Do you like water?! No way, me too, I drink it everyday! Do you love to spend time outside? Ditto! Well my friend is this THE post for you! Welcome to the ultimate round-up of the best hydration packs to help you quench your thirst across vast distances and stay hydrated on your travels.
When you are shopping for a hydration pack you need to consider your objective and intended activity. Will you be hiking, cycling, or running with your pack? How long do you plan to spend out on the trails?
Depending on your intended use, it’s important to look out for fit, capacity, and any other extra features on the bladder, like a valve on/off switch.
So, if you’re looking for the best hiking backpack with a water bladder, you’ve come to the right place!
- Hydration Pack Ready Backpacks
- Quick Answer: What Hydration Pack should I Buy?
- How to Choose the Best Hydration Pack
- Best Hydration Packs – Osprey Skarab and Skimmer
- Osprey – Best Men’s Hydration Pack
- Best Women’s Hydration Pack
- Best Hiking Hydration Pack
- Best Hydration Pack for Running
- Best Hydration Pack For Mountain Biking
- Most Lightweight Hydration Pack
- Best Hydration Pack for Cycling
- How and Where We Tested To Find The Best Hydration Pack
- FAQ about the Best Hydration Pack
Hydration Pack Ready Backpacks
Obviously, to be called a hydration pack, your backpack must accommodate a hydration reservoir.
Although most modern hiking backpacks and day packs are designed with a water bladder sleeve and a small hole to feed the tube through your pack, many packs sell hydration bladders separately.
For this guide, I will be limiting my evaluations to packs sold with a hydration bladder versus those sold without one.
Quick Answer: What Hydration Pack should I Buy?
- Osprey Skarab for Men – Best Overall Mens Hydration Pack
- Osprey Skimmer for Women – Best Overall Women’s Hydration Pack
- Camelbak Powderhound – Alternate Best Men’s Hydration Pack
- Osprey Raven 10 – Alternate Best Women’s Hydration Pack
- Osprey Duro 6 – Best Hydration Pack for Running
- REI Co-op Trail 25 Pack– Best Hiking Hydration Pack
- CamelBak Powderhound 12 Ski Hydration Pack – Best Hydration Pack for Snow-sports
- Osprey Raptor 10 – Best Hydration Pack for Mountain Biking
How to Choose the Best Hydration Pack
There are a few things to consider before you purchase a hydration pack. I’ve highlighted the most important things to look for in this section!
Types of Hydration Packs
Firstly, consider your intention. Do you plan to run, cycle, or hike with your hydration reservoir?
Hiking hydration pack: These are the standard packs for hiking, travel, and casual outings. They range in size and capacity, so consider your backpack size as well as how long you plan to hike. Learn more about choosing the best day packs and the best hiking backpacks in our guides!
Cycling hydration pack: These packs are designed for mountain biking or road cycling. They are typically compact and low-profile so they can sit on your back comfortably without creating resistance.
Running hydration pack: These packs need to be as small and low-profile as possible so they sit on your back without bouncing up and down as you run. Most running vests and packs do not have a hip belt. Hydration reservoirs are especially nice when you are running, s you can sip from the tube as you go. You also do not have to carry a clunkier water bottle.
Snowsport hydration pack: These packs are designed for winter sports to keep your water from freezing. Features include insulation and a bit valve.
Hydration Pack Capacity
Keep in mind the hydration bladder goes by many names: from water bladder to the reservoir. Still, the objective of the hydration pack is the same: to transport large quantities of water and make drinking convenient.
Hydration packs range from less than 5 liters to over 50 liters. Most hiking backpacks (from day packs to 80 liters+ have a sleeve too). Figure out how much water you will really need to (and want to) carry at once.
Hiking through a desert with no water supply versus a casual day hike will obviously require a different amount of water.
You should also consider your gear capacity since a full bladder can take up quite a bit of space in your pack. Will a full hydration pack allow you to carry a jacket and snacks?
