If you’re on the hunt for a new hydration pack and you’re overwhelmed by the number of products available, we’ve got your back. Our team of outdoor gear experts has analyzed the market and done extensive field testing to narrow down this list of the very best hydration packs and reservoirs out there.
Our recommendations are honest, trustworthy, and based on actual experience using the products below. We put a ton of hard work into our guides with the goal of helping our readers find the right gear for their adventures.
Check out this quick list of our favorite hydration packs if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
What’s Most Important to You in a Hydration Pack?
PRICE – A reliable hydration pack doesn’t have to be expensive. That said, your hydration pack will be with you for hundreds of trail miles if treated with care, so it can be well worth the cost to get one with more convenient features, quality construction, and a comfortable fit. On this list we recommend a range of choices from budget to high-end.
GEAR CAPACITY – An ultralight hydration pack (5L or less) that holds water and a few small items – like keys, a wallet, and an energy bar – can be great for quick jaunts when you want to feel unencumbered. For day hikes, a small hydration pack (11-20L) will allow you to carry a bit more – like a jacket and the 10 Essentials – without the pack feeling heavy or bulky. Slim packs designed specifically for biking and running usually have a capacity between 6-10L. If you do a lot of long day hikes and tend to adventure in more remote places, you’ll probably want a fairly spacious hydration pack (20+L) for carrying extra food, water, and clothing.
SUPPORT – Some lightweight hydration packs are frameless, meaning they have little to no structure in place for distributing weight. They’re good for light loads and quick trips, but frameless packs aren’t the best for longer adventures. Since water is heavy, we generally prefer hydration packs with at least a minimal frame that transfers some of the weight to the hips. A framed pack is more comfortable for long days on the trail with a heavier load.
HYDRATION RESERVOIR FEATURES – Hydration reservoirs all serve the same basic purpose – to make it easy to stay hydrated on the move – but some have more convenient features than others. It’s pretty typical for reservoirs to come equipped with a bite valve shutoff and a quick-disconnect tube. Our favorite hydration systems have wide-mouth openings and handles to make them easy to refill and clean. Some even stay propped open and have hooks to hang them upside down to dry. Additional features like clips or magnets to keep the tube/bite valve in place are icing on the cake.
WEIGHT – When testing hydration packs, we always consider which packs deliver the best balance of comfort, functionality, and weight. Framed packs are heavier than those without frames, but they distribute the weight of your load between your hips and your shoulders for a more comfortable carry.
Best Hydration Packs of 2023
BEST OVERALL HYDRATION PACK
WEIGHT: 2 lbs. (Citro) / 1 lb. 15 oz. (Juno)
CAPACITY (LIQUID / GEAR): 3L / 24L
PROS: Comfortable (breathable, lightweight & supportive), high-quality reservoir, large gear/liquid capacity, useful pocket configuration, magnetic bite valve
CONS: A bit expensive, heavier than some
BOTTOM LINE: The Gregory Citro 24 H2O (men’s) & Juno 24 H2O (women’s) are our favorite hydration packs overall because they have the best balance of weight, capacity, and price. The frame on these packs is supportive enough to carry heavier loads comfortably (up to 20 lbs.), but they still feel lightweight and streamlined on your back. They have all the pockets we find the most useful on the trail with a refreshingly uncomplicated layout.
For these reasons, the Citro and Juno are well-suited for both short and long trips. On top of that, the included 3D Hydro Reservoir is easy to fill, clean, and dry since it’s made with stiffer plastic that maintains its shape like a water bottle. The Citro and Juno H2O packs are an excellent value for the price and will undoubtedly last for many years of adventure.
BEST BUDGET HYDRATION PACK
WEIGHT: 1 lb. 10.6 oz.
CAPACITY (LIQUID / GEAR): 3L / 18L
PROS: Lightweight, affordable, large hydration capacity, high-quality reservoir, magnetic bite valve
CONS: Weight is concentrated on shoulders with frameless designs
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for a lightweight pack with a convenient hydration system and an affordable price tag, the Gregory Nano 18 H2O is an excellent choice. It comes with the same top-notch hydration reservoir as our top pick, the Gregory Citro / Juno H2O, but the backpack itself is more pared down to save weight and increase portability. It’s a simple pack with a top-loading main compartment and a zippered pocket on the lid to keep small items handy.
