Hydration Backpack Buying Guide

Hydration backpacks hit the scene several years ago, and when they did they became an instant sensation.  This makes sense – a critical factor in remaining safe and secure on a multi-hour bike ride or day hike is enjoying proper hydration. Certainly, keeping clear of wildlife and remaining on your feet is also essential; however, staying hydrated is something you can control from the minute you lace your shoes up at the trailhead to the moment you’re back in your vehicle.  Runners and hikers sometimes go to great lengths to have ways to keep themselves hydrated, but a good backpack can solve the problem.

A small backpack is often a key piece of gear for a brief hike or trail run anyway, so why not invest in one that can also be your hydration source?  The market is pretty expansive — they range from small water backpacks, or larger backpacks which not only comfortably carry three liters of water, but also contain enough storage to carry your tools, helmet and additional food.  If you are a hiker, you probably opt for something with more space.  If you are a trail runner, where even a slight loss of hydration can affect your speed, you probably want to just focus on the fluid capacity so you can keep your agility and balance without the extra weight of a heavy backpack.

We analyzed the hydration backpack market, and came up with some recommendations for you.  Read below to discover which hydration backpack is the best fit for you and your upcoming epic adventure.

Osprey Manta 36 Pack: Best Overall

A leading seller for Osprey, this nylon, 210-denier Escapist 36L daypack is best used for biking or hiking and includes an outside hydration sleeve for easy refilling. With the hipbelt and BioStretch harness, the backpack will not move or shift as you do; therefore, your load will remain properly arranged and sturdy on whichever terrain you’re conquering. Its features include an outer non-scratch pocket for your sunglasses, a front organization pocket, blinker light attachment and helmet, stretchy mesh front pocket that stashes coats while shedding layers, an integrated rain cover as well as a harness pocket that will hold your phone. This backpack is 21” x 13” x 12” and feels best while loaded with between 15 and 31 pounds of weight. Colors include bright blue, red, and black.  Find here.

Best for Women: Platypus Siouxon Hydration Pack

Made especially for women, this hydration backpack is filled with compartments, as well as clips to hold all things needed for a day hike or a mountain bike ride. Although the backpack is just 10L, it still utilizes a lightweight wire frame that provides an abundance of ventilation and structure. It holds a 3L bladder in place, along with reservoir suspension hooks. Plus, it contains a front stash pocket which can be used to hold a helmet, snacks and/or a jacket. The primary compartment contains smaller organizational pockets for things like headlamps, tools and all other things you might needed to bring along with you. This backpack may appear small, yet it really can hold everything necessary for a lengthy hike. Additional features involve waist belt pockets for granola bars and chapstick, an integrated rainfly, as well as a fleece-lined pocket for sunglasses. This backpack comes in plum, teal, and black and is 17” x 9” x 7”.  Find here.

Best for Men: Osprey Raptor 10

Perfect for mountain biking or day hikes, the Raptor is a 10L backpack designed from 210-denier, durable nylon. This backpack contains a lid-lock attachment for helmets, and blinker light attachment in addition to a removable roll-out tool pouch for all your hiking necessities or bike tools which must be accessed easily. All in all, this pack is very comfortable, featuring a ventilated shoulder strap and back panel, in additional to a sturdy structure that has an interior sleeve for a 3L bladder. This backpack also features side compression straps, and exterior gear carrying straps for additional trekking poles or layers.  There is enough space to carry some gear, or to stow your sunglasses without crushing them to a pulp.  Its dimensions are 20” x 9” x 7” and is available in red, blue, or black.  Find here.

CamelBak Classic Hydration Pack: Best Lightweight

On a brief hike, you do not want to have to carry a lot of additional weight, yet you do not want to become dehydrated either. Hikers, with the CamelBak Classic, can carry 2L of water, and still have space for snacks, a layer, and a small first aid kit. Features involve a back panel to remain sweat free and cool, a mesh harness, and a handle on its bladder for refills. The backpack weighs just 14 oz., and is 15” x 8.5” x 4.5”. Colors include red, yellow, bright blue, and black.  Find here.

Nathan HPL 020 Vest: Best for Running

On your next race day or long run, a bouncing hip belt might hinder your performance. With this vest, runners gain a lightweight vest which stays put throughout your whole run due to its stabilizing harness. It weighs a mere 14.6 oz. and holds 6L of storage, which includes a 2L bladder. It contains two mesh pockets in the front and a couple of zippered pockets on the pack’s back that you can use to hold small items such as your phone, keys or snacks.  Find here.

CamelBak Zoid Hydration Pack: Best for Insulation

If you’re searching for a pack that will carry your water when you’re out on a snowshoe hike or fresh powder day, this hydration pack is ideal. This 2L hydration pack is slim enough to comfortably fit on your back when riding the chairlifts and does not feature any exterior straps which might become caught on branches. Its drinking tube comes insulated and zips into its shoulder harness; therefore, you will still have the ability to sip even while temperatures dip well below freezing. Additionally, on the exterior of the pack are two small pockets that can store things like your phone, keys, or a sandwich. This pack comes in dark purple or silver and is 17” x 8.5” x 3”.  Find here.


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