Best CamelBaks: Stay Hydrated on the Trail
Our top picks for proper hydration when running, cycling, backpacking, hiking, or skiing
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PUBLISHED ON December 4, 2019
Carrying around a water bottle on your backpacking trip can make your hands sweaty and tired. It’s also a pain to continuously pull out and put back your water bottle during a hike. A CamelBak hydration backpack keeps your hands free and allows you to enjoy a drink without having to stop. Here are some of the best hydration bags from well-known companies.
- Best OverallCamelBak Powderhound Hydration PackSummarySummary
A 100-ounce hydration pack that delivers 20 percent more water per sip than other backpacks.ProsPros
Equipped to carry skis. Leak protected. Easy to refill. The back panel repels snow. Features internal storage pockets for your gear. Has external attachment points for extra gear. Features adjustable straps for a comfortable fit. The reservoir is protected from freezing and contamination by outdoor elements.ConsCons
Limited color options. The external straps may get caught up on trees.
- Best ValueCamelBak ThermoBak Hydration PackSummarySummary
An affordable 100-ounce hydration pack that’s easy to refill and is designed to keep water cool for a long time.ProsPros
Fully insulated and weather protected. Features strong zipper closures. Machine-washable. Slim, compact, and a comfortable fit on the back. Offers enough room for your essential items. Allows for hands-free drinking. Features in-house storage for the shoulder straps.ConsCons
It doesn’t have small pockets for your keys or phone. May not hold up well to frequent or long hiking trips.
- Honorable MentionCamelBak Aurora Hydration PackSummarySummary
An 85-ounce hydration pack that’s lightweight, breathable, and has a stretchable gear compartment.ProsPros
Allows for hands-free hydration. It can offer hydration for about two hours. Offers a comfortable fit. It comes in multiple color options. Has external hooks for attaching your helmet. Organizer pockets help keep your items in order. Subtle reflective strips help keep you visible on the road.ConsCons
The water may have a plastic taste. It has a complicated design that makes it a bit challenging to refill the reservoir.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy a CamelBak?
- Maintain proper hydration. Getting proper hydration helps you stay alert and active on the trail. It also improves blood circulation and helps your body release toxins.
- Carry more water. CamelBak hydration packs can carry up to 100 ounces of water. That’s much more than you can carry with a standard water bottle and will help keep you hydrated for longer.
- Sip warm drinks. Most CamelBak hydration packs are thermally insulated and capable of keeping your drink warm for a long time. You can expect to enjoy the warm beverage for at least an hour.
- Sip cold drinks. It’s equally possible to fill the hydration bladder with a chilled drink that will help cool your core when hiking in warm weather. It’s easier to cool your body from the inside out than to pour water on your head.
- Enjoy hands-free drinking. The hydration packs come with drinking tubes that can be fixed on the shoulder strap. If you don’t want to reach out with your hands, all you have to do is lean over your shoulder and take a sip.
- Separate your beverages. The CamelBak helps you separate your clean water from your energy drinks. You can store the clean water in the hydration pack and carry a separate bottle for energy drinks.
Types of CamelBaks
CamelBak backpacks, or hydration packs, are quite popular since they feature one bag that has different storage compartments for your gear and the hydration bladder. They typically have a drinking hose coming out of the reservoir and they come in different sizes and designs.
CamelBak reusable water bottles come in a range of small 21-ounce bottles to large 60-ounce bottles. They are reusable, easy to clean, easy to refill and come in different designs that appeal to any outdoor or sports enthusiast.
The CamelBak waist packs feature a hip belt with pouches for the water reservoir and personal items such as keys, money, and a wallet. Just like the backpacks, they also have drinking tubes coming out of the water reservoir.
The Hydration vests have a similar design to the backpacks, only they have larger shoulder straps to accommodate water bottles. They offer minimal storage and fit like a vest jacket on the body.
CamelBak is a California-based equipment manufacturing company that was founded in 1988 by Michael Eidson. The company designs outdoor and sports equipment. It’s famously known for its hydration packs and water bottles that are commonly used by outdoor enthusiasts and the U.S. military. The company makes some of the best hydration packs for hikers and mountain biking, including the CamelBak Powderhound Hydration Pack and CamelBak Repack Hydration Pack.
- Under $50: CamelBak products within this price range are mostly water bottles and waist packs. You can also find a decent backpack within this price range, but it may not be as long-lasting or well-designed as the more expensive versions.
- Over $50: Most CamelBak products within this price range are running vests and backpacks with up to 100-ounce reservoirs. The products here are of good quality and will keep you well-hydrated if you are planning to go to places without a water source.
Select a backpack that allows you to fit most of your gear and helps you stay hydrated for most of your hike. Note that a backpack with a capacity of 100 ounces or more will keep you hydrated for a long time, but it may also feel too heavy for a long hike.
The best Camelbaks are designed with breathable mesh fabric at the back panel to keep your back from sweating excessively. Look for a model with adjustable straps and adequate padding on the shoulders and back panel for a comfortable fit. The backpack should also be waterproof or at least come with a water-resistant rain cover.
- Removable Water Bladder: Prioritise hydration backpacks that have a removable water bladder since this makes it easy to clean and refill the bladder. Also, the feature comes in handy when you want to remove the water reservoir and store your extra gear in the compartment.
- Thermal Insulation: This is a useful feature if you would like to maintain the temperature of your beverage throughout the hike. It keeps your drink from freezing in cold temperatures or heating up in the summer.
- Quick Release Tube: This allows for quick and easy disconnection of the drinking tube when you want to refill the tank. It can be accompanied by tube clips and magnets that keep the water tube secured on the shoulder strap for easy access.
