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The Best Hydration Packs of 2022

Carry your water on your back and you’ll never be dehydrated again. Here are 10 great ways to do so.

best hydration packs

Hydration backpacks are more than a trend. Humans are 60 percent water, and when it’s hot and/or humid, you need to continuously replace the fluid you’re sweating out. A hydration pack lets you drink without interrupting your flow, whether you’re running an ultra or jamming through a music marathon.

“People want to be more self-sufficient, to go on hikes, bikes and runs being able to drink on the move, hands-free, with the ability to toss in a jacket and snacks with the thing you’re already carrying,” notes Ren Walkenhorst, Associate Product Manager at Hydrapak. “Hydration packs make it easier and more efficient.”

Hydration packs are ideal for activities where you want frequent access to a sip, slurp or guzzle of water or sports drink, without carrying a bottle in your hand, or taking off your pack to drink. They also have storage for other gear you need on your hike, bike, run or other adventure.

Packs come in vest, backpack and hip pack styles, with many sizes and features to choose from. “Where there’s a lot of movement, a pack’s ability to stay stable and stabilize the liquid inside is key,” says Mike Valvano, director of Soft Goods and Sport at Camelbak. Consider the questions and options below to find the one that’s right for you.

How much water do you need?

Water is heavy, and carrying a lot more than you need can slow you down, but it’s important to be realistic. Hydration reservoirs typically range from 0.5 to 3 liters. During strenuous activity, it’s recommended to drink a liter an hour. Pick a pack with a reservoir that will accommodate the length of your typical outing.

What else do you need to carry?

Besides water, you may need space for cargo, like a jacket, trekking poles, snacks, first aid or bivy. Buy a bag with the capacity to hold your kit. Overstuffed, even the best pack can feel like a sausage on your back. Choose a pack that fits your gear comfortably, and if you plan to be heavily loaded, pick one with suspension, including a broad hip belt and possibly a frame. Sport-specific gear, like a helmet or trekking poles, requires specific attachments — buy one made for the sport or activity you do most frequently.

How does the pack fit loaded?

If you’re running any significant distance in your pack, make sure it doesn’t bounce or chafe on the trail. Check pack fit in the store. Adjustability is critical, as is enough structure to keep the load you’ll carry from bouncing around.

What else do you need to grab on the go?

Mountain bikers might want access to a multitool and snacks without taking the pack off. A runner might need multiple handheld flasks and instant access to a gel or sunglasses storage. If you have an XL iPhone and you want to be able to reach it, look for a pack with a pocket big and easy to get to. Many packs have pockets on the shoulders, chest and hips that are accessible while you’re wearing them.

How often should you empty and clean your hydration reservoir?

It’s easy to drop your pack at the end of an adventure and forget about it until the next one. But hydration reservoirs get moldy fast, particularly if you had drink mix inside. Wash and dry your reservoir after every use. And hand wash your empty pack or throw it into the washing machine on delicate for periodic cleaning.

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Gregory Inertia 18 H2O

  • 3d molded back panel and reservoir up performance
  • Straps are comfortable

  • Not unisex

New for 2022, the Inertia 18 is the crux of comfort and convenience. The 3d foam back panel is breathable and structured without any pressure points, and the straps are cushioned and ergonomic. The 3d-molded design of the hydration pack allows it to hold 2 liters, and dry like a water bottle when it's empty. The hydration pocket can double as a laptop sleeve in a pinch, and the hipbelt can be easily removed if that's not your thing. The Inertia is engineered to give just the right amount of comfort and mobility on the trail, without too many features. If you're going to reach for any hydration pack, reach for this one.

Volume: 18 liters

Weight: 1.22 pounds

Water capacity: 2 liters

Osprey Skarab 22 Hydration Pack

  • Highest volume on the list

  • Pricey

When choosing a hydration pack that's going to provide ample storage and organization, water capacity and all-day comfort, it's hard not to reach for Osprey. Its Skarab 22 is the ideal pack for casual hikers as well as outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to features like the open mesh back panel meant to keep you dry, the easy-access bucket style main compartment and the attachment loops that let you store trekking poles at the front of the pack. There are side pockets for snacks, and a dedicated hydration pocket which houses the included hydration pack. The Skarab is made with hard-working nylon and polyester — it's meant to go the distance.

Volume: 22 liters

Weight: 1.46 pounds

Water capacity: 2.5 liters

Camelbak Arete 18 Hydration Pack

  • Lightweight

  • Not a lot of internal organization

Simple, straightforward and reliable. Camelbak's Arete pack holds 1.5 liters of water, and 16.5 liters overall. Designed for all day comfort, or a short trek, the Arete features a lightweight mesh harness, as well as minimal straps to keep weight down and comfort up. You can also remove the reservoir and use the pocket for laptop storage as well.

Volume: 18 liters

Weight: 22.5 ounces

Water capacity: 1.5 liters

Best Hydration Pack for Fast and Light Mountain Scrambling
Black Diamond Distance 8 Pack

  • 100-percent BPA and PVC free

  • Pricey

Made from ripstop fabric that’s 10 times stronger than steel, but so light it floats in water, this vest-style pack is durable enough to be scraped on rocky outcroppings, and to survive abrasion during boulder scrambles. Rib cage and chest straps keep the pack close to your body, even with ice axes, trekking poles and a liter of water in two soft flasks or water in a bladder on your back. Main pocket access is speedy — it’s held shut with a single clip.

