A drinking system of a hydration pack is useful and simple thing that deserves to enter the arsenal of any active person. But how do you choose a hydration pack and avoid confusion, if there are over 3 000 hydration packs available on Amazon.com alone? There are hydration packs for extreme conditions: for cyclists, hikers, skiers, drinking systems for children and military style hydration packs. How do they differ and what does their price depend on? Let's find out together. We have compared 5 best hydration packs from $22 to $47 for different purposes and needs with capacities ranging from 1.5 to 3 liters. If you already know how a hydration pack works and what to look for when buying it, move on directly to the Top-5 Best Hydration Packs.
Hydration Pack Operation: What to Look For Buying One
Pay special attention to the following crucial aspects when picking a hydration pack:
A hydration pack or a flask?
Like everything ingenious, the design of a drinking system is straightforward: it is a durable plastic bag with a tube about a meter long. Some craftsmen install a hydration pack on their own with a medical dropper and a plastic bottle. However, this design is more for fun and cannot be used on a daily basis.
Unlike a homemade drinking system, the best hydration pack provides for impermeability, is reliable and best suited in terms of engine capacity. By the way, it has been proven that people drink 50% more water out of a hydration pack than out of a flask, as they quench their thirst directly on the move rather than during short stops. So if you want to lose weight or are worried about inadequate water intake, choose a hydration pack. To drink you just have to pull the tube attached to a backpack strap and tighten the valve with your teeth. Your hands meanwhile will remain free.
Classic models’ tanks are screwed on the lid, but there are ones that are equipped with an impermeable clip. You will have to get the clipped tank out of the bag each time you need to fill it with water, but it is easier to wash than a hydration pack with a lid. Some more expensive hydration packs are equipped with both a lid and a clip.
Particular importance should be given to the quality of plastic from which a hydration pack is made. Some customers say that there is a slight synthetic chemical odor before first use, but it disappears afterwards. To be safe, look for the BPA-free mark on the label. It means that the plastic product contains no harmful bisphenol A, causing failure in human endocrine system. Most manufacturers label their hydration packs as "approved by FDA” (Food and Drug Administration) which is also a guarantee of quality.
The pipe and the valve.
A removable flexible tube is plugged into the tank. The seam should not leak through the sealing ring. Typically, the tube is fixed to the backpack strap with Velcro, while the mouthpiece is attached to the chest with magnetic fasteners. To improve the wear resistance and thermal protection, the manufacturers place the tube into a neoprene case (it can be bought separately).
The valve that regulates the water flow is another important element of the drinking system. A valve mounted at 90° is more convenient than a straight one, because it is flexes the tube less during wear. To make the water rise in the tube, you simply hold down the soft mouthpiece with your teeth. After drinking the mouthpiece is attached to the magnet of a backpack’s chest strap. The auto-shut-off valve prevents leakage with its rotating mechanism when the tube is disconnected. Typically, the simpler valve is and the thinner the tank walls are, the lower the price will be.
Hydration packs vary in volume from 1 to 3 liters. A 1.5 liter hydration pack is suitable for jogging and short walks, while the 3 liters volume will be handy during long trips without access to drinking water. Most buyers prefer the middle ground, because a 2 liter hydration pack that's still holds more liquid than two flasks can fit. Thanks to a special department in the backpack, the weight is distributed evenly and does not cause discomfort.
A hydration pack bag.
You can buy a hydration pack separately, without a case or a backpack, but then there should be special straps for the drinking system in your bag.
The best hydration pack for a runner and a cyclist must be compact. Such hydration packs are sold complete with a small case attached on the straps. In addition to the water tank, there is a small pocket for keys, phone and other small items. This is the lightest version of a drinking system.
A roomy backpack with orthopedic back is more suitable for tourists and outdoor activities fans. In order for the back not to sweat, it is recommended to choose a backpack with air-space and mesh straps system. Hydration packs are additionally sealed and can withstand the load of several dozens of pounds in such backpacks.
Maintenance of the desired water temperature is the weak point of any drinking system. In the heat the water warms up, and in the cold it freezes. You are lucky if the tank and tube are provided with a neoprene case as this material is impervious to light and temperature fluctuations. To cool the water, you can use ice or briefly put the tank in the freezer (the tank should be only half filled!).
Here is another piece of advice from experienced users: in the heat or in the cold purge the tube after sipping. If any water remains in the tube, it will either heat or turn to ice inside the tube.
To save the drinking system from frost, some athletes hide the tank under their jacket, which, of course, is not very convenient. You can also foil the hydration pack or wrap it in dense material, but as insulated case is surely a more reliable option.
We’ll begin our review with two expensive models in the price range between $40 and $50. One of them is a military hydration pack with anti-fungal coating and thickened walls, and the second one is very light, with water resistant surface and is made by a well-known brand. Next, let's talk about a model that is suitable even for extremely harsh winter and finish with a simple "urban" best selling hydration pack and a hydration pack especially for children for $22. Let's start!
A Reliable Hydration Pack with Bacteria Protection – Tactical Hydration Pack Backpacks with 2.5L Bladder for Hiking, Biking, Running, Walking and Climbing
A military hydration pack will be useful for all lovers of active recreation, as the military equipment is perfectly suited for survival in extreme conditions. This UniGear model is good value for money. This large backpack has a hydration pack of up to 2.5 liters, adjustable shoulder straps, ergonomic heel, mesh inserts on the back and waist. The water tank has thickened walls made of TPU and holds up to 60 kg. it is protected against foaming and contamination (with the anti-fungal coating covering the mouthpiece). For convenience, the mouthpiece is rotated by 360 degrees.
