10 Best Hydration Backpacks for Hiking in 2023 – Reviews & Guide
Before hydration backpacks, hikes required carrying bottles of water by hand or backpack and longer hikes meant you had to carry considerable quantities of water. The tube and valve on a hydration back made life much simpler and convenient, and it’s a tool that’s perfectly suited for hiking.
We love to hike, so we use hydration packs all the time. Recently, we realized that we don’t really give much thought to our packs. We’ve been using the same ones for a while and they’re starting to get a bit old and worn, so we decided it was time to replace them with some newer models and see what we’ve been missing.
Naturally, we wanted to purchase the best hydration backpacks possible, so we set out to see which packs made the grade. The following 10 reviews will compare some of the most popular options, using all the information we gathered during our testing to come up with the three best hydration packs for hiking this year.
A Quick Glance at the Winners of 2023:
|Best Overall||Nathan Hydration Back Pack||
|Best Value||MIRACOL Hiking Hydration Backpack||
|Premium Choice||Osprey Skarab Hiking Hydration Backpack||
|TETON Sports Oasis Hiking Hydration Pack||
|CamelBak Aurora Hydration Pack||
The 10 Best Hydration Backpacks for Hiking:
1. Nathan 5025NG Hydration Backpack – Best Overall
Ultralight is a buzzword in hiking. Everyone wants to be ultralight. Well the Nathan 5025NG hydration pack, designed for running, is ultra-light. Weighing just half a pound without water, it’s easy to forget you’re even wearing this hydration pack after a few miles.
Despite the low weight, space was still made for carrying your essentials, including a pocket on each strap that always keeps your most important possessions within reach. On the back, there is a larger zipper pocket that allows for carrying bigger items or several small items together.
This pack has extra straps and a weight distribution harness that keep it glued to your back so it’s not bouncing up and down as you make your way up the trail. It’s also very comfortable and cool, with ventilated mesh used on the back and the straps. For most of our testers, it was a great fit. Larger individuals will still fit, but they’ll have a very snug fit in the Nathan pack. But it’s an ultralight pack with a two-liter bladder that’s perfectly suited for trips that will only last a few hours.
2. MIRACOL Hiking Hydration Backpack – Best Value
Now that hydration packs are so mainstream, you don’t need to pay a premium and purchase a designer-brand hydration pack just to experience the convenience of a water tube connected to a water bladder in your pack. Packs like this one from MIRACOL make it affordable for everyone to get a hydration pack for easier and more comfortable activities. While there are others, we think this one is the best hydration pack for hiking for the money.
Though it’s cheap, MIRACOL didn’t skimp on features with this pack. We liked the padded waist straps that even had zipper pockets for storing essentials that you need in reach. We would have liked if the hip belt pockets stretched further around, but for the price, it’s hard to complain.
It weighs a pound on its own, so it’s not ultralight, but it’s not going to break your back either. Waist and hip straps help to balance the weight of the pack, which is especially useful since it does have quite a bit of usable cargo storage thanks to the multiple storage pockets on the back, even though they’re a bit tight when the bladder is full.
3. Osprey Skarab Hiking Hydration Backpack – Premium Choice
Osprey makes a lot of great hiking and camping equipment, and the Skarab 30 is another excellent offering that lives up to their reputation for quality. Of course, you’ll be paying a premium for that quality, but we think it’s worth it for what you get.
Padded hip straps help balance out your load. They both have pockets so you can keep some of your essential gear in reach. On the back, you have enough storage space for carrying enough gear to need those hip straps. Plus, you get a 2.5-liter water reservoir that will keep you hydrated for several hours on the trail.
An additional sternum strap helps to even out your weight distribution even more, which makes carrying heavier loads considerably more comfortable. There is a magnet on the sternum strap ito hold the magnetic bite strap, a nice touch that just shows the quality of the Osprey Skarab 30.
4. TETON Sports Oasis Hiking Hydration Pack
A rugged and durable backpack with a hydration reservoir built-in, the TETON Sports Oasis 1100 offers tons of cargo space for carrying all your gear. Inside, you’ll get 18 total liters of space. The hydration bladder is just two liters, but there’s plenty of space to upgrade to a larger bladder if you wanted to use this for outings longer than just a couple of hours.
Even with a full hydration bladder, this pack left plenty of room to fill the other pockets with the things we wanted to bring. But when loaded up with gear, we felt like we were missing a hip strap to help balance out the load, something that held the TETON pack back from breaching the top three. It does have a small sternum strap, but it wasn’t quite enough to help spread out the weight of a full pack.
If you want to carry a lot of extras with you on the trail, then the Oasis 1100 is one of the more affordable hydration packs that also has room for cargo. In the end, we liked this pack, but it needs a hip belt before it earns a recommendation from us.
5. CamelBak Aurora Hydration Pack
CamelBak is the original name in hydration packs, and they’re still the most recognized brand in the space. Their Aurora pack is made to fit women specifically, giving them a more comfortable way to carry water. At just seven ounces, it’s an ultralight pack, made with breathable mesh to keep it light and cool with plenty of ventilation for hot days on the trail.
