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The Best Hydration Pack

Last updated on March 15, 2024

Our Review Process

Don't Waste Your Money is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decision. Our team of experts spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing, and researching products so you don't have to. Learn more.

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Our Picks For The Top Hydration Systems

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Product Overview
Key Takeaway
 Best Overall

Unigear Nylon Bladder Backpack Hydration System

Don't Waste Your Money Seal of Approval

Unigear

Nylon Bladder Backpack Hydration System

Thanks to the adjustable shoulder, chest and waist straps on this hydration system, you'll get a perfect fit every time. The bladder was upgraded to be more lightweight, making it easier to carry on long hikes. Each bladder is able to hold up to two-liters of water, while the included backpack also offers pockets for your phone, keys and wallet.

Overall Take

Multiple Color OptionsYou'll find this hydration system comes in a choice of red, orange, blue, black and gray.

 Safety Pick

Vibrelli BPA-Free Bladder Hydration System

Vibrelli

BPA-Free Bladder Hydration System

Whether you're cycling, hiking or spending the day on the slopes, you'll want to have this hydration system on hand. The backpack comes in four colors and features two pockets, ergonomic side stabilizers and a carry handle. The bladder itself is BPA-free and able to hold up to 2-liters of water.

Overall Take

Handy PickThe reflective tab and light attachment add a layer of safety to this hydration system.

 Best for Cyclists

CamelBak HydroBak Mesh Straps Hydration System

CamelBak

HydroBak Mesh Straps Hydration System

Cyclists need a hydration pack that won't slide off during their ride. This model meets that need and goes a step above by using mesh straps that are completely breathable. Each pack is designed to provide enough water for a 2 hour ride.

Overall Take

For Activities and ExerciseWhether you ride competitively or for fun, this hydration pack has you covered for up to 2 hours.

 We Also Like

Mubasel Gear BPA-Free Backpack Hydration System

Mubasel Gear

BPA-Free Backpack Hydration System

The breathable mesh build of this hydration pack keeps you cooler on those extremely hot days. A 100% leak-proof design keeps fluids in the bladder, where they belong. Despite its small size, this system has a wide opening that makes it easy to insert ice and brushes for cleaning.

Overall Take

Leak-Proof PickThis hydration pack is built with breathable material that will keep you from overheating on those extremely hot days.

Buying Guide

Hydration is important when you’re engaged in strenuous activities, particularly while outdoors on a hot day. Whether you’re cycling to work, hiking or indulging in some other type of sporting activity, keeping fluids in your system is essential. Without it, you could start suffering from dehydration, which can include a drop in energy, headaches and dizziness. If left unchecked, dehydration can even cause fainting.

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But dragging along enough water to last for hours can be tough, especially if you’re trying to keep your load light. Hydration systems are designed to make it easy to stay hydrated without having to deal with water bottles. A hydration backpack affixes to your body to keep your hands free, so you can focus on the day’s activities. You’ll drink through a tube that serves as a giant, flexible, leakproof straw.

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Before you start shopping, consider whether you want an all-in-one hydration backpack or a separate water bladder that you can slide into whatever pack you’re carrying. You can save money and get more versatility from a hydration bladder, but you’ll need to consider how you’ll attach it to your body or bicycle to keep your hands free.

The type of activity you’re doing will also affect which hydration pack you choose. “Many manufacturers have tailored the design of their packs in terms of weight distribution, the location of straps and its profile to your body’s movement,” says our home goods expert Vicki Liston. “Cycling systems, for example, will fit differently on your body than a running or hiking system.”

Since most hydration packs feature similar water capacity, pay close attention to the weight and size of the model you choose so that you can keep your load as light as possible while you’re out and about.

As for the bladder itself, there are plenty of features to consider before you buy. You’ll want a hydration system that doesn’t leak, as well as one that insulates the liquids inside to keep them cool as long as possible. That means the tube that runs from the bag to your mouth should also be insulated to keep the liquid cool as it moves through.

The opening on some hydration systems is small, which will keep you from being able to insert ice cubes or get in to clean it. Look for one that allows for this if you plan to use ice, or you’re concerned about keeping it clean. You’ll be glad, in the end, that you chose one that makes clean-up easy.

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Lastly, there’s safety as a consideration. Some consumers prefer to steer clear of materials made with BPA, so you’ll want to search for one that promises to be BPA free if this is important to you. Some hydration bladders are also antibacterial, which will help protect against mold forming, even if you accidentally leave liquid in the pack for days at a time.

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Our Expert Consultant

Vicki Liston 
Home Improvement Expert

Vicki Liston writes, produces, and narrates “On The Fly…DIY,” an award-winning home improvement and DIY show of unique project tutorials for the casual DIY’er.

