Hydration Backpack Buying Guide

Couple-hiking-in-woods-with-hydration-backpacksOne key to excelling at your favorite recreational pastime or serious athletic pursuit is to keep your body well-fueled and hydrated. If you’re participating in a sport or activity that requires more than 30 minutes of activity, you should have a hydration plan.

That’s where a hydration backpack can make a big difference. You can carry your water and/or electrolytes without the fuss of bottles, flip tops and cumbersome waist harnesses. A hydration backpack is convenient, efficient, and comes in a variety of styles, each with its own “cool” quotient.

Camelbak-hydration-backpackType of activity

The most important factor in choosing a hydration backpack is matching the type of activity you’ll be participating in with your hydration needs. Endurance athletes, trail runners and marathoners will want a minimalist backpack that’s light, designed to be worn for long periods of time and features anti-chafing design elements such as flat seams and fast-wicking fabrics.  All have removable hydration reservoirs that come in a variety of sizes. Runners usually prefer to carry no more than 1 liter of liquid at a time.

If you’re a hiker, climber or biker you may want to opt for a backpack that has a 2 to 3 liter capacity and extra cargo room for your gear. Cyclists can usually handle a medium pack with 1 to 2 liter capacity and modest cargo space.

Nathan-Race-Vest-hydration-backpackIf you’re a winter sports enthusiast, you’ll want to choose a hydration backpack that features insulated sip tubes to prevent freezing.

Reservoir capacity

The hydration rule of thumb calls for athletes to consume an average of 1 liter of water for every hour of activity. Consider the type of hydration backpack that works for your sport or activity when determining how much liquid you need to consume to stay hydrated. The larger the reservoir capacity, the more weight you’ll need to be able to support.

Good fit

After choosing the type of hydration backpack you need and selecting the proper reservoir capacity, it’s time to focus on a good fit. The smaller the pack, the more stable it will be on your back. If you’re participating in an active sport, look for aerodynamic shape and minimal Camelbak-3-liter-hydration-backpackweight.  If you’re looking for both hydration and gear storage, look for a backpack with a waist belt to help distribute the load.

No matter what hydration backpack you get, read up on the proper cleaning and storage of your backpack reservoir and sipping tubes. Both should be cleaned and sanitized after each use to keep them bacteria-free and ready for your next outing.

-by Kelly Tweeddale


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  1. Super helpful article! My family needs a hydration pack really bad for camping and backpacking trips. This guide is such a help to us in our research!


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