9 Outstanding Hiking Backpacks With Water Bladder [2021]

Do you know what is the one thing that’s more important than staying hydrated while hiking?

It’s being able to hydrate yourself effortlessly – quickly and easily on the go.

AT A GLANCE: OUR TOP 5 PICKS FOR HYDRATION HIKING PACKS

A hydration pack allows you to do just that. No need to lose time and spend precious energy on slowing down your pace and accessing your bottles that are often difficult to reach.

You just bite the mouthpiece that hangs over your shoulder and that’s it. You already drink water before you know it.

In this article, I can’t wait to show you some of the best hiking backpacks with water bladder that you can own this year. We thoroughly researched, tested, and selected only the top-rated models with proven quality and outstanding user feedback.

You’ll have the chance to choose among exquisite brands with impeccable reputation. Sure enough, these packs all have their pros and cons and rest assured – I won’t spare you any.

Now the big question – is the price a factor for quality? In most of the cases – yes, while in some occasions it is certainly not. It’s rare but not impossible to find a high-class backpack at a low price. Especially for those on a budget, I included such rucksacks on this list after a careful consideration.

You will also find a useful buying guide with some important things to consider when shopping for a hydration backpack. Make sure to consult it in order to make the right choice for your needs.

The Editor’s Choice is our top pick. It is here to point you in the right direction. It’s always better to read an expert opinion about which backpack is the best and our reasons why. Of course, the final decision is entirely yours.

Let’s get ourselves rolling and find you a hydration pack, shall we?

Our Top 3 Recommendations

Best overall value
With the distinguished quality of Osprey, Manta 24 shines with tons of useful trail-friendly features and outstanding carrying comfort.
FEATURES:
  • Premium Hydraulics LT 2.5L water reservoir by Hydrapak
  • Highly ventilated AirSpeed back panel and adjustable harness
  • Pocket-rich, with bite valve attachment on the sternum strap
  • Included rain cover
Runner up
The Fourteener 26 L amazed us with its highly functional hydration system, exceptional suspension, and generous storage options. But did we expect any different from CamelBak?
FEATURES:
  • Ergonomic 3 L Crux reservoir that's super easy to operate with
  • Big bite valve on the water hose self-seals after each sip to prevent spillage
  • AirSupport back panel with body mapping technology provenly keeps you sweat-free
  • Multiple organization pockets for strategic gear organization
Best budget choice
Meet the hit Oasis model from Teton Sports! This pack will impress you not only with its ridiculously low price, but with proven durability, convenient adjustability, and dreamlike comfort.
FEATURES:
  • Unbeatable price for its quality
  • 3-L bladder with secured cushioned bite valve and slide top opening for easy cleaning and adding ice
  • Fully adjustable harness for ultimate fit
  • Rugged fabrics for extreme durability

After meticulously comparing, testing, and researching the features and prices of all above-mentioned backpacks, it’s a pleasure to announce our Editor’s Choice this time - #6 Osprey Manta 24 L.

This top-notch Osprey model fits all the criteria and works fantastic both as a hydration system and as a backpack.

It also has the best price – performance ratio. As of this writing, the best price is at Amazon.

The Manta model ticks all the boxes when it comes to comfort, durability, and storage capacity. What makes strong impression is the mind-blowing AirSpeed™ suspension system as well as the unparalleled quality of the integrated hydration components including the 2.5 L Hydraulics™ LT water reservoir.

Last but not least, this is a bestseller with hundreds of five-star reviews.

Make sure to check it out.

Hiking Backpacks With Water Bladder: Quick Overview

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
guh-table__imageOsprey Manta
  • Volume: 24 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 2.5 L
  • Weight: 2 lbs 14.3 oz / 1.31 kg
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageTeton Sports Oasis 1200
  • Volume: 20 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 3 L
  • Weight: 2.4 lbs / 1.1 kg
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageMubasel Gear Insulated
  • Volume: 15 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 2 L
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs / 0.69 kg
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageHigh Sierra HydraHike
  • Volume: 20 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 2 L
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs / 0.72 kg
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageCamelBak Cloud Walker
  • Volume: 18 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 2.5 L
  • Weight: 1 lbs / 0.6 kg
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageCamelbak Fourteener™
  • Volume: 26 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 3 L
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs / 0.52 kg
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageGelindo 18 Insulated
  • Volume: 18 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 2.5 L
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs / 0.9 kg.
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageGregory Citro
  • Volume: 24 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 3 L
  • Weight: 2.3 lbs / 1.05 kg
View On Amazon →
guh-table__imageREI Co-op Trail Hydro
  • Volume: 30 L
  • Bladder Capacity: 3 L
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs / 0.95 kg
Check Latest Price →

#1 Teton Sports Oasis 1200

Teton Sports Oasis 1200

Click image to see price.