As for the drawbacks, the lack of insulation is definitely one. However, according to the extreme Spartan race participants, the back lining does not let the water heat up while driving. Read all customer reviews on Amazon.com to make sure it is true.
The manufacturers warn that despite being BPA-free, in the beginning the hydration pack can smell like plastic. In this case you should rinse the tank with warm or carbonated water.
Price: from ~ $42.99 Check the current price
A Maximum Lightweight Sports Model – CamelBak Hydrobak Hydration Pack
Camelbak is a pioneer in the field of hydration packs; it has been successfully producing drinking systems since 1988. To this day, many are convinced that the best hydration pack is sold under the brand Camelbak. While certain parameters (tank volume, backpack size, materials) of this hydration pack are identical to its counterparts’ ones, these ones are more expensive. However, some models have distinct advantages.
For instance, a classic ~$35.99 Camelbak sport hydration pack is extremely lightweight, it only weights 0.56 pounds. The 1.5 liter polyurethane tank is optimal for sports training and has no chemical smell. Also there is a ventilated mesh back and straps, the DWR water repellent cover, four bright color options and a sleek design.
Price: ~ $35.99 Check the current price
A Roomy Hydration Pack For Hiking and a Inclement Winter – Crystal Creek Hydration Bladder with Insulated Water Reservoir Sleeve
The ~$25.99 Crystal Creek Outdoor Gear drinking system has been designed for long hikes and inclement climate. Thanks to the thick tank walls and thermal case, the water in it will remain cold throughout the day, and if the frost hits, the liquid won’t freeze. At the corners of the case there are clips with which it can be attached to a travel backpack, or even a kayak.
The 3 liter tank can hold water for several people. Double reinforced seams make the tank durable and resistant to damage. PEVA material made of organic raw materials, does not give hydration pack any synthetic smell. The tank is completely transparent, it can be washed in the dishwasher.
Price: ~ $25.99 Check the current price
#1 Best Selling Hydration Pack – Hydration Pack with 1.5 L Backpack Water Bladder. Fits Men and Women with Chest Sizes 27" - 50". Great for Hiking - Running - Biking – Kids
This sports hydration pack is a family unit because of its adjustable straps and 1.5 liter capacity. This is a great option for those who do not want to overpay for the brand name, but are conscious about the hydration pack quality. The tank is made of high-quality flexible plastic, which combines durability and heat resistance, is BPA-free. The removable tube case protects it from damage and doesn’t let it heat up.
The Camden Gear hydration pack design is devised in such a way that provides maximum comfort to the user while driving. There is a special hinge, for fixing the tube on the left shoulder strap of and the adjustable chest and waist straps reduce the pressure on your back. The shiny rip-stop nylon used in the making of the backpack is water repellent.
Price: ~ $26.95 Check the current price
Best Kids Hydration Pack
A Stylish Affordable Kids Hydration Pacl – Hydration Pack with 2L Backpack Water Bladder for Hiking Running Biking 4 Colors
This is a universal hydration pack backpack for sports, walking and school for the price ~$15.95. The tank holds 2 liters, is BPA-free, has a wide mouthpiece, allowing filling the tank with ice when it’s hot. The drinking system looks very simple: there is a thin tank, a transparent case-less tube with a sealant, and a plastic valve. This MUSETECH model of course, is not suitable for extreme sports, but its use is justified in an urban setting. The backpack is quite roomy, has two large compartments, soft back lining, wide straps, and is equipped with reflective strips. Both the children and teenagers will enjoy the design as they can choose from 3 different colors: cyan, green and pink.
Price: ~ $15.95 Check the current price
Above we’ve considered the optimal low-cost model, but a wide variety of kids hydration packs are also offered by major companies such as Osprey and Camelbak. However, they are more expensive. When choosing a drinking system for children, material safety becomes crucial; so many users rely on proven manufacturers only. Such lines as CamelBak Skeeter Kid's Hydration Pack (~$29.99) and Osprey Moki Kids Hydration Pack (from ~$49.95) are popular. In fact, they are indistinguishable from high-quality cross-country adult hydration packs, because they have either 1 liter or 1.5 liters volume. Such a quantity of liquid is suitable for children over 7 years old.
The advantage of famous brands is that they take into account those little things that are more important for kids than for adults: easy tank opening, snap-on protective cap for the mouthpiece, a convenient wide valve on the tube. For example, CamelBak Kid's Mini MULE Hydration Pack, which is a children hydration pack, has a patented Big Bite valve, which is not so easy to break!
P.S. How to take care of a hydration pack?
Regardless of which hydration pack will accompany you on hiking or while you are performing sports activities, there are some general rules of thumb for the care of such devices:
- The water tank is not to be washed frequently. Just in case you use a transparent hydration pack which won’t hide a single spot from your eyes. Citric acid will help you deal with the foul smell.
- Dry the hydration pack properly. After washing the tank it is reasonable to put a towel inside so to the walls do not stick together.
- Do not pour juice or tea in a hydration pack. All of the hydration packs on the market are designed for water exclusively. Sugar can settle inside the tank, and the tea will leave dark patina on the walls of over time. To clean the tube you can buy a special brush or use baking soda.