Last updated: August 10, 2021

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A hydration pack is the ideal companion to provide you with sufficient water supply during sports or hiking. With the help of a tube, you can easily refill your water supply during your activity.

Involuntary breaks and tangles in your backpack are a thing of the past. Our detailed hydration pack test 2021 should help you find the best hydration pack for you. To do this, we have looked at various hydration packs and determined the decisive factors. We also answer the most frequently asked questions and present our personal favourites.




Summary

  • A hydration pack is a backpack with an integrated hydration bladder and a drinking tube.
  • This allows you to easily take in fluids during sports without having to put down your backpack or take a break.
  • Which hydration pack is best for you depends largely on the activity in question. For example, jogging, hiking or cycling have different requirements.

The Best Hydration Pack: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for hydration packs

To find the best product for you, you should pay special attention to a few factors when buying a hydration pack. We have compiled the most important features for you so that you don't lose track of the abundance of different products. These include:

In the following paragraphs, we will show you what you should pay particular attention to in the individual criteria.

Filling quantity

To ensure that you have enough to drink and at the same time don't have to carry unnecessary weight, choosing the right capacity plays a central role when buying a hydration pack. The capacity you should choose depends on the activity you are planning.

It is important to find the right balance between sufficient fluid supply and as little additional weight as possible.

The most popular hydration bladders have a volume of 1 to 3 litres. The volumes in between are usually available in 500 ml increments.

Capacity Intended use
1 litre short hikes or runs
1.5 to 2 litres longer runs, hikes or bike tours
2.5 to 3 litres marathons, trail running, day hikes

If you only want to jog or hike a short distance, a capacity of 1 litre should be sufficient. This ensures that you can drink enough for the duration of the run without putting too much weight on yourself.

If you are planning a longer run, an extended bike ride or a hike lasting several hours, you should aim for about 2 litres. This is the ideal way to compensate for the fluid deficit that occurs during prolonged exercise.

If you are involved in extreme sports, a capacity of 3 litres is appropriate. For marathons, trail running or day hikes, your body needs a very high fluid intake, which is guaranteed by a larger hydration bladder.

Carrying system

The comfort of a hydration pack depends not only on the capacity but also on the carrying system used. Which carrying system is right for you depends on your activity.

The backpack should fit tightly, but without restricting your freedom of movement.

Shoulder straps are essential for optimal weight distribution and are therefore available on all types of backpacks. You should make sure that they are wide enough so that they do not cut in. They should also be adjustable so that you can adapt them to possible changes and thus guarantee an optimal fit.

In addition to the shoulder straps, some models are equipped with straps. These are intended to provide additional support and better weight distribution. These straps are attached either at the level of the abdomen or the ribcage.

However, the belt at stomach level in particular can restrict your freedom of movement. You should therefore try out the backpack before buying it and then decide whether the straps suit your needs or not.

Additional storage space

To keep your hands free during sports, the hydration pack must not only offer space for the hydration bladder. Depending on the activity you want to do, a few additional pockets and compartments may be useful.

Your hydration pack should definitely have some small pockets for your mobile phone or keys. Especially if you use your smartphone as a fitness tracker, there should be an easily accessible pocket for it.

If you are planning a very long hike, your hydration pack should have a lot more storage space. There should definitely be enough space for food, first aid supplies and a change of clothes.

One special feature that not every hydration pack has is holders for trail poles. If you are a trail running enthusiast, you should pay attention to this feature. If you mainly use your hydration pack on a motorbike or bicycle, then you should look for hydration packs with protectors. Protectors are also recommended for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding.

Hydration system

To ensure that your preparations for the trip go as smoothly as possible, you should not neglect to choose the right hydration system. Above all, the opening for filling the hydration bladder plays a central role.

First of all, you should make sure that the hydration bladder is properly secured in the backpack. This not only makes it more comfortable to carry, but is also easier on the material.

A removable hydration bladder makes filling and cleaning easier.

The same applies to the opening of the hydration bladder. The larger the opening, the easier it is to fill the bladder. In addition, you can clean the inside of the bladder more thoroughly and thus prevent a change in taste.

