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It’s important to stay hydrated, especially when hiking, running or biking outdoors. This is especially true when it’s hot since intense sweating quickly depletes your body’s fluids. But it’s inconvenient to fish a water bottle out from the depths of your day pack whenever you want to quench your thirst. Hydration packs solve this issue by combining the day pack and water bottle. Some have room for tools and gear you might need on a long day hike, though more streamlined ones hold little more than their included water bladder.
This article was reviewed and approved by Judd NeSmith, the BestReviews Fitness Expert.
Size and capacity
First, consider how you’ll use the hydration pack. If you enjoy long hikes in all seasons, you probably need something with plenty of storage space so you can pack everything you need. This might include a jacket, trail snacks and emergency first aid and survival equipment.
For some activities, though, a hydration pack is basically a flexible water bottle strapped to your back. When cycling, for example, a compact model minimizes drag while making it easy to take a drink. Even if it’s compact, the pack should still have enough space for small, critical items. This could include keys, identification and a flashlight.
In either case, you have options of varying sizes with exterior pockets. These are great for holding sunglasses, maps and other accessories for quick access. They’re also perfect for expanding your water supply beyond the water bladder’s capacity using lightweight water bottles.
Hydration backpacks don’t have or need the same kind of support and suspension as full-size hiking backpacks. It’s still important to consider the shoulder strap, hip belt and adjustment strap layout. Thick strap padding and a chest strap are essential for hiking comfortably. Consider how far you can adjust the straps in either direction if you’re significantly bigger or smaller than average.
Even though hydration packs usually don’t weigh much, a wide hip belt with a little padding can make a full water bladder feel like it’s barely there. Also, keep an eye out for external fasteners or extra loops and straps for attaching miscellaneous gear to the outside of the backpack.
Durability and price
You can pay as little as $25 for a functional hydration backpack. Don’t expect it to withstand frequent heavy use without special care or significant upkeep, though. That’s not to say affordable outdoor gear isn’t worth getting. Some bargain-basement hydration packs hold up well over time. Hydration packs in and around the $100 range are more likely to be lightweight and comfortable with plenty of storage and durability.
Best hydration backpacks
It offers a good blend of weight, size and comfort. It has a decent number of pockets and enough straps to ensure a solid fit, no matter how full it is. While expensive, it’s built with the finest materials and holds up well with proper care.
If you like long hikes and don’t want to invest in high-end gear, it’s hard to beat this 22-liter model from budget-friendly manufacturer Teton. It has a surprising amount of room, a 3-liter bladder and a lifetime warranty against defects.
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This one fits snugly while reducing drag and movement, making it perfect for biking or trail running. It has enough space for some non-water essentials and a magnetic attachment for convenient access to the bite valve.
The Trail Runner 2 is proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune on a dependable, streamlined hydration pack. Its low profile makes it perfect for minimalist biking. The bladder’s proprietary slide-closure mechanism is a bit tough to get the hang of, though.
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It’s important to teach young outdoors enthusiasts the responsibility of carrying their own supplies. As such, this is a great choice for taking kids on day hikes and bike rides.
If you want something simple and effective with impressive long-term durability, this is the one for you. It doesn’t have many advanced features. However, it comes from one of the most well-known and dependable hydration backpack manufacturers.
People with small frames need to carry stuff too. This bag is for them. It has multiple pockets, zippered storage on a padded hip belt and external trekking pole attachments.
This sports the Molle attachment system for efficient, modular packing. Despite its heavy-duty 1,000-denier material and rugged fasteners, it doesn’t cost much.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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