Hydration packs are extremely useful. Even with the advent of gear-carrying bibs, nothing compares to a hydration pack when it comes water and gear-hauling capacity.
The best packs can help you be prepared out on the trails and organize your riding essentials. Plus, carrying up to three liters of water (that’s the equivalent of three large bottles) comfortably allows for big, all-day rides.
What to look for in a hydration pack
Hydration packs, just like everything else in the bike world, have evolved brilliantly. There’s a huge range of shapes, sizes and features.
So how do you narrow down all the choices? Ask yourself what sort of riding you do: How long are your rides? How often do you puncture a tire or have other mechanicals? Do you play the role of sherpa for your less-prepared friends? etc.
Each question should help you narrow down your choice so you end up with the right pack for you. Do you like lots of internal compartments? Do you want a spot to stash your sunglasses, goggles or camera and GoPro? How about hip pockets, a rain cover or external straps and bungees for strapping on a helmet, rain jacket or knee armor?
Check out BikeRadar’s Hydration Pack Buying Guide to steer the process.
The best hydration packs
CamelBak Mule LR
CamelBak’s Mule LR combines a useful size with excellent organization and a top performing reservoir
- £129.99 / $150 / AU$219.95
- 3L reservoir
- 12L gear capacity
From epic all day rides to short after work spins, CamelBak’s Mule LR can handle it. It’s a relatively lightweight pack with 12 liters of storage and a three liter reservoir.
For improved stability and carrying the bladder features CamelBak’s low rider tech, which allows the weight to ride closer to the hips instead of vertically up the back.
Perforations abound on the shoulder straps and the back panel for a bit of airflow.
And in typical CamelBak fashion, there’s a multitude of well-placed pockets.
CamelBak KUDU 8
Back protection is built into the CamelBak Kudu 8
- 3L reservoir
- 5L gear capacity
- Impact protector back panel
CamelBak’s KUDU 8 does triple duty: it’s a hydration pack, hauls pads and even a full-face helmet, and has internal back protection.
Other features abound as well, such as a tool roll and loads of pockets, including the always handy hip pockets for often used items. In addition to the shoulder straps, the pack is steadily attached via a hip belt and two sternum straps.
One thing to note with the KUDU 8 is that the reservoir is not included. It’s compatible with up to a three liter bladder.
Wingnut’s low-riding style makes it the go-to when hauling heavy loads
- £140 / $ and AU$ not available
- Compatible with 3L reservoir
- 26L gear capacity
Wingnut takes a slightly different approach to hydration packs. The packs ride decidedly lower on the back placing the majority of the weight on the rider’s hips instead of the shoulders.
The MPS pack is all about hauling big loads on the bike. It has 26 liters of gear storage plus bungee cords and stretchy mesh pockets for lugging along even more stuff. For shorter rides, the main portion of the pack can be removed to create a lighter, smaller bag.
Constructed from waterproof sailcloth, the MPS is weather-resistant and easy to clean. It does not come with a reservoir, which depending on your preference of bladder, may or may not be a good thing.
USWE Airborne 15
USWE uses a unique shoulder harness for extra stability
- 3L reservoir
- 15L gear capacity
USWE packs come from Sweden and, instead of the requisite shoulder straps, uses a four-point harness that forms a stable X pattern across the chest.
There’s 15 liters of gear storage and up to 3 liters of liquid carrying capacity from a reservoir that features a wide opening for easy cleaning, or adding ice cubes or drink mix. The reservoir can also be zipped to streamline the size.
Helmet carrying straps can be found and there are interior and exterior pockets for organization.
The lightweight ripstop nylon has a water-repellent silicone coating to keep the weather at bay.
Osprey Raptor 14
Osprey puts its high-end backpacking bag knowledge to good use in its hydration pack line
- 3L reservoir
- 14L gear capacity
Backpacking and hiking pack makers Osprey know a thing or two about making comfortable, well thought out bags.
The Raptor 14 comes with the standard hydration pack fare of excellent storage, an external helmet carry, and lightweight, durable materials.
Where it stands out though is with its removable tool roll and work mat, and innovative reservoir. The bladder hose mouthpiece features a magnet so it attaches securely to the bag in all conditions.
CamelBak Repack LR
Hip packs are excellent options when you don’t need a full-size backpack. CamelBak’s Repack LR is one of the best
- 1.5L reservoir
- 4L gear capacity
While not a traditional backpack, CamelBak’s Repack LR is a solid hydration option for shorter rides and those who don’t want to wear a pack.
As expected, the reservoir holds less liquid but is still flush with CamelBak’s venerable technology like the high flow hose, shut off switch and class-leading bite valve.
Organization is also well thought out with plenty of pockets, six in total. And to make sure everything rides well, CamelBak took the effort to make sure the waist belt’s adjustments stay tight on the Repack LR.
Source lets the rider choose to use the optional shoulder harness or not
- 1.5L reservoir
- Six pockets
- Removable shoulder harness
Source includes a removable shoulder harness with its Hipster pack. The harness is ideal for slim riders or for those looking for more stability when on the trail.
Its 1.5 liter bladder features ‘glass-like’ technology which is supposed to keep any funky tastes from occurring. The hose is kept from flopping about via a magnetic clasp.
This pack is on the smaller size, especially when the reservoir is full, so it’s best for days you don’t need a jacket or ton of gear out on the trails.