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Published Mar 25, 2021 3:18 PM

If you’ve ever had to cover a serious amount of ground, you know two things: Thirst is real and water is heavy. A hydration pack can’t eliminate the weight of water, but it can let you carry it in a more convenient way. The last thing you want when hiking a dusty trail is the boxy edge of your water bottle stabbing into your leg. A hydration pack is built to contour to the shape of its surroundings, avoiding issues with towing a bulky structure. Made to enhance your performance during strenuous activities, hydration packs incorporate a drinking system — a straw of sorts that lets you drink on the move. Sure, stopping to get your water might seem like it doesn’t take much time, but if you’re racing to a rendezvous point, every moment counts.

Because this tactical supply is so popular, there are a slew of options out there. To cut through the noise, we’ve pinned down the best hydration packs available, along with some advice on finding the right pick for your journey.

The Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration pack stands out due to its streamlined design and tough structure. When you’re running, you get thirsty but you also get tired (despite the adrenaline). This two-liter bladder can keep you hydrated without slowing down your run, letting you focus on the exercise. The BPA-free bladder refills through a broad opening and connects to a leak-free, fast-flowing valve. Insulated to prevent leaks and the water from getting warm, this pack makes a great companion when jogging. You can get it in lots of colors, too. There’s camo for staying subtle and bright orange to make sure drivers can spot you. Each of the backpacks incorporates padded straps that spread out the weight and prevent your shoulders from getting sore and tired. Since it has supplemental pockets, you can easily tow along other gear (like a power bar) to make your run that much better.

If your gear has ever sprung a leak when you are nowhere near a fill-up station, then you know how important the drinking hose really is. The Vibrelli Hydration Pack is crafted specifically to prevent this type of issue. The bladder can support up to two liters of water, connecting to a well-structured backpack that distributes weight to let you move more easily. With material that is thick enough to resist temperature, you can use this hydration gear in any season. The drinking system is where it really stands out, though. It uses a high-flow valve that opens with a bite. Resistant to leaks, it only releases fluid when pressure is applied. Basically, it won’t drip and drain unless you want it to. Made out of lightweight material, free of risky toxins like BPAs, this drinking setup is ideal for any situation.

Avid hikers know that not all trails lead to a safe water source. Sure that stream looks tempting, but you don’t want to risk it. That’s where the Marchway Tactical Hydration Backpack comes into play. Capable of supporting up to three liters of water in a sturdy bladder, this pack can accommodate a long trek. It slips into a tactical backpack, complete with supplemental pockets that let you carry all of your survival gear. Made out of high-grade nylon and complete with reinforced seams, it’s sturdy, breathes well, and uses a trio of straps to distribute weight comfortably. The pack itself is made out of TPU material, entirely void of taste so all you get is refreshing water. With a bag meant to keep it cool (even when exposed to the sun), it leads to a thick hose that lets you drink on the go. The fast-release valve lets you refill it quickly while the rotating mouthpiece lets you drink in a jiffy. Plus, it includes an on/off switch so you can control the flow. Ideal for hands-free travel, this hydration pack lets you hike to your heart’s content.

Want to keep yourself hydrated without making your bank account thirsty? Try the Kuyou Hydration Pack for its affordable cost and streamlined design. It’s able to accommodate up to two liters of water inside the internal bladder. The backpack itself is lightweight, leading to a set of padded straps that spread the weight out evenly. Breathing well, the nylon material lets you stay on the move without the bag getting muggy or taking on perspiration. With an easy-fill bladder that has passed strenuous tests to ensure it can withstand extreme conditions, it’s quick to fill up and go. It connects to a durable rubber hose with a push-style mouthpiece to make drinking quick and avoid issues with leaks or spills. The pack is large enough to support survival basics; and, with its adjustable design, anyone can use it. Cost-effective and streamlined, this is a go-to option for true minimalists.

Any hydration pack can help you pack for thirst — but what about other essentials like food, shelter, fire, and weapons. Well, that’s where the Teton Sports Oasis Hydration Pack comes into play. It has a two-liter hydration bladder, connecting to a kink-resistant hose and easy-sip valve. But that’s just the beginning of its features. This backpack also includes a lot of storage pockets. Put together with ripstop material, the rugged bag lets you securely tow anything you need. With a smaller pocket on the front and a built-in safety whistle, this bag is great for camping. Paired with the well-built straps that spread out weight securely and evenly, you can tackle lengthy treks with this bag. The design lets you place heavier supplies; and, even with the added weight of the water, it won’t bog you down. With padded straps, breathable nylon material, and ample storage, this bag is great for those who want to prepare for anything.

