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Best Hydration Packs

Updated September 2023
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
CamelBak Rogue Light Bike Hydration Pack
CamelBak
Rogue Light Bike Hydration Pack
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Most Comprehensive
Bottom Line

Simple, lightweight design makes this comfortable to wear and great to take on light hiking adventures.

Pros

Lightweight design but still able to hold up to 70 oz of water. Ventilated, mesh backing creates airflow and breathability while shoulder straps provide a comfortable feel. Zippered pocket can hold small items like keys, phone, and a wallet.

Cons

Shoulder straps were a bit tight on some and may not be best suited for larger body types.

Best Bang for the Buck
Teton Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack
Teton Sports
Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack
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Best for Everyday Use
Bottom Line

Holding up to 2 liters of water, this is great for daily bike rides, hikes, runs, and more.

Pros

Wide, adjustable straps allow this hydration pack to fit a variety of body types and an anti-shock chest strap provides a secure, comfortable feel for all-day wear. Attached whistle on chest strap is handy in an emergency and pack has plenty of zippered pockets.

Cons

Some found the zippers to get stuck or come apart after some use.

Vibrelli Hydration Pack
Vibrelli
Lightweight Hydration Backpack
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Most Storage
Bottom Line

Plenty of pockets make this a great bag for holding extra gear and supplies.

Pros

High flow, 2 L water bladder allows for efficient drinking while hose outlet is in an ideal placement for easy reach. Plenty of storage with additional bungee cords on front and a mesh pocket plus a main zippered compartment that is separate from water pocket.

Cons

Thinner straps and tighter waistband may not make this ideal for all-day wear.

Unigear Tactical Hydration Pack
Unigear
Tactical Hydration Pack
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Best for Experts
Bottom Line

An acceptable option for extended outdoor time and for those who want rugged looks and lots of space.

Pros

In addition to its 2.5 liter bladder, owners rave about its spaciousness; it's capable of fitting ample provisions and survivalist tools. Handsome camouflage design is ideal for serious outdoor enthusiasts.

Cons

Some issues with leaks have been reported, but owners suggest checking the tubing connections. The design is a bit impractical for light use, and it may be too heavy for some users.

Water Buffalo Hydration Backpack
Water Buffalo
Hydration Backpack
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Durable & Rugged
Bottom Line

If you are looking for an option that will hold up to higher intensity workouts such as running, we found this to be the perfect choice.

Pros

Has a lightweight feel that doesn't compromise on durability, allowing it to hold up to a variety of activities. Holds up to 12L of water. During trials, we really appreciated how comfortable the straps felt and the adjustability offered.

Cons

It can be slightly difficult to fully clean and it may not be comfortable for all body types.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best hydration packs

Whether you're hiking wooded trails, engaging in some fast-paced mountain biking, or training for a marathon, a hydration pack is a convenient way to get that sweet H2O. But how do you find the best hydration pack for you?

We talked with professional backpacking guide Amy Horton to shed some light on the ins and outs of this piece of equipment.

Her first piece of advice is to think carefully about what you need from a hydration pack. "What is your sport?" she asks. "Is speed and aerodynamic design most important, or cargo capacity? How long will you be out, and how much water do you need? Answer these questions and go from there."

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Think about comfort. Padded straps, ventilation, and overall support are all important features to consider in a hydration pack.

Types of hydration packs

Backpacks

  • Backpacks are the most popular and widely available type of hydration pack.

  • You can find lightweight packs for short activity sessions, trail packs for longer excursions, and extra-large packs for all-day or overnight trips.

  • Hydration backpacks feature a water reservoir, or "bladder," that fits inside the bag, as well as some storage space for other gear.

  • Backpack hydration packs are generally versatile, but some may feel too bulky for certain activities, such as running.

"If you have a preference on which shoulder your sip tube hangs over, make sure that your pack has a tube portal on that side or a central tube portal."
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Waist packs

  • Waist packs are compact hydration packs that clip around the waist, a bit like a fanny pack.

  • Since they're very lightweight and comfortable, waist packs are ideal for users who want the most unobtrusive hydration pack possible.

  • Due to their compact size, they don't hold a lot of water and have little to no storage. They're best suited for short periods of exercise, under an hour or two.  

"You want something that is comfortable and fits snugly. Opt for a waist pack or a very minimal backpack. Don’t buy something big and bulky that will ruin your run."
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Vests

  • Hydration vests are a cross between a hydration backpack and a vest.

  • Rather than having straps, they fit snugly around the body, making them more comfortable for long periods of use.

  • Hydration vests are generally favored by marathon runners and other long-distance athletes.

Hydration pack features to consider

Capacity

Not all hydration packs have the same capacity, but they range from one to three liters. When deciding, consider how much water you tend to drink, how long you'll be out, and whether you'll have the opportunity to refill the reservoir at any point.  