Volume: 8 liters

Weight: 12.5 ounces

Water capacity: 1 liter plus two 500ml SoftFlask bottles

Best Hydration Pack for Ultras
Salomon Active Skin 8 Unisex Running Vest

  • Allows for personalized fit
  • Minimizes bounce

  • Not for the casual runner

Ultrarunner Aliza LaPierre does 90 percent of her races with Salomon’s running vests, from the UTMB to Western States.“The pack hugs me in all the right places, and has adjustment points so I can really dial in the fit for a chafe-free run,” she says. “Stretch pockets on the front give me quick access to my nutrition, and then the large zippered storage in the back lets me carry an emergency blanket and a jacket, without my gear bouncing around on the trail.”

The pack lets runners really personalize the fit. An insulated sleeve is bladder-compatible, and it comes with a soft flask, too. Side compression laces are adjustable without removal. And there are half a dozen other stretch pockets plus the main compartment to carry gear, snacks, an emergency kit and electronics. Loops hold poles as well as a clip-on light.

Volume: 8 liters

Weight: 210 grams

Water capacity: 5 liters

Best Hydration Pack for Urban Running
Nathan VaporAir 2.0 7 Liter Hydration Pack

  • Unisex sizing to fit all body types

  • Doesn't have room for supplies

At 3.6 ounces, this is one of the most minimalist packs available, best suited for a pre-or post-work run where you don’t need much gear or water. The mostly mesh vest fits like an ultra-breathable shirt, with enough compression to stabilize a light load. A 12-ounce soft flask with a straw tube tucks into one of the four front pockets for drinking on the go. The others store nutrition and your phone, while the back pocket has a key clip. When you’re pushing the limits of daylight, reflective trim keeps you visible.

Volume: 14 liters

Weight: 12.2 oz (with bladder)

Water capacity: 2 liters

Best Hydration Pack for Music Festivals
Hydro Flask 14 L Down Shift™ Hydration Pack

  • Low profile design
  • Keeps water chilled for over 4 hours

  • A bit heavy at 2.2 pounds

With enough storage space to store everything from sunscreen to blankets to clothing and lunch, this pack also boasts an oversized reflective neoprene pocket that keeps water in the 3-liter reservoir cold for up to four hours. Separate storage compartments keep water and food apart from clothes and gear. The weather-resistant pack sits off the harness allowing airflow to keep you cool. And the main compartment is big enough to hold a 13” laptop, so this pack is just as functional when the party is over.

Volume: 14 liters

Weight: 2.2 pounds

Water capacity: 2 liters

Best Hydration Pack for Mountain Biking
Thule Vital Hydration Pack 8L black

  • Innovative hose design

  • Not suited for hiking

When you’re mountain biking, a flapping, swinging hydration hose is annoying. A magnet in Thule’s hose sleeve prevents that distracting motion — let go of the hose and it auto attaches to the shoulder strap. Jersey-style pockets give this pack a vest-like feel, as well as quick access to your phone, snacks and tools without taking it off. Even with the 2.5-liter reservoir full and the pack loaded, the weight sits low on the body to reduce muscle strain and enhance upper back and shoulder cooling.

Volume: 8 liters

Weight: 1.21 pounds

Water capacity: 2.5 liters

Best Hydration Pack for Big Mountain Biking
Evoc FR Enduro

  • Includes back protector

  • Hydration bladder not included

Over intense terrain, riders wear pads to protect knees and elbows. Don this pack, and you’ll also protect your back. The flexible, temperature-impervious honeycomb back protector absorbs 95 percent impact energy in a crash to save your spine. It makes the pack somewhat heavy — around 2.3 pounds — but it detaches with toggles for less extreme outings. This 16-liter pack is big enough for backcountry adventures where you’ll need extra clothes, lots of water and multiple meals or gear to record the ride. With the back protector in place, this pack is protective enough to take to the downhill park. A rain cover stashes in a bottom zipper to keep contents dry in a downpour.

Volume: 16 liters

Weight: 2.3 pounds

Water capacity: 3 liters

Best Hydration Pack for Day Hikes
Osprey Savu 5

  • Comfortable for hiking or biking
  • Plenty of storage

  • Straps need to be tightened periodically

Hip packs are all the rage, but most don’t carry enough water for trail adventures. This one does. Sleeves on both sides secure a bike-style or wide-mouth bottle — a snap adjusts the opening, and a cord wraps the top so bottles don’t bounce out when you’re making technical moves or running on descents. A middle pouch is big enough for a lightweight jacket, sandwich, car keys and phone, with a separate scratch-free pocket for sunglasses. Side pockets keep snacks in easy reach. And this is the first hip pack that didn’t slide down our butts when we were scrambling. The pack is designed for ventilation with a ridged lumbar panel and well-vented hip belt.

Volume: 5 liters

Weight: .8 pounds

Water capacity: Two water bottles

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