Most running and cycling hydration packs are on the smaller side. Small packs at 5 liters or less are perfect for running because they are compact and low profile. Mountain biking and long trail runs may require a 6-10 liter pack so you can also bring an extra layer and snacks.
11 – 30-liter hydration packs are great for day hiking. These have enough room for all the extras.
Overnight adventures generally require at least 36-liters and upwards. For this guide, I’ll also be focusing on packs designed for day hikes and excursions versus long multi-day treks. Anyone searching for a thru-hike backpack should refer to our best hiking backpacks guide instead.
Hydration Packs Fit
Fitting to a hydration pack is similar to that of a hiking backpack. You should fit for waist size, torso-length, and body type.
Torso lengthens are available in multiple sizes, from extra small to large. Larger packs often have an adjustable suspension system to fit your torso. These are best to try on in-store.
Like torso sizes, waist sizes range from extra small to large. Your waist size will determine your hip belt, which does not always match the torso! Often times, companies or stores like REI will allow you to switch out a hip belt.
Women-Specific Hydration Packs
The best hydration packs for women have hip belts and shoulder straps that are contoured with the female shape in mind. Torso dimensions are generally shorter. The actual backpack’s capacity is also generally a bit less than the men’s version (i.e. men’s version is 44-liters and women’s version is 40-liters).
Hydration Pack Features
Bite Valve Shutoff: Some bit valves twist to open and close or have a switch. Often, like with Camelbak products you need to buy the bite valve separately. It’s worth it, in my opinion!
Clips: Many hydration packs include a clip on a shoulder strap to keep your tube positioned for easy access.
Wide-mouth opening: Wide-mouth openings on the bladder are there to allow you to fit a hand inside the reservoir for easy cleaning. They can be a bit messier to close though.
Cold weather add-ons: They can be handy for snow sports, but they can also add bulk and weight.
Rain cover: A rain cover is a nice add-on to any backpack! You never know what type of weather you will encounter on the trails.
Best Hydration Packs – Osprey Skarab and Skimmer
The Osprey Skarab is designed for men while the slightly smaller women’s version, the Osprey Skimmer, is specifically designed for women.
Both versions of these Osprey Hydration packs come in multiple sizes as well as include an Osprey hydration bladder. The 2.5 Hydraulics reservoir is easy to fill and drink from thanks to the convenient drinking hose.
The Skarab 18 is the perfect size for a day hike because it can fit your water bladder, valuables, extra layers, and lunch.
That being said, Osprey makes a larger size of this version, which can be preferable if you will be tackling a difficult hike, and need to carry more layers, water, ax picks, etc.
The Skarab 30 is big enough for an overnight hiking trip. It can comfortably fit some food, water, a first aid kit, book, and clothes.
Some of the series’ best features include a wide-mouth bucket-style main compartment, front shove-it pocket for quick storage (great for a jacket), dual-zippered large side-panel pockets, and hip belt pockets.
Each pack also has dual upper and lower side compression straps, ice ax loops, trekking pole loops, and daisy chain attachment points. All of these features make this pack extremely versatile for various terrain, weather, and hiking distances.
Check out our post on the best hiking backpacks as well! They all have specific spot for a hydration reservoir, although their purchase does not include one.
Our team were super impressed by the amount of storage space this bag has and in particular the number of pockets for organisation. They felt it was a great option for those wanting the size of a standard day pack with the added functionality of a hydration pack without really having to compromise. They also felt shoulder straps did a great job of handling the weight of both the water and the packed-out interior.
- Extremely comfortable and breathable
- Meant for various types of hikes
- No integrated rain cover
- 30 Liters may be an awkward size for some
Is the Skarab Osprey Hydration Pack for me?
When you’re in it for the summit, having a versatile and comfortable to carry hiking pack is key. The men’s Osprey Skarab 30 hydration pack has the storage space and practical touches for all-day hikes and can also work for overnight ones. This bag is comfortable, versatile, and durable. What more could you want?