  • Compact backpacks and waist packs have small reservoirs that hold around one to two liters of water.

  • Most standard backpack-style hydration packs have a capacity of two to two and a half liters.

  • The largest hydration packs may have slightly more room in them overall, but it's rare to find bladders with a capacity of more than three liters.

"It’s quite common to underestimate how much water you need to drink. Always allow for more than you think you need, and buy the biggest reservoir that makes sense for your size, sport, and activity level."
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Storage space

Most hydration packs have some extra storage space for any gear you need to bring with you, in addition to the water reservoir. Our expert, Amy, advises against opting for a bag that has too much additional storage space for your needs. "I would definitely say if you are just day hiking, get a sleek pack. I have used some unnecessarily bulky day packs in the past and never needed all that space. You are better off with something more comfortable and lighter. Think about the maximum amount of gear you’ll want to bring and go from there."

  • Even the most compact and lightweight hydration packs tend to have some degree of storage space, even if it's just a pocket for your phone and keys.

  • Slightly larger trail packs offer enough space to fit some essentials for a long hike, such as snacks and a first aid kit.

  • Very large hydration packs, with an overall capacity of 20 liters or so (though about 10% of that will be occupied by the reservoir), are most useful for overnight trips.

"You may not think much about the size of the opening on your reservoir, but you’ll wish you had later. If you want to add ice or – most importantly – have an easier time cleaning it, pick one with an extra-wide opening."
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Removable reservoir

A hydration pack with a removable water reservoir offers you much more versatility, since you can use it in other bags or backpacks if you desire. Most backpacks have a sleeve for a reservoir, whether they come with one or not. In a pinch, you can slip the reservoir into a drawstring gym bag with the sip tube out the opening. "The best feature of a good hydration pack," says Amy, "is an excellent water reservoir that you can remove and use interchangeably in any pack you own.”

"You’re best off buying a pack with a reservoir that offers an on/off switch on the bite valve. These bite valves tend to last longer and leak less."
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Size and fit

It's important to find a hydration pack that is the right size and fit for you. An ill-fitting hydration pack will be uncomfortable to wear, especially over long periods of time. When buying online, look at the dimensions in the product specifications to work out whether it will fit your body. It's also advisable to buy a pack that can be returned in case it doesn't fit right.  

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Did you know?
Women’s packs are cut to fit the female body more closely and comfortably and are widely available in all capacities and styles.
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Hydration pack prices

You can find hydration packs in a range of prices, from $10 to $400, to suit any budget.

  • Inexpensive: Basic, compact hydration packs start between $10 and $20. These are not from name brands, and they may not be as durable as those from trusted manufacturers.

  • Mid-Range: You can find some gems for $20 to $100. These hydration packs, especially at the middle to higher end of the price range, are made from quality components that will last for years. Note that not all mid-range packs are as durable as we'd like.

  • Expensive: High-end hydration packs cost from $100 to $400. These include large, very durable packs designed for multi-day use.

Tips

  • Decide whether you want your hydration pack to provide extra protection. Some models incorporate lightweight body armor to protect you when participating in potentially dangerous sports or activities.

  • Carefully consider your needs. "Do you need to carry a lot of extra stuff,” asks Amy, “or are you cool with just your water and the bare essentials? What activities will you be using your hydration pack for? You very well may need a couple different packs if your activities vary widely."

  • Make sure your hydration pack is easy to adjust. Shoulder straps, sternum straps, and waist straps should all be fully and easily adjustable.

  • Check that a reservoir is included with your hydration pack. While most models include the bladder that holds the water, it isn't a given. You might need to purchase one separately.
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The most commonly reported issues that warrant replacement of hydration reservoirs or parts are bite valve leakage and breakage. These problems are easily avoided by going easy on the valve. Usually it takes only gentle pressure to release water.

FAQ

Q. Do I need to clean my hydration pack?
A.
Amy says, "Yes, you do need to clean it!" It may not be the most pleasant chore, but it’s a necessary one if you want to drink clean, safe water. Take the hydration pack apart and wash each component well, particularly inside the tube and bite valve.

Q. What should I look for if I want to use my hydration pack in freezing conditions?
A.
You'll need a hydration pack with special adjustments so the water won't freeze in the bladder or the drinking tube. Features to look for include insulated reservoirs and drinking tubes, reservoir covers, and bite valve covers.

Q. Can I remove the reservoir from my hydration pack?
A.
Our expert, Amy, sheds some light on this: "Almost all packs made these days have a portal for the hydration reservoir tube, so you can remove the reservoir from your hydration pack and use it in other packs as well if you like. That way you don’t have to buy multiple reservoirs unless you want extras."

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