The Best Hydration Packs for Mountain Biking in 2020

Our picks for the top gear haulers for long and short rides

Hydration
Best Hydration Packs

The best hydration packs combine comfort, stability, and functionality.

This article was updated 7/07/2020

Because packs allow us to be prepared out on the trail, we’ve continued to seek out updates to this list. We’ve added some great new packs with unique design characteristics to improve your carrying capacity out on rides. We’d love to hear from you if you’ve found a great pack that works well for your needs, what is it and what do you carry in it?

What to look for in a mountain bike hydration pack

Let’s be honest. Not all mountain bikers love (or are even willing to use) hydration packs. Too hot, too heavy, too clumsy, too bulky are among the most frequently leveled complaints. And we hear ya. For rides less than 2 hours, there’s simply no need to schlep around a pack — especially in this age of high functioning bum bags, SWAT-type on-bike storage (thanks, Specialized), and water bottles inside the main triangle (finally, Yeti). But for bikepacking, big backcountry adventures, all-day epics, and/or guiding, the humble hydration pack remains an essential must-have piece of gear. That’s why Mtbr has rounded up this list of the best hydration packs.

Best Hydration Packs

Packs that have a low center of gravity such as the Camelbak Skyline LR10 mean less clanking around when you’re bombing downhill.

But before we delve into our favorites, it’s important to know what makes the best hydration packs… the best. And what you need to consider when making your personal purchasing decision. In no particular order, you should be thinking about capacity, fit, and features. Of course you also need to make sure that the pack you pick is actually intended for shredding the gnar, and not running a marathon or hiking in the Himalayas. Assuming you won’t make that mistake, here’s a rundown on the remaining key considerations.

Best Hydration Packs

Packs that can carry a helmet and pads are highly sought after in these enduro-is-everything times.

Water Capacity

When it comes to capacity of the best hydration packs, we’re talking about both water (or whatever your liquid of choice is) and gear. It’s also worth noting that some hydration packs are not sold with water-carrying bladders, so make sure you check. As for how much water you need, first-off remember that water equals weight (about 2 pounds per liter), so just because your chosen bladder will hold a gallon of go-go juice doesn’t mean you should fill it to the brim every time you ride.

Best Hydration Packs

How much water a pack can carry and how it’s delivered is certainly one of the most important aspects of hydration pack design.

Think about how long you plan to ride, how hot is it, and if you can refill along the way, and then plan accordingly. As a very general rule of thumb, figure you’ll need to consume the equivalent of one water bottle per hour of ride time, and that a standard water bottle holds around 22 ounces (or .65 liters). And then unless your bladder has fill lines, use one of your water bottles as a measuring cup when you fill up. That way you’re less likely to haul around unnecessary extra weight that’ll just get dumped in your garden when you get back from your ride.

Best Hydration Packs

Cargo space and how it’s organized is a key consideration when shopping the best hydration packs.

Most hydration packs (including some of our choices for the best hydration packs) come with 2- or 3-liter reservoirs. That’s plenty for most riding adventures, remembering that 3 liters equals the capacity of 4.6 standard-size water bottles. That said, we prefer 3-liter bladders, which add minimal weight while availing a wider range of fill options.

Best Hydration Packs

The best hydration packs are vented to help keep you cool.

Read more about the importance of proper hydration here.

Best Hydration Packs

Before buying a pack decide what are your must-carry items and then choose accordingly.

Gear Capacity

As for gear carrying capacity, expect to encounter a wide of range of options, with most packs usually in the 5- to 15-liter range. Next consider how much gear you need to carry. This is obviously in part a personal decision. Some of us can sustain all day on energy gels. Others settle for nothing less than a turkey sandwich, chips, and a cookie.

Best Hydration Packs

The bigger the pack the deeper you can safely venture into the backcountry.

Same goes for tools and spare parts. Are you a member of the quick-fill-and-tire-plug-only crowd, or do you regularly ride with a spare rear derailleur, full suite of tools, and a space blanket? We figure that most riders on most rides will be fine with around 7 liters of cargo carrying space, while frequent visitors to the deep backcountry, bikepackers, and guide types may need at least double that. Just remember that more space means more fabric, which means more weight for you to lug around.

Best Hydration Packs

Cargo space and how it’s organized is a key consideration when shopping the best hydration packs.

Also consider how that space is organized. Simple packs may have just one big carry-all pocket, while more refined hydration pack offerings will include lots of compartmentalized storage so you can keep your chain lube separate from your lunch. That means bonus points for packs with easy-to-access pockets, fleece lined storage for valuables, a removable tool roll, and hooks and straps to carry your helmet, a removable chinbar, or body armor.

Best Hydration Packs

When you’re dropping in the last thing you want to be thinking about is your hydration pack.

Fit

Though most of the best hydration packs are one-size-fits-all, that doesn’t mean you can forget about fit. Indeed, you’ll want to consider your torso length and waist size, and ideally try on packs until you find one that matches up with your body type. And even if you can’t try before you buy, look for packs that are highly adjustable, which will increase the likelihood that your pack won’t be bonking you in the head when you’re dropping into sketchy steep rock garden.