With a volume of 20 L the Oasis is a total hit and a long time bestseller. That’s not a surprise because the quality completely outweighs the price. The pack comes with a BPA-free water bladder with a capacity of 3 L and large enough 6-inch opening for easy cleaning. The super comfortable and adjustable fit is convenient for both men and women. Thanks to the excellent storage capacity organized with plenty of external and internal pockets, you’ll have the freedom to take tons of gear on your hike.

Weighting only 2.45 lbs. (1.1 kg) when unfilled, this daypack is compact and lightweight enough for you to wear it comfortably for a long time. Let’s look at some important pros and cons so you have a better idea how the Oasis 1200 performs.

What We Like
  • Included rain cover for extra protection of your precious essentials in heavy rain.
  • Made of extremely durable, water and wear-resistant fabrics (600D PU), the pack will last you for long years.
  • Ergonomic and shock absorbing design with foam stabilizer of the shoulder and chest straps for maximum ease of use.
  • Leak-proof and easy to remove, clean, and refill water bladder with lightweight hose and cushioned mouthpiece.
  • Stunning amount of pockets and compartments to store various items including a 15” laptop in the hydration sleeve (if you remove the bladder)
What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to sip water via the water tube and through the bite valve

I suggest you also read our thorough Teton Sports Oasis 1100 review. This is the smaller model.

#2 Mubasel Gear Insulated 

Mubasel Gear Insulated

Click image to see price.

Another high-rated bestseller, Mubasel is a hidden gem! What makes this backpack great is the presence of many super useful features and the mind-blowing price. With Mubasel, you’ll be able to enjoy drinking cold water for longer because the 2 L bladder is insulated. It keeps your liquid cool for up to 5 hours in the heat. For your convenience, the pack comes with a brush cleaner for the water tube. The breathable mesh padding on the back panel, shoulder, and chest straps makes walking on long distances an enjoyable rather than difficult experience.

What we found strange is that the volume of the backpack is officially unknown. It’s mentioned nowhere. Based on our observation and comparison with other packs, it should be approximately 15 L. Other than that, the weight of the pack is excellent for its size – 1.5 lbs (0.69 kg), thus allowing a comfortable day hike.

What We Like
  • Extendable and secured with a cover bite valve for maximum hygiene and protection – drinking water from it through the water tube is effortless and quick.
  • Plenty of options for storing various-sized items including a grocery zippered pouch, a meshed pocket, and waist-strap pockets. Good amount of gear loops for you to store external gear too.
  • The insulation of the bladder and the hose is not a hoax – it works after testing. No leaking and the large opening allows you to put ice cubes in the bladder.
  • Prevents rubbing and allows extended wearing thanks to the foamed ventilated back panel and athletic cushioned built of the shoulder straps
  • Great stability and fit because of the adjustable ergonomic chest and waist belts and improves safety thanks to the reflective design, and the integrated whistle on the chest buckle
What We Don't Like
  • Not as waterproof as advertised / no rain cover included

#3 High Sierra HydraHike 16 L

high sierra hydrahike 20 l backpack with water bladder

Being one of the world-renowned hiking backpack brands, High Sierra has a lot to offer with this striking hydro model. The HydraHike is perfect as a backpack and as a hydration system. It comes with a 2L bladder and a lightweight sip hose with cover-protected mouthpiece. You’ll love its storage capacity. The pack allows you to neatly store your items thanks to the weatherproof organizer compartment that has smaller divider pockets inside. With its versatility, awesome fit, and amazing comfort, HydraHike is excellent for day hikes and cycling.

