9 Best Hydration Backpacks: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

Best for Cycling

The Reinos has ventilated & distributing back panels to help reduce sweat when riding.

Best For Running

The Innerfit comes with adjustable waist and chest straps for running comfort.

Steady hydration is ideal during physical activities—it staves off fatigue and prevents that uncomfortable sloshing feeling after desperately chugging a large amount of water.

For most activities, a water bottle in the side pocket of your backpack is still sufficient. However, you can’t reach for your water and get it to your mouth easily while running or cycling. If you run, cycle, ski, hunt, hike, or climb—a hydration backpack might enhance your experience.

best hydration backpack

Choosing the Right Hydration Backpack for You

These are some characteristics you should consider when selecting a hydration backpack. Your needs will vary with what activity you’re doing. Fortunately, most hydration packs are quite versatile.

Water Capacity

Water is quite dense, so usually the water in your hydration bladder is your heaviest cargo. It would be cumbersome to carry more than 3 liters. However, if you anticipate a long journey with no water source to refill the hydration bladder, you might need to take as much as you can.

Hiking, climbing, or hunting demand a large hydration bladder, unless there are water sources along the way. Running demands a smaller (1.5L) bladder, because it’s hard to run with a lot of weight.

Backpack Capacity

While you want a hydration backpack for, of course, hydration, there are so many choices that you can certainly find a backpack of any size and with any level of compartmentalization with the hydration feature.

There are large hiking packs, medium backpacks that could also be school bags or carry-on, and backpacks so minimalist that they only can carry a few small items along with the hydration bladder.

Harness

Almost all hydration backpacks, even many of the very small ones, have chest and hip straps along with shoulder straps. This is likely because of the heaviness of water and the potentially strenuous activities people do while wearing these backpacks.

It’s very important that the pack has a stabilizing fit around the body so there’s no annoying bouncing or jostling. A few small packs may not have all of the straps; this is okay, but it may mean that the pack is better used for non-sport activities.

Fit

A poorly fitting backpack will get uncomfortable during long bouts of outdoor activity, so it is worth making sure the pack accommodates your size and is adjusted to fit you optimally. Many backpack listings include the maximum hip (or waist) circumference the pack can accommodate.

Torso length is a more important measurement for backpack fit than overall height is, and backpacks that have a torso adjustment mechanism will usually be listed with a range of torso lengths the pack can accommodate.

Sometimes, the maximum shoulder strap length is reported. While S-shaped shoulder straps are generally for women and J-shaped are for men, this isn’t an entirely dependable rule.

Internal Compartments

Some hydration backpacks are so minimalist that they really only have an internal compartment for the bladder; any other storage is in pouches along the exterior.

Alternatively, you might want a versatile bag with enough compartmentalization to separately position a laptop or tablet, food, clothes, and other personal belongings. Some people actually want less compartmentalization, as it gives them more freedom to put in larger items.

Waterproof/Rain Cover

Most hydration backpacks (and backpacks in general) are water-resistant. Unless the bag is dropped in water, a rain cover over a water-resistant bag essentially makes it waterproof.

Waterproofing is especially important in hiking or camping backpacks, because there might be no shelter from the rain and no ready replacement for wet or damaged belongings.

External Straps

All large backpacks and some medium ones have compression straps, which balance weight and also double as attachment points for gear.

Many also have other kinds of straps, clips, and loops to attach such gear as trekking poles, bicycle helmets, and sleeping bags. The kind of straps you need depends on what activities you plan to do with the backpack.

Breathability

Activity will tend to make you warm and sweaty, and backpacks hug your back, shoulders, and possibly hips. Therefore, heat and sweat will build up in those areas over time.

This could be miserable, but fortunately, most high-quality backpacks for athletic activities have light, absorbent, foamy padding that lines these areas. Some even have panels of foam in the back to encourage airflow. These are not expensive features, so you never need to settle for a backpack that falls short in breathability.

Design

The ideal design for your hydration backpack is partly a practical issue and partly based on your own taste. If you like a military look, a tactical pack is perfect. It also automatically means you’ll have lots of attachment points for small gear.