The main difference between the men’s and women’s versions of the Skarab and Skimmer is the gender-specific fit. Women-specific hiking backpacks have differently shaped hip belts and sternum straps, and often a slightly smaller torso length. In this case, the backpack’s actual capacity is a tad smaller too, most likely to shorten the torso length.
As mentioned above, the Skimmer 28 comes with a 2.5-liter Osprey hydration bladder. It also includes an adjustable sternum strap with a magnetic bite-valve attachment to easily access your water.
This Osprey hydration pack is top-loading backpack has a wide-mouth main compartment so it’s easy to pack and unpack. There are quite a few attachment points: daisy-chain straps, dual lower trekking pole attachment loops, and ice ax loops.
This backpack has plenty of pockets, including the front shove-it pocket and zippered slash pocket. This pack extremely versatile for various terrain, weather, and hiking distances. While meant for day hikes, you can make it work for an overnight hike too.
If you do not want a 28-liter pack, the Skimmer 16 is the perfect size for a smaller day hike. It will fit your water bladder, valuables, extra layers, and lunch.
Our team felt this was the best women’s hydration pack on the market as they felt the accomodations made from the men’s versions really made it fit their bodies perfectly. The other thing they noted to us was that they felt these changes didn’t impact the functionality of the pack or felt like too much of a compromose. They were also pleased Osprey avoided going down the pink and floral route too!
- Extremely comfortable and breathable
- Meant for various types of hikes
- No integrated rain cover
- 28 Liters may be an awkward in-between size for some
Is the Osprey Skimmer Hydration Pack for me?
This hiking bag is perfect and practical and we reckon it’s the best hydration pack for women. Stay happy and stay hydrated on the trail with the women’s Osprey Skimmer 28 hydration pack. It comfortably carries a day’s worth of water and supplies, no matter where you’re going.
Osprey – Best Men’s Hydration Pack
The CamelBak Fourteener Hydration Pack is one of the best camel packs, specifically created with men in mind.
The hydration pack is separate from the gear compartment, allowing for a more comfortable fit. It can hold up to three liters of water. The water bladder’s tube is held secure with a magnetic strap so you can access the Camelbak mouthpiece on-the-go.
Other great features include its air support back panel for maximized ventilation, overflow pocket to quickly stash an extra layer and trekking pole carry.
The pack lives up to its name, “Fourteener.” It’s perfect for those difficult day hikes and 14,000-foot peaks because it’s rugged, comfortable to carry, and you can fit plenty of layers, a lunch, camera, small valuables, and a 3-liter hydration reservoir.
The team were big fans of this bag for long and challening hikes in warmer conditions, particularly because of the awesome ventilation system on the back of the bag. Couple that with the padded shoulder straps and large hip belt, they felt it was super comfortable given how much this thing could carry.
- Extremely comfortable
- Perfect for difficult hikes
- Fits a 3 liter Camelbak reservoir
- Too large for most women
- reservoir tube could be longer
Is the Camelbak Fourteener Hydration Pack for me?
This Camel backpack is comfortable, breathable, and durable. Most men report back that it sits on their frame well without bouncing on impact.
Best Women’s Hydration Pack
The women-specific Osprey hydration pack has an optimally sized back panel, and comfortable hip belt and shoulder straps designed for the female form. I love that this hydration pack has ventilation channels and moisture-wicking mesh for comfort and breathability.
At 10 liters, it’s great for a light day hike, the perfect size for a water reservoir, a few essentials, snacks, and a light jacket. The backpack itself has 2 zippered pockets on the hip belt and a few zip pockets on the bag itself.
This Osprey Raven 10 pack includes a LidLock bike helmet attachment as well as a blinker light attachment and reflective patch, making it perfect for cycling whether commuting or hitting the trails. There’s also a zippered scratch-free slash pocket for your sunnies and a stretch-mesh front pocket where you can easily put a waterproof jacket.
Our team felt this was a great compact and comfortable pack that offers just the right amount of storage and water capacity without becoming too bulky or heavy. They particularly liked the stash pocket on the front for keeping their biking or climbing helmet attached.
