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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.

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

  1. THE GEAR GUY // January 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm // Reply

    HIGH SIERRA hydration backs are great

  2. I had the Source hydration bladder (the kind of bladders that come in Cabela’s hunting packs) are really good. The hose on the bladder has a sleeve on it so it doesn’t freeze in cold conditions, and it is very easy to dry out. I have never needed cleaning, and it is really easy to fill up. Awesome hydration bladder!

  3. sasuke never planned // November 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm // Reply

    i dont have a camelback,so i use my sisters (she used it for the color gaurd training

  4. Skinny Willy // July 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm // Reply

    You want one that you won’t run out of water so quickly so get one that holds 60oz or more.

  5. TOP 2 HYDRATION SYSTEMS
    1. camelbak unbottle
    2. platypus hoser

  6. i love camelbaks:):):)

  7. I love my cammelbak mule. its the perfect size

  8. campingfreak // April 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm // Reply

    i want a hydration system but camelbaks are too expensive. I plan to make a hydration system with a water bottle w/ a hole in it,lots of duck tape and several straws.

    • you can get a really nice High Sierra water backpack that comes with a water pack and its really light! the one i`m talkin about has a net that folds into the backpack so that you can store your helmet when you are biking. i love it. i take it everywhere. sometimes you can buy one at Costco for $20.

    • okay……uh have fun with that

    • ohhh yyyeeaahhh // July 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm // Reply

      just look at something called a platypus. the 70 ounce type is half the price of the camelbak’s 70 ounce type

  9. isaacgoldensun // April 14, 2010 at 4:24 pm // Reply

    you really only need a water bottle. water packs are cool, and you don’t have to keep cliping and unclipping your water bottle, but they are too expensive.

  10. get up and go // April 3, 2010 at 2:55 pm // Reply

    Dude!, just use a surplus canteen, with one of those cotton canteen
    covers! They clip too your belt, and they hold the cold in, and keep
    the heat out. Your water will still be cold after two hours in 90
    degree weather! And even after that, it will bu NO means ever get
    hot!

  11. An army canteen works great for ant trek, and so do Nalgene bottles and stuff like that. The hydration systems like Camel-Backs and Platypus are great for day hikes and summer camps, as well as your council’s camporees and outdoor get-togethers.

  12. middie football // January 27, 2010 at 8:23 am // Reply

    camelbacks are good but the best thing to buy is a hydrastorm. there easier to clean and their more durable but their just a little bit more expensive. so if your thinking about getting a camelback just consider this.

  13. SIGG water bottles are very durable and lightweight. they are on the expevsive side (25-35 $)but will last for years.

  14. firestarter17 // May 24, 2009 at 1:10 pm // Reply

    I have a nalgene (dropped it 20 feet and it stayed together) bottle that i hold with a carabiner when i go biking, i clip it to my handlebar or belt when i go hiking, i put a string through the carabiner and sling it over my shoulder
    also works good for everyday use

  15. camper man // April 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm // Reply

    CAMELBAKS are the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. I bought my dad a camelback and it works great

  17. i have a camelbak bottle and so does my dad. both him and i love ’em. if you want to buy one buy one of these!

  18. 13adabing, Get alumimum bottles if you want to be eco. i think

  19. so, nalgene waterbottles arent a good choice? so, wat type of waterbottle would you get then?

  20. can you use camalbaks 4 running?

    • Troop730SPL // March 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm // Reply

      Camelbaks have multiple uses. It is important to get the one that will fit your outdoor experiences. If you like to bike, they have that. If you like to hike, they have that too. I personally have a Camelbak Cloudwalker. It is perfect for hikeing, and also works well for biking.
      Hope this helps!

  21. Camelbaks are the best.

  22. I have a 2L and a 1.5L pack they work good.

  23. boneyfeetpro // December 9, 2008 at 3:51 pm // Reply

    Hey, “looking for a mountain bike”: you did spell CAMELBAK correctly, but you did mispell the word “Usually”…oops.

    Anyway, I’ve been riding with my CAMELBAK for over 7years, the same one at that, and if you are getting the waist strap caught in the wheels, then obviously its too long. So cut it, shorten it, do what it takes to make it safe. I ride technical and not so technical trails and nothing like that has ever happend to me or my fellow riders before….go figure.

    But I guess your point was to say that the Camelbak is a good piece of equipment to have for hydration while bike, right?

