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 Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
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.
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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
- 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.