The 7 Best Hydration Packs of 2018

Stay hydrated when you hit the trails

Hydration packs are designed to transport water and make it easy to stay hydrated on long runs, hikes, or rides. Every athlete (and non-athlete) knows that staying hydrated is essential to healthy exercise, and a good hydration pack allows you to sip water without stopping by using a slim tube attached to the water reservoir (sometimes called a bladder). A pack that fits well shouldn’t cause strain on your back or shoulders, and won’t slow you down on your hike or run.

The first step to finding the right pack for your needs is to understand how you intend to use it. It’s important to consider the capacity you’ll need (will you be on an all-day hike or just a short run?), the features you’ll want (bungees for extra gear, for example) and the fit that will ensure it works for your body. Here, the best hydration packs for you.

Best for Men: CamelBak Fourteener 24 Hydration Pack

The CamelBak Fourteener 24 Hydration Pack is the optimal hydration pack for hiking, specifically created with men in mind. It can hold up to three liters of liquid and 1250 cubic liters of gear (in layman's terms, that means it can hold everything you’ll need for a full day’s hike). The hydration pack is separate from the gear compartment, allowing for a more comfortable fit. The water tube is held secure with a magnetic strap that makes it easy to grab when needed, and the load-bearing belt helps distribute the pack’s weight evenly on your hips. It’s designed to fit torsos between 17-21 inches long and waists between 28-46 inches wide.

Reviewers say it’s breathable, comfortable and perfect for a long hike on a hot summer day. Many owners note that it fits tall frames very well, and doesn’t bounce during impact. If you’re looking for a great hiking pack designed for men, the CamelBak Fourteener 24 Hydration Pack is our overall best choice for value and durability.

Best for Women: Osprey Women's Skimmer 22 Hydration Pack

Another big name in hydration packs, the Ospray Skimmer 22 Hydration Pack for Women is lightweight but packs a powerful punch. It holds slightly less liquid than the CamelBak for men (2.5 liters) but is designed to carry a day’s worth of gear without strain. It has an external reservoir for quick refills and a magnetic bite valve for easy sip access. A front buckled strap is perfect for holding trekking poles, and the compression straps help distribute the load for a comfortable fit.

It comes in purple, green, or coral colors—and though it doesn’t have hip pockets, it has two mesh pockets on either side for extras. The x-small/small size fits torsos between 15-18 inches and waists between 26-47 inches, while the small/medium is suited for 17-20 inch torsos and 27-49 inch waists.

According to Amazon reviews, Osprey Skimmer’s only downfall is its lack of hip pockets (which are helpful for easy access to things like cell phones or sunblock), but its durability and comfort more than make up for it.

Best Budget: CamelBak Arete 18 Hydration Pack, 50oz

Most of our choices for hydration packs hover round $100, but a novice hiker may not want to commit to an expensive piece of gear. The CamelBak Arete Hydration Pack comes in a lot lower and does pretty much everything you need for a safe trek. Lightweight and great for travel, the Arete pack is great for hiking and can hold up to 1.5 liters of water. It’s made from thin nylon, for a lightweight feel that still holds up well hike after hike. It’s also a great choice for sightseeing or day trips, and fits torsos between 15-21 inches. The pack is available in six different colors and is waterproof for those rainy-day outdoor activities.

Amazon reviewers love the Arete, saying it’s perfect for light summer hikes and long walks alike. If you want to test the waters with a hydration pack, this is an affordable entry-level choice.

Best for Runners: Nathan Fireball Race Vest

If you intend to use your hydration pack primarily for trail or flatland running, a vest is a much better choice than a hydration backpack, especially if you don’t need to carry extra gear on your runs. The Nathan Fireball Race Vest is our pick for a lightweight, comfortable vest that works for everything from your morning run to a marathon. It comes with two 12-ounce insulated flasks (one on each side) for easy access and can hold a 1.5-liter bladder (not included). Each pack also holds up to seven liters of gear—perfect if you like to run with layers or want to store some extra granola bars. It also has a front pocket that is designed to securely hold your smartphone, which is great for safety on long runs.

If you’re an avid runner looking for a way to stay hydrated on the trails, the Nathan Fireball is the way to go. The adjustable straps fit women and men and allow you to secure the pack to your body for a bounce-free ride.

Best for Mountain Bikers: CamelBak M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack

A cycling-specific pack is typically low-profile and aerodynamic, allowing you to glide without wind resistance. If you plan to mountain bike, a larger pack that can accommodate gear while still maintaining a standard of comfort is ideal. The CamelBak M.U.L.E. has a narrow-gauge design that’s maneuverable and comfortable even over a full day’s ride. The back panel has air channels to keep you cool, and the ventilated harness and belt help reduce bounce. An important feature for cyclists, the CamelBak has a built-in helmet hook that you can access without removing the pack. It holds up to three liters of liquid and 500 cubic inches of gear (everything you need for a full day of cycling). It’s also unisex, fitting torsos between 17-21 inches and waists between 26-46 inches, and is available in seven colors.

Owners love the CamelBak M.U.L.E. because it has the features you want without any gimmicks that might get in the way of a long ride. Some note that the magnetic tube attachment isn’t efficient, but that it’s not necessary in order to use the hydration pack.

Best Waistpack: Osprey Packs Osprey Tempest 6 Backpack

Rather than hauling the load on your back, a waistpack allows you to bring water on your next run or hike fanny pack-style. It’s a great option for quick hikes, jogs, or even cross-country skiing excursions (when you don’t want to carry a bottle but don’t need much gear). We love the Tempest 6 Backpack because it focuses on a comfortable lumbar-to-hip belt wrap that won’t strain your activity. The lightweight pack comes with two 570 milliliter bottles with padded sleeves and bungees to secure them. It offers air flow to keep things cool and dry, and can hold your essentials like cell phones or keys. It fits 25-50 inches around the waist and is available in three different colors.

Owners say it’s a great choice for easy, short hikes where you don’t need as much hydration but want to remain hands-free. It may take trial and error to figure out what style of pack works for you, but a waist pack is a great choice for those easier treks.

Best for Kids: CamelBak Kid's Scout Hydration Pack

If you and your family are a hiking kind of brood, a product designed specifically for children is a must for the smaller members of your pack. The CamelBak Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack was designed for preschool through grade school-aged kids and fits torsos between 15-19 inches. It includes all the must-haves of an adult pack (1.5 liter liquid capacity, pockets for gear and adjustable straps), with a few features just for kids. It includes a safety whistle, a personalizable nameplate, and is made in bright, easy-to-spot colors. It also has mesh back panels for breathability and reflective accents to aid during evening hikes.

Parents say it’s a great choice for kids over the age of four, and makes family hikes safer and more enjoyable.

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