Updated January 23, 2017

The Best Hydration Pack

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Find the best hydration packs for all your outdoor activities. We reviewed the top picks.

Best Hydration Pack
Best Hydration Pack © CreditDonkey

Why You Need a Hydration Pack

A hydration pack serves as the perfect middle ground between a water bottle and a bulky backpack that offers more space than you need. Whether you’re skiing, hiking, running or biking, you’re going to want to have lots of water nearby while keeping your hands free. That’s where these top-of-the line hydration packs with bite valves come into play.

The best packs will find their way onto your back for any activity you do. That can mean a long bike ride, a strenuous day hike, a day of skiing or a scenic trail run. They are lightweight, versatile, mold to your body and can hold all the water you need. Some of the best hydration packs start by holding one liter of water for runs and short hikes all the way up to three-liter packs for longer journeys on foot or bike.

What to Consider When Shopping for a Hydration Pack

You want to take versatility, comfort, volume, size and activity into account when picking the right bag. Just because a pack can hold three liters of water doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the best option for your short day hike. Same goes if you want a pack where you can stuff an extra layer or jacket for rainier weather. There are minimalist packs that will hold a liter or two of water and little else. Then there are hydration packs for day trips that can store valuables and extra clothes while conforming to your back and wicking away moisture.

The best hydration packs hold 1-3 liters of water, offer a slot for the valve that you can have close at hand, a waist strap to stay in place and the size you need. Some include water reservoirs and others are compatible with different brands if there are multiple sizes you prefer. The best way to break down hydration packs is by your favorite activities. If you are looking at packs for mountain bikes, you can find options that have spinal support for rougher trails. If you’re doing longer hikes, then you’ll want room for snacks, and if you’re skiing all winter, then a slot for gloves and goggles will be great for you.

Men’s Running

Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin:
Whether you’re tackling an ultra-marathon, trail run or urban exploration on foot, the S-Lab Adv Skin is unparalleled when it comes to comfort. Considering that it sits against your back, it is surprising to see how much water it can hold and how light it weighs when it’s full. That’s thanks to the two included 17 oz. soft flasks strapped to the front of the bag for balance and comfort in addition to the sleeve for additional water.

The S-Lab straps gently against your back in a way that you barely know it’s there, and is one of the best ways to run with over a liter of water held in the vest. While there are vests and packs that hold more water, there are few that are designed with every feature focused around comfort. That’s due to the Twin Link adjustment system to keep weight off your pressure points, 3D air mesh to keep moisture off your back, and a flexible material that molds with you as you move.

There is also plenty of storage packed into the small amount of space. The mesh pockets are perfect for snacks for a day hike. There is a pocket for you to stuff a jacket and there’s even a whistle attached to the pack in case of emergency. There aren’t many packs that do this much in this small amount of room for everything you need.

Women’s Running

Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta 2.0 Hydration Vest:
Similar to the Salomon pack – if not better – is the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 2.0 designed for hikers, bikers and runners. Also featuring two 20 oz. bottles that are constructed to not slosh around while you run, this is an ultralight pack with plenty of storage. It can hold a two-liter water reservoir and has sliding sternum straps for comfort and zippered pouches for layers and snacks.

What makes it a great pack is that it’s designed for almost any season or weather. There are the two extra bottles for the hottest days along with a mesh pouch to separate anything that gets wet if the skies open on a hike. The ventilated straps are designed to wick moisture to keep you going on any kind of run, from a sprint to a marathon.

Mountain Biking

EVOC FR Trail Blackline:
Designed with rugged mountain biking trails in mind, what separates the EVOC FR Blackline from the competition is the removable back protector. Constructed to keep your spine comfortable as you speed up and over boulders and make rough landings on rocky terrain, this bag is built so it doesn’t slam against your back.

The back protector is only the start. The Blackline can hold up to three liters of water, which is enough for the longest bike rides. It’s also a 20-liter pack, which means there’s plenty of room for clothes, gear, food and supplies. There are plenty of pockets for a phone, sunglasses, keys, wallet, bars or anything else you want to have on hand. And there is an integrated rain cover in case you hit some wet weather.

It’s built from ripstop nylon featuring 3D air mesh to keep your back dry and breathing no matter how hot it gets on the trail. You can take the back protector out if you want to use it as a day pack on your everyday activities, and it comes in multiple sizes for men and women.

