- It's incredibly important to stay hydrated while active, and with a hydration pack, it's never been easier or more comfortable.
- The Osprey Skarab 18 hydration pack has enough storage space for all the hiking essentials you need on a day hike, but it can also excel over longer distances, thanks to its 2-liter bladder.
As anyone who's ever been parched on a hike can attest, being miles away from the nearest source of drinkable water isn't particularly ideal. Not only does being thirsty take away from enjoying the outdoors, but being dehydrated can dramatically sap a hiker's energy. Thankfully, backpack companies understood this for the issue it is and began manufacturing hydration-specific packs built for a variety of uses.
By designing hydration packs with special compartments built to hold flexible water pouches, anyone has the ability to take liters of potable water with them wherever they go. Be it a five-mile day hike, a longer backpacking trek, or even a long-distance bike ride, there's a hydration pack available to satiate anyone's thirst.
While a company like CamelBak built its name on revolutionizing the hydration pack, large backpack makers like Osprey and Gregory helped perfect it. As more brands have a hand in creating their own takes on a now tried-and-true concept, the market seems flooded with options.
Despite the overwhelming amount of hydration packs, selecting the right pack can be simple. Before buying, it's important to decide on three major features: What activity it's used for, the amount of gear it needs to hold, and how much water is required. With that said, a proper hydration pack is one that won't feel too heavy when the water reservoir is full, features the ability to carry a moderate amount of personal items, and is comfortable to wear, even over several hours.
Here are our top picks for the best hydration packs in 2019:
- Best hydration pack overall: Osprey Skarab 18
- Best hydration pack for runners: CamelBak HydroBak
- Best hydration pack for day hikes: Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0
- Best hydration pack for cycling: Gelindo Insulated Hydration Pack
- Best hydration pack for commuting: Gregory Inertia 30
Updated on 05/01/2019 by Les Shu: Updated links, formatting, and prices. Added related outdoors buying guides.
Keep scrolling to read more details about our top picks.
The best hydration pack overall
Osprey's Skarab 18 is the last day-hiking hydration pack you'll need, thanks to its high-quality construction, internal frame that keeps it comfortable mile after mile, and easy-to-access water reservoir.
A behemoth in the outdoor gear industry, Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks on the market. From small day hikers to full-on, pack-your-life-away backpacking bags, the Osprey has developed a sterling reputation and loyal following. That's why it's no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be our favorite hydration pack.
It's a smaller pack that fits squarely into the realm of day hikers. The Skarab weighs just a touch over one pound, but it still offers enough storage space for hiking essentials no matter if it's a camera, a few bags of trail mix, or a spare change of shoes.
Even with a heavier bag, its foam frame allows for superior ventilation, keeping your back cool and mostly sweat free. Like all its packs, Osprey decked out the Skarab with plenty of straps to allow for the ultimate custom fit, regardless of who's wearing it.
But what makes this bag truly shine is why it's nabbed the top spot on this list. Featuring Osprey's new Hydraulics LT 2.5-liter water pouch, unless the pack is expecting to make a multi-day trip, running out of water will take some work. Additionally, its extra-wide clip opening makes it easy to add more water or clean the reservoir after use. The pack even has a magnetic bite valve attachment that allows it to quickly attach to the Skarab's sternum strap, allowing for easy access.
Added extras like stretch mesh pockets on the side of the pack, a scratch-free stash pocket, removable hip belts, and external bungees for more gear are Osprey staples and only add to the pack's overall quality. Osprey's Skarab 18 is simple when it needs to be yet versatile and technical for those who demand it.
Pros: Comfortable to wear even over several hours, extra-wide clip on water reservoir allows for easy cleaning and refills, 2.5-liter capacity is perfect for long day hikes, offers plenty of interior storage, and the ventilated foam frame helps avoid excess sweat
Cons: Too small for longer backpacking trips
Buy the Osprey Skarab 18 on Amazon for $84.95
The best hydration pack for runners
Runners don't want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak's HydroBak weighs just five ounces before being filled with water, of course.
As companies like Osprey or Gregory brainstormed ideas for their first hydration packs, CamelBak had already firmly established itself as the go-to brand. Today, it still makes some of the most functional and appropriate options on the market, and its HydroBak continues this trend. For runners, it doesn't get much better.
Thanks to the new Crux reservoir, you can expect a full 20% more water with each swig which, for runners, means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on their stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push. This means less wasted water and no fumbling with the tube while running.
CamelBak also outfitted the Crux with a leak-proof cap and coated the tube with its anti-microbial HydroGuard technology, which is 100% BPA free and reduces the risk of bacteria growth.
CamelBak outfit the HydroBak with a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation, something runners of any skill level will surely appreciate. Its reflective accents also make it suitable for running early in the morning or as the sun is setting, allowing for headlights or flashlights to brightly reflect and spotlight the wearer.
Though it's small, the HydroBak still features a few zippered pockets perfect for keeping energy gels, granola bars, and some cash for those well-earned post-run beers.
