We don’t need to tell you how important it is to stay hydrated, but you may be surprised to learn just how many nutrients your body needs in addition to water to keep you functioning at your peak.
Electrolyte mixes are an easy and reliable way to stay properly fueled on the go. But with so many options – all claiming to be the healthiest and best tasting – it can be tough to choose which will work for you. So we put hundreds of hydration mixes to the test to bring you this list of the very best.
Last Updated: July 8, 2023
What’s new: After some more field testing, we added OSMO Active Hydration to our list. It’s one of our new favorites due to its fresh, subtle flavors.
Check out this quick list of our favorite hydration mixes, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best hydration mix overall: Ultima Replenisher
- Best value hydration mix: Vitalyte
- Effervescent electrolyte tablets in waste-reducing packaging: Nuun Sport
- Most balanced flavors: Liquid I.V.
- Real fruit ingredients & complete electrolytes: Skratch Labs
- Best budget hydration mix: Dr. Price
- Best electrolyte mix with subtle flavors: OSMO Active Hydration
- High-calorie hydration mix: Tailwind
- Subtle flavors & low weight per serving: Cure
- Affordable electrolyte powder with light, tasty flavors: Gatorade Thirst Quencher
- Affordable liquid hydration mix with convenient packaging: Mio Sport
What’s Most Important to You in a Hydration Mix?
PRICE – Electrolyte mixes usually cost between $0.25-$1.50 per serving. That’s not bad if you’re just picking up a few, but the cost really starts to add up if you’re stocking up for a big trip. To get the best value, we look for nutrient-dense hydration mixes that come in flavor variety packs. You can also save a good amount by buying in bulk.
FLAVOR – We’ve encountered some pretty gnarly water on trail, so we always carry a few flavor packets to make drinking from foul sources more tolerable. The following brands consistently have the best flavors. See our taste-tested favorites by each brand in the list below.
NUTRITION – Not all hydration mixes are created equal – some are more flavor-focused, while others are packed full of essential nutrients. There are five major electrolytes to look for in a good hydration mix – sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate (although this last one isn’t always included on nutrition labels). Below are the hydration mixes with the best balance of these nutrients.
Best Hydration Mixes of 2023
BEST ELECTROLYTE MIX OVERALL
COST/SERVING: $1.05 (20 stick packs)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.13 oz.
PROS: Excellent concentration of electrolytes, affordable, lightweight, large variety of delicious flavors, no artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners, variety packs available
CONS: A little sugar would help your body absorb fluid quicker
BOTTOM LINE: We haven’t found a flavor of Ultima Replenisher that we don’t like, and we’re convinced that there probably isn’t one. Not only are Ultima mixes tasty, they’re also some of the most nutritionally complete on our list. These mixes list all six of the major electrolytes you should look for in a hydration mix on their nutrition labels, as well as a good amount of vitamin C. To top it all off, Ultima mixes are some of the lightest and most affordable per serving, which made them an easy choice for our top pick. While we loved all of the flavors, we definitely recommend giving their Mocktini line a try – every flavor was a big win.
BEST VALUE ELECTROLYTE MIX
COST/SERVING: $1.29 (25 stick packs)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.93 oz.
PROS: Great value, flavors are a nice balance of sweet & salty, good amount of calories per serving, no artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners
CONS: A bit heavier than others
BOTTOM LINE: Our favorite thing about Vitalyte electrolyte mixes are their well-balanced flavors. Many hydration mixes will leave you with a salty taste or a sticky mouth that’s coated in sweeteners, but Vitalyte is clean and smooth. These value-priced mixes provide an excellent amount of electrolytes, and they even contain 90 calories to give your body a small energy boost when you’re working hard. They don’t have the largest variety of flavors, but we found almost all of the offerings to be very pleasant.
EFFERVESCENT ELECTROLYTE TABLETS IN WASTE-REDUCING PACKAGING
COST/SERVING: $0.75 (sleeve of 10 tablets)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.21 oz.
PROS: Affordable, large variety of flavors, good concentration of electrolytes, available at many grocery & outdoor stores, caffeinated options, packaging cuts down on microtrash, lightweight per serving
CONS: Size of tablets doesn’t work with all bottles (ex. Smartwater), packaging is a little heavier/bulkier than others, flavors are hit or miss
BOTTOM LINE: Nuun Sport tablets weren’t our favorites during taste-testing, but they’re not bad and they have an excellent concentration of electrolytes at an affordable price per serving. If you’re a big sparkling water fan, you’ll love their effervescent quality on the trail. And since Nuun is available at most grocery and outdoor stores, it’s one of the few options you can get last minute for impromptu trips into the backcountry. While the plastic tube is a bit bulkier and heavier than stick packs, we appreciate that it cuts down on microtrash.