    Thank you

  24. i hava a 70 oz camelbak and it is great i use it 4 running when i go early in the morning it doesnt hurt my bak either i also use on bike rides and it works great b ut i also use a nalgene because it works great on campouts 🙂

  25. ijustgotbackfromcarycamp // October 19, 2008 at 8:16 pm // Reply

    hey i saw someone with a Camelbak yesturday! man I could have used one……

  26. looking for a mountain bike // October 4, 2008 at 11:54 am // Reply

    on the good side Camelbaks (yeah you spell it that way) are really durable and are lightweight even with it filled. But if you ride a bike with them the waist straps get caught in the wheels and usally have small pockets. Also NEVER get them at eastern mountain sports or should i say expensive mountain sports. Get them online at Ebay or something.

  27. Don’t buy Nalgenes. The plastic is toxic.

  28. Dont use nalgenes

    They breakdown and can be harmful to your body by releasing chemicals

  29. cheaper than dirt .com has a M.O.L.L.E. gear hydration system for $19.99

    5 stars from 33 customers! 2.5 liters! a opening big enough for ice cubes!

  30. boneyfeetpro // September 2, 2008 at 2:53 pm // Reply

    I like my camelback for mountain biking, but for running I have a waist pack that holds two16.9 oz water bottles. This is specially made for that size bottle and you don’t have to wash it, just recycle and you’re on your way. Next time out, you have two fresh and clean bottles ready to go.

    I like this one best for running because I already buy cases of water bottles anyway.

  31. kootenaykaos // August 5, 2008 at 11:35 am // Reply

    when it says that you can just get a bladder and put it i n your normal pack i would recommend getting one from polarpak. they are great. they have everything from keeping your water cold all day(truly) to having pressurized water from your bladdder

  32. Airsoft Marine // August 2, 2008 at 5:13 pm // Reply

    If your thinking about getting one get a M.O.L.L.E. one you can add poutches to it

  33. Airsoft Marine // August 2, 2008 at 5:11 pm // Reply

    I have a camelbak in airsoft and it works like a charm.I almost fell i was so thirsty so i bought a camelbak and now i feel better.

  34. Underoath123 // July 30, 2008 at 8:53 pm // Reply

    I have an aluminum water bottle. I find that it’s more durable than the Nalgene bottles, and after a while, the Nalgene plastic begins to break down.

  35. philmont 09 75 // June 16, 2008 at 8:58 pm // Reply

    I have a camel back they are great when I go on day hikes I put it in my camelback hicking pack and when I go backpacking I slip the bladder in my pack it the best and I never taste plastic or anything it great

  36. Nalgenes are indestructible. You can run them over with a truck and shoot them with a shotgun.

  37. both me and my dad have had camel backs for awhile and we both love them

  38. Marine Sniper // October 14, 2007 at 11:06 am // Reply

    I use a Camelbak all the time and i use Nalgenes becuz they r in destructable almost.

  39. Mr.DudeManDude // September 7, 2007 at 5:10 pm // Reply

    I’ve been using a camelback for a while now, but I’ve never seen a plastic bladder!!!!!

  40. Lightning Mcqueen // August 14, 2007 at 1:58 pm // Reply

    Cool.

  41. I’ve been wanting to get the “Smartube” and the “Firefly” but i don’t know where to get them. I anyone knows where to find them I would very much like to know. XD

  42. Pack760scout // August 3, 2007 at 7:10 am // Reply

    The Camelbak and Firefly look awesome!!!!!

  43. i use a gourd

  44. I have almost all canteens, cammelbacks ect. but no bota gourd

  45. hikingirishdude // July 2, 2007 at 5:48 pm // Reply

    i have been using a camelbak for 3 years now and it still is holding up it has been to 5 countries and i would never get rid of it

  46. I got camelpak a few days ago. It is a M.U.L.E and it was 90.00. It carrys 100once’s of water and it is really light.(:(:(:(:

  47. i have a camelback and it works great because you can keep things like your fieldbook, food, and a survival kit and it all wieghs almost nothing

  48. coolkid676 // June 22, 2007 at 3:05 pm // Reply

    canteens are graet for hikes but don’t fill it up all the way because they can be very heavy, or get a l.l. bean bottle for small hikes

  49. I wont to use my dads on are last hike it was tough and i was thursty but my dad

    whould not let me use his

  50. i use the camelback it works great

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