LAST UPDATED: November 21, 2019
Best Hydration Packs: Water When you Need it on the Go
Don’t run out of water when you’re hiking or riding with a hydration pack
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON November 21, 2019
Whether you’re hiking through the mountains or taking a bike ride across town, you need to stay hydrated. A hydration pack is a smart way to carry the right amount of water to get you through your journey without weighing you down. We found the top hydration packs to save you the hassle when you head to an outdoor gear store or shop online.
A premium hydration pack from a brand that’s synonymous with sturdy outdoor gear. This multi-functional pack features a generous 2.5-liter reservoir and plenty of space for essentials.
A breathable mesh back makes this ideal for long hikes. Additional exterior loops allow you to attach gear and keep it within easy reach. You’ll also like that this pack’s crux delivers 20 percent more water per sip.
The reservoir may leak after minimal use. This leakage can also be caused by difficulties with securely sealing the reservoir. Also, the shoulder straps may cause chaffing and uncomfortably dig into your back.
A nimble and budget-friendly hydration pack with a 2.5-liter reservoir. Added features like reflective strips and an easy flowing bite valve make this a must-have pack.
This CamelBack hydration pack features a breathable mesh back to keep you comfortable on long hikes. And the high-flow drinking tube also features an on and off valve to prevent leaks.
Sometimes the filling hole can leak, defeating the purpose of the reservoir. Also, the poor cap design may cause it to fall off or not screw back on properly.
A hydration pack with a two-liter water reservoir. Perfect for full days of hiking or hitting the trails. It also features a detachable drinking tube.
This hydration pack is designed to do more than just carry your water. You’ll appreciate all the additional pockets, elastic and detachable pouches to help you stay organized while on the go.
The removable water bladder may start leaking quickly. And occasionally the cap on the spout may not fasten securely, which can also cause it to leak.
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Benefits of Hydration Packs
- Easy access. When using a water bottle, you may need to make frequent stops to retrieve it from your bag. With a hydration pack, you don't need to stop to take a sip of water. Thanks to the drinking tube, you can drink whenever you want and enjoy hands-free hydration.
- Portability. A hydration pack allows you to bring along more water for long distances. Using a comfortable water bag on your back is easier when walking or cycling than having bottles rattling in a regular backpack.
- Convenience. Hydration packs come in many sizes and shapes. You can pick the one that fits your activity the best and feels most comfortable. They also fold down for storage when out of water, so you can carry them with ease.
- Durability. The main benefit of hydration packs is the sturdy construction. They can withstand a lot of abuse and still provide excellent performance, unlike most water bottles. The sturdy material can take a beating and still won't leak unless being cut open.
Types of Hydration Packs
These look a lot like standard backpacks, but they have water reservoirs and drinking tubes. They further fall into categories depending on the activities they are designed for. For example, hiking hydration backpacks usually have more storage space for food and other parts of gear.
Cycling hydration backpacks, on the other hand, are designed for road cycling and mountain biking. They are compact and low-profile for easy carrying and less wind resistance when on the bike.
There are running hydration backpacks, which are designed to fit snugly to the body. They are low-profile and feature many side pockets for easy access when running. Finally, snowsports hydration backpacks have outside insulation to keep water from freezing. They also feature straps for transportation on snowboards and skis.
These are designed to wrap around your body with waist straps. Although they can have a hydration reservoir, most of them include water bottles. They are quite convenient for activities that don't require much gear, such as hiking or cycling for short distances. The hip belt makes them easy to carry, which is especially important for those with back problems. The main disadvantage, however, is the small capacity, which doesn't allow for carrying much water or extra gear.
CamelBak, located in Petaluma, California, started back in 1989 with Michael Eidson's DIY hydration pack. It was a temporary invention that helped Eidson survive the summer race in Texas. From then on, the invention gained incredible popularity, and so did CamelBak. The company now produces all kinds of hydration products, protective gear, and sports accessories. One of its most popular hydration packs is the CamelBak Cloud Walker, a classic daypack suitable for all outdoor enthusiasts.
FREEMOVE was founded in 2016. It's a company that focuses on outdoor sports accessories, meeting the needs of athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. FREEMOVE produces all kinds of reflective safety gear, from vests to hydration packs. This FREEMOVE Hydration Pack Backpack is widely used and very popular.
Hydration Pack Pricing
- Under $50: You can find decent hydration packs in this price range, although you're likely to make some compromises. Cheaper packs usually have less water capacity, and they might be harder to refill, clean, or adjust for a perfect fit.
- Over $60: At this price point, you can find hydration packs with some extra features for easy use. Pricier packs offer features such as removable and adjustable straps, quick-disconnect tubing, wide-mount openings, and much more.
