Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best camelbaks

Running out of water on a run or during a hike is a great way to ruin a workout. Soon, thirst becomes all you can think about. On a short morning run, dehydration is an inconvenience that can diminish performance. On a backcountry hiking trip, a lack of water can quickly become life threatening.

Don’t get stuck without water. Prepare in advance by choosing an appropriate hydration pack. Whether you’re hiking, running, or cycling outdoors, CamelBak makes a number of different hydration solutions for active individuals.

At BestReviews, we want to make sure that no matter where your outdoor adventure takes you, you still have enough water to get home safely. Our guide to CamelBak hydration packs outlines the benefits, the available options, and the features you can expect from this company’s product line. You can stay hydrated as you exercise with one of our recommended CamelBak models featured at the top of this page.

Hydration packs vs. other hydration methods

Why choose a hydration pack over a water bottle or waist pack? Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of this accessory.


  • Carries lots of water

  • Stores other items

  • Adjusts to fit

  • Distributes weight evenly

  • Keeps water cool


  • Heavy

  • Less breathable

  • Potential for chafing

Why buy a CamelBak hydration pack?

CamelBak is one of the most widely recognized hydration pack options available – the name has become synonymous with the product.

CamelBak has packs with different storage options for carrying other items like clothing or food. Their bounce-free designs feature a custom fit, durable fabric, and smart bladder and tube design. The company also offers an excellent warranty (products are backed by a “Got Your Bak Lifetime Guarantee”) and has a commitment to giving back to the community and supporting a variety of nonprofits.

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For your safety
Are you a salty sweater? For longer outdoor activities, water alone won’t cut it. You’ll need to think about replenishing electrolytes, too.

Types of CamelBak hydration packs


These are the largest, most popular, and most widely available hydration pack option. They come in a range of sizes and styles, with varying amounts of storage and reservoir capacity.


Smaller than packs, vests fit very close to the body and offer minimal storage and less water capacity.

Waist packs

These fit around the waist and hold one or more bottles. These belts usually have enough storage space for a cell phone, energy bar, or small tube of sunscreen.


These are great for quick access to water. They’re easy to refill and clean. But carrying a bottle in your hand isn’t always convenient. Bottles can put a strain on the upper body, and some people might be annoyed by the sound of sloshing water.

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Did you know?
CamelBak also sells a wide range of water bottles for a variety of activities.

CamelBak features to consider

Hydration is a very personal aspect of training. Some may prefer to go light and carry a bottle while others want something like a pack for extra storage. There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a CamelBak hydration product.

Your needs: Consider why you need a hydration pack. For running, look for one that’s lightweight – you might opt for a belt or vest rather than a pack. For cycling, you might want a close-fitting pack to reduce wind resistance that also has room for things like a bike lock and helmet attachment. For hiking packs, you might want a larger hydration pack with more room to store some gear. Some have hiking pole attachments, too. A tight-fitting pack holds a small bladder and features pockets for small things like keys or change. CamelBak makes packs for the following activities: mountain biking, cycling, general outdoor use, running, snow sports, and day hiking.

Duration: The duration of the activity matters, too. The longer you go, the more water you’ll need to carry unless you know a convenient spot to refill.

Removable bladder: Many hydration packs have a removable bladder so you can use the pack with or without the reservoir. Packs often have a separate compartment for the bladder to help prevent leaks and keep the water insulated. All CamelBaks feature a removable bladder.

Water bladder capacity: The amount of water a pack holds is usually listed in liters. Hydration pack bladders range from half a liter to several liters. CamelBak brand packs are available in capacities ranging from 500 milliliters to 3 liters. And remember that each liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds.

  • 1 liter or less: This is lightweight hydration for short outings and quick runs.

  • 1 to 2.5 liters: The middle size is for extended periods outdoors. You might require a refill during the course of your activity, depending on the size of the bladder and the activity involved.

  • 3 liters or more: This size is for longer excursions in remote areas where it could be harder to refill the water bladder.

Pack capacity: Check to see if the water bladder takes up all the room in the pack. Is there extra space to store other items? Gear capacity can range from 5 to 30 liters, but more gear means a heavier pack. What is the pack’s weight when empty? Think of what you must carry, and get a pack that fits your minimum needs. If the pack is heavy when empty, adding gear will only make it harder to carry. And choosing a pack that’s too big might encourage you to fill it.