MOST BALANCED FLAVORS
COST/SERVING: $1.56 (16 stick packs)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.56 oz.
PROS: Excellent flavors, unflavored option, available at many grocery stores
CONS: Contains fewer electrolytes, high level of sodium isn’t ideal for everyone
BOTTOM LINE: We were told many times by fellow hikers that Liquid I.V. was a must-try. And we have to say, it didn’t disappoint. The well-balanced flavors will appeal to many palates with their excellent blend of sweet and salty. Liquid I.V. claims that their formula delivers hydration quicker than plain water. Now, we’re not scientists, so we can’t back that claim up definitively. But we can tell you that using Liquid I.V. on hot days at high elevation quickly helped our bodies feel charged up to tackle more miles of trail.
REAL FRUIT INGREDIENTS & COMPLETE ELECTROLYTES
COST/SERVING: $1.80 (20 packets)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.8 oz.
PROS: Natural taste, good concentration of electrolytes, no artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners, caffeinated options
CONS: A bit expensive per serving, a bit heavy per serving
BOTTOM LINE: Skratch Labs hydration mixes use real fruit juice for flavor, and the result is a light and natural taste that feels immediately refreshing. These mixes are formulated to replenish exactly what you lose when sweating, so they have a higher concentration of sodium than many others as well as other essential minerals, like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. All this goodness comes at a price though – Skratch Labs mixes are more expensive per serving than many others on this list. That said, it’s worth it to shell out the extra bucks if you want clean ingredients and delicious flavors. These mixes are often available in outdoor stores, so they’re easier to get a hold of for last minute adventures.
BEST BUDGET HYDRATION MIX
COST/SERVING: $0.77 (30 packets)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.09 oz.
PROS: Affordable, lightweight, good amount of sodium & potassium, no artificial flavors/sweeteners
CONS: May be too sweet for some, harder to pour into narrow-mouth bottles, some flavors leave a sticky feeling in your mouth, contains fewer electrolytes
BOTTOM LINE: Dr. Price hydration mixes are some of the lightest and most affordable per serving, so they’re a great option if you’re stocking up. These budget powder packstaste good, but some folks may find them too sweet – a bit like Kool-aid. They’re sweetened with stevia leaf extract, which tends to taste artificial and leave a sticky coating in your mouth. For that reason, we recommend diluting these with a little extra water. We typically mix one packet with a full liter and that makes the taste very pleasant.
BEST ELECTROLYTE MIX WITH SUBTLE FLAVORS
COST/SERVING: $1.45 (20 stick packs)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.7 oz.
PROS: Great value, pleasant & subtle flavors, good concentration of electrolytes, no artificial colors/flavors
CONS: Flavors may be too subtle for some
BOTTOM LINE: We often find that we’re having to dilute our electrolyte drinks to combat overly sweet, salty, or strong flavors, but OSMO Active Hydration is pleasantly subtle and fresh tasting. This hydration mix is flavored with real fruit and has an excellent concentration of electrolytes to keep you powered up for your run, hike, or workout. Many users have reported experiencing less cramping and stomach discomfort when using OSMO compared to electrolyte mixes with heavier flavor profiles. So if you have a sensitive stomach or are prone to muscle cramps, OSMO Active Hydration is definitely one to try.
HIGH CALORIE HYDRATION MIX
COST/SERVING: $2.50 (12 packets)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 2 oz.
PROS: High calorie content, good value, caffeinated options, no artificial colors/sweeteners
CONS: Expensive, heavy/bulky, flavors are hit or miss, harder to pour into narrow-mouth bottles
BOTTOM LINE: You may be wondering why we have Tailwind electrolyte mixes listed as both expensive and a great value. They’re the most expensive per serving, but they contain about as many calories as an energy bar on top of all the electrolytes they provide. So they’re giving you both efficient hydration and a boost of energy, which isn’t typical in the world of powdered drink mixes. Tailwind hydration mixes aren’t a common staple in our backpacking kits because they’re heavier and bulkier than many others. But we regularly pack one or two to have for breakfast when we want to get out of camp quickly. Many of the flavors tasted a little artificial and were a bit of a miss for us, but the chocolate and vanilla were good as an early morning meal replacer.
SUBTLE FLAVORS & LOW WEIGHT PER SERVING
COST/SERVING: $1.64 (14 stick packs)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.29 oz.
