We all know how important it is to drink water while we’re hiking, but sometimes it can be frustrating to have to take your daypack off to reach for your water bottle. This is where a hydration daypack is a good solution. These packs come with a water reservoir and accessible mouthpiece so that you can drink on the move, without even having to slow down. They’re perfect for rigorous outdoor activities when you need to stay hydrated throughout the day.

This guide will help you decide which hydration pack is right for your next hiking trip, as well as, what you need to consider when making a purchase.

What’s the difference between a hydration daypack and regular daypack?

A hydration daypack is just one of many different types of daypacks. However, the main difference is that regular daypacks don’t come with a water bladder and their most common hydration solution is to carry water bottles in the side pockets. Hydration packs, on the other hand, are sold with bladders that fit inside a back pouch so that you can sip on water virtually hands-free. However, some regular daypacks are now made with hydration pouches which allows you to add a reservoir after purchase if you prefer.

Hydration packs are also generally smaller in size than regular daypacks. Most hydration hiking packs start from around 10L and go up to 24L, but hydration pouches can be found in packs of all sizes.

Hydration daypacks can also appear different in form and shape, with some designs making the pack sit closer to your body when a full water reservoir is inside. This can make the weight distribution of the water sit more evenly across your back.

The hydration packs covered in this article are those that come with a complete reservoir system included.

Different types of hydration packs

Similar to other types of daypacks, there are a variety of hydration packs that you can choose from for every type of outdoor activity. They generally have different features depending on which activity you plan on undertaking.

Hiking hydration packs

Hiking Hydration Pack
Photo by Adam Bautz

These hydration daypacks are similar to regular hiking daypacks except that they have a built-in hydration reservoir down the back of the pack. They can range in size depending on what kinds of hikes you will be doing.

Running hydration packs

Running Hydration Pack
Photo by akunamatata

There are two types of hydration packs for running: vests and backpacks. They are designed to fit closer to your body to restrict movement while running with vests being a more minimalist option.

Cycling hydration packs

Mountain BikingThese hydration packs are generally lighter and more compact and designed for both road cycling as well as mountain biking. The straps are designed to not interfere with pedalling but still ensure you can drink while riding.

Snowsport hydration packs

Skiing Hydration Pack
Photo by Jonathan Fox

Hydration packs designed for snow sports are more insulated to stop your water from freezing. They are also designed to fit your body to stop any movement while skiing or snowboarding.

Hydration waist packs

Hydration Waist Belt
Photo by Akunamatata

There are also hydration packs that are made to be carried just around your waist. These are generally made for water bottles instead of reservoirs and there is little other storage space. They are best for light and fast activities such as trail running or cross-country skiing.

Main features of hydration packs

When considering different hydration packs and deciding which one is best for you, there are a number of features that you need to pay attention to. Some of the features of hydration packs are similar to most daypacks, such as sternum straps, hip belts, pockets and gender specific fits. These are all important features that you should consider when choosing any daypack. If you want to read more about regular daypack features, check out our article here.

However, there are a number of specific features that are unique to hydration packs that you should focus on when deciding which one is right for you. These include:

Reservoir capacity

The hydration reservoir or bladder that sits inside your pack can come in a range of different capacities. You can usually purchase 1 liter reservoirs up to 3 or more liters. You should consider how much water you will realistically need to carry depending on what kind of activities you plan on using it for. For example, on a long summer day hike you might need to carry three liters, compared to a short half day hike in spring when 1.5 liters would be enough.

You don’t always need to carry a full bladder either. If you plan on doing a variety of hikes, then you can purchase a larger reservoir and only fill it with the amount that you will need.

Pack comfort and fit

Although comfort and fit are something that you should consider for any daypack, it’s especially important to consider how comfortable a hydration pack is with a full reservoir inside. Although aspects like torso length and waist fit are also important, you should still consider how comfortable the daypack is with the water bladder against your back. Some packs have narrower hydration pockets, which can make it less comfortable to wear when the reservoir is full.

Similar with regular women-specific daypacks, you might also want to consider women’s hydration packs. They are better designed for women’s body shapes and can have a more comfortable fit than unisex varieties.

Reservoir opening

It’s best to have a water reservoir that is easy to fill and clean. Reservoirs have different opening types and you should consider this before making a purchase. A wide opening is the easiest to fill and clean, while a smaller opening may require an additional cleaning kit so that you can wash it properly after use.

Drinking tube and bite valve/mouthpiece

The drinking tube and bite valve are how you can easily drink while on the move. Some bite valves twist to open and close, while others operate with a switch so that it doesn’t leak when you aren’t using it. This can come down to personal preference as to which type of valve you prefer.