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Why should you trust us

The most common types of hydration packs

In order to get the most out of your gear, you need to choose the proper type. Yes, all hydration packs have a main bladder and connecting hose, but that doesn’t mean they are all alike. Many work in conjunction with hiking backpacks and make it easier to use a water filter. The first step in finding the best hydration pack is knowing the different types. 

Hydration backpacks

Easily the most common type of hydration pack, this type generally has a large bladder (at least two litres) and a convenient hose. However, unlike more streamlined types of hydration packs, these models are surrounded by a backpack. You can find them in conjunction with tactical backpacks, a good place to look if you need to store a lot of supplies. 

In this category, you can find sleeker models with smaller bladders and more accessible straws. These are ideal for jogging and biking activities since your skin can breathe more easily and you can move around more comfortably. Conversely, larger bags with more substantial bladders are ideal for hiking since they carry more water. All of these should have multiple straps to adjust weight distribution, along with a durable hose and easy-flow valve for on-the-go drinking. 

Hydration waist packs

A less common, but still noteworthy, type of hydration pack is the model which goes around your waist instead of over your shoulders with straps. There are two kinds of these waist packs. The first uses a standard water bottle that connects to a hip belt. It includes a spot to attach a hose so that you can drink on the move. 

The other style of hydration waist pack uses a bladder. Similar to a bottle, the material is more forgiving and takes on the shape of its surroundings. These waist models tend to be less versatile, simply due to the limited capacity. You can’t carry as much water, so they only really work for quick jogs or bike rides rather than as survival gear.

What to look for when buying a hydration pack

Once you’ve settled on a type, you can move onto other considerations. First, let’s talk about capacity. Think about how much water you’re liable to need during your most extensive trip. You can underfill a large bladder, but not overfill a small one. In this case, bigger really is better. Next, think about how you can refill the bladder itself. Look at the opening and check if it seals properly and makes refilling the bag reasonably easy. 

After you’ve thought about filling the bag, turn to the water hose. Check that it’s long enough and connects to a well-sealed valve. Look for drip-resistant designs that flow well while you drink and stop promptly thereafter. Provided the material used in the bladder and straw is safe (free from BPAs) and reasonably sturdy, the hydration component should hold up. 

Finally, you’ll want to take a good look at the pack itself. Investigate the material. Keep an eye out for waterproof backpacks since they can protect your other gear. Look at the straps and make sure they are padded for comfort and designed to spread out weight evenly. So long as the bag has sufficient storage, can breathe well, and is comfortable to wear, you are free to gain the full set of benefits.  

The advantages of owning a hydration pack

Let’s talk about what you can get out of your hydration pack. Yes, easy access to water is the obvious answer, but there’s a whole host of other advantages. First is the time-saving factor. Instead of interrupting your trip to take your water out every time you need a sip, you can keep going and just use the straw. It’s no secret that it’s better for your body to take sips regularly instead of glugging back a full cup of aqua. In that way, hydration packs can really add to your efficiency when working out. 

Now let’s move on to how much easier it is to carry a hydration pack than a separate two liters of water. Sure, you could put a bunch of water bottles in your backpack, but it would be bulky and uncomfortable. The bladder in these packs contours to its surroundings, leaving no pesky edges and painful jabs. Convenient and durable, the benefits of a hydration pack are virtually endless. 

  • Stay properly hydrated during travel, reducing the risk of environmental stress
  • Helps you save time by making necessary supplies easier to access
  • Comes with supplemental storage to let you store other survival necessities
  • Breathes well to prevent the uptake of perspiration of ambient moisture
  • Distributes weight to reduce strain on your back and shoulders

Pricing ranges for hydration packs

  • Under $30: If you’re looking to save a few bucks, you can find a suitable pack in this price range. These are better for exercise purposes than tactical ones. 
  • Between $30 and $50: This is the sweet spot when it comes to picking hydration packs. You can get a model with quality material, decent storage, and sufficient capacity in this price range. 
  • Over $50: Realistically, opting for this price point is going a bit overboard. Sure, they offer some extra insulation, but it isn’t really worth the extra investment. 

How we chose our top picks

The first step in choosing the best hydration packs on the market is research. We sought out reliable sources to learn about the different types of packs and what features to expect. Then we investigated the different materials used in construction such as nylon for the pack and thermoplastic polyurethane for the bladder. After shortlisting suitable candidates, we streamlined our list by assessing the storage, weight distribution, and overall comfort of the packs. The end result is a series of reliable hydration packs for any situation and on any budget. 

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