The 13 Best Hydration Backpacks for Travel – Includes CamelBak Alternatives [2019]

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In situations where a water bottle just isn’t enough, a hydration backpack gives you direct access to much-needed fluids on the go. Like a regular backpack only better, there are a ton of different hydration based backpacks to choose from.

Why Use a Hydration Backpack?

The main purpose of using a hydration backpack over other kinds of baggage is to make staying hydrated convenient and efficient, no matter what you are doing. Experience more without having to worry about stopping to take a drink, and keep up your pace without slowing down.

With a built-in water reservoir, you can take regular sips through the drink tube to ensure that you are in top form at all times. Different packs are designed to suit some activities more than others, so be sure to do your research before you dive in.

Often used by the military on extended ops, hydration backpacks have been keeping outdoor enthusiasts well watered for many years now. Some of the most popular uses for carrying a hydration backpack include running, hiking, cycling, kayaking, and just about any outdoor sporting activity you can think of.

Bottom Line: With enough room to carry extra essentials like a change of clothes and personal items, a hydration backpack is the only vessel you need to enjoy hands-free adventures, whatever the weather.

Things to Consider With a Hydration Backpack

Hydration backpacks offer a heap of potential benefits over regular daypacks, but you will need to take good care of it and make sure that it is:

Easy to Clean

Because you will be drinking directly from the backpack reservoir via the drinking tube, your backpack needs to be super easy to clean so it remains mold, mildew, and bacteria-free.

Hydration bladders that are easy to fill are usually also the easiest to clean as they offer better accessibility to every last inch of the reservoir. A quick rinse may suffice on a day out in the open, but your backpack will need thorough scrubbing back at base to prevent nasty tasting water on your next trip.

Bottom Line: Ease of cleaning is an essential aspect of how good your hydration backpack is. After all, you wouldn’t drink water from a dirty glass, would you?

Easy to Drink

Different backpacks offer varying flow rates, straw lengths, and spouts, and your preferred outdoor activities will dictate which type of drinking system works best for you.

The main choices for how to drink your water on the go are bite-valves or push-pull valves. With a bite valve, you simply apply pressure with your lips or teeth to drink water completely hands-free. With a push-pull valve however you will need to twist and pull the valve to release the water.

Bottom Line: No matter what outdoor activities you are planning to get stuck into, hydration backpacks still offer the easiest and most efficient, hands-free way to take regular sips while you are busy doing something else.

Easy to Fill

To feel the full benefit of your new hydration backpack, it is imperative that you can fill it up when it gets empty and this is easy to do. While different designs may require different techniques, once you get the hang of how to do it, you shouldn’t have any problems at all.

You will usually need to take the bladder out of the backpack and fill it up using a regular faucet or a water bottle with a funnel. You will need to fill it to its maximum capacity before screwing the lid back on and inserting it back into your backpack.

Bottom Line: Hydration backpacks should make your life easier. You should also make sure that the bladder is full and inserted back into the backpack before you fill it with the rest of your personal items.

Comfort

Your hydration backpack should fit you like a glove. While you are running, hiking, cycling or whatever else, it is vital that your backpack fits the curves of your body, and that it doesn’t bump and jump around too much, even when you do.

Your backpack should be an appropriate length for your torso and grip you well around the hips. Different models come in different sizes, and you should find one that fits precisely before you commit to buy.

You can also buy hydration backpacks that have been designed to specifically accommodate the size and shape of the female torso, as well as those that are made for teenagers and younger outdoor enthusiasts.

Bottom Line: Whatever activities you plan to use your hydration backpack for, make sure it is comfortable, adjustable, and the right size for your frame. 

Capacity

The backpack you choose should have enough capacity in the reservoir itself to ensure that you have enough water to keep you going for a couple of hours at the very least. It should also offer the ability to fill it up on the go, in case you delay your return or simply need more water.

As for the overall backpack, most hydration packs offer enough space for the basics such as bike pump, keys, wallet, phone, and other small essentials. Some will have additional hanging loops, compression straps, and more interior space, but most do not offer the same level of storage capacity as a regular daypack will.

Material and Durability

Because your hydration backpack will have been explicitly designed to keep you hydrated on the go, it will also have been created with weight, profile, and durability in mind. The most effective hydration backpacks are made from lightweight, water-resistant material — usually nylon — and may offer additional features to increase comfort.

Bottom Line: Padded straps help you to wear your backpack for longer, while breathable mesh fabrics will keep you cool even when the sweat starts to pour.