Comfort and fit: Most CamelBaks come in three sizes with adjustable straps, including sternum straps to prevent bounce. Some packs also have hip straps to help stabilize the pack when you’re on the move. The pack straps shouldn’t pinch or cause pressure anywhere. An ill-fitting pack can chafe. The weight of the pack should be evenly distributed – you shouldn’t feel the bulk of the pressure on your shoulders. Many CamelBak packs have compression straps to help distribute weight properly and minimize bouncing. Some CamelBak models are available in sizes for women and youth, allowing for a more generous fit over the chest or to fit smaller, narrower bodies.

Bite valve switch: This enables the user to twist the valve to shut off water flow to prevent spills and waste. All CamelBak packs have a valve closure to prevent leaking.

Tube clip: This keeps the drinking tube from flopping around as you move. Some CamelBak models feature a magnetic attachment that holds the tube in place.

Tube quick-release: This enables users to disconnect the drinking tube from the reservoir so only the bladder needs to be removed to refill. Many CamelBak models have some kind of release mechanism for easier refilling.

Extra-large hydration reservoir cap: A larger opening makes it easier to reach inside for cleaning. All CamelBak reservoirs feature a large screw-on lid.

Insulation: This is useful for keeping water cool on hot days and keeping it from freezing during winter activities. A bigger opening makes it easy to fill, too. All snow and ski options from CamelBak are insulated, as well as a few other models.

Waterproofing: Some hydration packs are waterproof or come with waterproof or water resistant rain covers. A few CamelBak models come with rain covers. These can also be purchased separately.

Ventilation: Many hydration packs have mesh to help with breathability and ventilation. Most CamelBaks feature 3D mesh or other types of ventilation technology to enhance air circulation in areas of the body that come into contact with the pack.

Extra pockets: CamelBack lists the number of pockets for each of its pack models. More pockets mean more room to store whatever you need to bring with you on your run, bike ride, or hike.

Reflective features: Many CamelBak packs have details that reflect light for early morning or late night running or biking.

Cleaning and caring for your hydration pack

It’s important to keep your CamelBak hydration bladder squeaky clean.

  • Always rinse out the water reservoir after use.

  • Use a small amount of bleach to disinfect the interior and the drinking tube.

  • Make sure your hydration bladder is entirely dry before rolling it up for storage.

  • Hanging the bladder can help the inside dry more quickly.

  • Freeze the reservoir if you don’t have time to wait for it to dry completely. Freezing will prevent mold from growing inside it.

CamelBak hydration pack prices

Inexpensive: The least expensive products CamelBak offers include handheld water bottles, waist belts for running, and small running and cycling packs for kids and adults. Most packs that cost $59 or less come with a reservoir that holds 1.5 liters.

Mid-range: CamelBak’s mid-range lineup includes larger-capacity packs for running, outdoor pursuits, and cycling. A few ultra-lightweight vests for running, and a variety of ski and snow packs are also available for between $60 and $100.

Expensive: The most expensive CamelBak hydration packs cost $100 and more and typically come with more room for storage and larger-capacity reservoirs. Also available for a higher cost are special ultra-durable mountain biking packs that offer crash protection.

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A hydration pack keeps your hands free, and many CamelBak packs offer quick-access storage solutions so you can grab nutrition on the go.


Q. Can I freeze my hydration reservoir?

A. Of course! Pop your reservoir in the freezer overnight so you can head out knowing you’ll have cold water for a little while. Your hydration pack naturally insulates the bladder, so adding ice will help keep the water cool even if it’s hot outside. Keep in mind that condensation may occur and cause some dampness inside the pack. Avoid putting anything that isn’t waterproof close to the bladder. Freezing the reservoir after cleaning is a good way to prevent mold growth, too.

Q. How much water do I need to drink when doing physical activity?

A. This varies widely depending on the person, the activity, and the temperature. It also depends on your baseline level of hydration. Drinking water on a regular basis will ensure that you never start sweating while already depleted. Your sweat rate, age, and effort level also factor into how much water you need. For an estimate, an online hydration calculator can help you get a sense of your particular needs. Trial and error works, too, but always err on the side of caution and bring extra water when heading out on a hot day or to a remote location.

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