Tube portals

Tube portals are small holes in the daypack that allow you to thread the hydration tube through to the outside of the pack. This allows you to easily have the tube accessible over your shoulder while you’re hiking. Most packs have portals on either side so that you can decide which shoulder you prefer to drink from, while others have a portal at the center.

Tube clips

Tube clips are a great addition to most hydration packs. These clips are attached to the shoulder strap and allow you to clip the reservoir tube into a more accessible position. This can also keep the tube from annoying you as you move around.

Disconnect tubing

Some reservoirs allow you to quickly disconnect the tube from the main body of the bladder. This is a great option if you need to refill your hydration system mid-hike. It allows you to keep the tube in place on your pack while you fill up the bladder.

Insulation

If you plan on undertaking any winter activities, then you might want to consider insulation. There are cold weather additions such as insulated tubes, insulated bladders as well as covers for the bite valve. This adds extra weight to the hydration pack, but it can be useful if you want to keep your water from freezing in cold temperatures.

Size and shape

Although you can add hydration reservoir systems to packs of any size and shape, most specialist hydration packs are smaller in size than regular daypacks. You can usually find hiking hydration pack options ranging from small 10L up to 24L. The shape can also be slightly different for hydration packs, with some smaller designs bringing the pack to fit closer to the body to ensure even weight distribution. These smaller hydration packs are usually preferable for lightweight hiking when you don’t have to carry too many additional items with you.

Prices of different hydration packs

When you’re considering purchasing any hiking gear, price can be a significant consideration. In general, the cost of hydration packs can differ depending on the brand, quality, size and added features. If you plan on using your pack a lot and expect it to last a long time, it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality hydration pack even if it costs a bit more. Brands such as CamelBak and Osprey are known for their good quality and long-lasting gear, even though they might be a bit more expensive than others.

Categories of hydration daypacks

Best overall hydration daypack

Osprey Manta 24LLink 

Osprey Manta 24 Hydration Pack
This hydration pack from Osprey is one of the best all round daypacks for hiking. It’s one of the most comfortable on this list, plus it has all the extra features that you would expect from a good pack. It has Osprey’s anti-gravity suspension system which offers great ventilation as well as perfectly balanced load distribution. It includes Osprey’s Hydraulics 2.5L reservoir that has its own dedicated compartment with a magnetic sternum strap bite valve for easy access. The extra additions like a rain cover, several pockets and trekking pole attachment, make this one of the best hydration packs on the market. There’s not much to dislike about this pack.

Specs:
· Capacity: 24L
· Weight: 2 lbs 14.3 oz.
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: Yes
· Frame: Internal frame
· Pack access: Panel
· Number of pockets: 7
· Reservoir capacity: 2.5L

Features:
· Adjustable and highly ventilated suspension
· Osprey Hydraulics 2.5L reservoir
· Dual zippered hipbelt pockets
· Ice tool loop with bungee tie off
· Trekking pole attachment

Best hiking hydration daypacks

CamelBak Fourteener 24L

CamelBak Fourteener 24 Hydration Pack

This pack by the hydration pioneers, CamelBak, is a close runner up for the best hiking hydration daypack. It has plenty of features that you would expect from a good daypack, with a comfortable back panel suspension system, great storage capacity and plenty of pockets for organizing your gear. The 3L hydration bladder is one of the easiest to use with a fast flow and wide mouth opening. It’s an especially good option for longer day hikes over rough terrain. There is not much to dislike about this option except that it doesn’t come with a rain cover.

Specs:
· Capacity: 24L
· Weight: 2 lbs 10 oz.
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: No
· Frame: Internal frame
· Pack access: Panel and Top
· Number of pockets: 6
· Reservoir capacity: 3L

Features:
· Load-bearing hip belt with pockets
· Trekking pole attachment and tool loop to secure extra gear
· Separate hydration compartment to leave more room for gear
· Updated reservoir delivers 20% more water per sip

REI Co-op Trail Hydro 20L

REI Co-op Trail Hydro 20L Hydration Pack

The REI Trail Hydro is a comfortable and inexpensive option that is great for most hiking adventures. It is a well fitted design with padded shoulder straps and a ventilated back panel. The dedicated reservoir compartment is also well padded and can still be easily accessed even with a full pack. The only cons for this option are the smaller bladder capacity of 2L and the unpadded hipbelt, which is not as comfortable as others on this list. However, it’s a little more affordable than the Osprey and CamelBak options.