Home improvement and all things DIY have been Liston’s passion since she bought her first house in 2007 and she started making video blogs in 2014. She’s performed hundreds of DIY projects, from small ones to major, wall-smashing renovations and can teach you how to make a trendy DIY barn door for cheap. The proceeds earned from “On The Fly…DIY” are donated to no-kill animal shelters and rescue organizations.

What to Look For

  • As you start shopping, you’ll notice multiple options when it comes to the design of your hydration pack. Backpack-based designs build the hydration pack into a padded garment that you wear like a vest or backpack. Then there are freestanding hydration packs that you can slip into an existing backpack or bag.
  • If you opt for the backpack design, make sure you choose a model that’s comfortable. For example, a pack that is built with padded shoulder straps is a great choice, as is a model with adjustable straps.
  • Ventilation is also important if you’ll wear your backpack outdoors in hot weather. Consider a pack made from a breathable mesh that promotes airflow as you move, keeping you cool whether you’re bicycling around town or hiking your favorite trail.
  • It’s also important to look for a hydration pack with an easy-to-use on/off valve for when you’re ready to drink. With some models, you simply pull the valve out to use, then push it back in to lock it in place until it’s time to hydrate again.
  • Leaks are no fun, especially with hydration bladders that are designed to go into an existing backpack or bag. They are made to keep liquids inside the bag when you aren’t drinking. Some models use a click connection that keeps leaks at bay much better than traditional screw designs.
  • Over hours of wear, a hydration pack can weigh you down, so you’ll find you benefit from not choosing a pack that adds weight to the water you’re carrying. The Sojourner Rave Water Bladder 2 Pocket Hydration Pack weighs only 13 ounces, putting it among the most lightweight you’ll find. Other bladders and packs weigh much more. Of course, size also matters. Packs that are very small in size won’t take up much room on your back.
  • You won’t want to worry about your hydration pack breaking when you’re far from home. Fortunately, many water packs are built to last. Look for a hydration bladder that is both pressure- and wear-resistant, as this type offers many years of use.
  • Science has come up with all kinds of ways to keep liquids cool for hours using insulation. But with hydration packs, you’re not only dealing with the bag storing that liquid, but also the tube through which you drink. Go with a pack that insulates its tube.
  • The openings on some hydration packs make it tough to insert ice. Look for a large opening that makes getting ice inside easy. Another benefit of a large opening is that it lets you easily insert cleaning brushes inside to keep it clean.
  • Some hydration packs require you to fully remove the bladder from its pack before you can refill it.
  • Consumers are increasingly looking for materials that don’t contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical being reviewed by the FDA for its safety. BPA is found in cans and certain plastics. If you’re concerned about BPA, the Sojourner Rave Water Bladder 2 Pocket Hydration Pack is made from BPA-free material.
  • Safe or not, bags that leave an aftertaste make hydration difficult. Look for a hydration bladder that doesn’t have that chemical taste that can be especially noticeable when drinking water. The material in the bladder is may also antibacterial — a helpful feature to have in a product that will be exposed to moisture for hours at a time.
  • “Look for a hydration system that’s easy to clean,” says Liston. “The bladder, drink tube and mouthpiece will be teeming with bacteria if you don’t thoroughly clean,  sterilize and allow it to dry. If it’s hard to get inside the bladder, you’re probably going to miss some spots and the growth will begin.”
  • If you’re hitting the trails for the day, you’ll want a pack that can hold enough water to get you through. The Sojourner Rave Water Bladder 2 Pocket Hydration Pack holds 2 liters of water, which compares to the amount of liquid you get in a large bottle of soda.
  • Pockets can be helpful no matter where you’re wearing your hydration pack. Some models offer three storage compartments, handy for storing your keys, money, glasses and other items.
  • For those on a budget, most hydration packs are priced reasonably. However, it’s important to keep in mind what you’re getting for your money. Hydration bladders without backpacks all you to save significantly over competitors, but keep in mind you’ll need a bag to carry it in, which is an extra expense.

More to Explore

When experts discuss the importance of hydration, it’s easy to assume plain water is the only option. But there are plenty of other liquids that will hydrate you. In fact, for some athletes, sports drinks heavy in electrolytes may be more beneficial. Tea and coffee can hydrate, but they also contain caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, flushing some of that fluid from your body before you can get the benefits of it. Decaffeinated tea and lemonade can keep you hydrated, as long as you keep them as low in sugar as possible. Milk is also good for hydration, as are some foods, including fruits, soups, hamburger meat and chicken breasts.

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