Pros: Weighs just five ounces without water, mesh back panel and harness aid in ventilation, new Crux reservoir allows 20% more water per drink, and its leak-proof valves are easy to flick on or off
Cons: Doesn't offer much in the way of storage (not that runners need much of it, anyway)
Buy the CamelBak HydroBak on Amazon starting at $36.99
The best hydration pack for day hikes
The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker's dream, offering seven liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir.
Known primarily as a purveyor of high-quality water reservoirs, Platypus also dabbles in manufacturing full-on hydration packs and its Duthie A.M. 10.0 would be the apple of any day hiker's eye. With plenty of internal and external storage options even for additional tools and gear, the Duthie's 7L capacity is perfect for short jaunts into the backcountry or several mile excursions.
Its strategic approach to organization also means you won't be digging past your car keys to get to your snacks everything has its own place in the pack.
When it comes to the Duthie's hydration capability, few companies deliver as well as Platypus. Featuring a large three-liter reservoir, the brand's patented BigZip water pouch features a magnetic hose clip and also offers wearers the ability to route the house in multiple ways a welcome function not typically seen in hydration packs.
For hardcore day hikers who also have other activities in mind, the Duthie also offers a useful carry system designed to hold pads or full-face helmets and even sports a fleece-lined pocket perfect for stashing a pair of shades.
Additionally, the pack easily conforms to a variety of body shapes and sizes with just a few adjustments of its straps and hip belt. After finding the perfect fit, Platypus' FloatAir back panel keeps you mostly sweat-free and comfortable, no matter how long the hike.
Pros: Plenty of storage options despite its modest 7L capacity, external tool and gear loops, capable of fitting many different body types, comes standard with huge three-liter BigZip water reservoir and magnetic hose, and FloatAir back panel offers comfort for even the longest day hikes
Cons: Its $140 price tag isn't exactly cheap for a hydration pack
Buy the Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 on Amazon for $139.95
The best hydration pack for cycling
Forget reaching down for any built-in water bottle holders because with Gelindo's Insulated Hydration Pack , staying hydrated while biking is as easy as simply drinking out of a straw.
No matter how much distance a cyclist covers, properly hydrating during a ride is incredibly important. While many (if not all) bikes have a space reserved for attaching a water bottle holder, a hydration pack makes staying quenched much easier and Gelindo's Insulated Hydration Pack is perfectly fit for the job.
Featuring an insulated pocket designed to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, its special design keeps body heat from warming the water or anything else stored in the pack, for that matter. The insulation also helps keep liquids cool for up to four hours, so there will even be cold water available during longer rides.
Gelindo included several different storage pockets capable of holding everything from energy bars and car keys to a smartphone or wallet. For the bigger compartments, a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tires fit perfectly without making the pack too cumbersome or heavy. Organization also scores highly as it's easy to reach for and access any of the interior contents, no matter how full the pack gets.
There's no secret cyclists care about comfort and with Gelindo's Insulated Hydration Pack , finding a perfectly comfortable fit is easily done via its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. Furthermore, its ergonomic mesh back allows for steady airflow to keep you from overheating, keeping you comfortable throughout the entirety of your ride.
Pros: Insulated water reservoir pocket keeps liquids cool for up to four hours, mesh back panel keeps airflow at a maximum, interior organization capable of holding a variety of items without feeling cluttered, and its easily adjustable straps are capable of fitting almost any body type
Cons: Limited reflective details
Buy the Gelindo Insulated Hydration Pack on Amazon starting at $29.99
The best hydration pack for commuting
Gregory's Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easily accessible water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.
Staying hydrated even while simply commuting to work is important, and Gregory's Inertia 30 is designed to not only keep thirsts quenched but also to pack a work day's worth of gear. Be it a laptop, notebook, tablet, or otherwise, the Inertia offers enough interior storage space to tote along whatever the day calls for.
It even features several exterior pockets perfect for storing items that need to be quickly accessible (i.e. Snacks), as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.
To make sure you never go thirsty, Gregory includes a quick-drying three-liter water reservoir that even features a built-in drying hangar that's perfect for airing it out and avoiding any mold or mildew buildup. The Inertia's dedicated hydration sleeve makes it easy to just toss the reservoir into the pack, and it automatically stabilizes the pouch's weight to the center of your back. Gregory even made the reservoir's tube magnetic, making it easy to take on and off.
Though we chose it for its ability to act as a commuter bag, the Inertia 30 also excels as a day-hiking pack, offering exterior loops for trekking poles, compression straps on either side, and load lifters that help stabilize the pack when it gets heavy.
At $120, it's not the cheapest bag of the bunch but considering what it offers, and the Gregory name also means supreme durability, the Inertia 30 is worth every penny.
Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying three-liter water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, and it's versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack
Buy the Gregory Inertia 30 at REI for $119.95
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- Best fire starter for ease of use: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
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- Best overall: Hyke & Byke Quandary 15 Degree sleeping bag
- Best for extreme cold: Mountain Hardware Lamina Z Bonfire
- Best for a budget: Coleman North Rim Extreme Weather
- Best for casual comfort: Teton Sports Fahrenheit
- Best for couples: Sleepingo Double Sleeping Bag
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- Best tent for bad weather: Kelty Gunnnison 4 Tent
- Best affordable tent: Wenzel Shenanigans Teepee Camping Tent
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