If you want hydration at an outdoor concert, you might want a very light but rather festive looking pack. Runners will usually want a light, body-hugging pack that has pouches for a few small essentials. Kids might especially like bright, cheerful colors. There’s truly a backpack for everybody—on both stylistic and practical levels.

Weight

Most hydration packs are designed to be very lightweight, perhaps to offset the high weight of water and to make athletic activity easier. Therefore, this is a feature to be expected.

If you have a lightweight backpack with only a few belongings inside but you prioritize lightness over hydration, consider putting less water in the hydration bladder. This will definitely reduce the weight.


12 Best Hydration Backpacks Reviewed

1. SHARKMOUTH Tactical MOLLE Hydration Backpack

Designed For Hiking, Climbing, Hunting, Running
  • Water Capacity = 2L
  • Backpack Capacity = 15L
  • Colors = 7 +
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 2 

The SHARKMOUTH Tactical’s hydration compartment is aluminum-insulated and the hydration tubes are insulated with neoprene to keep 2 liters of liquid cool up to 4 hours. Also, Velcro straps hold the bladder in place so that it won’t dislocate during movement.

The included 2-liter ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) hydration bladder contains no bisphenol A (BPA) and has no inherent taste or odor. The relatively large (3.4-inch) screw-top fill opening in the bladder makes for easy cleaning and filling.

The backpack itself has excellent compartmentalization for quick access to personal items. As a tactical backpack, its exterior has modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE) lining which makes attaching many small add-ons easy.

It also has a D-ring on each shoulder strap to attach items in front and compression straps to attach larger items. The shoulder, chest and hip straps are all adjustable and the back padding lends itself to comfort and ventilation.

Pros

  • Stabilizing, insulating hydration compartment
  • Spacious front pocket
  • Reflectors on shoulder straps
  • Abrasion- and water-resistant material
  • Plenty of organizational elements

Cons

  • Not machine-washable
  • Some users don’t like the hydration system

2. REINOS Hydration Backpack

Designed For Running, Hiking, Cycling, Skiing
  • Water Capacity = 2L
  • Backpack Capacity = Exact Value Unavailable; Small-Medium
  • Colors = 5 +
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 2 

The REINOS Hydration backpack is versatile—it’s a nice size for cycling but could be used for almost any other outdoor activity. It has an aluminum-insulated hydration bladder compartment to keep fluid cool.

Its included hydration bladder is made of safe FDA-approved, BPA-free plastic, and it has a decently sized (2-inch) opening for easy filling and washing. Shoulder and chest straps are adjustable and the back panel has cushioning and ventilating pads.

There’s no hip strap, but it’s likely not needed for a pack this size. The backpack has elasticated straps across the front to attach gear, and the shoulder straps have a D-ring on each to attach items.

The backpack has good organizational features, including a tablet sleeve in the main compartment—this is rather unusual in hydration backpacks, so if you need a hydration backpack with a tablet sleeve, this is a good pick.

Pros

  • Reflective strips on shoulder straps
  • Main compartment has a tablet sleeve
  • Suitable for men, women, and youth
  • Hydration bladder is FDA-approved

Cons

  • Not for those who need high capacity

3. InnerFit Hydration Backpack

Designed For Running, Hiking, Cycling, Skiing
  • Water Capacity = 1.5L
  • Backpack Capacity = Exact Value Unavailable; Small
  • Colors = 1
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 6

The InnerFit Hydration backpack has a flattened, almost aerodynamic, shape that’s ideal for the runner, and it has a fit system that hugs against the wearer without shifting. It has excellent compartmentalization—5 small compartments for personal items located in different parts of the pack: two on the hip straps, one on the bottom, one on the top, and one on the front. There are loops on all of the zippers to attach small items to, too. Also, the pack has a headphone port, which is unusual in hydration backpacks—both hydration and music or audiobooks can be piped right in for the runner. There are hip, chest, and shoulder straps with appropriate adjustment and padding elements, and the back panel is cushioned and breathable.

The hydration tube is insulated, making this a good choice in weather extremes. The opening is sufficiently wide for easy cleaning and the parts are designed to be easily disconnected yet also leak-proof.