Storage and Organization

The most important feature of your hydration backpack will be the water reservoir — also referred to as the bladder — and the drinking tube that goes with it. These main elements are kept in a separate compartment from any other items you wish to carry with you, and they will need to be removed for easy cleaning when the time comes.

Other than this, the amount of space you can use for transporting your regular essentials will depend very much on the size of the backpack you invest in.

Bottom Line: At a minimum, most smaller backpacks should still offer a front pocket and some internal storage space, while a bigger backpack could easily offer pockets, zipped compartments, lash points, helmet loops, and even compression straps.

The Best CamelBak Backpacks

Any review of hydration backpacks would not be complete without a nod to the brand leaders Camelbak.

Founded by former EMT and bike racing fanatic Michael Eidson, the company is now the biggest selling brand of mobile hydration packs in the world. What started as an IV tube filled with water and a white tube sock, has now expanded into a company that offers a wide range of backpacks and hydration kits, as well as water bottles and other accessories.

The CamelBak name is synonymous with hydration on the go for anyone interested in pursuing high octane sporting events, stamina-stretching endurance exercises, and even the military and other trained professionals who need to overcome tough terrain.

Bottom Line: From minimalist backpacks for long-distance cyclists to multi-compartment backpacks for hiking and other adventures, there will be a CamelBak pack to suit every occasion. The clever design concepts and high-quality construction keep CamelBak lovers coming back for more.

A Hydration Backpack for the True Minimalist

CamelBak HydroBak Hydration Pack, 50oz

This minimalist backpack may offer compact dimensions, but it packs a powerful punch when it comes to staying hydrated on the go. This is the right size to hold CamelBak’s 1.5l Antidote™ reservoir with its low profile design. It has a 1/4 turn easy open and close cap, an easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening, patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, and PureFlow™ tubing.

Made from lightweight mesh material and weighing just 0.35 pounds, this is one of the lightest hydration backpacks you can buy. With an additional small front pocket and a reflective strip for increased visibility, this is perfect for cyclists, hikers, runners, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.

Available in a selection of colors, this backpack may only be big enough to carry your car keys, hex keys, wallet, and glasses, but it is a great way to keep hydrated using big brand CamelBak technology in the smallest of packages.

A Camelbak Pack for Extreme Adventures

CamelBak Rogue Hydration Pack, 85oz

With an incredibly useful “on-the-fly” refill option, this compact CamelBak pack is ideal for longer adventurers and those who like to take life in the great outdoors to the extreme. The 2-liter Crux™ reservoir features an easy-to-open cap, low profile design, patented Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, PureFlow™ tube, and easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening.

Made from high-quality mesh material, and weighing just 0.6 pounds, this backpack comes with built-in air channels with foam pods that help to increase the airflow and keep your back super cool.

Available in a selection of colors, this backpack will keep you hydrated and has enough room for you to carry a multi-tool kit, bike pump, phone, wallet, keys, and snacks while on the go. Easy to fill and easy to use, this is an impressive little hydration backpack that comes with the CamelBak® Got Your Bak™ Lifetime Guarantee.

Great for Dedicated Outdoor Explorers

CamelBak Mil-Tac HydroBak Hydration Pack 50oz

With a sizable 1.5-liter Crux reservoir that can be quickly and easily refilled on the fly, this is one of the most popular models from the impressive CamelBak range. With 2 external pockets to keep your keys, wallet, phone, and other small essentials safe and close at hand, this hydration backpack is suitable for outdoor adventures of all kinds.

Incredibly easy to use wherever you may be, the leakproof on/off lever gives you water when you want it, and keeps it in the reservoir when you do. For your carrying convenience, this backpack also comes with a breathable air mesh back panel and a comfortable fit that skims your silhouette.

With reflective accents to keep you visible when the light is fading, compact dimensions, and incredibly lightweight yet durable design, this is an excellent choice for cyclists, hikers, runners, and anyone who wants to take their exploring to the great outdoors.

Like a Regular Backpack, Only Better

CamelBak Cloud Walker 18 Hydration Pack, 85oz

This classic model from the class leaders at CamelBak is the perfect option for anyone who is looking for minimal storage and a reliable hydration system. The 2.5-liter Crux Reservoir has an integrated drinking tube that is designed not to leak and offers a high flow rate bite valve and a Quick Link system for easy refilling.

For guaranteed comfort on the go, The Cloud Walker 18 is made from breathable mesh fabric, and the streamlined design comes complete with a padded back panel and contoured and padded shoulder straps. For an even more secure fit, the sliding sternum strap helps to stop the backpack from bouncing around, even on rough terrain.