The Nano is frameless, so it’s best for slightly lighter loads and shorter days on the trail, but it still has a generous liquid capacity (3L) for longer water carries. The Nano is a versatile little pack with a killer hydration system, and it won’t break the bank.
BEST ULTRALIGHT HYDRATION PACK
WEIGHT: 6 oz.
CAPACITY (LIQUID / GEAR): 1.5L / 1L
PROS: Ultralight, affordable, compact, comfortable
CONS: Limited gear/water capacity (best for short outings)
BOTTOM LINE: The ultralight CamelBak HydroBak (view women’s here) is a sleek, minimalist hydration pack that’s comfortable and easy to move in. It’s primarily intended to carry water and has a very small gear capacity. It’s best for short outings on familiar trails when you don’t need to bring much, but there’s room for a few essentials like your phone, wallet, an energy bar, and a headlamp. The interior pocket also has attachments to secure a pair of sunglasses and keys.
The included Crux Hydration Reservoir is easy to clean due to its wide-mouth opening, and the large handle makes filling up hassle-free. For remote hikes, we’d opt for a pack with more gear capacity, but the HydroBak offers a less cumbersome feeling for fast and light walks, runs, and bike commutes.
MOST SUPPORTIVE HYDRATION PACK
WEIGHT: 2 lbs. 15.2 oz. (Manta) / 2 lbs. 13.9 oz. (Mira)
CAPACITY (LIQUID / GEAR): 2.5L / 24L (Manta) / 2.5L / 22L (Mira)
PROS: Comfortable (breathable, well-padded & supportive), durable, large gear/liquid capacity, lots of pockets & attachment points, high-quality hydration system, magnetic bite valve, rain cover
CONS: A bit expensive, a bit heavy, hip belt pockets are a bit small for most modern phones
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for a high-quality hydration pack with solid support and plenty of pockets, check out the Osprey Manta 24 (men’s) and Mira 22 (women’s). These packs have a large capacity for long days on the trail and a comfortable suspension system that transfers weight to your hips.
The included 2.5L Hydraulics LTReservoir has a wide, leak-proof opening that zips shut with a slider. It also has a quick-disconnect tube that’s really easy to access. We like the 3D Hydro Reservoir included with the Gregory packs a bit more, but the Hydraulics weighs a little less and is still very convenient. The Manta and Mira are on the heavy/pricey side, but they’re super durable and are some of the most comfortable for carrying more substantial loads.
VERY AFFORDABLE HYDRATION PACK
WEIGHT: 2 lbs.
CAPACITY (LIQUID / GEAR): 2L / 18L
PROS: Affordable, useful pockets, well-padded back panel, rain cover
CONS: Weight is concentrated on shoulders with frameless designs, basic hydration reservoir
BOTTOM LINE: The TETON Sports Oasis 18 is one of the most affordable hydration packs on the market, but it’s still durable and thoughtfully designed. It has plenty of pockets for organization and a convenient place to stuff a jacket on the go. The Oasis also comes with a rain cover, which is a surprising inclusion for a backpack with such a low price.
The hydration reservoir is more basic than some and has a slower flow rate. That said, the hydration system on the Oasis still serves its purpose and we appreciate that it comes with a tube disconnect and a bite-valve lock. If you’ll likely only use your hydration pack occasionally and you tend to pack light, the Oasis is a great affordable option to get you out on the trail.
Nowadays, nearly all daypacks and backpacks have a built-in sleeve and port for a hydration reservoir even if they don’t come with one. If you already have a pack that works well for you, consider adding a hydration reservoir to make it easy to sip water on the go. We have a list that details the best hydration bladders on the market. If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks:
- Best overall hydration reservoir: Gregory 3D Hydro Reservoir
- High-quality zip-top hydration reservoir: Osprey Hydraulics LT Reservoir
- Hydration reservoir with wide mouth and handle: CamelBack Crux 3L Reservoir
Related: If you’re looking for a hydration pack specifically for running, check out our Best Running Vests list.
Critical Hydration Pack Considerations
HYDRATION RESERVOIR CAPACITY – The liquid capacity of a hydration reservoir is usually measured in liters (L), and most hold between 1L-3L. Water is heavy (1L weighs approx. 2 lbs.), so it’s important to carefully consider how much you’ll actually drink and plan accordingly. It can be nice to have a larger maximum capacity for long days on the trail, but you don’t have to fill your reservoir to the brim if you want to keep your load light. You could also plan to refill along the way if you’re carrying a filter and know there’s a place to do so.
