Ahh, water. The source of life, covering the majority of our planet and even contributing to the largest portion of our body mass. We cannot really overstate its importance, considering it is the most essential thing for virtually all life forces on the planet, and when searching for life on other planets like Mars, we are looking primarily for sources of water. So, whenever you’re out on the trails, you don’t want to be roving for water like a billion-dollar robot built from NASA’s top researchers. Ideally, all you want to do is pick up a tube off your backpack, and suck down some fine, high-quality H2O.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
And here’s an overview of the best _ on the market today:
To break down the best in the business, of which there are now many competitors since Camelbak created this market more than 20 years ago, we’ve compiled a list highlighting the best options and for which sort of activities you like to do. Whether that be hiking the Appalachian trail or just going for an afternoon walk with your friends, it’s always important to bring water and stay safe. After all, it is the source of life, and the key to life is to stay hydrated while having fun along the way! So go get yourself a nice tall glass of the good stuff and continue on with our reviews of the best hydration packs for hiking.
What are we looking for in a hydration pack
First, we want to address what we are looking for in a hydration pack. After all, why carry essentially a glorified water bottle in a backpack, when you could just fill up an old plastic bottle, throw it in your bag, and save some much-needed dinero that could be spent on a reliable pair of hiking boots or a refilled tank of gas. You want to make sure your money is going into a worthwhile investment, something that could literally be the difference between life or death on the trails.
When considering a quality hydration pack, there are four main things to consider:
1. The reservoir, or bladder, that you use to store the water must be easy to clean and easy to fill. A simple design with an effective storage system is essential. The drinking tube and the bite valve have to function consistently and perfectly, and the water inside must not pick up any of the strong and unpleasant tastes of plastic.
2. The pack needs to have enough space to pack whatever else you will need on the trails, such as trail food, clothes, and safety materials. We preferred packs with thoughtful pocket design to stay organized and secure.
3. The bag must feel comfortable with a full load of water inside and had to continue to be pleasant to lug around after hours on the trail. If a flimsy design is putting unnecessary of concentrated strain on select areas such as the shoulders or lower back, it could be a much shorter hike than originally planned, and no one likes to turn around due to potential injuries.
4. The design and quality of the materials have to be reliable and top-notch because these hydration packs have to be ready to put up with a lot of abuse. We expect to use our hydration packs through four seasons and fifty states, all the while keeping us hydrated and healthy.
The Best Hydration Packs for Hiking – Overview
1. The Platypus Duthie AM 10
This is one of the biggest bags we reviewed, with some of the more durable features available. Consider this bag if you’re hoping to go out for a few hours of a few days, thanks to the enormous 3.0-liter water capacity bladder. Additionally, we liked this bag because it was well-designed, specifically great storage and pocket design. While initially designed for our mountain biking friends tearing up some tasty terrain (there’s even a built-in helmet attachment), the crossover appeal is so obvious we felt anyone could use it effectively for their outdoorsy needs. Other thoughtful pocket placements include a zippered hip belt pockets, fleece-lined sunglasses pocket (to prevent scratches on the shades’ frames), and a built-in rain cover when Mother Nature thinks there’s just not enough rain around you.
But while the Duthie is a big beast of a bag with lots of great features and durability, it’s not a perfect bag. Compared to the bite valve of some of the other items on the list, we’ve found the spigot here to not flow quite as smoothly as some competitors. You can sub this piece out if you have some extra change, but it’s a noteworthy restriction we felt we had to include. And while there are tons of petite pockets for all the accessories from sunglasses to sunscreen, there’s not as much space for a potentially bigger and bulkier items.
Regardless, the plethora of pockets, good airflow design and snug fit on the shoulders and thoughtful design make this a great option if you’re willing to pay a pretty penny.
- Well-ventilated back panel and supportive on shoulders
- Excellent pocket organization
- One of the more expensive items
- Not so much space for bulkier items
2. Camelbak HydroBak
- LIGHTWEIGHT CYCLING HYDRATION PACK: The HydroBak Cycling Backpack is exceptional for those short bike rides. The 50-oz. Crux reservoir provides enough water for a two-hour ride, with a zippered pocket...
