If you’re a long-distance runner, hiker, or walker, you know how annoying it can be to lug around a water bottle—but you don’t have to struggle anymore. There’s an easier way to carry essentials, including food, water, your ID, and more during your all-day excursions: hydration packs. These are bags you wear that have plastic or rubber “bladders” or pouches that can be filled with liquid, allowing you to access water more easily through a drinking tube.
Before you dive into what to look for in a hydration pack, first determine whether you need one at all. “It really comes down to what your workouts are like. If you’re running, walking, or hiking less than five miles, you don’t need a hydration pack, but if you are planning to be on the move for a longer distance, then definitely get one,” says Lauren Sheu, a certified running coach and owner of Running for Wellness.
How to choose the best hydration pack for you
There isn’t one perfect hydration pack for everyone, since the one you choose will depend on what you need it for. Here’s what to consider:
✔️ The right fit: Hydration packs are available in many forms, including backpacks, vests, belts, and waist-bags. If you’re running, you’ll probably want to opt for a hydration pack in backpack or vest form. They’re easier to move in and won’t weigh you down, Sheu says. Hydration packs that go around your waist are more likely to bounce, so they’re better for biking and walking, since your body jostles less (cyclists, though, might prefer a backpack or a waist pack that sits on the lower back rather than in the front).
However, no matter what activity you’re doing, “find one that has a good snug fit, and that has some level of bounce resistance,” Sheu advises. Otherwise, the pack might rub against the skin, chafe, or cause general discomfort.
✔️ Breathable materials: “It doesn’t matter what long-distance activity you’re doing; the material needs to be lightweight, breathable, chafe-free, and waterproof,” Sheu says. Look for nylon, polyester, vinyl, or mesh fabrics. These breathable materials won’t feel heavy and won’t get soggy in the rain.
✔️ Capacity: The most important feature of any hydration pack is its storage space. Smaller packs may only have 1-liter bladders that store water and a few small pockets, while others may have bladders that hold up to 3 liters of water with space for other gear like your phone and an extra shirt.
Determine how much storage you really need by thinking about your outdoor adventures, Sheu explains. If you’re generally out all day, go for a larger size; but if you’re only planning on being on the move for a couple of hours, pick a smaller size—you’ll be glad you aren’t lugging around too much. “Try to go for the lightest possible hydration pack that you can because you want to cut down on extra baggage weight, especially when you’re running and hiking; you want to feel as light as possible,” Sheu adds.
Ready to find the best one for your outdoor adventure? Ahead, shop top-rated hydration packs for long-distance walkers, cyclists, runners, and hikers that are worth your money.
KUYOU’s backpack is great for beginners. You’ll get a basic feel of what hydration packs offer for an affordable price. Plus, it has most of the features you’d want, including a breathable feel and a 2-liter hydration bladder for water that you can drink on the go. It also has adjustable straps that allow you to customize the fit.
This running is one of the most minimal hydration pack styles. “This is my favorite. It goes around the waist, and it has a snug fit,” Sheu says. It also doesn’t bounce, so it can work great for walkers, runners, and hikers. The belt has two flasks that are leak-proof, and each holds 10 ounces of water.
This Amazon #1 bestseller is great for all your outdoor excursions. Its insulated compartment keeps your water cool for hours of activity time. It has a 2-liter leak-proof bladder and is available in 17 colors, including orange, purple, and emerald green.
This hydration pack is made for all-day hikes. It’s lightweight, has storage for all your essential gear, and has a 2.5 liquid bladder. It’s made of nylon materials and even has compression straps that can carry trekking poles.
“The thing I love about this one is that it has a lot of storage and is tailored to fit you,” Sheu says. It’s also lightweight, which is great for all your long-distance adventures, and it’s made of nylon and polyester, which are breathable and won’t chafe. It has a bladder that stores 2 liters of water, and its front pockets can fit two 11-ounce water bottles.
“It’s so comfy, and it has a great waterspout that’s easy to use,” Sheu says. This is one of Camelbak’s most popular running vests designed with women’s bodies in mind. It features a zippered phone pocket along with five other pockets, reflective accents that keep you visible while you’re outside, and a hydration bladder that holds up to 1.5 liters of water.
Don’t be fooled by its size. This waist-bag will fit most of your essentials, including your phone and a snack. It features two zippered belt pockets and a large main zippered compartment. Plus, it has a 1.5-liter bladder with a magnetic bite valve, making it super easy to drink from while you’re on the move. This pack is great for long-distance walkers and bikers, and it comes in various colors, including red and green.
A Patagonia reviewer says the fit of this hydration pack is “spot on.” Its adjustable shoulder strap and waistbelt allow you to control how it fits your body. The pack is made of nylon making it a great lightweight option for those all-day adventures. It also has a 2-liter water bladder and five compartments to fit your things in.
If you want to buy a vest style without breaking the bank, try this one. You’ll feel comfortable for hours in this lightweight and adjustable hydration pack. It features 11 pockets to store the things you’ll need during a day of outdoor activities. The water bladder feature is optional and must be purchased separately. However, it comes with two water bottles with their own pockets in the front of the vest.
Hydro Flask’s Down Shift Hydration Pack is a pricier option, but it’s one of the best. The pack features a built-in system that keeps water chilled for over four hours. It holds up to 2 liters of water that can easily be refilled after every outdoor excursion. The pack’s back panel is padded for extra comfort, and the shoulder, sternum, and hip straps are adjustable, allowing for a customizable fit.