You can reach right into the bag with your hand to wash and dry the hydration bladder. So consequently, the narrower the bladder’s opening is, the tougher it is to clean thoroughly.
In the end, after applying the criteria above and having read through all of the information we had amassed, we were able to get the list down to the 14 packs we selected to be tested.
How we tested
We used our merry band of loyal consumer product testers that ran, peddled, rowed and were otherwise keen amatur sports people who agreed to help us by testing the hydration packs while out on their outdoor activities. We recruited runners, mountain bikers, long distance walkers and Ironman competitiors from all around the country based on their skill and knowledge to join us to help test them.
The testing ground for us needed to have great terrain for the best hydration packs mountain biking tests and to have awesome trails for the best hydration packs for running tests. So, we traveled to Brevard, North Carolina which is home to hundreds of miles of the most technical backcountry singletrack anywhere and with gorgeous Appalachian Mountain views. Now, it is not easy to choose the perfect hydration pack by any means, there are so many differences to account for. During testing we all felt exhausted with all of the activities and different hydration pack types we had been using, but were all glad to participate to help the next generation to get the best hydration packs.
After an amazing couple of weeks in the great outdoors the testing phase was over and we had finished testing all the packs and our scorecards submitted. We then had to wait another couple of weeks for the scorecards from all of our other poduct testers to be returned before all of the scores and comments could be analyzed to find out which is the top hydration pack to buy this year and these are the results, I hope they are helpful.
Other Top Picks:
2. Camelbak Rogue Hydration Pack
The convenience of external fill in a sleek hydration pack. The 2 litre reservoir can be refilled on the fly via the quick-release flap on the front. There is one interior slip pocket for small items like keys, wallet or phone, plus two external pockets. Elastic side panels provide for easy pack expansion, while the twin compression straps shrink the pack down again when empty. There is a useful reflective back strip with tab to click on a blinker for added early morning and evening safety. This hydration pack may look a little plain, but its definitely not plain at all as the second best hydration pack we tested.
3. Osprey Raptor 10 Hydration Pack
For starters, there’s a compartment designed for bike tools. With other packs, many people complained about having to search through the pack just to find the right tool to fix their bike. They no longer have to do when they have this pack. Moreover, the air-scape area that is mesh-lined is why many bike riders purchased this bike in the first place. This compartment makes sure the back of the rider does not get wet at all. This larger pack is made for people that want to feel like they have no pack on their back at all.
4. Camelback M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack
Moreover, it feels light even when filled up with three liters of water. This pack has 11 litres of space, so is a great balance of water and cargo carrier. It has several different compartments that can hold anything from a cell phone to tools to fix a bike. The straps on this pack are extremely comfortable and the color is very cool, too. The Antidote reservoir features a quick link system, easy open/close cap, lightweight fill port, Dryer arms, center baffling and low-profile design.
5. Patagonia Fore Runner Vest 10L
This large hydration backpack holds up to 10 liters of water. It has chest-straps, shoulder straps and a foam back panel that are made from comfortable and breathable mono mesh to help you stay cool. Of course, the point of the Fore Runner is to carry stuff, so it has a main top-loaded compartment, stretch bottle pockets, and several stash pockets to hold headphones, wallet, keys or the like and it is water resistant. Not having to worry about an expensive item getting wet is priceless.
6. Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 Hydration Pack
When going outdoors, whether it be hiking or riding a quad, never leave home again without the essential items: cell phone, lunch, extra shirt, a towel, first aid kit, and more. With internal and external tool organizationand up to 7L of storage, the Platyus Duthrie fits so many items in this pack. Comes with the Platypus 3L BigZip hydration reservoir with magnetic hose retention and multiple hose routing option. There is a carry system for pads and full-face helmets, along with a fleece lined eyewear pocket, integrated rainfly, commuter light loop and two pump sleeves. This is truly a pack for everyone but you will only find this this type of pack at the expensive end of the scale, so scored lower with us.
7. Salomon Agile 2 Hydration Pack
Being able to carry just under 2 liters of water and housing only one compartment, this pack is definitely light. People love to run with this pack and do similar things because it doesn’t effect them at all. Most times people forgot the pack is on their shoulders. This is a fairly resonably priced pack, and it is made for those that need a small pack for oen day outings.
8. CamelBak SnoBlast
This hydration pack carries two full litres of water. There are also several different compartments within this pack. However, each compartment leads to the main compartment. This help people to never lose a personal belonging. The slightly more expensive price says more about this product.
9. YISMEET Hydration Pack-Backpack
This pack can carry up to two litres of water. This is also one of the rare packs that come with several different departments for your personal belongings. You will not have to worry about losing your phone while you are on your wonderful hike. You cannot beat a bargain like this. What makes this pack great is the fact that is it water resistant. When hiking, or engaging in any outdoor activity, your liable to run into a rain shower. You do not have to worry about any of your personal belongings getting wet when you have this pack on your back.
