- It’s crucial to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly in the heat.
- Hydration packs make it easy and comfortable to carry liters of water on a run, hike, or bike ride.
- Our top pick, Osprey’s Skarab 18 is comfortable for running or hiking and holds 2L of water as well as essentials.
You know it’s important to stay hydrated on a hike, run, bike ride, or literally any adventure that involves some amount of exercising. But carrying a water bottle and having to constantly stop to pull it out of your pack gets old very quickly.
Hydration packs are the ideal way to make carrying and accessing water easier and minimize stoppage time. The best hydration packs not only have a pouch big enough to hold 1+ liters of water, but they also provide storage for snacks, layers, a first aid kit, and any other essentials you might need on a day hike or run. What’s more, the pack also needs to be comfortable, breathable, and quick-drying to not weigh down your adventure.
The number of hydration packs on the market can be overwhelming, but we’ve rounded up six of our favorites from brands like Osprey, CamelBak, and Salomon.
Here are the best hydration packs:
- Best overall: Osprey Skarab 18
- Best for male runners: CamelBak HydroBak
- Best for female runners: Salomon ADV Skin 8
- Best for day hikes: Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0
- Best for cycling: Gelindo Insulated Hydration Pack
- Best for commuting: Gregory Inertia 30
Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the only day-hiking hydration pack I wear, thanks to its high-quality construction, customizable fit, and easy-to-access water reservoir.
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
Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be my favorite hydration pack.
I’ve found it to be the ideal size for a day hike, weighing just over one pound with enough storage space for hiking essentials. Its foam frame allows for great ventilation and keeps my 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 whether I’m wearing it or I pass it on to a friend.
But what makes this bag truly shine is the large, 2.5-liter water pouch, which does quite well to keep me hydrated on all but the longest day hikes. 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 is still a highly versatile and technical pack.
The best hydration pack for male runners
Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course.
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)
A running-specific hydration pack should sinch down tight and comfortable, and be able to carry enough water for long miles. Camelbak’s HydroBak has a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation and keeping you cool. Its reflective accents help with visibility for early or late runs.
Uniquely, the HydroBak features a Crux reservoir which lets you pull a full 20% more water with each swig. That means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on your stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push for 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.
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.
The best hydration pack for female runners
The Salomon ADV Skin 8 is specifically designed to sinch down on the female figure, and can carry 1 liter of water with the option of adding a reservoir in the back.
Pros: Female-specific design, adjustable to fit different chest sizes, soft material, 2 soft 500ml flasks included, many mesh and zipper pockets, room to carry warm layer
Cons: Expensive, straws can be a bit tricky to adjust
While females can wear any hydration pack, they’ll be the most comfortable in the Salomon ADV Skin 8. Designed by one of the leading trail running brands today, the ADV Skin 8 is uniquely shaped to sinch down tight around female curves so your pack isn’t throwing off your momentum. Specifically, this pack was crafted to alleviate pressure on your breasts and has an adjustable drawcord fasten in the front for a personalized fit. I’m small-chested and have lent this vest to friends as large-chested as 34DD who say it’s just as comfortable for bigger breasts.
While you can slide a traditional reservoir in the back of the pack, the other feature that makes Salomon running vests so great is their integrated soft flasks. Two half-liter water flasks sit on either side of your chest in a soft mesh pocket, allowing for quick water access mid-run.
Additionally, this pack has mesh and zippered pockets strategically placed in nooks and crannies, as well as down the back, to stash everything from car keys to a warm layer. You can even move the elastic cords and loops around to carry trail running poles wherever feels most comfortable to you.
I’ve been running in this hydration vest for two years and the only bad words I have to say about it is it’s expensive (but, in my opinion, worth it for runners) and the straw on the included flasks might need to be cut down, which can be a little tricky to do. –Rachael Schultz, Health and Fitness Updates Editor
The best hydration pack for day hikes
The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering 7 liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir.
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
Platypus’s Duthie A.M. 10.0 has plenty of internal and external storage options with a 7L capacity, 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.
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.
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
While most bikes have space 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.
This pack has an insulated pocket to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, which will keep your water cool for up to four hours. The pack is also designed to keep your body heat from warming the water.
Gelindo included several storage pockets capable of holding energy bars and car keys, and bigger compartments to hold a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tubes. 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.
It’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.
The best hydration pack for commuting
Gregory’s Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easy-access water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.
Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying 3L water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack
Even just commenting to wor requires energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gregory’s Inertia 30 is designed to not only quench thirst 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, as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.
Gregory includes a quick-drying 3L water reservoir that has a built-in drying hangar, perfect for airing it out to avoid 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.