What we love about this pack is that it feels like a feather. It’s only 1.72 lbs (0.78 kg). Sure enough, it’s not just the weight but the fit that matters. With the adjustability and the quality of the HydraHike you’ll be able to tighten up the rucksack so it fits closely to your torso, thus preventing load shift.

What We Like
  • Fantastic water bladder and tube quality allowing you to sip water easily on the go. No leaking. Cover-protected mouthpiece for security. 
  • Insanely rugged materials to withstand long usage even in rough conditions – 600D nylon and ripstop polyester.
  • Super convenient multi-compartment design including two meshed side pockets and large front open extensible pouch for storing clothes, shoes, hat, and anything you like.
  • You can achieve great comfort and perfect fit by playing with the padded shoulder, sternum, and waist straps.
  • Enjoy a sweat-free adventure for a long time thanks to the good quality of the cushioned back panel allowing airflow and ventilation
What We Don't Like
  • Side meshed pockets are difficult to reach without taking off the pack

To have a clearer idea of how High Sierra organize the storage capacity of their packs, check out our Swerve 36.5 L backpack review.

#4 Camelbak Cloud Walker 18 L

camel bak hydration backpack

Click image for more details.

It’s not a secret that Camelbak is the Mercedes Benz of the hydration backpacks. The company constantly manages to corner the market by staying ahead of the pack. Their updated Cloud Walker model is a synonym for quality. Here the main star is the bladder. It’s ergonomic, easily refillable, and brings 20% more water flow per sip. Unlike many other packs, the Cloud Walker has an on/off lever so you can seamlessly allow water flow only when you need it. So forget about leaking and feel hydrated and comfortable with this bestselling Camelbak model.

For a backpack with a volume of 18 L, the Cloud Walker is only 1 lbs (600 gr). I found that amazing. It’s perfect for an ultralight day hike or a backpacking trip.

What We Like
  • Top-notch water reservoir that is easy to use, remove, and maintain (2.5 L).
  • Good quality breathable air mesh padding on the back panel and on all straps and belts to allow cooling and better load bearing.
  • Lots of options to attach external gear such as walking poles, hiking boots, a hatchet, hiking shovel, etc..
  • Adjustable sternum strap gives you the freedom to adjust it for more stability or to remove it for extra flexibility.
  • Spacious inner compartments for stowing clothes, food, and other essentials plus good-sized side water bottle pockets.
What We Don't Like
  • Good volume but poor organization / low number of separate storage spaces and stash pockets

#5 Camelbak Fourteener™ 26 L

camelbak fourtneer 26 L hydration pack

Meet the groundbreaking model, a trademark of Camelbak. Fourteener™ 26 is a premium hydration pack with tons of options for comfort, versatility, and storage capacity. It has a sophisticated 3 L water reservoir and a lightweight sip hose that enables fast water flow for intense hikes. You’ll fall in love with the innovative Air Support™ ventilation and suspension system that will allow you to enjoy perfect load balancing and out of this world back cooling even in the most outrageous heat. But wait. There’s a lot more.

The popular Fourteener™ 26 hydro pack has a weight of only 1.2 lbs or 0.52 kg. Its compact dimensions make it perfect for carry-on luggage.

What We Like
  • Practical and easy to work with CRUX™ water bladder having a quick link disconnect option allowing you to remove the tube with a single press. 
  • Exceptionally comfortable Air Support™ cooling system on the back panel with multiple air tunnels providing extra ventilation through multiple channels.
  • Surprising number of compartments and 9 external pockets allowing you to store and protect electronics, food, clothes, etc. This includes front stretch pouch and two hip belt pockets for smaller items.
  • Adjustable hip & chest belt for maximum stability of the load.
  • Super easy to attach trekking poles on the side.
What We Don't Like
  • Very limited color options

#6 Osprey Manta 24 L

osprey manta 24 L backpack with water bladder

Click to see the pack at Amazon.

Everyone’s heard of Osprey and their outstanding reputation for designing insanely comfortable hiking backpacks. Perfect for 1-2-day outdoor adventure, Manta is unbelievably well-though out. It has a first-rate 2.5 L water bladder that will allow you to seamlessly hydrate on the go. Undoubtedly, the most amazing aspect of this model is Osprey’s AirSpeed™ suspension system that provides unrivaled ventilation, soft touch, and even load distribution between the shoulders, chest, and hips. On top of that, the pack features an integrated rain cover and multiple external and internal storage spaces. You’ll be crazy not to check it out.

