Hydration packs are designed to keep you well-supplied with fluids while hiking, biking, running, or wandering. Hydration packs are available with a wide variety of features.
For our purposes, we’ll organize them into three categories.
Hydration reservoirs are those commonly-used but seldom-seen bladders that we slide into our packs, either as a replacement for – or in addition to – the venerable, old-fashioned bottles in our side pockets.
can hold any liquid you please, although they often adopt the essence of
strongly-flavored liquids. Also of note, sugary drinks can encourage bacterial growth
in the reservoir or hose. To deal with this, some people put only water in their
reservoirs and use bottles exclusively for flavored drinks.
backpacks appear to the eye as just that – a backpack. They have shoulder
straps and ride on your back as a typical backpack does.
packs range in their capacity to carry liquids, with the larger packs carrying
up to 3 liters.
also feature storage capacity beyond that of the liquid reservoir. It is in
this feature that you’ll see the most variation in hydration backpacks. The space
for gear in hydration backpacks can range from as little as 100 cubic inches (1.6
liters) of storage to almost over 2000 cubic inches (36 liters).
Many hydration backpacks have features that you’d expect from a quality backpack: internal frames, padded waist belts, load lifters and compression straps. Some have integrated rain covers.
There are also hydration backpacks designed for women and younger hikers. These packs may differ from standard packs in that they:
are small, low-slung packs which ride at your waist or on your lumbar region (lower
back). Some waist packs include hydration reservoirs while others hold 1 or 2 small
waist packs vary in their capacity for liquid and other gear but they are
generally designed to hold small items like keys, phones and phones.
waist packs are designed as lightweight and sleek to make them compatible with
running. Running waist packs also feature easy-to-use bottles and pockets so
that runners can access their packs without slowing down.
Hydration vests are not so much packs as they are highly technical garments. They fit closely to your upper body like a vest.
range in their capacity to carry liquids. Some hold a traditional reservoir in
a sleeve on the back, while others hold bottles on the front of the vest.
are the next step for runners who need a lightweight, snug-fitting hydration option
without the weight (or space) of a pack.
Running vests often offer multiple adjustment points to tighten/loosen the
vest, which help eliminate chafing. Some vests offer insulated liners to keep
liquids cool as well as ice pockets to cool the runner.
that long-distance runners require more support that runners who stay close to
home, some hydration vests offer compartments large enough for an extra layer
or folding poles. Storage pouches on the straps provide easy access to food, energy
bars and gels.
Some hydration backpacks are specialized to serve runners and bikers. They include safety features like:
When you’re out and about on skis or snowshoes, you need to stay hydrated, but cold temperatures provide a unique challenge to your hydration system: freezing. When ice clogs the bite valve or the hose, you can find yourself in the unenviable position of having a full reservoir but no easy way to drink.
Often your body heat and movement are enough to keep liquids from freezing. However, if you spend enough time outside, you will likely encounter this problem when the mercury drops.
cold-weather-ready hydration packs include insulated reservoirs or tubing to
help prevent freezing.
Hydration packs are a convenient way to carry the liquids you need while you’re on the move. Hydration packs come in a wide variety, offering options to accommodate hikers, bikers and runners, whether they’re on city streets or backcountry trails.
Shop Hydration Packs »
Questions? Talk to a gear specialist.
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