The 9 Best Hydration Packs

video play icon

This wiki has been updated 35 times since it was first published in April of 2015. You're not going to show up for that all-day hike or 5K run with a water bottle in your pocket, are you? No, you're going to invest in one of these innovative hydration backpacks, which come in an abundance of sizes to provide the perfect balance of weight and capacity for your next excursion. They're ideal for any outdoor activity, from trail running to mountain biking to long-distance walking. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. CamelBak Powderhound

2. Fox Racing Utility

3. Osprey Packs Mira 32

Editor's Notes

March 25, 2021:

Backpack and luggage categories can often remain quite static from year to year, so I was surprised to see the amount of turnover on this list since we last visited it. By the time we were done, widespread availability issues and some quality concerns led us to eliminate most of our previous picks, and in the end the only options that made it through were the Camden Gear 1.5 Liter, Unigear Tactical, Osprey Packs Mira 32 and CamelBak M.U.L.E.. The options we removed were the Teton Sports Oasis 1100, Source Outdoor Dune, Osprey Packs Skarab 18, CamelBak ThermoBak 3, Hydro Flask 10L and Platypus Duthie A.M.

Fortunately, there was no shortage of new options for us to choose from, so we quickly introduced five new selections to our list, including the CamelBak Hi-Viz — which doesn’t provide any significant non-water storage, but does present a viable way to help nighttime runners stay safe; the CamelBak Repack LR 4 — a bladder-equipped fanny pack that offers more convenience than a traditional hydration belt and is great for short jogs close to home, when you don’t want to carry a lot of extra weight; and the RuffWear Palisades Dog Pack — a saddle bag-laden dog vest that comes with a pair of one-liter reservoirs, in case you’re getting tired of always being the one muling the supplies during your pet-friendly adventures.

If you already have a commuting backpack that you love, but you think you'd like the added utility of water on the go, then you might be able to get away with incorporating a sensibly sized hydration bladder into your existing setup. It isn’t likely that it’ll be as ideal as one of these purpose-designed options, but you could stand to save yourself some cash.

February 12, 2020:

Although we like the design of the CamelBak Classic, it is perhaps more prone to leaking than some of the company's other offerings, so we've replaced it. Fans of the brand might consider the CamelBak M.U.L.E. or CamelBak ThermoBak 3, both of which are made for maneuverability and ease of use. We've removed the Teton Sports Trailrunner 2.0, too, as it suffers from occasional durability problems. For those on a budget, the Teton Sports Oasis 1100 remains a good choice, especially since it swallows quite a bit of gear. It can be uncomfortable for those who have a petite frame, however. There's also the wallet-friendly Camden Gear 1.5 Liter, which is comfortable for many body types and sizes, but isn't made to take a lot of abuse. Finally, we have upgraded our picks from Osprey to the Osprey Packs Mira 32 and the Osprey Packs Skarab 18, designed for women and men, respectively. They're not exactly inexpensive, but they are made to high quality standards and include a hydration bladder.

Special Honors

Wingnut Three Point Zero Water is heavy, but the Wingnut Three Point Zero makes even three liters comfortable thanks to its "low rider" system. It's a great option for those who like all of their gear to match, as well; you can select custom colors so that your pack has just the look you want.

Patagonia Nine Trails 14L Long and lean, the Patagonia Nine Trails 14L was created to hug your back and move with you, saving you from shoulder strain and helping you keep your balance. The breathable back panel stops you from overheating, too, making this a good choice for those hot, sweaty days.

Zéfal Smart Light-Up Everyone will see you coming with the Zéfal Smart Light-Up, which, true to its name, has a battery-powered light strip that keeps you visible in low-light conditions. It gives you plenty of storage pockets, along with a bite valve cover that ensures no dust or grit get in your mouth.

4. CamelBak M.U.L.E.

5. CamelBak Repack LR 4

6. Unigear Tactical

7. Camden Gear 1.5 Liter

8. CamelBak Hi-Viz

9. RuffWear Palisades Dog Pack

The Benefits Of Hydration

Millions of cells are replaced every second as part of the body's normal function.

It is common knowledge that the body needs water to survive. In fact, the body is mostly water, making up some 60 percent of human body weight. But why is it so important to include water in your diet?

Flavorless water may seem like it is simply a boring way to stay hydrated, but it is actually a vital nutrient for every one of our body's processes. The body uses water to create new cells at an astounding rate. Millions of cells are replaced every second as part of the body's normal function.

Perhaps most noticeably, water makes up the saliva of the mouth. This is why the feeling of thirst involves a dry mouth more than anything else. It is the body's way to tell the conscious mind it is time for a drink.

