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How To Buy a Great Hydration Pack For Water on the Go

Hydration packs have built-in access to water you can drink while you’re wearing the pack. They come in many designs and sizes, specialized for activities like hiking, mountain biking and running.

Like a camel, these packs are equipped with a special bladder that lets you carry all your water on your body; you just drink it through a special straw.

Consider these factors when choosing a hydration pack:

CAMELBAK M.U.L.E.

It’s not surprising that the CAMELBAK M.U.L.E. ($115, camelbak.com) has long been a bestseller. With a narrow profile, moderate weight, multiple pockets and features, helmet attachments and a 3-liter bladder, it’s a favorite for mountain bikers, but crosses over seamlessly to hiking and other sports that don’t demand an ultralight pack. With 12 total liters of cargo space, it swallows extra layers, tools and food for a multi-hour adventure. 1 lb., 6 oz. The KIDS’ MINI M.U.L.E. ($50, camelbak.com) holds 1.5 liters. 7 oz.

CAPACITY

Does it hold enough water and other stuff for your needs? Water capacity often ranges from 1.5 to 3 liters, plus just enough space for a light shell jacket and snacks — perfect for a long day hike.

GREGORY NANO 18 H20 HYDRATION PACK

Whether on the trail or around town, the GREGORY NANO 18 H2O HYDRATION PACK ($70, gregorypacks.com) delivers basic functionality at a good value. The Nano 18 offers a magnetic sternum strap to hold the bite valve when not in use. The bladder holds 3 liters of water and has its own designated pocket. 1 lb.

WATER DELIVERY

Mouthpiece-hose designs vary; some are much easier to clean, which matters if you’re adding a drink mix. Some have magnets for attaching the hose to the pack’s sternum strap.

OSPREY SYNCRO 12

For mountain bikers, the OSPREY SYNCRO 12 ($130, osprey.com) scores high on every measure, from comfort, support and fabric breathability to ease of use, accessing contents, drinking or refilling water. Its 12 liters of gear space will hold your extra layers and food, and the trampoline-style back panel and shoulder straps shaped for the way your arms reach forward onto handlebars provide superior comfort. The pack’s reservoir can hold 2.5 liters. 1 lb., 11.5 oz.

WEIGHT

A pack for, say, mountain biking will often be too heavy for running but might cross over nicely to hiking.

REI TARN 15

For ages 8 to 12, the REI TARN 15 ($60, rei.com) is a light all-purpose hydration pack for virtually any activity. Padded shoulder straps, a ventilating back pad and a thin webbing belt give it comfort for carrying several pounds. The Tarn sports enough capacity for clothes, snacks and incidentals, and features multiple pockets, a 1.5-liter bladder and durable materials. 15 oz.

SIZE

Will it fit you? The smaller designs come in one size or a couple of unisex sizes, while larger packs have two to four gender-specific sizes.

You’ll want the pack to fit snug and not slung low on your lower back, otherwise it’ll cause painful pressure and bounce around like crazy while you’re moving.

OSPREY KITSUMA 3

For girls whose shoulders and back length don’t yet fit an adult pack but have outgrown a kid’s pack, the OSPREY KITSUMA 3 ($65, osprey.com) fits the bill. The low-profile shoulder straps and slender body, along with the mesh back panel, keep the pack stable and you cool. The 2.5-liter bladder supports longer trail outings, and a pocket holds small items. The OSPREY KITSUMA 1.5 ($55, osprey.com) fits kids under 5’6″ better. 7 oz.

DESIGN

Does it have the features you want? If you have one use in mind, there are specialized packs for it. For example, running packs and vests are slim and light, have multiple pockets within reach while wearing it and tend to ride high on your back — some hikers might like them, too. For multiple activities, find a multipurpose pack.

CAMELBAK CLASSIC

A mesh harness that makes the pack almost unnoticeable on your back and a secure, zippered pocket for a phone makethe CAMELBAK CLASSIC ($60, camelbak.com) a top choice for short adventures. A sleeve holds the 2.5-liter bladder. 5 oz.

EASE OF CLEANING

If you don’t keep your hydration pack clean you’ll risk getting sick. If you leave water in something for a while, it gets stale and can develop bad bacteria.

If you’re lazy, look for something dishwasher-safe. (It should say so on the label.) Hydration packs are notoriously tough to clean. The easiest are ones that have openings large enough for you to stick your hand inside. Some have detachable hoses, but to really get one clean, you may need to buy a special brush.

47 Comments on How To Buy a Great Hydration Pack For Water on the Go

  1. CamelBak are seriously the best, I’ve used one since cub scouts

  2. survival guy // January 22, 2016 at 4:20 pm // Reply

    I use a life straw I am really into outdoor survival!