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a hydration pack

In addition to the most important evaluation criteria of hydration packs, there is also other information that you should definitely know before buying. In the following section, we have collected the most frequently asked questions and answered them in detail.

What is special about a hydration pack?

A hydration pack allows you to maintain a constant water supply during sports or hiking. You don't even have to take a break or put the backpack down. Since the integrated hydration bladders are available with different fill volumes, you can choose one specifically for your needs.

This way you can ensure sufficient hydration and avoid unnecessary extra weight at the same time.

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A hydration pack allows you to go on long tours without stopping to drink.
(Image source: Brian Erickson / unsplash)

The tube connected to the hydration bladder allows you to drink at any time during your activity. You don't even have to use your hands, as most tubes use a self-closing bite valve. The advantages of a hydration pack over a conventional backpack are obvious:

  • integrated hydration system
  • light weight
  • breathable material

Who are hydration packs suitable for?

You can use a hydration pack for a variety of sports and activities. Some of the most common are the following:

  • Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Mountain biking
  • Trail running
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Stand Up Paddling

Especially for endurance sports like marathons, it is important to drink fluids regularly. However, since you won't have a permanent opportunity to stop for a drink either during training or during the actual marathon, you should carry the liquid with you yourself.

But a sufficient supply of water is also essential on longer hiking tours. With conventional backpacks, however, rummaging for a water bottle can be very time-consuming, especially if the backpack is packed full.

A hydration pack is also useful for sports where you have to wear a helmet with a visor. The tube can usually be slid under the helmet, so you can always get your drink when cycling, skiing or motorcycling.

What are the alternatives to a hydration pack?

Hydration packs are particularly suitable for people who exercise very regularly and plan longer activities. If you consider yourself to be more of an occasional sportsman, then here are two alternatives.

Hydration waistcoat

Hydration waistcoats are very similar to hydration packs. Here, too, most models allow you to drink without interrupting your activity with the help of a tube. Most hydration waistcoats also use a hydration bladder with an attached tube that sits on your back.

However, there are also some hydration waistcoats that have two holders on the front for smaller bottles or similar fluid containers.

Advantages
  • Tighter fit
  • lighter weight
Disadvantages
  • less storage space

The biggest difference from a hydration pack, however, is the smaller capacity. Hydration waistcoats usually only offer storage space for a key or mobile phone. However, it has advantages in terms of fit and weight.

Hydration belt

The smallest and lightest option for carrying a drink during exercise is a hydration belt. These are strapped around the waist and offer space for the essentials.

Advantages
  • small and light
  • easy to clean
Disadvantages
  • not a proper hydration system
  • very little storage space
  • not very stable fitting

Since the compartment can hold 1 to 2 bottles as well as keys or a mobile phone, even with a hydration belt you will have your hands free most of the time during sports. In addition, you don't have a backpack on your back that could lead to increased sweating.

However, you have to do without any storage space and the advantages of a proper hydration system. To quench your thirst, you still have to take the bottles out of the belt and open them separately. This solution also has its advantages, but it is mainly suitable for occasional athletes or if you only run very short distances.

How many litres can a hydration pack hold?

The capacity of hydration bladders varies from model to model. However, the size of most models ranges between 1 and 3 litres. However, there are also a few special models with a larger hydration bladder. However, these are not very common and at most offer space for about 5 litres.

When buying, you should note that the maximum capacity is always stated. If you want to use carbonated drinks, you should not fill the bladder completely. The carbonic acid will cause the bladder to inflate too much.

You should also pay attention to the information in the product name. Many suppliers state the total capacity of the backpack and not the size of the bladder.

Volume specifications of more than 3 litres usually refer to the storage space and not the capacity of the hydration bladder.

How much does a hydration pack cost?

How much you have to spend on a hydration pack depends mainly on your needs. The more additional functions and storage space the backpack offers, the higher the price. You can get a cheap entry-level model with enough storage space for around €60.