With a main compartment that offers 900 cubic inches of storage space, as well as side mesh pockets, lash points, and compression straps, this is like a basic backpack with the bonus of a first-class hydration system made by one of the most trusted brands in the world.

Groundbreaking Hydration in One of the Brands Best-Selling Backpacks

CamelBak M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack, 100oz

Built with cyclists in mind, the M.U.L.E is one of the best-loved backpacks CamelBak has ever made. With a 3-liter Crux reservoir and 9-liters of space for your gear, it’s not hard to see why this is a brilliant all-around backpack for any outdoor enthusiasts.

The innovative Magnetic Tube Trap attachment system allows you to take a sip wherever you are, and the drinking tube automatically snaps back in to place so that you don’t have to stop what you are doing. The large, leak-proof opening is also super handy for quick and easy refills and thorough cleaning.

For your comfort, there is a secure harness system that helps to ensure that the bag stays securely on your shoulders, while the adjustable straps and removable stability belt help you to find a custom-made fit. Offering extra stretchy storage, this is a great backpack that also provides all the benefits of a CamelBak hydration system.

Travel Light With a Lobo

CamelBak Lobo Hydration Pack, 100oz

With a slim, sleek silhouette and 3-liter water capacity, this is an excellent backpack for hitting the road when you want to take to 2 wheels and travel light. The large-capacity reservoir can hold enough water to keep you hydrated for 3-hour bike rides, or maybe even more, and the external fill means you can top up without having to start unpacking.

Made from lightweight mesh material, the Lobo has CamelBaks patented Quick Link™ System that offers an easy open/close cap, lightweight fillport, a Big Bite™ Valve, HydroGuard™ technology, PureFlow™ tube, and an easy-to-clean wide-mouth opening.

With enough extra space to carry compact essentials such as your pump, phone, wallet, and keys, this backpack is easy on the shoulders and an incredibly useful piece of gear for bike riders really looking to go the distance.

The Best CamelBak Alternatives

CamelBak may be the most famous name when it comes to external hydration, but is certainly not the only brand out there that makes affordable, high-quality solutions for adventurers on the go. Here is a selection of the best CamelBak alternatives:

A 2-Liter Reservoir Makes for Easy Hydration on the Go

Teton Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack

The Teton Sports Oasis comes in a choice of 1100 or 1200, and both sizes are incredibly popular daypacks and a viable alternative to a CamelBak bag. Large enough to carry everything you need on a day trip or short break, the removable BPA-free hydration bladder will keep you hydrated wherever you go.

With a durable, hard-wearing sip tube, push down lock, and cushioned bite valve, the bladder is easy to drink from and easy to clean. For carrying your extra essentials there are several dividers to keep your belongings organized, and the built-in rain cover will keep your gear dry.

Made from durable honeycomb ripstop material, both the 1100 and 1200 models are highly water-resistant and have reflective loops to keep you safe in low light. With adjustable shoulder straps, a chest strap with a built-in whistle, and hydration tube straps, you can adjust the pack to meet your individual requirements.

Big Brand Reliability From Osprey’s Best-Selling Hydration Pack

Osprey Packs Raptor 14 Hydration Pack

Osprey has a reputation for producing high-quality activity-specific backpacks that are well thought out and incredibly durable. The Raptor 14 is, without a doubt, one of the best in their range and works well for practically any activity. From mountain biking and extreme sport through to your daily commute, this pack can handle it all. It has been designed to fit the male frame, and Osprey also makes the same pack suited for the female frame in the Raven 14.

With enough room to comfortably carry your tools, snacks, spare clothing, phone, keys, wallet, and other essentials, this is a very worthy backpack even without the hydration system. But, with an impressive 3-liter hydraulics reservoir, a bite valve magnet clip, and a bladder that always retains its shape to avoid sloshing when you are riding, this backpack rivals the CamelBak eloquently.

Made from tear-resistant 70x100D nylon fabric, and designed to be incredibly comfortable and lightweight, there are plenty of comfort features added to this backpack. The AirScape foam panel on the rear of the hydration pack molds to the shape of your back, while the mesh line sternum and waist straps allow for total ventilation no matter how sweaty you may get.

As one of the most popular and highly rated hydration backpacks on the market today, the Osprey Raptor certainly gives the competition a run for its money.

An Affordable and Durable Hydration and Storage Solution

Mubasel Gear Insulated Hydration Backpack

This is a much more affordable backpack than some of the big brand versions we have already reviewed, and for the price you pay, you actually get some pretty decent features. Waterproof, leakproof, and well insulated, it will keep you hydrated wherever you may be.

