Whether you're going for a short run, a day hike or are taking on a multi-day endurance effort, hydration is key. When taking a sip of water isn't convenient though, it doesn't always happen—water breaks don't always align with thirst levels. We've found the best solution is to keep your water always-accessible with a hydration pack.
From minimalist vests to full-sized packs that are geared for alpine adventures, hydration packs come in all shapes and sizes for every activity from hiking, biking, trail running, skiing, walking the dog, or just running errands.
Before we dive into our top picks for the best hydration packs of 2022, let's address the most basic question: What is a hydration pack?
A hydration pack gives you convenient access to water via a hydration reservoir or bladder that's held within a backpack, lumbar pack, or trail vest in a dedicated sleeve or by a hook or loop. Good hydration packs will come with the reservoir included, and there will be a means of routing the accompanying drinking hose from the inside to the outside so that you can take a sip whenever you need to.
That said, many outdoor backpacks and bags include hydration reservoir compatibility, though they might not come with the bladder itself. You can buy one separately, and stuff it into your bag whenever you want.
For the purpose of this list, we're sticking to integrated packs designed specifically for use with a hydration bladder. To learn more about what to look for when shopping for your own perfect pack, and what you can put in your hydration bladder once you pick one up yourself, scroll past our picks. For those just looking for the goods, read on and enjoy.
The Best Hydration Packs of 2022
With 2.5 liters of water capacity, the Hydraulics LT reservoir included inside Osprey's Manta 34 makes your water accessible throughout medium to long hikes. The bag itself is on the larger side at 34 liters, so you'll have enough storage space for enough extra layers and gear for longer outings or even overnights in the backcountry. The hydration system routes the hose across the chest, providing easy access.
Best Hydration Pack for Day Hikes: Gregory Nano 18 H2O Hydration Pack
The Gregory Nano 18 H20 hydration pack is the perfect light, compact hydration backpack for shorter adventures. With reflective attachment loops and plenty of side pockets in addition to the main compartment, there's a spot for all the other accessories that you might want on the trail. The removable webbing hip belt will let you customize the bag's fit somewhat, and the included three-liter reservoir will ensure you stay properly hydrated. There's an array of colors to choose from, too.
Capacity: 18 liters
Weight: 1 pound 7ounces
Price: $80 SHOP NOW
Best Ultralight Hydration Pack: Camelbak Hydrobak Light Hydration Pack
Sometimes your keys, phone, and water is all you need for a fast-and-light outing. Weighing just six ounces, the Hydrobak Light is one of the lightest packs on this list, and a good lightweight option for hikers, bikers, and commuters who want to stay hydrated but don't need to carry much else beyond water. The bag includes CamelBak's 1.5-liter Crux reservoir, which has tech that provides 20% more water per sip than previous Camelbak models. Other features are kept to a minimum, but there is a ventilated harness that'll ensure your back doesn't get too sweaty.
Capacity: 1 liter
Weight: 6 ounces
Price: $60 SHOP NOW
Best Hydration Hip Pack for Biking: Evoc Hip Pack Pro 3
Evoc's Hip Pack Pro 3 makes a great alternative for someone who doesn't want to have extra heat or weight on their back. The waist pack is purpose-designed for mountain biking, but could work for plenty of other activities with the capacity to store 1.5 liters of water and enough room for other small essentials, like a repair kit, some snacks, a lightweight layer, and two water bottles. It's easy to adjust so you can sling it loosely around you or tighten it with one pull for a quick downhill ride.
Capacity: 3 liters
Weight: 15 ounces
Price: $94 SHOP NOW
Best Hydration Pack for Mountain Pursuits: Black Diamond Distance 15 Pack
Black Diamond made its Distance 15 pack with 210-denier nylon tear-resistant fabric for the climber or more rugged trail runner among us. It's fully water-resistant, with loops on the back for icetools and trekking poles and lightweight cord adjustments throughout. It's hydration-ready with an interior mesh sleeve for a reservoir, though take note that it doesn't come with one so you'll have to buy that extra. Additionally, you can store up to 15 liters of gear inside, making the Distance a small yet mighty option for high-octane mountain pursuits.
Capacity: 15 liters
Weight: 13.9 ounces
Price: $160 SHOP NOW
Best Hydration Vest for Running: Salomon Adv Skin 5 Set Hydration Vest
Running vests have to fit like a second skin to be comfortable (and to prevent annoying bouncing with every stride). Salomon's Adv Skin 5 has the brand's Sensifit construction, which adjusts precisely to your body shape with a unique sternum strap, making it a great fit for endurance runners who want a minimalist hydration solution they can adjust on the fly. It's pretty light at only eight ounces, can hold up to five liters of gear in total, and comes with two 500-milliliter flasks. There is also a 12-liter version for those who really plan to go the distance.
Capacity: 5 liters
Weight: 8 ounces
Price: $105 - $140 SHOP NOW
Best Hydration Vest for Running and Hiking: Patagonia Slope Runner Endurance Vest
The Patagonia Slop Runner Endurance Vest is another good non-backpack option for long distance runners or speed hikers. It lays flat and secure when empty but also has enough storage to hold enough gear for a day hike between front sleeve pockets, a rear zippered pocket, and a pass-through pocket below the shoulder blades. The Slope Runner comes with two 500-milliliter Hydrapak flasks. One Field Mag editor regularly wears this vest for 14-22-mile runs on both roads and trails.
