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It’s incredibly important to stay hydrated while active, and with the Osprey Skarab 18 hydration pack, it’s never been easier or more comfortable.
The Skarab 18 has enough storage space for all the hiking essentials you need on a day hike, but it can also excel over longer distances, thanks to its 2-liter bladder.
As anyone who’s ever been parched on a hike can attest, being miles away from the nearest source of drinkable water isn’t particularly ideal. Not only does being thirsty take away from enjoying the outdoors, but being dehydrated can dramatically sap a hiker’s energy. Thankfully, backpack companies understood this for the issue it is and began manufacturing hydration-specific packs built for a variety of uses.
By designing hydration packs with special compartments built to hold flexible water pouches, anyone has the ability to take liters of potable water with them wherever they go. Be it a five-mile day hike, a longer backpacking trek, or even a long-distance bike ride, there’s a hydration pack available to satiate anyone’s thirst.
While a company like CamelBak built its name on revolutionizing the hydration pack, large backpack makers like Osprey and Gregory helped perfect it. As more brands have a hand in creating their own takes on a now tried-and-true concept, the market seems flooded with options.
Despite the overwhelming amount of hydration packs, selecting the right pack can be simple. Before buying, it’s important to decide on three major features: What activity it’s used for, the amount of gear it needs to hold, and how much water is required. With that said, a proper hydration pack is one that won’t feel too heavy when the water reservoir is full, features the ability to carry a moderate amount of personal items, and is comfortable to wear, even over several hours.
Here are our top picks for the best hydration packs:
Best hydration pack overall: Osprey Skarab 18
Best hydration pack for runners: CamelBak HydroBak
Best hydration pack for day hikes: Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0
Best hydration pack for cycling: Gelindo Insulated Hydration Pack
Best hydration pack for commuting: Gregory Inertia 30
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.The best hydration pack overall
Why you’ll love it: Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the last day-hiking hydration pack you’ll need, thanks to its high-quality construction, internal frame that keeps it comfortable mile after mile, and easy-to-access water reservoir.
A behemoth in the outdoor gear industry, Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks on the market. From small day hikers to full-on, pack-your-life-away backpacking bags, the Osprey has developed a sterling reputation and loyal following. That’s why it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be our favorite hydration pack.
It’s a smaller pack that fits squarely into the realm of day hikers. The Skarab weighs just a touch over one pound, but it still offers enough storage space for hiking essentials — no matter if it’s a camera, a few bags of trail mix, or a spare change of shoes.
Even with a heavier bag, its foam frame allows for superior ventilation, keeping your 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 who’s wearing it.
But what makes this bag truly shine is why it’s nabbed the top spot on this list. Featuring Osprey’s new Hydraulics LT 2.5-liter water pouch, unless the pack is expecting to make a multi-day trip, running out of water will take some work. 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 versatile and technical for those who demand it.
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
The best hydration pack for runners
Why you’ll love it: Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course.
As companies like Osprey or Gregory brainstormed ideas for their first hydration packs, CamelBak had already firmly established itself as the go-to brand. Today, it still makes some of the most functional and appropriate options on the market, and its HydroBak continues this trend. For runners, it doesn’t get much better.
Thanks to the new Crux reservoir, you can expect a full 20% more water with each swig which, for runners, means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on their stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push. This means 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.
CamelBak outfit the HydroBak with a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation, something runners of any skill level will surely appreciate. Its reflective accents also make it suitable for running early in the morning or as the sun is setting, allowing for headlights or flashlights to brightly reflect and spotlight the wearer.
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.
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)
The best hydration pack for day hikes
Why you’ll love it: The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering seven liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir.
Known primarily as a purveyor of high-quality water reservoirs, Platypus also dabbles in manufacturing full-on hydration packs and its Duthie A.M. 10.0 would be the apple of any day hiker’s eye. With plenty of internal and external storage options even for additional tools and gear, the Duthie’s 7L capacity is 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.
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
Cons: Its $140 price tag isn’t exactly cheap for a hydration pack
SEE ALSO: The best hiking socks you can buy
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