After considering one of the bigger, bulkier and more expensive items on the market, let’s move to the other end of the spectrum. One of the most iconic bags in the game, Camelbak practically created this sector and a huge part of that development is due to the success of the HydroBak. When you’re looking to carry some water in a convenient way, and not have to deal with burdensome bells and whistles, look no further than this guy. It’s basically just a hydration system with a backpack harness, and the 1.5 later capacity means it’s great for short bursts of hiking, biking, and running.
There are still a few added features, like the small zippered pocket you’ll find for car keys and other essentials. And without water, the product is so light as a measly 5 ounces that you’ll basically forget having it on your back. The shoulder straps are also super comfortable, so any hikers moving around will be happy holding this fellow on their backside. And the new Crux reservoir from Camelbak means you’ll pull about 20% more water per sip, giving you that added efficiency when it comes to sucking down on that sweet nectar of life, water.
- Super light
- Comfortable fit against the body
- Can’t carry additional items
3. Osprey Skarab 18
- Dedicated hydration compartment with included BPA-free Hydraulics LT 2.5L reservoir by Hydrapak
Just as goldilocks preferred the youngest bear’s porridge and bed because it was just right, we feel the same way about the Skarab 18, or the 16 listed women’s model equivalent. This is a fantastic day pack because of its 2.5-liter water reservoir. Not too burdensome and not too limited, the item provides plenty of pockets for easy access to your outdoor gear. The hydration bladder can be taken out for an easy refill, making it one of the best hiking options we have seen. However, we want to notify you that upon first using the water bladder, we found it leaving a hint of plastic. The BPA free plastic used still leaves a bit of an unpleasant taste, though fortunately, it went away after a few uses and washes.
This is a great bag designed for shorter outings while still having enough storage space to hold plenty of needs. If you’re hiking solo and looking to carry enough water, this is a great option. The bungee cable running the outside can hold whatever bigger items you have, while pack backing or moving around the trails. The mesh back panel is an added plus that keeps you cool, and the pack’s main compartment is large enough to carry the essentials plus a layer or two when you don’t know whether the weather will change.
The web waist belt has a simple design, providing decent stabilization for the price. The big zip rigs you see on the top keeps things simple and secure. We appreciate this bag for its simplicity and effectiveness while staying at a reliable price point. And the bag comes with Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee, meaning that apart from the reservoir, the company promises to repair or replace the bag if it suffers any damage or defects, forever. That’s a pretty good deal.
- Lifelong guarantee on bag parts
- Bungee cords to hold bulkier items
- Plastic taste from the water on the first few uses
4. Camelbak M.U.L.E
- DURABLE MOUNTAIN BIKING HYDRATION BACKPACK: The CamelBak M.U.L.E. Mountain Biking Hydration Backpack has a narrow-gauge design that keeps it light and maneuverable. Even when it’s fully loaded for...
The Camelbak m.u.l.e is one of our top picks for cyclists. Spin worry-free on your bike ride, knowing that this hydration backpack will hold enough water to get you anywhere, and in comfort as well. The compression straps cling to your shoulders nicely, and with the potential to hold three liters of water, you’ll be able to move without sorry. The design is great with a simple low-profile that includes loads of pack features without cutting up your wallet, so you can instead swerve those backcountry trails. There are enough pockets to hold cell phones and bike tools, thanks to the thoughtful design system and side pockets found alongside.
Basically, it’s tough to beat the great combination of quality, versatility, lightweight movement and acceptable price point, which is why we love this item for really all outdoor activities, and especially those who need their water supply in a hands-free system.