When it comes to  coloration, you have a choice. You can choose between black and green shade. Of course, the water reservoir capacity and the price stay intact. The weight of the pack is not bad at all – 2 lbs. 14.3 oz or 1.31 kg.

What We Like
  • AirSpeed™ suspension system consisting of shock-absorbing shoulder straps, lightweight internal frame, meshed back panel, and load bearing chest and hip belts. It performs fantastic assuring breathability in hot weather and extra comfort for your back when you carry bulky gear for long hours. 
  • Superbly designed hydration system featuring 2.5 L Hydraulics™ LT lightweight and ergonomic reservoir as well as a thin flexible hose for sipping water easily and quickly while on the move. What’s especially handy is the possibility to attach the mouthpiece on the chest strap via a magnet for instant water access.
  • Maximum rain protection thanks to the removable rain cover stored in a zippered bottom pocket.
  • Easy to organize all your items thanks to the large amount of access points and pockets including side mesh pockets, zippered hip belt pockets, and big elastic front pocket.
  • You can attach and access walking poles while on the go without stopping and taking off your backpack.
What We Don't Like
  • Zipper pulls too short and the pack occasionally makes strange squeaking noise that comes from the internal frame.

#7 Gelindo 18 L Insulated

Gelindo 18 L Insulated

Click to see price.

If you are looking for a multi-storage hydration pack at a reasonable price, then you’ll find Gelindo very interesting. This buddy has a 2.5 L water reservoir stowed in an insulated sleeve. The result is a cooler liquid that stays like that for up to 4 hours, thus making your hike easier and even more enjoyable. The capacity of 18 L is cleverly organized with plenty of pockets and compartments on the right place that will ease your packing and allow you to take various gear, clothes, food, medical kit, and a 13” laptop. Seriously, give it a look.

A nice benefit of the Gelindo is that it’s not heavy. The rucksack weights 0.9 kg or 1.9 lbs when not filled which is OK. To be honest, that doesn’t come as a surprise given the thin fabrics. Here’s the rest of our verdict.

What We Like
  • Good quality of the water bladder. It has a large opening, the hose is easy to remove and has a clip on the left strap for easy access. The mouthpiece has an anti-dust cover which is practical and the water flowing is decent. To stabilize the reservoir, there’s a Velcro fixing in the hydration sleeve which prevents shifting. 
  • Great amount of different storage spaces. You can easily store items in four big compartments plus side meshed pockets for water bottles and padded zippered hip belt pockets to put smartphones or snacks.
  • Ergonomic and cushioned shoulder straps for comfortable carrying with a bonus – integrated safety whistle.
  • Ability to stabilize and distribute the load for extra comfort thanks to the adjustable sternum and hip straps.
  • Waffle-weaved padding on the back panel to prevent overheating and provide soft all-day carrying.
What We Don't Like
  • Material is too thin / easy to tear and back panel ventilation is far from perfect.

#8 Gregory Citro 24 L

gregory citro 24 l hydration pack

Click image for more details.

Another big player in the outdoors industry, Gregory is a name that every hiker knows. Their bestselling Citro model comes with a world-class 3L hydration bladder and stylish design. Combining 7 external pockets, ultra-efficient VaporSpan ventilated suspension, and multiple premium features, Gregory Citro is definitely a pack to consider. You’ll like the sturdy, yet lightweight, cushioned profile that makes wearing heavy loads effortless. Check it out for full features overview!

With a reinforced bottom made out of 420D polyester, the Citro weighs 2.3 lbs or 1.05 kg. Being a daypack, the size fits perfectly as a carry-on as well. But let’s see the pros and cons.