- Extra Pockets/Compartments: You want something that can also effortlessly store your gear and valuables. Also, pockets with zippers are the best for keeping your personal items safe.
Best CamelBak Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: CamelBak Powderhound Hydration Pack
The CamelBak Powderhound Hydration Pack is a great hydration pack for skiers or snowboarders. The backpack has a sleek profile that fits comfortably on your back. It can hold up to 100 ounces of water and 550 cubic inches of gear. It’s equipped with the modern Crux reservoir that delivers 20 percent more water per sip than most hydration packs. The reservoir has an ergonomic handle for easy refilling. It also features an on and off lever at the water outlet to prevent leakage. You can zip the water tube into the insulated Therminator harness shoulder strap to keep it from freezing. Moreover, the backpack has a Snowshed back panel that repels snow.
There are external straps to help you carry your skis diagonally and an extra storage compartment for avalanche gear. All the pockets are secured with large zippers that you can quickly open and close even with gloves on. You can use the sternum strap to slide the backpack up and down your back for a comfortable fit. Also, you can use the removable stability belt to prevent the bag from slipping when you’re skiing.
However, there are a few undesirable features with the product. For instance, there are limited color options to choose from. Also, the external straps may be a safety hazard when skiing since they may get caught up in tree branches.
Best Value: CamelBak ThermoBak Hydration Pack
The CamelBak ThermoBak Hydration Pack is a large-capacity and affordable backpack that’s ideal for the occasional backpacker. It’s made of 100-percent nylon fabric that’s machine washable. It has a large 100-ounce hydration bladder and only weighs 1.5 pounds. You won’t have a hard time sucking water out of the delivery tube no matter the weather conditions thanks to the Mil-Spec Antidote Hydration System that ensures efficient delivery. The backpack has a large water reservoir that’s easy to open and allows for quick access to the hydration pack for refills, adding ice cubes, and cleaning.
The reservoir is also insulated with thick cell-foam to keep water cooler for longer and to prevent it from freezing in cooler temperatures. What’s more, the reservoir has a leak-proof seal to prevent accidental spills. You can fill the bladder when it is in the backpack with the help of the fold-down fillport cover that stays out of the way for efficient refills. Quick-release shoulder strap clips allow for easy removal of the backpack, and the straps feature D-ring attachments points for connecting an armor vest.
The main drawback of the backpack is that the hydration reservoir takes up most of the space in the backpack. Therefore, there’s limited space for your gear, and it doesn’t feature small pockets for storing your keys or wallet. It’s also designed for occasional outdoor activities since the fabric thins and wears out easily with frequent use.
Honorable Mention: CamelBak Aurora Hydration Pack
The CamelBak Aurora Hydration Pack is a great hydration pack for women that can hold up to 85 ounces of water. It also features CamelBak’s Crux reservoir, which can deliver 20 percent more water per sip than the average hydration pack. A Velcro strap helps keep the bladder in place and there’s a top flap that encloses the bag, allowing for refills without necessarily having to remove the bladder. The pack has a low profile with two external storage compartments for your gear. Each of them has zippers and hidden elastic pockets to keep your valuables safe. They also have elastic side panels to provide more room for your gear. The main compartment has adjustable straps to ensure that your gear stays secure.
As for the construction, the pack is entirely made of nylon with decorative stitching running from the top to the bottom. The back panel is designed with breathable air mesh to keep your back well ventilated and also offers a comfortable fit. In addition, it comes with magnetic tube strap to secure the tube and allow for hands-free drinking when you need it.
The downside of this product is that the water may have a plastic taste, especially when the bag is new. You may need to wash it frequently to get rid of that taste. Also, for a newbie to hydration packs it may be a bit challenging to understand how to refill the hydration reservoir due to its complicated design.
- Clean the water reservoir after using it with a sugary liquid. Sugar creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and you may notice a foul smell coming from the backpack if you don’t clean it.
- The best way to clean the water reservoir is to take it out of the backpack and wash it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. That’s why you need a backpack with zippers that open all the way to reveal the water reservoir for ease of cleaning.
- If you don’t want your back to be excessively sweaty when carrying the CamelBak backpack, look for one with a mesh design, breathable fabric, and light foam padding on the back panel to keep your back cool and comfortable.
- If you intend to hike in freezing temperatures, ensure that your backpack is thermally insulated to keep the water from freezing. Also, fill it with warm water before your trip, and your body heat will help keep the water warm.
Q: What’s the maximum capacity of a backpack water bladder?
A: They vary in sizes depending on the model, but they typically range from 30 to 100 ounces. A 30-ounce hydration pack is enough to last you for at least an hour before you get to the next refilling point.
Q: How do I refill the hydration bladder?
A: If you are refilling it at a large sink, connect the hose to the tap for a refill. However, if you are filling it from a shallow sink or a lake, you have to remove the hydration bladder from the bag and disconnect the drinking tube for an easier time refilling it. Consider wiping it with a paper towel before stashing it in the backpack.
Q: Are hydration backpacks hygienic?
A: Yes. It’s similar to carrying water in a water bottle. You just need to remember to clean it regularly and keep the drinking tube free of contamination. The water bladder can get pretty funky if not cleaned for weeks. Also, make sure the bladder is BPA-free before you use it.
Our top pick is the CamelBak Powderhound Hydration Pack. It has a large water carrying capacity and will keep your water warm when hiking in cold temperatures. It’s also large enough to fit your hiking gear and skis.
A more affordable option is the CamelBak ThermoBak Hydration Pack. It can carry up to 100 ounces of water, and its compact profile adds minimal strain to your back.