- Light and durable
- Built with a lot of thoughtful bike-specific features
- Could come in more colors
- Built specifically with cyclists in mind, at the cost of other users
5. Osprey Duro
- Zippered reservoir sleeve with included Hydraulics LT 1.5 liter reservoir by Hydrapak with QuickConnect and sternum magnet included
This is a great hydration pack for the runners reading this article. Backpacking with something like this would be out of the question but it’s great for day hikes or something where you need easy mobility and movement. When you’re trail running, all you want to do is stay light on your feet and mobile enough to move around, and this is a perfect breathable product for that kind of activity. The body-hugging fit and development are thanks to the die-cut foam, meaning it won’t jiggle too much while you’re jogging around. The water reservoir is a simple 1.5-liter capacity, so you don’t be pulled down by more water than you need. The chest strap across the from keeps your balance from bouncing around too much, and we really appreciate the front pocket to store out keys or other basic essentials.
Essentially this is a perfect minimalist choice when all you want is to carry some water without being bogged down with the added extravagances other packs require. Whether you’re an extreme ultramarathoner crushing big distances or a casual afternoon stroll kind of athlete, anyone who drinks water could benefit from this choice.
- Lightweight and breathable
- Simple design with minimal aesthetic
- Unable to provide much beyond water usage
- 1.5-liter bladder means you may be refilling more than once
6. Platypus Siouxon
- Internal and external tool organization with up to 7L of storage
Now it’s time for a little focus on the ladies. The Platypus Siouxon is a women-specific hydration back, meaning it was designed for a woman’s smaller average stature, as well as the “geometry” differences between the men’s options. This means the back panel is sized specifically for a woman’s body and designed to be more anatomically comfortable while pressing against a woman’s hips, chest, and shoulders. The fabrics used to create this back are also soft to the touch, helping to reduce chafing and discomfort along the trails.
Now onto the backpack’s interior. The product comes with a 3-liter Big Zip hydration system, which gives us taste-free BPA plastic. The three-liter reservoir has a wide-mouth opening for easy fillings and refilling, plus an easy-to-use mouthpiece. When you take out the hydration reservoir, you can fold it up and easily place it in a pocket for easy storage and eventual cleaning.
Plus the pack comes with loads of storage space and a helmet holding system if you choose to wear this guy while riding atop two weeks. There’s also separate pockets for sunglasses or goggles, as well as areas for holding tools, repair kits, snacks, and two sleeves specific for a thick and tire pump.
To top it off, there’s also a built-in rain cover when the heavens open up and the water starts falling from atop. With so much consideration, technology and details packed into one product, this is a great bag that anyone would love to have.
- Lightweight and easy-to-use reservoir
- Loads of features with lots of storage space
- With all these amenities comes an expensive price point
Ever since this entire market sector arrive 20+ years ago and expanded into the juggernaut you see today, it’s been an amazing experience seeing the meteoric rise of this item’s importance. Of course, water is the most necessary substance on earth, and when we’re out roaming the earth, nothing is more valuable than having safe, accessible water neatly tucked alongside your back. Beyond that, it depends on what kind of activities you’re hoping to do, but we obviously encourage all outdoorsmen to invest in some sort of hydration pack, regardless of which one was we listed.
Of course, our verdict needs to start with an obvious winner, so for any general hiking of outdoor tourism, you may seek, look no further than the Platypus Duthie AM 10. Some may consider it a bit too bulky, on the other side, that means you’ll be able to throw whatever necessities and amenities your hiking heart desires to bring on the trails with you. From bike jumps to a lunchbox, this is the device for you. Plus it comes with a slew of helpful hiking features, including a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket and built-in rain cover, so all the events between harsh sun, to no sun and falling raindrops, is explored.
Of course, just because the biggest bag we recommended is a great choice, it doesn’t mean it’s the best bag for you. For the deft runner amongst us, go with the Osprey Duro. Cyclists, know that we love the Camelbak m.u.l.e because it was built for you guys just in mind. There are so many good options that it’s important to assess whatever chances of outdoor activities you commit do and then choose wisely from there. However, as long as you’ve managed to get some water in your while on the trails, we say you’ve made the right choice and a potentially lifesaving one as well. Never leave dehydration to chance, and go out there and explore safely and effectively.
Bonus tip: Here’s a great video explaining what kinds of freshwater are safe to drink while out on the trails!