With a 2.5-liter reservoir, this pack is set to keep you hiking for several hours. Two small zippered pockets on the back will carry your extra gear, but only smaller items because these pockets aren’t large enough to store an extra jacket or anything of that nature.
For what you get, this is one of the more expensive options. But we appreciated little extras like the magnetic tube trap that’s much easier and quicker to use than the older plastic tube clips.
While we do like this pack overall, we think it needs a few new features to make it to the top of our list, such as a bit more storage space or a waist strap to help keep it steady during your hike.
6. OlarHike Hydration Backpack
OlarHike isn’t a well-known company, or at least, we haven’t seen many of their products. But their hydration backpack is a solid offering with some worthwhile features as well as a few flaws that prevented it from reaching the top three. One thing we liked about this pack is that it’s insulated and can keep your water cool, even when marching up a mountain in the hot sun. We appreciated having refreshing, cool water to drink after climbing the summit.
The OlarHike pack has plenty of room storing your essentials, including several zip-up cargo pockets on the back. We felt there was plenty of room for the items we needed to bring with us like keys, phones, wallets, and even a small first aid kit.
The bladder that’s included with this pack is only two liters and we prefer the larger volume bladders for longer trips. But there is room inside the pack for a larger bladder if you wanted to upgrade, but that would raise the overall cost and you’d be better off just purchasing a better pack. We also weren’t happy with the cheap bite valve because it made it difficult to get sufficient water flow.
7. Unigear Tactical Hydration Pack
Crafted from heavy-duty 900D polyester with a PVC lining, the Unigear Tactical Hydration Pack is a resilient piece of gear that will hold up through some weekend hikes. It’s affordably priced, especially given its robustness. For water capacity, you get a large 2.5-liter bladder that will keep you hydrated for several hours. To help balance the load, hip and sternum straps are both built-in.
There are two cargo pockets on the back of this pack for carrying essentials, but they were too small to fit anything larger than a phone or wallet. In fact, the entire pack is too small. Our larger testers had a tough time getting this pack on and had a very snug fit on the chest with some not being able to snap together the sternum strap. We also weren’t impressed with the short 60-day replacement period and would like to see a real warranty included with this pack.
8. Vibrelli Hiking Hydration-Pack
Vibrelli has made a very affordable hydration pack that needs some refinement to be a top choice. It does have a good start though with a sizable storage pocket on the back for your gear and it even has built-in hip and sternum straps. But our favorite feature is the five-year replacement warranty that shows Vibrelli really has faith in their products.
Despite the positives, this pack presented quite a few flaws. First, the opening on the bladder is too small, making it difficult to fill and clean. That became a hassle several times, but the bigger issue is the bite valve. You pull it to unlock it, but it’s not held on very tightly and you can easily pull it right off! A redesigned bite valve and a larger opening on the bladder would make this pack a winner.
9. Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Pack
The Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Pack has some promise, but it still needs to work a few kinks out before it earns our recommendation. We like the insulation that keeps your water cool for up to four hours. The large opening on the bladder also got some points with us, making it easier to fill and clean. But we weren’t so happy with the cheap mouthpiece that was constantly leaking and wouldn’t seal shut.
This pack includes a 60-day warranty, which doesn’t show us that the company has faith in their product.A warranty period of at least a year would show some confidence in their pack. But it’s hard to warranty a pack that’s likely to break, as is the case with the cheap plastic loops on the bladder that holds it in place. They’re meant to keep the bladder still when you velcro it in place. But after just a few trips, the loops tore and now there’s no way to secure the bladder.
10. SHARKMOUTH FLYHIKER Hiking Hydration Pack
With 18 liters of total space, the Sharkmouth Flyhiker hydration pack should have enough space to carry enough gear for a several hour trip. Plus, the 2.5-liter reservoir will hold enough water to keep you fueled for that length of time, and it will even keep your water cool since the pack is insulated.
But this pack is very heavy for what it is, weighing twice as much as some of the other packs we’ve tested. It also has no reachable pockets, so if there’s gear you need to keep in reach, you’ll have to keep it in your pocket.
For us, the worst flaw of this pack was the leaky bite valve. It never sealed completely, so we were always left with a big wet spot on our side and a good portion of our water missing. It’s hard to recommend a pack that leaks water everywhere, which is why the Sharkmouth Flyhiker is in the bottom position on our list.
As avid hikers, we’re always trying to find gear that can make our lives easier and more comfortable for the hours we spend on the trail. A hydration pack is one of the most convenient and helpful pieces of gear, but there are so many on the market that it can be hard to choose one. We had that problem, so we tested as many as we could find and wrote reviews comparing what we learned so you don’t have to test them.
For us, the Nathan 5025NG Hydration Back-Pack was the best hydration backpack overall. It’s ultralight, very breathable, has a bounce-free harness, pockets in reach for essentials, and it’s durable enough to last for years of trail use.
If you’re looking for top value in a hydration pack, we suggest looking at the MIRACOL HP-1015-BL Hydration Backpack. It’s an affordable pack with waist and chest straps to help balance the weight. There are multiple compartments built-in for storage, and you can choose from many different color options.
We recommend the Osprey Skarab 30 for the best hydration backpack, premium option. It has all-day storage capacity, padded hip straps with pockets, and extra touches like the magnetic bite strap.