What We Like
  • Highly effective ventilation and suspension system, making wearing the pack a pleasure. The back panel comprises of moisture wicking mesh and EVA foam that evaporates the sweat, thus providing cooler hiking performance while the plush cushioning on the lumber supports the back and provides easier airflow to the upper back. 
  • High-class water reservoir with drying hanger and amazing quick-dry technology that allows the bladder to retain its 3D shape while drying, keeping the bacteria away. Very easy to attach and detach from the sleeve thanks to the SpeedClip mounting technology.
  • Handy on-trail features that ease your life on the go. There’s a sunglasses quick-stow on the left shoulder strap, quick-access trekking pole attachment, and magnetic clip for the tube hose on the sternum strap preventing the tube from dangling around.
  • Excellent options for stabilizing and transferring the load for more comfort thanks to the soft touch chest and waist belts (including zippered hip belt pockets for storing small items).
  • Good amount of internal and external pockets with super comfortable to grip reinforced zipper pulls
What We Don't Like
  • The hydration bladder takes too much space when fully filled.

#9 REI Co-op Trail Hydro 30 L

rei co op trail hydro pack 30 l

You’ll agree that for those longer hikes, you need a more capacious hydration backpack. Search no more. Trail Hydro has it all – fully functional suspension, 7 exterior pockets, and a premium hydration system including a 3 L water bladder that features the Hydraflex™ drink tube for easy drinking. This top-notch pack is made of lightweight, durable fabrics that guarantee years of rugged use. Check it out!

what we like

  • Impressive hydration system featuring hard-sided and foldable Quickload sleeve that makes it easy to slide the bladder in the pack when it’s fully loaded
  • High quality Hydraflex™ tube that has wide mouth opening that self-seals to prevent water slippage and provides fast water flow
  • Very comfortable suspension system and cushioned back panel that’s well ventilated
  • Very easy to organize thanks to the smart pocketing system

what we don't like

  • Small hip belt pockets
  • The hip belt could have been wider towards its end

One of the many things you will like about the Trail Hydro is the quality of the hydration sleeve. REI call it the Quickload pocket. It’s better than the sleeves on other packs on our list because it’s hard-sided.

So what, you’ll ask?

The stable structure of the pocket makes it easier for you to slide a hydration reservoir in it when the pack is fully loaded. That’s not the case with many other packs because their pocket is usually soft. That And because of that, often it’s quite difficult to put the reservoir in the pack if it’s already loaded with gear.

RICH, CALIFORNIA

Verified Buyer, REI

Used this twice so far and it's comfortable and the 3L bladder stays stable and the hose clamp works well. This pack could hold plenty of gear for an overnight trip.

ISAIAH F., NEWTON, MA

Verified Buyer, REI

Got this while on sale a few months ago. Been using it for day hikes in the White Mountains. Awesome pack with plenty of space! Very comfortable and has good support, and has plenty of pockets. Water reservoir is great too. Highly recommend!

That’s especially handy when you have to refill the reservoir quickly and then put it back. No need to unload some items off your pack to get that done anymore.

The best part?

You can fold the sleeve when you don’t use it so that it doesn’t take up space. Isn’t that cool?

But the comfort features of the hydration system don’t end with that.

The bite-valve of the tube self-seals after each use, preventing water spillage. Drinking water from the tube is easy and effortless, and the flow is steady. Conveniently, the opening is wide-mouth. Many cheap hydration packs have problems with the irregular water flow of the tube. Not that one.

Other than the superior hydration system, Rei Co-op Trail Hydro, boasts with advanced trail-friendly features.

The adjustable suspension includes a sternum strap and a waist belt with zippered pockets. Don’t expect too much space from those, though. Still, they are perfect for storing small piece of snack and a smaller smartphone. A small quibble about the hip belt is that it could have been wider. Then it’d be also easier to reach the hip pockets.

The back panel is padded with EVA foam, which adds cushioning, making the pack comfortable to carry for longer periods. Buyers report that they carry up to 25 lbs. comfortably the whole day.

There’s a ventilation channel too that allows the heat to evaporate. So you will enjoy a sweat-free back on those summer days.

Trail Hydro has enough pockets for you to organize your gear in a way that everything will have its own place. What’s cool is the soft pocket on top of the pack. It’s ideal for storing your sunglasses or any other fragile item.

What we also like is that there are daisy chains on the front of the pack. You can attach external gear easily such as a sleeping mat, windbreaker, trail boots, and anything else that makes sense.

This is a panel loading pack, which has its benefits. You don’t need to unload anything from the top to access the middle part. The weight of this stylish backpack is 2.1 lbs. or 950 grams.