- Extremely comfortable
- Versatile – for running or riding
- Fits a 3-liter water bladder
- Small; only for bare essentials
- Bladder pocket is a bit tight
Is the Osprey Raven 10 Pack for me?
This women-specific hydration pack has all the bells and whistles that make a great day pack for hiking and biking. It’s even a good running water pack! If you want a light pack that can do it all, then this is a great choice!
Best Hiking Hydration Pack
I’ll level, hiking with a reservoir on your back isn’t always going to be exactly “comfortable” as all that water gets pretty heavy. Still, this hiking hydration pack by REI is a very comfortable option.
It’s got shoulder straps, a sternum strap and a hip belt all of which will help you bear the 3-litre (and 3kg) reservoir.
In terms of storage, there is plenty of space for your gear in the main compartment and then six additional pockets. There is also a number of attachment points for trekking poles and other bits of gear.
For those of the team who want a bigger bag for their longer hiking trip, this REI pack is a great solution. The team particularly loved that the hip belts have pockets large enough to carry a camping knife or a few high-energy snacks. This combines well with the hydration pack meaning for those who like to get going and keep going without having to keep pulling their packs off, they can refuel whilst on the move with ease.
Is The REI Co-op Trail 25 Pack For Me?
It’s a good-sized pack that is still comfortable enough to carry onto hikes. It’s also very well-priced. Just don’t expect it to last forever.
Best Hydration Pack for Running
The Osprey Duro 6 vest is one of the best running hydration packs on the market. This running water vest can carry 1.5 liters of water without bouncing around on your back. The sternum magnet makes the tube easy to access on the move.
Dual zippered panel access to the main compartment lets you easily grab essentials. You can now store your phone, snacks, and water on those long runs. The vest also has front panel stretch mesh compression pocket and vertical zipper stash pocket.
The Duro is one of the best trail running hydration packs. It’s perfect if you are training for endurance events i.e. you’re trying to hike or run a marathon in a day. You can easily fit an extra layer if you’re going to be starting in the early AM or finishing your hike as the day gets cooler.
That said, the pack is super light and hardly noticeable when you are running, pair it with the Altra Lone Peak shoes and there’s no catching you!
The runners on the TBB team love how adjustable this pack is and how well it hugs the body without swaying all over the place. On top of that the shoulder straps offer superior levels of ventilation and the number of different pockets means keeping things organised for quick access mid run is super easy.
- Extremely light
- Vest made for trail running
- Doesn’t shift or flop at all
- Small; only for bare essentials and 1.5 liters
- Pricey for a 6-liter pack
Is the Duro 6 Hydration Pack for me?
This is the best hydration backpack for running. It has a low profile and is comfortable, but still allows you to pack an extra layer, snacks, and 1.5 liters of water.
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Best Hydration Pack For Mountain Biking
The CamelBak M.U.L.E was initially designed for mountain bikers, and it’s one of the best hydration cycling backpacks, but it is versatile enough to use for other activities because it can fit up to 3 liters of water and carry your essentials. It includes a tool compartment and air ventilator design for ultimate breathability.
One of my favorite parts about this pack is the new Camelback bladder design. The tube has an easier on/off lever, and the bladder is built with a Crux reservoir, allowing you to take in much more water with each sip than with a traditional hose system. The latest model also includes a magnetic tube strap so you can drink from the bladder hands-free.
Our team love how secure this bag felt on their back especially when they’re biking or hiking with the super secure hip and shoulder straps. They also felt the Camelbak packs offered superior durability and longevity and they were a great investment if they’re going to be used often.
- Very Comfortable
- Great water bladder
- Some reviewers report difficulty screwing bladder lid
- Color fades faster than we’d like
Is the Camelbak M.U.L.E Hydration Pack for me?
This is our pick for the best cycling and mountain biking hydration pack, but it is also an all-around great hydration pack that rivals our favorite hydration packs above. Get this pack if you need a pack primarily for biking, but want one that can do it all.