Pros

  • Headphone port
  • Excellent variety of compartments
  • Reflective strips on shoulder straps
  • Adjustable for all body sizes
  • BPA-free hydration bladder

Cons

  • Low volume capacity
  • No reflective strips on body of backpack
  • Some might prefer fewer compartments

5. D.N.A. Nature Hydration Backpack

Designed For Running, Hiking, Cycling, Skiing
  • Water Capacity = 2L
  • Backpack Capacity = Exact Value Unavailable; Small
  • Colors = 1
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 3

This pack’s hydration bladder is made of TPU with a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) interior. The fill/clean opening is relatively large (3.1 inches) and there’s even an ergonomic handle around the opening. This is especially helpful to bikers or hikers who might wish to fill the bladder up on the trail. In fact, one could fill the bladder without removing it from the backpack in some instances.

Oddly enough, the hydration system of the D.N.A. nature doesn’t seem to include a dust cap for the mouthpiece. This might be ideal—there’s no obstacle between your mouth and the drinking valve—but ultimately this might mean that cleaning the mouthpiece is more important than it is with other hydration systems.

The pack includes a headphone port, which is unusual in hydration backpacks, so this is a good pick for those who really want to have music or audio material with them. Another plus is that it has reflective material both in the front and on the straps.

Pros

  • BPA-free hydration system
  • Abrasion-resistant materials
  • Suitable for men, women, and youth
  • Headphone port
  • Reflective strip at bottom front and straps

Cons

  • Mouthpiece doesn’t have a dust cap
  • Not for those who need high volume
  • Hydration tube isn’t insulated

6. Osprey Packs Kid’s moki

Designed For Running, Hiking, Cycling, Skiing
  • Water Capacity = 1.5L
  • Backpack Capacity = Exact Value Unavailable; Small
  • Colors = 2 +
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 1

The Osprey Kid’s moki is the perfect hydration backpack for kids who need a small hydration pack for bicycling or walking. There’s a front pouch and a space between the front pouch and the body of the pack to pack items.

There’s a strap to attach a blinker light at the bottom front of the pack. For even more security, there’s a whistle apparatus on one of the chest straps. (One user notes that this could be bad, as children will blow the whistle all the time. The company may have tried to compromise by making the whistle relatively quiet.)

The hydration tube threads through the shoulder strap and there’s a magnetic attachment for the mouthpiece—kids seem to figure the hydration system out very quickly. The hydration tube isn’t insulated, but children are less likely to be out in extreme temperatures.

One user reports that it’s hard to remove the mouthpiece but also notes that this could be good, since it reduces the chance of it being a choking hazard. For a larger children’s backpack for hiking, consider the Osprey HydraJet.

Pros

  • Blinker light attachment site
  • Comfortable
  • Is a good way to encourage kids to hydrate
  • Magnetic attachment for mouthpiece
  • Whistle built into chest strap

Cons

  • Higher price than many other packs
  • Not for those who need high volume
  • No insulation on hydration tube
  • May not fit older kids (10+)

7. CamelBak Women’s Helena 20 Hydration Backpack

Designed For Hiking, Cycling, Skiing
  • Water Capacity = 2.5L
  • Backpack Capacity = 17.5L
  • Colors = 3 +
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 2

CamelBak is a company with a great reputation and the first brand to develop hydration backpacks. The Women’s Helena 20 is the ideal backpack for women going on day-long expeditions in mild to cold temperatures.

The included Crux hydration system boasts unusually efficient water flow and an ergonomic handle around the fill/clean opening. The pack has excellent padding on the back panel, should straps, and hip straps. The shoulder straps are shaped so as to be ideal for the female shape.

The pack also has a front pocket, side pockets, bottom attachment loops for large gear, and compression straps (which can be used as attachment areas). In addition, the hip straps both have small zippered pockets for quick access to smartphones or other small items.

Pros

  • Plenty of organizational features
  • Truly shaped for the female body
  • Comfortable on most for long hikes
  • More cargo space than many hydration packs
  • Unusually efficient flow of water

Cons

  • Higher price than many other packs
  • No dust cap on mouthpiece
  • Smartphone may not fit in hip strap pocket

7. RUPUMPACK Insulated Hydration Backpack

Designed For Running, Hiking, Cycling, Skiing
  • Water Capacity = 2.5L
  • Backpack Capacity = 18L
  • Colors = 10 +
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 2

The RUPUMPACK is great for a day-long outdoor expedition. The included antimicrobial EVA hydration bladder has a relatively large (3.4-inch) fill/clean opening. The hydration tube is neoprene insulated, and the hydration sleeve itself is lined with aluminum to insulate the bladder; therefore, this is a great pack to use in temperature extremes.