Buying Guide & Advice (Including Valuable Tips)

So far so good, but how you decide which hydration pack would serve you best?

It’s true that there are plenty of options on the market and it’s easy to get confused.

In this section, I’ll help you better understand how to make the right choice for you and pick a pack that will be comfortable, reliable, and priceworthy.

First things first.

Understanding Hiking Backpacks With Water Reservoir

If you have never used a hydro backpack before, it’s necessary to grasp the conception of how do hydration backpacks work as well as their pros and cons. It will give you a firm understanding of what to expect when owning a pack with a water bladder.

In brief, a hydro pack allows you to drink water on the go thanks to a sip hose that is connected to a reservoir which is stored in a dedicated sleeve.

The drinking tube hangs over one of your shoulders and passes through a tiny hole in the backpack. On its end, there’s a bite valve or the so-called mouthpiece that you bite to allow water flow.

Here’s a nice illustration for a better understanding.

hydration packs infographic


You refill the bladder with liquid by disconnecting the tube (if the specific model has this option), pulling it out of the sleeve, and filling it with water. Usually the opening of the bladder is large enough so that you can clean it easily and even put ice cubes into it. After that, you carefully stow the reservoir back in the pocket, reconnect the hose and you are ready to go.

In terms of volume, it’s good to know that most of the hiking rucksacks with water reservoir are daypacks. That means their storage capacity is roughly in the range of 6 – 30 L. Keep that in mind.

Don’t prepare for thru-hiking or long backpacking trips with your hydration pack on your mind. It’s designed to accommodate a 1-2 day adventure or a short overnight hike.

Regarding the capacity of the water bladder, the most common volume is between 1L – 3L.

Why It’s Beneficial To Use A Hydration Backpack

The main benefit of hydro packs comes from the unmatched, seamless hydration they provide.

You don’t need to stop or slow down your pace and fight your access to the water bottle that is often difficult to reach, stored in a side pocket.

You just bite the valve while walking and you drink water a second after you thought about it.

Using a pack with water bladder is also incredibly handy when you walk on technical terrains during hot summer days. Often in such cases, you need to drink small sips of water every 10 minutes without wasting time and energy to stop and pull out the bottle from a pocket.

Furthermore, having a hydration pack allows you to carry bigger amounts of water (up to 3L) more comfortably. Often, putting one or two water bottles in either side pouch disturbs the overall balance of the load, making your backpack swing side to side.

Having a water bladder is much more convenient because of its ergonomic shape. It easily allows the reservoir to fit closely to your back. In that way, the load is distributed more evenly which is crucial to your stamina, back health, and comfort.

What To Look For When Buying A Pack With Water Bladder

Let’s begin by something that you don’t want to overlook.

Health Considerations

Probably the most important thing you have to pay attention to when purchasing a hydro pack is whether the reservoir is BPA-free.

The abbreviation stands for the industrial chemical bisphenol A. It is found in plastics and without entering into details, do know that it’s dangerous to health. That’s why always look for bladders that are marked BPA-free and FDA (food and drug administration) approved.

hydration bladder

The hydration system should always be BPA-free and FDA-approved. Image via Toytoy.

Usually some manufacturers even give certificates stating their reservoirs are harmless and free of this chemical compound. Be careful when choosing a pack from low-budgeted, shoddy brands. All of the respectful names in the industry produce bladders that are BPA-free and FDA-approved.

You will find that all backpacks in our list obey to this health standard too.

Hydration System Considerations

You are purchasing a hydro pack so undoubtedly you want to be able to drink water effortlessly with it.

First off, it’s best to decide on the volume capacity of the bladder. To ease the decision, you need to compare it to the overall volume of the backpack.

Will you have enough space left for your gear once the reservoir is full? Are you going to use the pack for longer hikes or short day adventures?

Know that often, it’s possible to change the bladder. That means you can put a smaller or a bigger water reservoir in the sleeve. Make sure to verify if that’s doable, though.

You can to that by reading all the information and customer reviews about the pack. Don’t hesitate to ask relevant questions the seller or contact directly the manufacturer.

Second off, inform yourself how easy the water flow passes through the sip hose and reaches the bite valve. Many cheap brands fail on that and this is something that could be pretty annoying on the trail.