Most Lightweight Hydration Pack
If your primary goal is to buy the lightest hydration pack possible, then then this Mubasel hydration pack is perfect for you. It is designed with minimalism in mind. It focuses primarily on hydration, weighing only .5 pounds!
Although it’s a no-frills type of bag, it still comes with some nice features, like small compartments for your items, and a waterproof nylon shell.
The pack also fully opens up when unzipped, making it much easier to clean than other models. Best of all, it’s the cheapest hydration pack we’ve reviewed. Sometimes you can find this hydration pack for around $30!
We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the backpack. The water bladder, however, had to be replaced. Overall, this pack is durable and lightweight, but replace the bladder.
Our team loved this bag and felt it was the best budget hydration pack currently available. The features they particularly enjoyed were how easy it was to clean with the massive opening as well as how long their water stayed cool for even on hot days.
- Extremely light
- Plenty of available colors
- Straps aren’t as comfortable as other packs’ straps on this list
- Bladder sucks. Worth investing in another one.
Is the Musabel Hydration Pack for me?
If you want an affordable, no-frills pack that is so light it feels like it’s barely there, then Musabel is the pack for you. Don’t be fooled by the price either; this pack is highly recommended! The only thing we have a problem with is the bladder. It seems to be cheap plastic and not something you want your water heating up in. It is worth investing in a separate reservoir, but it’s a small price to pay for what we rate as the best cheap hydration pack out there.
Best Hydration Pack for Cycling
As you head out for a day of cycling, the last thing you want to do is carry a heavy hydration pack. You want a cycling pack that is low-profile and lightweight.
Many cycling hydration packs feature a breathable mesh material to promote ventilation. Many cycling-oriented hydration packs feature convenient exterior helmet storage options. Some also have places to store other tools.
While Osprey and Camelbak make pretty awesome cycling hydration packs, we love the Shimano Unzen because you can zip down the trails, barely noticing this pack is on your back. It was specifically designed for fast-paced and shorter bike rides. It’s also a high-quality yet affordable cycling hydration pack.
Features include a 2-liter/68-ounce capacity and a secure helmet holder, and a light attachment loop in the back.
Our team loved that this pack was actually made by a dedicated cycling manufacturers and as such they felt that they had well and truly though of everything. Some of the stand out features for them are the super comfortable X-Harness system that keeps the bag hugging the body without being too sweaty. The weather resistant material was also an added bonus for the muddy trails.
- Extremely light
- 2-liter bladder capacity
- Small; only for bare essentials and 1.5 liters
- The nozzle can be tricky to figure out initially
Is the Shimano Unzen 2 Hydration Pack for me?
This is our pick for the best hydration backpack for cycling shorter distances. Its Camelbak quality for a more reasonable price. With it’s tiny size we think it’s the best Camelbak for women or men alike.
Best Hydration Pack For Mountain Biking
I recently found out that Velociraptors were actually the size of chickens – small but very effective like this wonderful little sports ready hydration pack by Osprey.
So, whilst the Shimano Unzen above is great for road biking and short(ish) distance cycling sprints but the Raptor by Osprey is more suited for mountain biking, cycling camping or even bike packing thanks to its greater storage capacities.
The Osprey Raptor 10 Bike Hydration Backpack is a high-quality pack with several convenient features that comes at very sensible price point. The men’s 10-liter pack measures 9” x 9” x 19”, weighs 1.59 pounds, and includes a 2.5-liter reservoir – the women’s version is the Raven that is obviously a bit smaller and pinker.
Our team love this pack for longer days and rated it as their best 3l hydration pack. For the bikers they really loved that the internal organisation was made for keeping their cycle specific gear where it needs to be. The roll out tool wrap also makes accessing their tools quick and easy should a puncture strike! The front stretch pocket was also perfect for stashing jackets.
- Good storage
- Robust guarantee
- 3l can feel heavy on a bike
- Not big enough for big hikes
Is The Osprey Raptor For Me?
Osprey do aim this pack at cyclers and skiers but of course you can also use it for hiking. Osprey make great packs that come with a bloody good guarantee.
