Updated: December 2017

Hydration Pack Reviews:

Keeping yourself hydrated while doing physical exercise is not as simple as one might think. Most of us learned to get a drink of water or other liquid when we were thirsty. This old theory is all wrong. If you are thirsty, say the experts, then you are already showing signs of dehydration. You want to pump fluids into your body long before the thirst starts. Mountain bikers, hikers, skiers, and runners all need to stay hydrated or else their body will slowly start to fail them. Many of us that ride bikes or take day hikes tend to carry water bottles as our main source of fluids. Studies have shown that people who use waters bottles to drink from are less likely to stay hydrated versus those that use hydration packs on their backs. What is a hydration pack? Keep reading below to find out more about them.
hydration pack

It wasn't until a few years back that hydration packs really hit the outdoors market by storm. When I used to go hiking or mountain biking, water bottles were the preferred water storage device. Now you can find hydration packs at stores like REI, the Sports Authority, and Dicks Sporting Goods. A hydration pack is a backpack or waistpack that holds liquid in a reservoir for you to drink from via a tube and simple mouthpiece. The reservoir or "bladder" is usually made of polyurethane and holds from 64 oz (2 quarts) to 128 ounces (1 gallon) of fluids. You fill the reservoir with liquid by removing the cap and pouring in your fluid. A hose extends from the hydration pack system around your neck towards your mouth. The mouthpiece allows you to drink from the hydration pack "hands free" which is great for mountain biking and skiers. The mouthpiece will often have a "bite valve" which opens the tube for drinking when you bite on it. The majority of hydration packs are fully insulated so that the water or other liquids don't freeze in extreme temperatures or become to warm in the hot sun. Backpack hydration packs are a great invention for kayakers or bike riders that need both hands maneuvering their vehicles and don't have time to stop and drink from water bottles. Hydration packs are now sport specific in many cases, so consider what activity you will be doing while wearing the back mounted hydration systems. Look for a hydration pack with padded shoulder straps, a cushioned back, and one that is made with moisture-wicking material. Make sure the pack comes with small pockets where you can store protein/energy bars, car keys, etc. The top hydration pack brands are CamelBak, Ultimate Direction, Gregory, Blackburn, North Face, Deuter, and Arc'teryx. Hydration packs range in price from $30 to $90 and you can put much more than just water in them. The newer hydration packs are easier to clean meaning you can put sports drinks or other beverages into them and still be able to get them clean at the end of the day. Which hydration packs are rated the best and most popular? We went online to Altrec.com, Outdoorplaces.com, REI.com, and Trailspace.com to see which models are the top sellers and ranked the highest by consumers and experts. We also found some excellent consumer reviews in mountain biking and hiking forums. You can browse the most popular hydration packs online here.

Best Hiking Hydration Pack:

For those that venture into the backcountry for hiking, the The North Face: Hammerhead Hydration Backpack ($65) is the perfect companion. You get a 100 oz Nalgene CXC antimicrobial reservoir, a wicking airmesh shoulder harness, magnetic bit valve, external mesh pockets, and a large main compartment for climbing gear. North Face is a reputable name in the outdoors business and has been making backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags for decades. The Hammerhead Hydration backpack is a top rated and best selling hydration system for serious hikers. RECOMMENDED - We suggest going here for the top selling hiking hydration packs.

Mountain Biking Hydration Packs:

CamelBak is the leading name in the hydration pack industry, and the Camelbak M.U.L.E. Hydration Backpack ($85) gets great reviews from everyone. Mountain Bike Action Magazine gave it a 5 out of 5 stars in their recent review and REI says "it's a top selling favorite". Mountain biking hydration systems are usually larger than the typical hydration packs with extra pockets for patch kits, rain jackets, bike pump, etc. The CamelBak Mule has a 100 oz capacity and the cargo area has 549 cubic inches of storage space. Features a weather resistant MP3 pocket, an OMEGA HydroTanium Reservoir with lifetime warranty insulation, and an improved harness. Owners say the pack is great for mountain biking but just as useful for riding ATV's, short hikes, and downhill skiing. Mountain bikers like the fact the MULE is lightweight and convenient on the trails. You can purchase this product online at REI or at Backcountry.com. For hard trail riding, also take a look at the CamelBak Lobo ($75). For more information about CamelBak and their complete product lines go HERE.

Road Biking Hydration Packs:

What something that is more streamlined for road biking, then consider the CamelBak Rogue ($38). The 2 liter reservoir is just the right amount for a long bike ride on the open road. The aerodynamic design of the Rogue hydration pack and the external fill make this product ideal for road biking. You get about 2 to 3 hours of hydration from this road cycling system and the secure storage area is great for bike pumps, tubes, tools or energy cars. Reviews say the pack provides ample ventilation, cargo space for cell phones and keys, and wears well. One person mentioned that the screw cap on the reservoir is hard to remove, although we could find no other owner comments to confirm this issue. Another excellent cycling pack is the Deuter Hydro EXP 6 SL ($68) that is made for women. It is brand new and features an expandable main compartment, pump holder, stow-away helmet holder, and rain cover. The narrow shoulder straps and shorter back length are made for a womens body. The drink tube is easy to access and it holds up to 70 ounces (2 liters). The Deuter is available online at Trailspace.com.

Snow Sports Hydration Pack:

Dakine makes the best winter hydration packs on the market. Their Axis and Glacier packs are made for long days on the slopes as a skier, snowboarder, or cross country skier. They feature nalgene, insulated hdyro-sleeves, quick disconnect hose, a removable waistbelt, and a dri-mesh back panel and shoulder strap. Their winter hydration packs cost about $70 and you can find on sites like Amazon.com or Dakine.com. For a complete list of Dakine hydration packs go here.

Waist Hydration Packs for Runners:

Camelbak FlashFlo is a good hydration waist pack for runners or walkers. It holds 1.3 liters (45 ounces) and has the perfect waist mounted design with hands free access to the liquid you are carrying. Whether you are a fitness walker, trail runner, or recreational cyclist, the FlashFlo hydration waistpack is the best on the market. There is a convenient external zip pocket for cell phones, keys, energy bars. Consumers say the FlashFlo will keep you hydrated on long walks or short runs. A marathon runner notes that the CamelBak Flashflo is a "great companion to have on the road". It sells for about $40 and owners say it's just the right size and doesn't bounce around like other cheaper models. You can purchase this product online at Backcountry.com or Altrec.com.