  3. I use a camelbak tac mule for small hikes, climbing, and biking. For longer hikes I’ll use an osprey daylite with the camelbak blatter in it im looking for a 30-40L pack and it needs to be open inside with 2 large pockets already have a 75L

  4. Zackattack // June 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm // Reply

    Thanks for the information !!!😃😃😃😃😃😎😎😎😎

  5. Camelbacks are great! Its much easier to run with them than to strap a Nalgene to your shorts!

  6. I have numerous CamelBaks of different sizes. I like the packs with no frills. What I mean by this is no or few pockets. The reasons for this is they are less expensive to purchase, you have the convenience of putting it in a daypack or a backpack or wear it by itself. You have the insulation of the pack and it protects the bladder from sharp objects. And last but not least, in the winter you can wear it under your jacket to keep it from freezing.

  7. My Camelbak is amazing

  8. This really helped!!!

  9. Off-Trail Monkey // October 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm // Reply

    Had a Camel-bak and Sierra blatter but opted to go back to my good’ole Nalgene bottle with a Nalgene Canteen as a back up. Works best for me and is the easiest to clean of any other option. Sometimes simplicity is the best; you just may need to try other options to realize it.

  10. randomscout // June 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm // Reply

    camelback mule !
    it got a ton of space too

  11. Hydro Help!!! // May 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm // Reply

    I need help finding a suitable hydration bladder for a camp at Haliburton Scout Reserve in Canada. Please help

  12. little curry // April 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm // Reply

    should i get this peeps

  13. pink mercenary // January 30, 2013 at 5:02 pm // Reply

    i love my camelbak

  14. Get either a 32 Oz. Nalgene or a Geigerrig Reservoir, you can pressurize it with an included pump and spray it.

  15. the badlands hydration pack is very good for hiking and camping and is not very heavy

  16. Camel-bak: I broke the hanger hook while on a BWCA trip; wrote to the company and they sent me a new system and said keep the old one. I’ m sold on customer service. A+.

    • Camel-Bak has never let me down either, they can take abuse and keep on pumpin’. It’s for this reason that I have had two while in Iraq and Afghanistan and have another that I use for backpacking, camping, and biking.

  17. I need a spare bladder for a hydration pack please reply

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // July 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm // Reply

      I highly recommend SOURCE hydration packs. They put on a special coating that keeps the water from tasting bad even if it has been in the hydro pack for a long time.(don’t worry, the coating isn’t toxic) and they have dust guards. I got my two liter pack for $16.99 at Cabelas. Which is pretty darn cheap for a good hydro pack! look on Amazon or ebay too!

  18. searchyS.O.S // July 24, 2012 at 8:19 pm // Reply

    Where can i find a really cheap,heavy-duty, hydration pack in Des-Moines, Iowa and surrounding areas

  19. I am looking at the camelbak lobo so that i have a small pack with a removable bladder. I currently use a philmont nalgene, two camelbak better bottles, the camelbak big chill and a platypus softbottle. I carry them in a small hydration pack without it’s bladder (it got a leak).

  20. attention. I am changing my name from Delta Force to Delta 8 because that was my squad’s name while I was a Spec-ops Paratrooper.

  21. A Camel-bak blatter is a great system for water, but if you like to add the flavoring then it’s a lot of maintainance work. If you do not clean & dry it properly mold can result. You’ll need the cleaning kit to do this ($15.00). For the sugar scouts, use a Nalogene bottle. Works great and is easy to clean; soapy water soak and wash or use the dishwasher.

  22. Delta Force // March 17, 2012 at 9:57 pm // Reply

    Camle bak rocks! had one while in Afghanistan.

  23. i am in the webolos and i dont know were to get a hydration system

  24. High sierra are really heavy duty and good for camping.

  25. The Badlands Hydration Pack is AWESOME!!!

  26. i cant think of a name // October 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm // Reply

    Coleman hydration backpacks are great, and they are only about $40

  27. Source hydration backs work very well. And they have dust guards.

  28. cammel brand is good, right?

  29. Reece's Pieces // July 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm // Reply

    The platypus is very cheap and affordable. they are quite difficult to clean unless you by the accessories, and mine has formed a slight yellowish/brownish tint after a week at tomahawk scout reservation.

  30. arrow of light scout // June 30, 2011 at 6:29 am // Reply

    field and stream ones are depindible and last

  31. Nick the Brick // June 24, 2011 at 6:04 pm // Reply

    are the camalbak ones hard too clean?

  32. cool

  33. what is a good one to buy with a little money 30-50$ price range

  34. cups and magnets // January 23, 2011 at 12:35 am // Reply

    i got the camelbak zoid and it works great. it holds 70 oz.:)

  35. high sierra ones are great

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