It has a spacious front zippered pocket and a tablet sleeve in the main compartment. The hip straps both have smartphone-sized zippered pockets and the front has an open pocket to quickly slip items in.

While many of the larger hydration packs do have side pockets (potentially for water bottles), this one appears to have especially large ones. Therefore, this is a great choice for people who anticipate carrying both a bladder and bottle(s).

The shoulder straps are designed for women, but one female user claims the opposite. Also this is the most versatile backpack on this list—it even has sufficient space for a 13-inch laptop, so it would make an excellent school or travel bag.

Pros

  • Very versatile
  • Reflective strips on front and back
  • Whistle on chest strap
  • Tablet sleeve
  • FDA-approved hydration system

Cons

  • Relatively large for a hydration backpack
  • May not fit everyone’s shape well
  • Some report the hydration isn’t efficient

8. REINOS Hydration Backpack

Designed For Running, Hiking, Cycling, Skiing
  • Water Capacity = 2L
  • Backpack Capacity = Exact Value Unavailable; Small
  • Colors = 12 +
  • Waterproof = Yes
  • Internal Compartments = 2

The REINOS Hydration is perfect for concertgoers—it weighs a mere 13 oz. However, it’s versatile—it’s strong enough and spacious enough for other outdoor activities. In fact, it’s even waterproof.

Despite its glittery appearance, this backpack has all the features needed for recreational activity: a whistle, reflective strips, ventilating back panel and shoulder straps, and an insulated hydration bladder compartment.

For such a minimalist backpack, the REINOS actually has a fair amount of space; there’s a front zippered compartment extending down the front and a small side zippered pouch.

This is a great hydration backpack for runners. The included hydration system has all appropriate features; however, the tube is not insulated. Therefore, it’s not ideal in temperature extremes.

Pros

  • FDA-approved hydration bladder
  • Very lightweight
  • Reflective strips on shoulder straps
  • Whistle on chest strap
  • Good materials, well-made

Cons

  • Hydration tube isn’t insulated
  • List Element

9. Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

Designed For Hiking, Camping, Backpacking
  • Water Capacity = 3L
  • Backpack Capacity = 55L
  • Colors = 3 +
  • Waterproof = No - Water Resistant
  • Internal Compartments = 3 +

The Teton Sports Scout 3400 is a high-quality, high-volume backpack—ideal for several-day backpacking ventures. Its hip, chest, and shoulder straps are adjustable, and it even has a separate adjustment for torso length. The back panel has ventilating padding for comfort during long periods of wear.

It has a sleeping bag compartment. However, many users opt to attach their sleeping bags (and some other gear) to the exterior by the backpack’s gear loops or compression straps. The attached rain cover adds to the water resistance of the backpack. Users note that this is an excellent bag for boy scouts.

Unfortunately, the Teton Sports Scout 3400 doesn’t include the hydration bladder itself; it has a compartment that fits a hydration bladder and loops across the shoulder straps to thread a hydration tube.

One user reports being able to fit a 3-liter hydration pack into the compartment, although the company website indicates a 2.5-liter hydration capacity. This might actually be ideal for a camper who wishes to choose his/her own hydration apparatus.

Pros

  • Fits all body sizes and genders
  • High quality material and make
  • Great for youth
  • Good organizational features
  • Often can be used for carry-on

Cons

  • Does not include the hydration system itself
  • Sleeping bag compartment often is too small
  • Heavier than most hydration backpacks

What are hydration backpacks?

Strictly speaking, a hydration backpack is a backpack that’s made to support a hydration system.

A hydration system includes a plastic bladder with a screw-off opening to fill, a detachable plastic tube to move water between the bladder and mouthpiece, a mouthpiece that often has a manual on/off mechanism to prevent leaks which leads to a silicone bite valve (you bite and suck simultaneously to get water into your mouth), and sometimes a removable dust cap to cover the bite valve.