Another important criterion is whether the water bladder is leak-proof and puncture resistant. Again, be careful with the cheaper brands. Read as many customer testimonials as possible.

Yes, you can always change the bladder if something happens, but it’s best to spare yourself the time and money.

Watch the video below which gives some useful insights on the topic.

Depending on your budget and preference, it’s not a bad idea to invest more money on some cool extras that will contribute to your comfort and better hydration. For example, you can choose an insulated bladder that keeps your liquid cold for hours.

Furthermore, you may have a pack whose bladder have the option to dry fast thanks to its design and ergonomic shape. That helps eliminate bacteria. Some of the bladders even have dry hangers, which often comes in handy too.

Last but not least, you might want to consider a hydration pack that has an anti-dirt cover on the mouthpiece. This is great because it protects the bite-valve when you put your pack on the ground. Something that’s especially useful is having a magnetic clip on the chest strap or on the shoulder strap where you can position your sip hose for easier access.

So consider every option and decide whether or not you need those additional features. Always think long term.

General Backpack Considerations

Comfort.

That’s the most important thing about a hiking backpack. You can a have great capacity, excellent fabrics, lifetime warranty, and many other perks such as an integrated rain cover, for instance. But all that doesn’t matter if the pack feels uncomfortable on your back. If that’s the case, it’s unwearable.

Here’s what to look for if you want to make sure you’re choosing a good backpack:

  • Good fit and adjustability – the rucksack should be easily adjustable to fit your frame. You have to be able to adjust the shoulder, chest, and waist straps seamlessly. The pack should ‘embrace’ your body.
  • Decent ventilation and padding – look for packs that have ventilated back panel that evaporates the sweat and doesn’t retain the heat. Padding is important on the back and at least on the shoulder straps to prevent rubbing.

That’s it.

These are the basics. If you have that, you will feel good while wearing your backpack. You can make compromises with every other feature to achieve a good price. However, we highly recommend you go for a pack that have the basics. It’s important.

The good news?

Most of the packs these days have those options. And all the packs described in our list above have them too. Sure enough, some backpacks are better than others in some aspects.

hiking

Comfort should be your first criterion when looking for a backpack.

Therefore, based on your needs and preference, you have to decide what’s most important to you – to have better padding or better ventilation, for instance. Of course, you can have both but in that case, it’s highly likely that the price will be bigger. By the way, if the price is a serious factor for you, check out the best cheap hiking backpacks of 2021.

Here’s our advice on what else to look for when it comes to other additional backpack features:

  • Sturdy materials – the higher the denier of the nylon or the polyester, the higher are the chances that your pack will last you longer. Plus, most of the waterproof backpacks are made of rigid materials.
  • Enough storage room – that not only means big overall volume measured in liters. Aim for a pack that has multiple compartments and pockets so you can organize your various-sized items correctly.
  • Internal frame – the presence of an internal frame is related to the volume of the pack but if you’re buying a rucksack that’s over 25 L it’s best if it has an internal frame. It makes it more solid and stable.
  • Suspension system – that’s an integrated mechanism that combines ventilation, adjustability, and ergonomic design. It’s essential for you comfort. A good suspension system reduces strain and fatigue and distributes the weight of the load evenly all over your body.

Honestly, you’ll be good if you pack doesn’t have other features.  Everything additional comes as a bonus. An integrated rain cover? Yes, it’s pretty handy but not essential. If your hikes involve significant amounts of water, consider investing in a hiking dry bag. And read our review of the Unigear dry bag

 A safety whistle or a small pocket for your shades on the shoulder strap? It’s awesome but again, not absolutely necessary.

I hope you get the idea.

Price Considerations

Depending on your budget, you will face different dilemmas.

If you’re looking to buy a cheaper hydration pack and that’s roughly below $60, then inevitably you will have to choose between quality and price.

In most of the cases, there’s an unavoidable trade-off between price and quality and this is something you should keep in mind. Of course, there are many exceptions.

It’s true that there are some hidden gems. In fact, in our list you’ll find packs below $40 that perform surprisingly well. Still, there’s some sort of a trade-off involved.

price

Often, but not always, the price of a pack is a quality factor.

Either the hydration system doesn’t work so well, either there’s no good ventilation on the back panel. That’s why we included a Pros and Cons section in our reviews.