The most important thing to look for in a hydration pack is an ergonomic design for ultimate comfort. You want to make sure you'll be able to move freely. A heavy pack can slow you down when running, cycling, or hiking. The best hydration packs are made of lightweight and breathable materials. They also have padded straps for comfort.
Since you'll be wearing a hydration pack when on the go, it's important to look for the one with breathable materials. If it doesn't allow for airflow, you can easily get too hot and sweaty during the workout. A breathable mesh is a must-have, but it should also be leak-proof for gear protection. Additionally, packs that are too wide might reduce airflow and cause heat accumulation.
Not all hydration packs are made in the same size, which mostly depends on the capacity. Larger ones can hold more water, but they can also accommodate other parts of gear. If you're going on long-distance adventures, you want to make sure you can bring enough water as well as other essentials, such as a smartphone, charger, keys, clothes, and so on. For short distances, packs with smaller hydration bladders can be more comfortable and easier to carry.
- Simple Refills: Some hydration packs have quick-disconnect tubing. This feature allows you to disconnect a drink tube from the body of the reservoir in a breeze. Consequently, you get to detach the reservoir without moving the tube and make a quick refill. It's quite a handy feature, especially when you don't want to take long breaks.
- Weight: If you intend to wear hydration packs when running, you should consider the material weight. The light equipment reduces the effort you need to run or perform any other demanding activity. Just keep in mind you'll be making a compromise with durability because lightweight packs are not as durable as heavy ones.
- Easy Cleanup: When out in nature, you're likely to get dirty. Your hydration pack will suffer the same and also pick up some dirt and debris. You should, therefore, search for an easy-to-clean material that allows for quick cleanups when on the go. It should also be water-resistant, so it doesn't lose shape or tear due to frequent washes.
Best Hydration Packs Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The CamelBak Cloud Walker 18 is a simple, classic daypack suitable for hikes and other outdoor activities. It has a 2.5-liter reservoir, and it provides lots of space for extra gear. You can use it to store tech gadgets, food, snacks, and other essentials you might need during adventures.
The pack has a breathable mesh back panel, which makes it suitable for extended use. When you wear it, you won't get sweaty or too hot on long hikes during summer. The pack also allows for attaching parts of gear via exterior loops, giving you easy access at all times. Additionally, the pack features a crux hydration system for high water flow. You can make quick and big sips anytime. The tube is also soft and resists kinking.
One thing that might cause you some issues when wearing the CamelBak Cloud Walker 18 is the lid on the reservoir. It might be difficult to seal it, which can cause some unfortunate leaks. The second drawback is that the straps could become uncomfortable after some time.
This is another high-quality hydration pack from CamelBak. It features a minimalist design and is ideal for those who are on a limited budget. The 2.5-liter reservoir capacity can accommodate a lot of liquid, yet it remains light for backpacking.
The main advantage of this pack is its lightweight design. It's rather convenient for short distances and demanding activities that require more free movements. The pack features a breathable mesh for more comfort and a high-flow drinking tube for quick and easy sips. The reflective strips and an easy-flowing bite valve are some of the extra features that make this pack hard to beat for the price.
Keep in mind that the refilling hole on the CamelBak Classic Hydration Pack might leak. You also might have some difficulties in properly tightening the reservoir cap. That might be very time-consuming, as well as cause some leaks.
This pack has a capacity of two liters. It's quite large and suitable for cyclists and hikers who are taking part in full-day activities. The pack also has multiple zippered pockets and detachable pouches you can use to store essentials and keep them within hand's reach.
The pack is made from high-quality material that is durable and waterproof. It ensures more protection for your gear, keeping it safe and dry when outdoors. The pack features a detachable drinking tube and an insulated hose. The large mouth opening allows for quick cleanups.
Although the removable reservoir is rather handy for quick refills, it could start to leak due to the pack’s unique design. Another leaking problem could come from the cap on the spout. It's sometimes difficult to fasten it securely.
This tactical hydration pack comes with a 3-liter TPU water bladder and measures 19.7 by 8.7 by 2.6 inches. It has foam-padded adjustable straps and is ergonomically designed to fit across your chest, shoulders, and waist. The pack is made of heavy-duty 1000 denier water-repellent nylon.
The hydration bladder is 100 percent BPA-free. It has a quick-release valve and large opening that is easy to clean, and the mouthpiece rotates 350 degrees. You can also adjust water flow using the shut on/off valve. The plastic buckle and zipper are durable, and the military-grade webbing is tough. The bag has one main pocket and two front pockets for smaller items, such as your cell phone, keys, and wallet. It also features a MOLLE system, so you can carry additional items on the outside of the pack.
However, the bladder tends to have a chemical-like taste the first time you use it. It also doesn't come with any instructions, so you need to figure out the functions by yourself. Fortunately, that's not too difficult. Other problems are that the on/off switch is a little stiff, and there is limited space if you fill the bladder completely.