PROS: Lightweight, subtle flavors, no artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners
CONS: Flavors may be too subtle, contains fewer electrolytes, a bit expensive
BOTTOM LINE: If you prefer flavors that aren’t as in your face, you’ll probably appreciate the subtle taste of Cure hydration mixes. These electrolyte powders were flavorful enough to mask the chlorine taste of chemical water purification drops / pills, but not so impactful that the taste lingers long after you’ve finished your drink. They also have some more interesting combinations, such as Ginger Turmeric and Berry Pomegranate. You could always double up on Cure mixes for a bolder taste, which is what we usually do with these.
AFFORDABLE ELECTROLYTE POWDER WITH LIGHT, TASTY FLAVORS
COST/SERVING: $0.60 (10 stick packs)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 1.23 oz.
PROS: Affordable, available at most grocery stores
CONS: Not as many electrolytes, high sugar content (32g), artificial colors/flavors
BOTTOM LINE: We’ve been drinking Gatorade Thirst Quencher since way back in our high school track days. We loved it back then, and we still use it on trail now. While they’re not a go-to for us because of the high sugar content and lack of essential minerals, like magnesium and calcium, we still like them for their affordability and availability at most grocery stores. And while the flavors are artificial, we still think they taste good and are okay to have in moderation.
AFFORDABLE LIQUID HYDRATION DROPSMIX WITH CONVENIENT PACKAGING
COST/SERVING: $0.22 (18 serving squirt bottle)
WEIGHT/SERVING: 0.09 oz.
PROS: Affordable per serving, packaging cuts down on microtrash, tasty flavors, available at many grocery stores
CONS: Contains fewer electrolytes, artificial colors/sweeteners/flavors
BOTTOM LINE: Mio Sport has long been a staple for many backpackers because it tastes good, it’s easy to use, and it doesn’t create a ton of packaging trash. We agree that it’s delicious, but Mio is full of artificial ingredients. The colors, flavors, and sweeteners in most varieties are engineered instead of being derived from natural sources like many of our other favorite hydration mixes. On top of that, the only electrolyte it replaces is sodium. We’re not saying you should avoid it altogether. After all, sodium is the electrolyte you lose the most of when sweating, and Mio is the lightest and most affordable per serving on this list. But we would recommend choosing a more natural and nutritionally complete electrolyte mix from higher on this list for the majority of your hikes and workouts.
Critical Hydration Mix Considerations
WHAT ARE ELECTROLYTES? – Electrolytes are charged minerals that help your body with a ton of essential functions. Your body runs on electrical signals generated by your nervous system. All of your bodily functions – movement, muscle recovery, water absorption, etc. – rely on electrolytes to conduct these signals through your cells. There are seven major electrolytes that your body needs, but these are the six you should look for on the nutrition label of a good hydration mix.
- Sodium– helps your body maintain the right balance of fluid inside and outside of your cells
- Chloride – helps maintain pH balance
- Potassium – works with sodium to help maintain a balance of fluid in your cells
- Magnesium – helps with energy production
- Calcium – helps muscles contract, regulates heart rhythm & nerve function
- Phosphate – won’t always be listed; a building block your cells use to create energy
WHEN SHOULD I USE AN ELECTROLYTE MIX? – A good rule of thumb is to start your activity well-hydrated with plain water. Hydration mixes can help you quickly replenish electrolytes you’ve lost through sweat to help your body stay hydrated and recover. Reach for them during high-output activities, when it’s hot out, at high elevation, or you’re perspiring a lot.
LEAVE NO TRACE – Many electrolyte powders come in small, individually wrapped tear sticks. You rip off a tiny piece of the top then pour the powder in, and now you’ve got two very small pieces of garbage that can easily be lost. If you’re not in a position to throw the packaging away immediately, make sure you have a Ziploc or another receptacle handy to securely stash the trash until you’re able to dispose of it.
Buying in bulk is a great alternative. Most electrolyte mixes are sold in bulk bags or tubs, which you can portion out into a Ziploc or other container for the length of your trip or activity. As a bonus, you’ll often save money when buying bulk quantities.
SODIUM & SUGAR – People often think of sodium and sugar as a negative in their diet, but there are times when these things are necessary.
Sodium is a key factor in maintaining a balance of fluids inside and outside of your cells. Too much fluid in your cells and you end up with a dangerous condition called hyponatremia. Too little and – not surprisingly – you get dehydrated.
Sugar, in moderation, can help your body absorb fluid faster so you feel the recovery effects of hydrating quickly. Not all “sugar” is created equal though. It’s best to steer clear of high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners made from chemicals when possible.
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