Capacity: 3 liters
Weight: 6.17 ounces
Price: $160 SHOP NOW
Best Hydration Vest for Endurance Racing: Nathan Pinnacle 12 Liter Women's Hydration Race Vest
This bright, colorful Pinnacle vest will certainly make you stand out from all the other black and navy vests on the trail, but it'll also keep you comfy and hydrated, too. The latest version is 20% lighter than previous models from Nathan, and it includes a uniquely shaped reservoir that aids in its fit and comfort. It may not look like it, but this vest has enough space for 12 liters of gear spread out between 13 pockets.
Best Insulated Hydration Pack: Hydro Flask 14 L Down Shift Hydration Pack
The Hydro Flask 14 L Down Shift pack may be geared towards cycling, but the features this pack comes with make it suitable for far more than just that. Notable among them is its insulated two-liter reservoir, which, like the water bottles the company is known for, will keep your beverage cool (or warm) while you're out getting after it. Hydro Flask also makes a hip pack version, and both are ideal for hiking, travel, or just long jaunts around town.
Capacity: 14 liters
Weight: 2.2 pounds
Price: $145 SHOP NOW
Best Hydration Vest-Backpack Hybrid: Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta Women’s 6.0
The Ultimate direction Ultra Vesta Women’s 6.0 is an amazing lightweight option for those who don’t want anything interfering with speed. Available in both a woman’s and men’s version, the Vesta blends the line between backpack and vest with its large rear compartment and running-inspired shoulder straps. It can accommodate a reservoir of up to two liters and it is built to prevent chafing over long distances, in case you decide to use it to its full capabilities.
(Bonus Pick) Best Hydration Reservoir with Filtration: CamelBak x LifeStraw Crux Reservoir
If you’re looking for an easy-to-fill hydration reservoir for the backpack you already own, the Crux Reservoir Kit filtered by LifeStraw is a great all-around choice that works particularly well when you don't have access to a faucet. LifeStraw's tech consists of a hollow fiber filter that removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics and, as a bonus, there's also an activated carbon filter that reduces unpleasant tastes and odors. It will fit right into most hydration packs and will ensure you’ll stay hydrated, no matter where your adventures take you.
Capacity: 2 liters
Weight: 10 ounces
Price: $69 SHOP NOW
What can I put in my hydration pack?
Your hydration pack's bladder can be used for more than just water. Hydration powders and tablets are a great way to get an electrolyte boost on the trail—just keep in mind that putting anything other than water in your hydration pack means you'll need to clean it more thoroughly, as the sugar in many of these products can encourage the growth of bacteria and mold. Also, the flavor of some of these products can sometimes be absorbed into the bladder material, leaving an aftertaste to whatever you put in the bladder the next time you use it.
Things to Consider When Looking for a Hydration Pack
Hydration pack reservoirs typically hold anywhere from one to three liters of liquid, and some come with even smaller squeeze-style bottles called flasks. That means you can potentially pack roughly six times more water than the standard-sized disposable (recyclable!) plastic bottle will give you. Remember that the more fluid you place in the pack, the heavier it will be—one liter of water weighs just over two pounds. Try to match the water reservoir to the activity you plan on doing, and your hydration needs, and remember that you don't always have to fill it up all the way.
The convenience of a hydration pack is that you can carry your water and gear all in one bag. While the hydration part is a key factor here, the bag still needs to be functional for what you set out to do. Some minimalist hydration packs are only designed to carry the water bladder along with a few other essentials, while others are full-sized for a day or multiple days out. Evaluate a hydration pack just as you would any other outdoor bag: consider features like overall volume, pocket layout, weather-resistance, harness type, and extra features you might want, like a rain cover, safety whistle, or laptop pocket.
How Easy the Hydration Pack Is to Fill, Use & Clean
If something is a hassle to use, you probably won't use it. When it comes to hydration packs, ease of use refers to a few different things. Firstly, it should be easy to drink from via a hose with a bite valve that releases water when it is lightly squeezed between your teeth. The pack should include some way to keep this valve close to your face—most use a simple piece of webbing on the pack's shoulder strap. Some bite valves also have a locking mechanism, which we recommend to avoid leaks.
You'll be filling your hydration pack before each use and sometimes while you are out and about. A hydration pack that's easy to fill will ensure more fun and less frustration. Hydration packs with larger openings or ones that can open entirely generally fill easier. Some hydration bladders need to be removed from the pack, while others can be filled while in place. Many brands now make hydration reservoirs with quick-release hose fittings, so you don't have to unweave the drinking hose from your bag to refill the bladder. Not all water reservoirs have this feature though, so keep an eye out.
Most things that are constantly in contact with water could eventually become moldy or slimy. A good hydration pack should be easy to clean and dry after every use. Naturally, a hydration pack that is easily accessible is easier to clean. Larger openings help when it comes to cleaning the inside of a hydration bladder. You can turn some bladders inside out for cleaning, while others can be cleaned in the dishwasher. In this case, turn the hydration bladder inside out before placing it in the washer. Alternatively, you can use specialized cleaning tablets. Remember that the bite valve and drinking tube also need to be cleaned.
You can evaluate a hydration pack for comfort just like any other outdoor backpack or bag. Features like padded shoulder straps, a sturdy frame, and supportive hip belt will provide more comfort, especially when carrying more weight (like if you go for that three-liter bladder). You'll also want to consider the pack’s breathability—look for bags that have a ventilated back panel made of mesh and foam. When in doubt, try the pack on at a store before buying it.