Water also helps to regulate the body's internal temperature through sweating and breathing. The ideal temperature for the body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and water is constantly used to balance the cells and stay as close to this temperature as possible. When the body is too hot, excess water is pushed out of the pores in the skin as sweat. This sweat then evaporates on the skin, which cools down the body temperature.

The brain uses water as a cushion of protection from the hard skull, while the skeletal system uses water to lubricate the joints and spinal column. The bones in well-lubricated joints do not grind against each other, and a hydrated body can also reduce arthritis symptoms. A lack of water in between the vertebrae is also a contributing factor in degenerative disc disease.

A well hydrated body also has more access to essential nutrients digested from food. Water helps carry the carbohydrates and proteins in our diets to the cells which need them. This is an especially important function after periods of hard stress on the body, such as workouts.

The Water Detox

Water carries nutrients and it helps eliminate toxins from the bloodstream. This may be one of the most important functions of water in the human body. The body is consistently exposed to toxins in different environments. This is particularly bad in heavily polluted urban areas, near farms using chemical pesticides, and in old buildings which may contain mold, lead, or asbestos.

Adequate water intake is the number one tool for detoxifying the cells.

The body can also pick up toxins from food. Over-processed foods, unnatural food additives, and pesticides on foods all contribute to the body's toxic load. Many detox programs and weight loss schemes have risen to popularity by combating this very problem, though some cleansing diets can actually put stress on the liver, causing more harm than good.

There is a continuous pattern of detoxification in a healthy body, and water plays an integral part in every one of its functions. First, the body disposes of cellular waste like lactic acid. Water carries these wastes out of the cells and into the bloodstream. Then the lymphatic system moves larger waste products to the veins to be exhaled, or to the liver to be processed and eliminated. The liver then separates these wastes into two categories. Water soluble wastes are sent to the kidney to be eliminated in the urine, while other wastes are added to bile and sent to the digestive system for elimination as fecal matter.

When these processes work together in harmony, even a heavily tolled system can be treated without much outside emphasis on detoxification in the diet. The one requirement of every one of these functions is drinking plenty of water. Adequate water intake is the number one tool for detoxifying the cells.

Choosing A Hydration Pack

Hydration packs are the peak of convenience for quenching thirst. A tube running from the pack's reservoir directly to the user's mouth makes taking a drink as simple as possible. This influences how much water an athlete can drink without interrupting their flow. The more hydrated the body is, the better it performs.

Hydration packs are the peak of convenience for quenching thirst.

Not all hydration packs are created equally. The type of hydration pack chosen will largely depend on the needs of the user. Packs provide benefits to a number of athletes from hikers and cyclists to snowboarders and skiers.

In the realm of cycling, a hydration pack can provide a relatively hands-free way to keep the body hydrated. Mountain bikers normally choose to have packs with a large capacity, as the vigorous activity involved in mountain biking requires a lot of water. On the other hand, road cyclists may choose a slim model, as their focus is more on speed. Touring cyclists fall somewhere in between these two, as they require large amounts of water, but may not enjoy carrying a heavy pack on their back all day.

For hikers, a balance must be struck. A day hiker may use a smaller model hydration pack, whereas a backpacker may simply need a small reservoir to put in their existing backpack. Trail-runners or alpine scramblers may want to reduce their weight still further, opting for minimalist packs. There are special packs designed with weight and capacity in mind, ensuring proper hydration is never out of reach.

Will Rhoda
Last updated by Will Rhoda

After deciding that the pen was mightier than the pliers, Canadian electrical contractor William Rhoda abandoned his career and headed back to college, where he majored in marketing and advertising and won a scholarship along the way to earning a diploma in creative communications. His past career landed him a depth of knowledge in tools and hardware, while his current career schooled him in audio, video and camera equipment. During his leisure time, he’s learned lots about outdoor gear, and years of tiresome backyard maintenance have taught him all about pools and hot tubs. His recreational pursuits include rest, relaxation and revolutionary action, and his roommate’s a hairless cat.

Thanks for reading the fine print. About the Wiki: We don't accept sponsorships, free goods, samples, promotional products, or other benefits from any of the product brands featured on this page, except in cases where those brands are manufactured by the retailer to which we are linking. For more information on our rankings, please read about us, linked below. The Wiki is a participant in associate programs from Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, Target, and others, and may earn advertising fees when you use our links to these websites. These fees will not increase your purchase price, which will be the same as any direct visitor to the merchant’s website. If you believe that your product should be included in this review, you may contact us, but we cannot guarantee a response, even if you send us flowers.