In the last 20 years, a lot has changed in the hiking world. As a Boy Scout, I remember going on hikes with my troop and we all had clumsy canteen, or Nalgene water bottle in my backpack, and they would constantly shift around in my pack, causing the backpack to be unbalanced and uncomfortable. Hydration is so important when out on the trail. Luckily, with the development of the hydration pack, there is now a way to conveniently tote water in a hands-free manner without all the sloshing.
Since then, backpacks are lighter, smaller, tougher, and more comfortable. The combination of a backpack with a bladder that can hold water was a huge step for outdoor recreation. The introduction of the hydration pack made it possible for hikers, mountain bikers, backpackers, and runners to carry water in a stream-lined, comfortable, balanced hydration pack. The water is carried in a plastic bladder that fits into the hydration pack which balances the weight of the water evenly across the back.
One important part of hiking is determining what kind of backpack best fits your needs. You may find that you prefer a smaller hydration pack for short hikes while a larger hydration pack may work better for you on longer hikes. While Camelbak was the innovator of the water bladder, and is the titan in the hydration pack industry, others are beginning to emerge with similar or improved products.
The storage capacity and water capacity of the pack are one of the most things to consider when selecting a hydration pack.
I hike hundreds of miles each summer. The hikes I do can vary from just one mile to over 20 miles. The hydration pack I’d use for the short hike just won’t cut it on a long hike. I want to have a larger hydration pack with extra storage capacity for food, my survival kit, climbing rope, and clothing.
Hydration pack bladders come in two sizes. a 2 liter/70 ounce version, and a 3 liter/100 ounce version. To some people that may sound like a lot of water, to others it may not. I have several of the hydration packs listed below and I only use the 3 liter/100 oz bladders. I’ll be honest, I’m not the greatest at drinking water along the trail, but at least I have it with me if I need it. As hikers, we’d much rather have more water than less water with us.
I always use a hydration pack that holds 3 liters/100 ounces of water. The hydration pack that I carry with me is heavier than what most hikers carry. Mine typically weighs 15-20 lbs. (7-9 kgs) depending on the hike and time of year. I like to have a hydration pack that can hold all of my survival equipment, first aid kit, extra food and clothing, and 50 feet of climbing rope.
When choosing a hydration pack, keep in mind what type of activities you doing the majority of your time. While most hydration packs have hydration bladders that can hold two liter (70 oz) or three liters (100 oz) of water, the primary differences are in carrying capacity.
I’m amazed at how the high the prices have gotten with some of the brands of hydration packs. While, there are dozens of brands that you can purchase, the ones listed below are ones that I’ve used. It doesn’t mean that this is all there is out there. I’m sure that you can go to your local WalMart and get a functioning hydration pack for under $25, however, I do know that the quality of the Camelbak brand and the Geigerrig brand have been outstanding for me.
Here’s a little background on Camelbak and Geigerrig.
Camelbak was started back in 1988 and really took off in the 2000s as it was the first to come out with a backpack with a bladder to hold water. It has been the leader in hydration packs since then. The products are high quality. I’ve have four Camelbaks for seven years and they still look and work like they are brand new. The bladders and tubes can get a little gross if you’re not good about keeping it clean, but Camelbak has a bladder cleaning kit that will help you keep the tubes and bladders clean and free of ick.
Geigerrig is a company based out of Utah, that started in early 2010. In my opinion, the Geigerrig hydration packs are the best on the market. They are extremely rugged and well-made. They have two innovations that put their product above Camelbak. Their water bladder, which they call a reservoir can be turned inside out and washed in the dishwasher! How awesome is that. No more worrying about trying to squeeze your whole hand into the bladder to clean it with a brush. This reservoir comes out of the dishwasher completely clean and sanitized. That is wonderful peace of mind for me. It also has a rubber bulb on one of the shoulder straps that when pumped, pressurizes the reservoir. The benefit to this is that not only do you not have to suck water through the tube but it flows out at a perfect rate. You want to spray your face and cool down? No problem! You want to give your dog something to drink while he is out on the trail with you? No problem and no dog slobber on your mouthpiece either! This pack is the best. Since it is still a new company, they don’t have the colors and the selections that bigger companies have, but I see that changing as they grow.
Here are my recommendations for hydration packs:
Small Day Packs
These are great backpacks for biking, but also for the short day hiker. They are not made for storage. If you’re biking for the day or only hiking for an hour or two, there’s still room for a couple of granola bars for the trail, but not much else.
Large Day Packs
These hydration packs are great if you hike is still a day hike but is more than a couple of hours. There is enough room in these to carry all your hiking/survival essentials, snacks, as well as a light jacket, maps, and pretty much anything else you would need on an all day hike. My long time favorite has been the Camelbak H.A.W.G. and the Geigerrig 1600. The Geigerrig 1600 has a ton of storage space and is still very comfortable.
Camelbak Fourteener 24 Crux
Teton Sports Oasis 1200
*Prices may vary depending on website and season.
For more hiking tips and trails, feel free to connect with me on Instagram.