10. Deuter Compact EXP 12 Hydration Pack
It is best known for its most personal feature: it is made to firmly adjust to the back of the one wearing the pack. It is also a 3 liter hydration pack. There’s also an additional chest-strap to keep the pack even more in place. There is a lot of room in this pack. Beyond water, several items will be able to fit in this pack. To date, this is one of the best selling packs but for some reason struggles online, maybe due to the price.
11. Nathan Fireball Hydration Vest
This pack is a big hit to those doing a lot of fast riding and the like. This is due to the division of weight throughout the bag. This causes the pack to stay in place through weird turns and the switching slow and fast speed. You cannot beat a deal like this. The high price of this pack means nothing to bike riders wanting to be safe on every trail.
12. EVOC FR Team Lite Hydration Pack
This pack is designed to keep the rider weighed down during the time of a bad crash. This spine protection feature has prevented many bikers from flipping over their handlebars. In addition to that, this pack can hold 3 litres of water, but you need to by the hydration bladder seperatly. There are also several different compartments within it.
13. Dakine Session Hydration Pack
Bite phasing is a big part of this hydration pack. Riding a bike and drinking water hands free is no longer a dream when this hydration pack is present. There are also other little perks like a safety light and several different compartments for personal belongings. This is one of the only hydration packs that allow bike riders to attach their helmet to it. The designers of this hydration pack were definitely thinking safety first.
14. Sport Force Multi-Function Hydration Backpack
The straps are adjustable, the pack is light, and the owner of the pack will have over two liters of water on their shoulders. The color is also very catchy. The price is more than fair for this pack, this is a great budget pick
Is buying a hydration pack worth it?
The benefits of this sort of hydration system are numerous. If you plan on taking a long hike, one single water bottle will neither manage its weight well on your back nor offer you what amount of water you will need. A hydration backpacks is designed so it stabilizes your water while staying comfortable on your back. It’s also worth noting that if you are moving vigorously, like running or mountain biking, the hose system is easier to operate than A standard water bottle.
Mountain bike packs are usually treated harshly; they get bumped by gear, soaked in the rain, covered with mud, and hauled over rocks. When you crash they take a beating, get sat on when you stop for a break, and are tossed in your cupboard between outings. Despite this abuse, a good trail pack can easily last between four and five years before it will need replacing. Whether you’re looking to replace an old satchel or purchase your first trail pack, we recommend choosing one that is medium sized.
This variety will offer the most versatility. These packs usually have enough room for a lunch, jacket, tools, and even a three-liter water reservoir (found in the largest size available). Because of this, these will allow you opportunity to disappear for a couple of days, but are also light enough for an evening trip. To do well during any outside trip, your hydration pack must be practical and functional while staying comfortable. Below you will find qualities all good hydration packs should have.
All effective packs use suspended, trampoline like mesh backs to maximize airflow. If that is not what you want, others have good size padding with gaps in ordered to channel air over your back. Whatever style you pick, you should try it on in order find the right size.
Organization and compartments
Pockets and organizers are essential while out in the elements. You’ll never have to empty the contents of your pack on trailside while looking for that elusive Power Link again. You’ll want To look for mesh pockets and A variety of internal compartments that will let you organize your tools while preventing them from rolling around.
Having a tool organizer can prevent you from dumping you kit out by allowing you to reach in for whatever parts you need. Pockets made of mesh are handy, but some manufacturers are now including a roll made specifically for your tools, which allows you to keep all your tools in one place.
The bigger your pack is, you will need a more critical strap system, which will control the size and weight of the pack. Compression straps will hug bigger loads closer while also drawing in excess volume. This will prevent smaller loads from rattling around. The straps are also good for attaching any extra or wet gear to the outside of your pack.
Now, some manufacturers sell pack without reservoirs, or make them optional. However, we recommend equipping yourself with one. Keep in mind that you should look for one with a bite valve that flows or a hose that has a quick release. Since this part is considered optional, you may end up having to increase your budget.
If you are an endurance racer, you may find yourself switching between full and open face helmets quite often. If so, a helmet holder can come in handy. These holes usually are elasticated tabs that pass through vents on the helmet, or will clip on the helmet’s straps.
For those who are more prone to injuring themselves, it might be worth considering a pack with built in protection. Amour plated lining is great for protecting your back in a fall or, but you must keep your harness tight in order for this feature to properly work.
Instead of wasting time removing your pack each time you need food, your phone or tools, you will want pockets. All of the best ones are secured with zips, and should be located on the harness or belt of your pack. Some are conveniently angled so that side pockets are easy to reach while still wearing the pack.