Hydration packs are a must have for many activities. The type of hydration pack, water capacity, fit and additional features are all considerations that go into choosing the best hydration pack for you. Learn about water & pack capacity, sizing, fitting and identifying the best features for your next hydration pack.
Hydration Pack Considerations at a Glance
- Types of hydration packs: What type of activity is your hydration pack for?
- Hydration Pack Capacity: Water and gear capacity should both be considerations.
- Hydration Pack Fit: Does the pack fit your torso and hips just right?
- Hydration Pack Features: From bite valve on/off switches and to winter sports add on there are many extra perks to consider deciding what to buy.
Types of Hydration Packs
- Aerobic sports hydration packs
- Cycling hydration packs
- Backpacks with built-in hydration
- Events/Raves/EDM/EDC hydration packs
- Concert/Festival hydration packs
- Hiking hydration packs
- Hydration waistpacks
- Mountain biking hydration packs
- Running hydration packs (also running hydration vests)
- Snowsport hydration packs
- Wearable hydration packs
- Winter hydration packs
Depending on what outdoor activities you are regularly involved in, there are a variety of hydration packs available to meet your needs. Many backpacks are now tailored for specific activities to match with the unique needs of the customer. You will find backpacks specifically tailored toward individual activities such as biking, hiking, snowsports, music festivals and running, based upon what features individuals who pursue these interests find most important. The more specific your use for the pack, the easier it will be to select the perfect option. And, if the backpack will be multi-purpose, there are options that will work well for a range of outdoor excursions.
If you only plan for short treks using your hydration pack, having a large reservoir (also called a bladder) is not essential. But if the pack is intended to supply your water needs for an extensive period of time, then the ability to carry a large amount of water is critical. Hydration packs on the market today range from 5 liters to as many as 28 liters for a longer journey in the outdoors. You should also remember that water is heavy, so consider how much weight you can or want to carry for the amount of time you will be wearing the backpack. You need to strike a balance between capacity and weight when choosing the pack that will work best for you.
Most Common Hydration Pack Water Capacities
- .5 liter (16 fluid ounces) – A little more than 1 lb
- 1 liter (32 fluid ounces) – 2.2 lbs
- 1.5 liters (48 fluid ounces) – 3.3 lbs
- 2 liters (64 fluid ounces) – 4.4 lbs
- 2.5 liters (80 fluid ounces) – 5.5 lbs
- 3 liters or more (100 fluid ounces or more) – 3 liters = 6.6 lbs
In addition to water storage, most hydration backpacks provide space to carry gear and supplies. When reviewing the pack options, think of all the gear you would like to be able to easily carry with you without needing another bag (if that is something you are trying to avoid). You might only need space for a light jacket and a few snacks, or you might like to have room enough for a day’s worth of food and other equipment for short camping trips.
Hydration Pack Fit
Selecting a pack that is comfortable to wear and positioned properly is very important. A poorly fitted pack can lead to a decrease in performance, discomfort and even injury.
- Torso Length – Packs come in multiple sizes from extra small to large and others are adjustable.
- Waist Size – The hipbelt usually fits a wide range of waists but check the product tab for the exact range.
- Hydration Specific Packs – Some packs are specifically designed for men, women, teens and youths.
Hydration Pack Features
The following are features to consider when choosing a hydration pack. Depending on your activity, needs or preferences these options may not be necessary or at least great to have.
- Bladder – BPA free, FDA approved, leak proof, replaceable, wide screw for ice, easy cleaning, compresses and water empties, tasteless, anti-microbial, insulated, screw cap
- Breathability/Temperature regulation
- Cold weather add ons
- Drinking Tube – UV protected, leak proof, water temperature resistant, quick-disconnect
- Mouthpiece – Wide-mouth opening, bite valve shutoff switch, valve cover
- Reflecting straps – Depending on place or activity this may be a need
- Storage pockets – Places to put keys, phone and accessories
- Straps – Adjustable, places to put excess straps, bungee, breathable, padded
Consider these questions when choosing a hydration pack
- Is the bottle easy to grab?
- How do you wash it?
- Will the straps rub my skin raw?
- Is there a place to put my wallet, phone and/or keys?
- How easy it to clean the bladder? tube?
- Is the material waterproof/water resistant?
- Is there a foam stabilizer?
- Is there a waist strap? Recommended for 6 lbs or more.
- Is it foldable or easy to store?
- Is there a hidden pocket for security?
- Can the tube be on the right or left side?
- Can the hydration pack hold juice, milk, soft drink, liquor, etc?
- Is it a winter hydration pack to mitigate freezing?