Hydration backpacks have a special compartment made to support a water bladder and an opening through which the tube can extend. Most hydration packs have loops along the shoulder straps through which the tube can be threaded. Most hydration backpacks actually come with a hydration system, but a few don’t.

Hydration backpacks can be helpful in such a variety of activities: walking, hiking, camping, climbing, hunting, running, bicycling, motorcycling, skiing, and snowboarding. Many hydration systems or backpacks are made to insulate the bladder and tube, making them ideal for temperature extremes.

There are less commonly considered uses for hydration backpacks: entertainment events where it may be difficult to hydrate or health conditions where consistent hydration is more important.

One user noted that her daughter had recently had a bone marrow transplant and that having a hydration backpack really helped on a day out from the hospital. Some users report that kids’ hydration packs are a great way to get children to drink more water than they usually would.


Uses of Hydration Backpacks

Hiking

Having a hydration backpack on a hike ensures that you’ll get consistent hydration as you go, rather than having to stop and possibly drink to the point of feeling “sloshy” or getting a cramp.

Many large camping/hiking backpacks have space for a hydration bladder but don’t come with the hydration system itself. This isn’t all bad, though. It gives you the chance to choose the type you want, provided it will fit into the bladder sleeve.

Cycling

Hydration backpacks are especially helpful to cyclists, because it’s almost impossible to safely drink water out of a bottle while on the move. A hydration backpack allows the cyclist to sip as needed without stopping the ride.

It’s especially important for cyclists to be sure that the tube is properly installed and that the mouthpiece is conveniently positioned. Some users take a DIY approach, using D-rings or carabiner loops to get the tube and mouthpiece in the optimal position.

Running/Trail Running

Hydration backpacks are especially helpful to those running a race or those who just don’t want to stop all the time to hydrate. Also, feeling sloshy from drinking too much water at once is probably most uncomfortable for a person who’s running.

There are many hydration backpacks that are small and streamlined to carry just the essentials along with a hydration system. A backpack is a great way to add reflectors or blinker lights for added safety, too.

Skiing/Snow Sports

It’s true that you don’t dehydrate as quickly in the cold. However, exertion always creates an increased need for fluid, and so having a ready source of water is still important.

In extreme temperatures, water in a container might freeze. However, many hydration backpacks have insulation around the bladder sleeve and many hydration systems have insulation on the tube to keep the water inside from freezing.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can one hydration backpack be used for various different activities?

Most hydration backpacks are highly versatile, so yes. The hydration sleeve can even be multi-purpose if the bladder is removed; if it’s an insulated sleeve, it could serve as a cooler for food or drink. Most hydration packs also have side pouches to potentially carry water bottles, too.

However, there are some important considerations: temperature extremes might make insulation of the hydration sleeve or hydration tube essential; also, one should use common sense when considering the amount of carrying volume needed.

Where can you buy hydration backpacks?

Amazon offers excellent deals on hydration backpacks. Brands like Osprey and CamelBak sell hydration packs on their company websites. The Grainger also sells a number of hydration backpacks, as well.

How much water do you need to carry with you when exercising?

According to WebMD, one needs about 8 oz. (1 cup) of water for every 15 minutes of exercise, and ideally, one should also hydrate ahead of time. This simple hydration calculator is available online to help you determine how much water you need.

If you’re taking a leisurely walk in mild temperatures, you’ll probably be all right with less water. If you’re doing strenuous climbing out in the heat, you probably need more than the recommended amount.

Sweating can create such water loss that the person will actually lose weight; it’s ideal to hydrate enough to offset this weight loss. Also, burning calories requires water, so hydration is critical to keeping your energy level optimal, even in cold weather.


Conclusion

If you choose a hydration backpack with a good hydration system and a build that fits your needs, it will improve your performance and increase your enjoyment of outdoor activities. If you choose one with reflective strips, it might even keep you safer.

Some users find that hydration backpacks meet a need they didn’t know they had. So, even if you don’t think of yourself as an advanced hiker or cyclist, a hydration backpack is very possibly a great investment.


  • Updated September 20, 2020
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