When you’re looking for a hiking pack with a water bladder, you’re not only purchasing a backpack or a hydration system. You’re purchasing a hydration backpack with a hydration system, as a whole.

It’s important that your desired pack performs equally well both as a backpack and as a hydration system.

If you want to achieve that, then most probably you’ll have to sneeze more than $70. Typically, it would be something in the range of $80 - $130.

Our advice is to be ready to invest more money on your next hydration backpack while at the same time keeping an eye on the cheaper packs.

As mentioned above, there are some hidden gems among them that definitely deserve your attention.

Think of the process as a long-term investment that will enhance your life. It’s true.

Tips For Maintaining Your Hydro Pack

If a standard backpack needs a good care, a hiking pack with water bladder requires a little more effort to stay in a good shape for longer.

Don’t be scared, though, it’s nothing complicated.

Always clean the reservoir after each use and let it air dry completely before using it again. Rinse it with hot water. You can use baking soda or dish soap for maximum effect. It’s easier if you scrub it with a brush too.

If you use it for the first time, it’s possible that you sense a plastic or rubbery smell. To eliminate the odor, wash the bladder with a bleach or with a lemon juice. It helps a lot.

Don’t use any other liquids but water in the bladder, especially alcohol or milk.

Enough with the dos. Let’s talk about the donts.

Don’t use any other liquids but water in the bladder, especially alcohol or milk. That will help prevent bacteria growth. Also, it’s important not to expose the reservoir to UV lights for long periods and to extreme temperatures.

Avoid using it extensively when the temperature is below - 20° or above 40°.

Keep those elementary rules and your backpack will serve you well for many years.

Conclusion

I truly hope that this list will serve you well on your way of choosing the best possible hydration backpack. We made sure to cover high-quality packs with included water bladder and with various prices that have everything you need to spend some great time outdoors.

Let this diversity not confuse you but help you see the bigger picture and make the best choice. Don’t forget to consult the buying guide. I dare to say it’s very useful.

Should you have any questions, comments, or remarks, leave them in the comments below.

Have fun and happy hiking!

best winter hiking hats

Asen Stoyanchev

Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.

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  • July 11, 2019
Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 10 comments
Fred - July 11, 2019

Hi Asen, thanks for the excellent review. It’s full of details and you covered some points I have not even considered.
For example, you pointed out that some reservoir might not be BPA free. Especially those substandard backpacks.
Thanks,
Fred

Reply
    Asen - July 11, 2019

    Most welcome, Fred!

    Reply
Mike - July 12, 2019

Wow…I am amazed at the range of hi tech products available today for the hiker. I haven’t hiked for many years so was really pleasantly surprised and inspired. Thanks, Mike

Reply
    Asen - July 15, 2019

    Hi Mike,

    Glad you liked what you read. See you around 🙂

    Reply
Kat - July 12, 2019

Wow, such a thorough in depth review of a wide range of hydration backpacks. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure if they accommodated for other stuff to be able to be carried too, so I’ve realised it can be. You know, when considering a hydration backpack, this really covers everything. For someone who hasn’t had one before, this is so helpful in knowing what to look for and what concerns or things you didn’t like about each one. Thanks heaps for putting it all together the way you have. Also, you’ve presented it so well, and makes it easy to read while figuring out which one would be most suitable for me. Thanks for a great post.

Reply
    Asen - July 15, 2019

    Hey Kat,

    Very much appreciated.

    Reply
hydration pack - August 22, 2019

This is a great resource that provides some really cool backpacks to keep you hydrated during outdoor activities.

Reply
    Asen - September 1, 2019

    Hi there,

    Thanks for reading. I hope it’s useful to you.

    Reply
Vicky - January 16, 2020

So I am going on a trek with a group suggesting a 26-4oL pack with a 3 L water bladder. i cant find one on your suggestions that fits that criteria. Any other suggestions?

Reply
    Asen - January 17, 2020

    Hi Vicky,

    I hope your trek will be exciting! I understand you need a pack with a slightly bigger volume and a 3L water bladder capacity? In that case a very good choice would be Rei Co-Op Trail Hydro 30 L or Gregory Citro 30 L. Feel free to ask if you have any questions. Have a great hike!

    Reply

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