The most expensive models, on the other hand, cost up to €300. In any case, you should first be aware of what exactly you expect from a hydration pack. Once you have an exact idea, you can then look for a reasonable price.

It is of little use if you automatically go for the cheapest model. These are often only equipped with the most necessary functions and leave a lot to be desired in terms of storage space and adaptability.

Especially for dangerous sports, you should not put the price of your hydration pack at the top of your priorities. If you want to ride a motorbike or mountain bike, a good protector is essential. However, this is reflected in the price of the backpack.

How do I clean a hydration pack?

In order to enjoy your hydration pack for as long as possible, you should clean the bladder and the tube after every use. In the following, we will give you a short guide on how you should best proceed:

  1. Preparation: Remove the tube from the bladder. Then remove the bladder from the backpack.
  2. Emptying the tube: Hold the tube vertically downwards and open the valve so that the remaining liquid can drain off. You may need to blow into the tube to remove any residue.
  3. Emptying the hydration bladder: Loosen the cap of the hydration bladder and dump out the remaining liquid.
  4. Rinse: Run clean tap water through the tube and into the bladder.
  5. Cleaning: Use a long, soft hose brush to thoroughly clean the hose. For the bladder, use a soft sponge or cloth.
  6. Drying: Hang the hose stretched out in a dry place. When drying the bladder, make sure that there is air in it and that it does not stick together.

What drinks can I put in a hydration pack?

Basically, the bladder of a hydration pack can be filled with any drink. However, you should pay attention to the temperature and the sugar and carbon dioxide content. In any case, still mineral water is best.

As long as the temperature does not exceed 50°C, there is nothing to worry about. Cleaning is very simple and there is no danger of the bladder inflating.

If you prefer carbonated water for your activities, then you should definitely fill less than the maximum amount. Your movement will cause the water in the backpack to shake and the bladder to inflate. Therefore, always leave enough space in the bladder.

The same applies to other carbonated drinks such as apple spritzer or beer. In addition, you should clean both the tube and the bladder more thoroughly after use. Sugar and other ingredients can otherwise quickly cause germs to form or the material to stick together.

Most manufacturers strongly advise against temperatures of over 50°C.

You should always refrain from drinking hot drinks, as the bladder could become deformed or particles could be loosened and end up in your drink. Liquids such as tea should be allowed to cool before filling.

What colours are hydration packs available in?

Just like regular backpacks, the choice of colours for hydration packs varies from brand to brand and from model to model. Most hydration packs are available in plain colours such as black, grey, brown or dark blue. These are especially popular because they are not so sensitive to dirt.

In addition, hydration packs with a camouflage pattern are not entirely untypical. This is mainly because these are also very insensitive to dirt and because these types of backpacks are often used during long marches by the German Armed Forces.

In addition to the common colours, there are also much more unusual models. Depending on the model, you will also find a rucksack in yellow, red, pink or turquoise.

Can I wear a hydration pack under my jacket?

How you can wear your backpack depends mainly on the model. Whether you can wear your hydration pack under a jacket also depends on how full you pack it.

Some manufacturers offer special rain covers for their hydration packs.

Smaller hydration packs that only have a hydration bladder with a capacity of 1 to 1.5 litres are sometimes so narrow that you can easily hide them under a jacket. Apart from compartments for mobile phone or keys, however, they offer no storage space.

The larger hydration packs for long hiking tours cannot usually be worn under a conventional jacket. If you want to protect your rucksack against rain, you might want to put on a very large rain cape.

Are there hydration packs with protectors?

Safety equipment is especially important for sports like mountain biking or skiing. Therefore, many manufacturers now offer hydration packs that are equipped with protectors.

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Hydration packs with protectors protect both the backpack wearer and the contents.
(Image source: Christian ter Maat / unsplash)

However, as these are usually only necessary for extreme athletes, protectors are not part of the standard equipment of a hydration pack. Therefore, you should explicitly inform yourself about them before buying.

You can also assume that hydration packs with integrated protectors are priced considerably higher than models without protectors. However, in the event of a fall, you will protect your back from more serious injuries.

Image source: Jianye Li/ 123rf.com

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