With a 2-liter bladder that is BPA-free, you can sip as you skip with insulation that promises to keep your water nice and cool for up to 5 hours and the leakproof design will prevent it from sloshing around on the go.

Offering 3 storage compartments that will easily hold a change of clothes, your keys, wallet, phone, and other essentials, you can take this baby out for long days or even a night away. The padded shoulder straps are comfortable on your back, and the breathable system and lightweight design are easy to wear for long periods at a time.

A Minimalist Backpack With a Huge Following

Osprey Packs Syncro 3 Hydration Pack

Perfect for minimalists everywhere, this featherlight hydration backpack with its metal frame and the trampoline-style suspension is an absolute dream for those who like to take as little as possible with them.

This might be small but these dimensions are what make it such a hit. The pack comes in 2 sizes to suit different torso lengths, and once the hydration pack is packed, there is little room for anything else. Too basic? Absolutely not! The front pocket will still house your keys, wallet, phone, and other essentials, while the lightweight mesh fabric makes it feel virtually non-existent on your back.

The BioStretch mesh harness is comfortable and well ventilated while the sternum strap prevents too much bounce when you hit the floor running. Perhaps the finest feature of this backpack is the 2.5-liter Hydraulics reservoir with magnetic bite valve retention that comes complete with anti-microbial treatment for safe sipping on the go.

A Big Size Backpack With Added Hydration

Gelindo Insulated Hydration Backpack

With enough room to carry pretty much everything you need for day-long or even overnight adventures, this backpack is perfect for hikers, campers, and anyone who needs to keep their gear with them.

The 2.5-liter water reservoir is situated within a thickened hydration compartment that can help to keep your water cool for up to 4 hours at a time. The BPA-free, leakproof water bladder with an easy to use drinking tube will keep you hydrated wherever you are.

Designed with distance in mind, the Gelindo backpack has a comfortable carrying system that offers ergonomic concave air mesh back padding panels to stop you from getting too sweaty. The breathable and adjustable shoulder straps will help you find a custom made carrying position. Even when you are fully loaded up with everything you need for your next outdoor adventure, this backpack will still be comfortable.

Lightweight and Affordable for Adventures of All Kinds

Hydration Backpack Pack with 2L BPA Free Bladder

This breathable and lightweight mesh backpack is a great value alternative to some of the more expensive minimalist hydration packs on the market. With a 2-liter food grade hydration bladder that is easy to fill and easy to clean, you can take this backpack anywhere.

Made from premium quality nylon material, and weighing in at just 0.8 pounds, wearing this is no burden whatsoever. The additional storage compartment is big enough to house your keys, wallets, phone, and even spare clothes, while the bladder compartment is large enough to include ice cubes for chilling.

The large opening makes cleaning easy, and you can fill up between destinations using the larger than average leak-proof opening.

Low Key Affair That Will Do the Job

Unigear Hydration Pack Backpack

Lightweight yet incredibly durable, this hydration backpack is designed to fit chest sizes between 27-50 inches and is unisex. Made from splash-resistant nylon, this backpack houses a 2-liter, BPA-free bladder with an airflow system to keep your water cool. There is also a screw cap for adding ice to your water that should also help to prevent leaks while on the go.

Designed with racing in mind, this backpack is all about keeping you hydrated. While there is a small front pocket for your belongings, space is limited and can only hold a smartphone, keys, and a snack bar or equivalent. Inexpensive and great for those looking for a high-speed alternative to a water bottle, this little backpack will undoubtedly do the job.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for an efficient and convenient way to stay hydrated on the go, a backpack with a built-in reservoir and drinking tube is certainly the way forward.

Whether you want to go all out and invest in a brand leader like CamelBak or try a cheaper alternative to begin with, there are plenty of options out there.


FAQ

How much water can a CamelBak hold?

The size of the CamelBak backpack does not necessarily dictate how much water it can hold — the size of the water reservoir does. CamelBak has 3 different reservoir sizes: 1.5, 2, and 3-liters.

Are CamelBak backpacks made in the USA?

CamelBak products are manufactured in the U.S. and China.

Does CamelBak have a lifetime warranty?

CameBak products come with a Got Your Bak™ Lifetime Guarantee that covers manufacturing defects only. Normal wear and tear, improper use, or negligence is not covered by the guarantee.

Are CamelBak bladders BPA-free?

CamelBak’s reservoirs are free from BPA, BPS, and BPF.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

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