Hiking

Men - Osprey Raptor 14
Women – Osprey Raven 14

If you can think of a feature you’d want on a hydration pack for a long day hike, then you’ll find it on the Raptor and the Raven. Both bags are constructed by Osprey and specially designed to form to men and women who love hitting the trails either by foot or on two wheels.

You can start with the three-liter water bladder that’s included with the packs. And then there’s the air mesh waist strap that’s designed to keep the pack pinned against your back for comfort. This makes sloshing nearly nonexistent, no matter how fast and rugged the trail becomes. And all of that is before you get to all the things that make Osprey packs great.

The foam framesheet keeps your back dry and wicks moisture away while you’re on the trail. There is a scratch-resistant pocket so your sunglasses and phone don’t get ripped up while you’re moving around. They weigh less than two pounds and offer plenty of zippered pockets for your belongings, extra layers, food and supplies.

Kids

CamelBak Skeeter:
The included 1.5-liter water reservoir insures that kids will stay hydrated on any trail, biking adventure or ski trip. The bite valve allows for easy sipping and the back panel is just as comfortable as on CamelBak’s best adult backpacks, so that backs stay dry no matter how hot it gets.

All these features combine to keep the water and packs clean, full and prepared with a stylish design that kids will want to take with them. There is room for extra layers, pockets for food, phones, glasses, and a repair kit for a bicycle. The locking bite valve means that water won’t leak when it’s not in use and the reflective highlights ensure that your kids will be seen as the sun starts to dip.

Big and Tall

Deuter Compact Lite:
Hikers of all sizes swear by Deuter’s packs thanks to the waist straps that can be adjusted for any size and comfort. The Compact Lite’s waist belt can compress the bag to any size while the adjustment straps ensure it won’t move around while you’re on a hike or trail ride. The separate compartment can hold three liters of water while also making for an excellent hydration bag that doubles as a day pack.

The Compact Lite has all the features that you need for anything, from carting around school supplies through a long day on a mountain bike. There is a stowable helmet flap, a detachable rain cover, spacious pockets for supplies and valuables, and small pockets on the waist straps for snacks as you go.

Under $50

CamelBak HydroBak:
If you just need a way to strap 1.5 liters of water to your back for a daytime activity, then you can’t beat CamelBak’s HydroBak for value and price. Constructed with the same durable ripstop nylon as their high-end bags, but with the minimalism needed for a few hours of activity, the HydroBak is a classic bag that can’t be topped for the price.

With a waist strap to hold it in place for comfort and a back panel to wick moisture away, this is the perfect bag for biking, day hikes or trail running. There is an extra storage pocket for a phone, wallet or keys. There’s a reflective strip in case you’re on a bike or run after dark. And the locking bite valve makes for easy access to your water without interruption while ensuring that water won’t leak.

Best Ultralight Hydration Pack

Source Dune X-Fit:
The Dune X-Fit uses a unique design for minimalist weight against your back while still bringing the 1.5-liter hydration bladder everywhere you go. The adjustable straps are designed to conform to your body whether you’re on a trail run, hike or bike ride, so you barely notice the water is right beside you with the convenient bite valve.

It is competitively priced a little more than most minimalist packs, but a lot less than day packs with some similar bells and whistles. It features 3D air mesh to keep the space breathable behind your back and an accessible pocket for bike repair tools and snacks. This is a great pack if you want to keep sloshing water to a minimum for a full day of activities with a cool design that stands out from the competition.

Winter/Skiing

CamelBak SnoBlast:
The SnoBlast was constructed with skiers and snowboards in mind. It’s easy to forget how much you need to hydrate when you’re racing down trails in freezing weather. That’s why having the CamelBak bite valve strapped to your pack is so useful. With the ability to hold two liters of water in the included reservoir, this bag is also insulated to make sure that your water won’t freeze while you’re on the slopes.

Aside from the excellent water capabilities, the SnoBlast also has pockets for all your winter-specific gear. This includes goggles and gloves but also room for plenty of extra storage for all your layers. The pack provides easy access to your stuff with a three-zipper system so you can get to your things from the top, middle or bottom. The last thing you want to do is dig through your pack with all your ski gear on; this makes a winter day that much easier while staying hydrated.

Where to Buy Hydration Packs

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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