Specs:
· Capacity: 20L
· Weight: 1 lbs 12.8 oz.
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: No
· Frame: Internal frame
· Pack access: Panel
· Number of pockets: 5
· Reservoir capacity: 2L

Features:
· Lightweight, abrasion resistant nylon and seams
· Sternum strap and hip belt adjustable and removable
· Soft pocket for sunglasses or phone on top of pack
· External daisy chain attachment points for trekking poles

Osprey Skarab 22

The Osprey Skarab 22 is a solid hydration choice. It stays true to Osprey’s reputation and is a very comfortable daypack with a great overall fit. However, it has less additional features than the Osprey Manta 24. The Skarab is a top loader with limited access into the pack and there are just a couple of pockets in addition to the main compartment. However, for more minimalist hikers who still want a quality pack, this is a good option.

Specs:
· Capacity: 22L
· Weight: 1 lbs 7.4 oz.
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: No
· Frame: Internal frame
· Pack access: Top
· Number of pockets: 2
· Reservoir capacity: 2.5L

Features:
· Dedicated compartment with Osprey Hydraulics 2.5L reservoir
· Front panel daisy chain attachment points
· Removable hip belt
· Adjustable sternum strap

Patagonia Nine Trails 14 Hydration Pack

Nine Trails Pack 14L

For a smaller hiking hydration daypack, this Patagonia option in their Nine Trails range is a good choice. It’s an all-round performer with a lightweight design, four external pockets and well-padded straps. However, it’s smaller bladder at 2L may not be great for all kinds of hikes and it’s a bit expensive compared to other similar packs on this list. Still, if you’re a fan of Patagonia and would prefer a small sized hydration daypack then this might be the one for you.

Specs:
· Capacity: 14L
· Weight: 1 lbs 5.4 oz.
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: No
· Frame: Frameless
· Pack access: Panel
· Number of pockets: 4
· Reservoir capacity: 2L

Features:
· Separate front pocket for smaller items
· Small pockets on the hipbelt
· Mesh back panel prevents moisture build-up
· Made from lightweight CORDURA brand ripstop nylon for abrasion resistance
· Padded shoulder harness with adjustable sternum strap

Best budget hydration daypack

Gregory Nano H2O 18L

Gregory Nano H2O 18L Hydration Pack

The Gregory Nano H2O is certainly the best budget hydration hiking daypack on the market. It’s a lightweight pack that has ample room for most hiking essentials. The 3L reservoir capacity is a nice addition which is perfect for summer hikes when you need to carry plenty of water. The daypack does sacrifice some luxuries with only a few pockets, not much of an internal frame or ventilated back panel and no rain cover. However, for the price, it’s a great option that still maintains good all-round quality.

Specs:
· Capacity: 18L
· Weight: 1 lbs
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: No
· Frame: Frameless
· Pack access: Top
· Number of pockets: 3
· Reservoir capacity: 3L

Features:
· Removable webbing hipbelt to balance your load
· Easy-pull top drawcord opening for quick access
· Reflective attachment loops for securing other gear

Best insulated hydration daypack

CamelBak Snoblast 21

If you’re taking your adventures into winter and maybe doing some snowshoeing, then this hydration pack by CamelBak should be your go-to. It’s made for winter activities with its thermometer harness, which includes an insulated drinking tube and reservoir sleeve to keep your water from freezing in cold weather. The main compartment can also be accessed through various zips, making it easier when you’re wearing gloves. The only cons with this pack are that the hip belt is not padded and there’s hardly any additional pockets for organizing your gear.

Specs:
· Capacity: 21L
· Weight: 1 lbs 10 oz.
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: No
· Frame: Frameless
· Pack access: Top and panel
· Number of pockets: 1
· Reservoir capacity: 2L

Features:
· Fully insulated hydration system
· Snowshed back panel repels snow
· Adjustable sternum strap
· Designed to carry helmet, snowshoes and board
· Three-zipper design for quick pack access

Best women-specific hydration daypack

Osprey Mira 22

We know that women-specific daypacks have a slightly different design and fit for women’s bodies and it’s the same with Osprey Mira hydration packs. This daypack made specifically for women is one of the best available. It has many of Osprey’s great features such as a ventilated and adjustable back panel, plenty of pockets including in the hipbelt and a trekking pole attachment. It’s a solid pack that makes it slightly heavier than some of the other options on this list, but it’s sturdy with a great all-round fit.

Specs:
· Capacity: 22L
· Weight: 2 lbs 12.3 oz.
· Hip belt: Yes
· Rain cover: Yes
· Frame: Internal frame
· Pack access: Panel
· Number of pockets: 7
· Reservoir capacity: 2.5L

Features:
· Adjusted sternum strap
· Osprey Hydraulics 2.5L reservoir
· Dual zippered hipbelt pockets
· Ventilated and adjusted pack panel
· Trekking pole attachment

Conclusion

Hydration daypacks are a great choice for most outdoor activities with the ability to stay hydrated easily and effortlessly. Whether you’re planning short hikes in summer or long backpacking treks, you’ll find something for every adventure on this list of great hydration packs.