Unigear's tactical hydration pack has a 2.5-liter replaceable bladder that is BPA-free. It comes with a wide screw cap, so you can add ice. The hands-free hydration hose includes a bite valve, which starts the flow of water. It weighs just 22 ounces and is 19 by 10 by 1.5 inches. It has two front pockets for smaller items, such as keys, a cell phone, and a wallet.
The pack has adjustable shoulder and chest straps and fits chests that are 27 to 50 inches wide. It comes with an emergency whistle buckle and is made of 900 denier polyester with a PVC lining. The bag is tear- and abrasion-resistant. The company also provides a 60-day, money-back guarantee if you're not happy with the product.
Unfortunately, there have been some complaints that the water flow isn't very good and you have to suck quite hard to get it out, which can be frustrating if you're really thirsty. Also, the location of the water hose may scratch and irritate your arm.
This hydration backpack has a two-liter water bladder, and its thermal insulation keeps beverages cold for up to four hours, making it a great option for biking, cycling, hiking, and more. The bladder is made of EVA and is BPA-free. It has an extra-wide 3.1-inch-wide screw cap, so you can easily add ice to the liquid.
The pack is very durable and weighs just one pound, so it won't weigh you down during various activities. It has several pockets for storing a variety of items, such as clothing, keys, and a cell phone. The shoulder and chest straps are adjustable and breathable. The company also provides a 100 percent money-back guarantee if you experience any problems.
One downside is that the material is a little rough-feeling on your bare skin, which can cause chafing. The bladder also takes up a lot of space in the bag, leaving little room for other items. There have also been some complaints that the bladder leaks after a short period of use.
Mubasel's pack features a 2-liter BPA-free bladder that keeps its contents cool for up to four hours. The company also touts its "100 percent leakage proof design." It features a large opening and a click-in connection instead of a screw-on one, ensuring it won't leak. The bladder is also insulated to maintain the liquid's temperature.
The bag has three storage compartments to fit a variety of items, as well as a stretchy mesh pocket on the front for additional storage. The shoulder straps are adjustable and breathable, and the company provides a 60-day guarantee. Overall, it is small, lightweight, fits well around your back and waist, and it’s a great backpack for the price.
However, the bladder may taste like rubber or plastic the first time you use it. There's also not a lot of room to fit large items, such as a sweater, inside. In addition, the zippers have a tendency to snag on the material, which can be frustrating.
If you prefer keeping your back free from extra weight, then you may be interested in this running belt that's designed for both men and women. This no-bounce runner's belt allows you to keep your hands free yet gives you access to a pair of 10-ounce water bottles, which are included.
The pockets are designed so it's easy to remove the water bottles. There are large pockets that are designed to fit a variety of smart phones, such as a Samsung S8 and S Plus. There is also room for keys, an ID, and credit cards. And, should you choose to run at night, the reflective strips help to make you more visible.
However, the water bottles have a plastic odor that can be difficult to get rid of. It can also be hard to replace the bottles back into the pockets because they have a tendency to bunch up. It can require two hands to do so, which is difficult to do when you're running.
- Carrying water is the most critical feature for a hydration pack, but comfort should be a top priority, too. You don’t want to carry something long distances if the straps rub uncomfortably or you constantly have to stop to adjust the load.
- Look for hydration packs that feature breathable materials. Whether they’re designed to support airflow or feature moisture-wicking capabilities, these types of features will keep you comfortable when wearing a pack for extended periods of time.
- Always consider your intended activity and pick your hydration pack accordingly. A hydration pack that’s designed for cycling will be designed differently than one meant for hiking, running, or for use in cold weather activities.
Q: I’m trying to stay as light as possible, so what should I look for in a hydration pack?
A: If you’re trying to stay mobile, opt for hydration packs that can do more than just carry water. Whether it’s just a day hike or a multi-day adventure, packs that can also hold gear can help minimize the total amount of bags that you need to bring.
Q: Should I pick a hydration pack with a frame or without one?
A: If you only need to carry a few items, such as water, light snacks, and SPF, then you don’t need a pack with a built-in frame. But if you’re planning on carrying a substantial amount of gear, you should look at packs with frames to help provide critical support.
Q: Which is better: shoulder straps or no straps?
A: There’s a case to be made for both. If you can find a hydration pack with an anatomic cut, it will be very comfortable for long wear. However, the most comfortable hydration packs tend to be lumbar packs with no straps.
If you’re planning on hitting the trails hard this season, you’re going to need something that can stand up to the test. Go for our best overall pick, the CamelBak Cloud Walker 18 Hydration Pack.
If you’re an occasional hiker or just prefer to be economical, you can’t go wrong with our best value selection, the CamelBak Classic Hydration Pack.