This 12-liter insulated hydration pack is perfect for fresh powder days! The drinking tube is insulated so you can still sip when temperatures are below freezing.
It has an expansion panel to add 6 liters of additional storage space capacity. It’s the perfect size to carry an extra pair of gloves, your wallet, phone, snacks, and keys. It also has ski loops so you can attach your skies and helmet!
It’s low profile so you don’t have to take it off to get on a chairlift.
While a bit on the pricey side, this pack is well worth the investment if you plan to use if for snow-sports so that your water is less likely to freeze. Yes, it might still freeze in very cold temperatures, but it won’t freeze like other packs on this review.
Overall, it’s extremely well designed and perfect for a day on the slopes. Expect nothing less from a Camelbak water backpack.
Our team felt this was their best insulated hydration pack keeping their water at perfect drinking temperature even on the slopes. The size of the bag is also perfect for carrying just what they needed without getting in the way whilst skiing or sitting on the chairlift.
- Insulated drinking tube
- Large hydration capacity
- Snowboard and helmet attachments
- A bit pricey
- Heavier due to insulation
Is the Camelbak Powder Hound Hydration Pack for me?
This is the BEST hydration pack for skiing and boarding. If you need an insulated pack for snowsport, then look no further. We rate this a 5/5 for the helmet and ski attachment points and compression straps. That said, this pack is overkill if you do not plan to use it in the snow.
Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.
So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉Buy on REI!
How and Where We Tested To Find The Best Hydration Pack
When it came to picking out the best hydration pack for hiking in 2021 annnndd way beyond. We got our hands on each and everyone and gave them a good ole test ride! Here are the metrics we used to determine which ones made the cut and which ones got the boot!
Sure, each of these packs is designed to carry water, but we expect a little more than just the basics here! A backpack is designed to carry your gear too and with each one, we awarded points for how packable each one was, whether they facilitated effective packing and importantly, if we could easily get to our gear or not too.
We were also sure to test this out with the water bladders both full and empty also to really get a good idea of the carrying capabilities of each bag.
Weight and Comfort of Carrying
Heavy backpacks have been the bane of our travelling lives for years, so we know all too well how uncomfortable and downright hellish they can be to carry around. Add litres and litres of water into the mix and your fun-filled hike becomes decidedly unfun!
So we added extra points for comfortable straps, and packs that minimise their unpacked weight and distribute their packed weight well also.
When it comes to hydration packs their defining feature is how they allow you easy access to the reservoir of water on your back. So with this in mind, we paid particular attention to the systems in place in each pack which allowed access to your H20!
Does the pack include clips to keep the mouthpiece close by? Is the reservoir built in or do you have to pay for it separately? How easy it it to clean? We were sure to check how practical and easy each system was to use.
A water pack isn’t exactly made for the catwalk, but hey, why shouldn’t we strive to look good whilst keeping hydrated? So, we added extra points for how sexy each bag looked whilst we strolled along the trails!
Durability and Weatherproofing
These bags are designed to accompany us on long days on the trails and backpacking trips around the world. So we want them to be able to cope with the daily abuse that brings. No one wants to spend money on a bag that will only last a few months before falling apart. So we took a look at a few different areas of each bag to check their durability.
We inspected the traction of the zippers, the quality of the seam sewing, the durability of the materials used as well as certain pressure points that might be more likely to break. On top of that, we were also keen to check how waterproof each pack was by pouring a litre or so of water over them and checking the contents!
FAQ about the Best Hydration Pack
Still have some questions? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:
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Final Thoughts on the Best Hydration Packs
We’ve tested and reviewed the best packs for every occasion. Our conclusion? You cannot go wrong with the Osprey Skarab for Men or sister pack, Osprey Skimmer for Women. These are two of the best hydration packs. We also love the Camelbak Fourteener and Osprey Raven 10.
Read our review if you are looking for a pack for a specific sport, like skiing, running, or mountain biking!
All of our reviewed backpacks come with an included reservoir as well! Did we miss your favorite pack? Let us know in the comments!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!