To estimate how much water you’ll need for an outing, a good rule of thumb is to carry .5L per hour for moderate activity in mild temperatures. You may need to dial this up depending on conditions and personal preferences. Strenuous hiking in high heat may call for 1L of water or more per hour.
ORGANIZATION – Many hydration packs are designed with a large top-loading compartment for storing gear and many also have additional pockets for organization and easy access to small items. The hydration reservoir itself often sits in its own sleeve against your back and the drinking tube comes out through a port in the top. We tend to prefer backpacks that also include a mesh pocket in the front to store things we need often while on the go, like a rain jacket, water filter, or map.
FIT – Most hydration packs are one size fits all, which is why there are different models for men and women on framed packs. Some packs have adjustable torso lengths and a hip belt that will comfortably fit a range of sizes. If you’re buying online, it’s a good idea to measure your torso length and find your hip belt size so you can check the specs before ordering. Check out our How to Find and Fit the Right Backpack video for more details on how to measure correctly.
BACK PANEL AND VENTILATION – Some hydration packs have a suspended mesh back panel, which allows for more airflow and ventilation (Gregory Citro / Juno 24 and Osprey Manta / Mira). Though the difference is usually minimal (your back is still going to get sweaty), many hikers find those types of frames to be more comfortable. Packs with simple back panel designs usually incorporate foam padding for comfort and add grooves to help with ventilation. Both designs work well in our opinion.
HIP BELT – A hip belt’s primary function is to distribute the weight of your pack to your hips, which helps alleviate strain on your shoulders. Some hip belts have pockets for easy access to items you’ll want readily available (snacks, sunscreen, lip balm, etc.) Unfortunately, we’ve found that most hip belt pockets on daypacks are a bit tight for a large, modern cell phone. If you take a lot of photos with your phone, you may want to consider adding an aftermarket shoulder pocket to keep it handy and protected.
Minimalist hydration packs generally have a simple strap that adds a small amount of stability or no hip belt at all. For full-day excursions where we’ll be spending a lot of time on the trail, we prefer packs with more structured hip belts.
STERNUM STRAP – Sternum straps, which clip across your chest, provide a little more load stability and are included on almost all newer hydration packs. Some high-end packs have magnets embedded in the sternum strap that stick to the bite valve of your hydration tube (Gregory Citro / Juno 24 and Osprey Manta / Mira). A magnetic bite valve keeps your hydration system within reach at all times and out of the way of your arms.
WATER BOTTLE HOLSTERS – Hydration packs are made to work with hydration reservoir systems, but they often have side pockets to hold water bottles as well. This can be helpful if you need additional storage capacity for long, dry stretches of trail, or if you prefer to filter water using a bottle rather than directly in your reservoir when you need to refill. Water bottles can be more convenient in some instances, especially when you want to bring hot drinks or beverages other than water.
WATERPROOFING – In general, it’s not a good idea to rely on any backpack for full water protection. Some hydration packs come with pack covers, but they won’t provide full protection in heavy, prolonged rain either. We recommend packing your gear in waterproof stuff sacks or Ziploc bags inside your pack. You could also line the inside of your hydration pack with a trash bag to keep everything inside dry.
HYDRATION RESERVOIR CARE – Most hydration reservoirs have polyethylene linings, which retain tastes and odors more easily than polycarbonate. Because of this, we recommend not filling them with anything but water. The best way to maintain any plastic water bottle or bladder is to rinse it out after each use and let it air dry completely.
If funky tastes or odors develop, try filling your reservoir with water, adding a tablespoon each of bleach and baking soda, and letting it sit overnight. Rinse well and air dry as usual. A cleaning kit (CamelBak / Gregory) specifically made for your hydration reservoir will make maintenance even easier.
Need More Gear Advice?
If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles:
Why Trust Us?
We fully understand how tough it is to find trustworthy gear advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built CleverHiker. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these guides very seriously. Here are some of the reasons you can trust us:
- Our choices are completely independent and based on personal experience.
- We’ve logged over 10,000 trail miles and test outdoor gear for a living.
- We own and field test every product we recommend, which is sadly not the norm.
- We travel to industry trade shows to learn about upcoming product innovations.
- We constantly update our guides when new products launch.
- We treat our recommendations as if they were for our family and friends.
- We’re lifelong learners and we’re always open to constructive criticism. If you think we’ve missed a product or got something wrong, we’d love to hear your feedback.
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Thanks for reading and happy trails!
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