Best Hydration Packs

Removable back protection such as what the Dakine Seeker 15L has is an attractive feature.

Key Features

We’ve already mentioned some of the key features to look for when searching the best hydration packs. But beyond cargo carrying space, compartmentalized storage, and ample fit adjustability, we look for the following: rugged bite valves, secure bite valve storage, easy bladder insertion and removal, quick disconnect hoses, and wide mouth bladder openings, which make them easy to fill and clean.

Best Hydration Packs

Extras such as tool rolls are a nice add-on feature found in the best hydration packs.

Other desirable features include built-in back protection, good ventilation, security clips for keys, quick-access waist pockets, and built-in rain covers.

Best Hydration Packs

Chest strap and waist belt functionality are another key consideration.

Okay, now that we’ve run through the main things you should be looking for when shopping, let’s get to the goods. Here in alphabetical order are our picks for the best hydration packs for mountain bikers.

CamelBak Skyline LR 10

Aimed at addressing the issue of hydration packs’ tendency for unwanted shifting when bombing downhill, the CamelBak Skyline LR 10 is designed to shift the bulk of its weight near the lower back while at the same time giving more support to the wearer’s lumbar region. By lowering the pack’s center of gravity, the rider maintains more stability on rough trails while also letting the upper body move more freely. Other features include ample pockets to keep gear organized, attachment for a full-face helmet and armor, and a magnetic tube trap to keep your hydration hose from flopping around. It also comes with a 3-liter reservoir, and the rear of the pack has a ventilated back panel to help you stay cool.

Price: $96.99

buy now

 


Dakine Seeker 15L

Best Hydration Packs

The Dakine Seeker 15L rolltop hydration pack with included 3-liter reservoir and removable spine protector is built for all manner of mountain bike adventures. Ample cargo space, durable polyurethane-coated 200D Nylon Ripstop fabric, and a near-waterproof construction and closures make it a viable companion for true backcountry adventurers — especially those who want to carry valuables such as a camera and not worry about it ever getting wet. The removable protective back pad and easy-to-use helmet and armor carrying system give it true enduro racing potential, and a host of interior and exterior pockets (including one that’s fleece-lined) allow the rider to carry all the gear they need and keep it organized. It also has a ventilated air suspension back panel, breathable ergonomic shoulder straps, and it comes with a 3-liter Hydrapak lumbar reservoir that helps keep water weight low on your back to maintain an overall lower center of gravity.

Price: $119

buy now

 


Patagonia Nine Trails 14l Pack

As Patagonia’s first MTB specific pack, the Nine Trails pack offers some solid gear carrying features in a comfortable and well-designed pack system. With 14l of carrying capacity, the Nine Trails pack is a great day-to-day MTB pack for shorter rides when carrying a bunch of gear isn’t a concern. A large internal gear pocket stores a 100l hydration blatter in addition to bulkier and heavier items. Designed with the roomier part of the pocket near the bottom, this area carries heavy items like tools, tubes, and bulky food with ease. Upfront, a smaller pocket allows for easy organization of tools, bars, and items you’ll want to access often during your outing. Mesh pockets complement the internal storage in easy access locations on the outside back, side panels and two zippered easily access waistbelt pockets for a multitool, bars, or your phone.

Price: $139

buy now

 


EVOC Explorer Pro 30L

Best Hydration Packs

Mountain bike guides or the chronically over-prepared will love the EVOC Explorer Pro 30L, which is the largest pack in this round-up and goes well beyond the average cargo hauler, boasting the space to carry up to 30 liters of just-in-case gear securely and comfortably. It’s also a good choice for riders who need more hauling capacity for Euro-style town-to-town bike touring or even lightweight camping gear for bikepacking. Nylon 210/D Ripstop fabric is durable, wide hip wings have large zipper compartments, and there’s a roll-bottom for internal separation or volume adjustment. It also has a separate wash pouch, an attachment system for helmet, a separate tool compartment, compression belt, rain cover, and accommodation for hydration systems up to 3 liters.

Price: $150
buy now

 


Henty Enduro 2.0

Best Hydration Packs

Aimed to meld the benefits of hip pack (low weight) and a backpack (better stability), the Henty Enduro 2.0 keeps weight low and stabilized, while also minimizing back sweat. Ample pockets and webbing provide plenty of easy-to-access storage, and it comes with 3-liter bladder so you can venture further afield without running out of water. There’s also a hidden 10cm rear extension that gives this pack more flexibility to fit a variety of body shapes, including tall and stocky frames. Other features include lumbar (including hips and kidney) impact protection, mesh back panel for stability and improved air ventilation, 48″ hose and blaster valve, adjustable shoulder straps, adjustable chest strap, and tough Cordura 500D nylon to ensure it is lightweight, yet strong enough to withstand the occasional get-off.

Price: $120
buy now

 


Leatt Hydration Pack DBX Enduro Lite 2.0

Best Hydration Packs

Protection experts Leatt deliver the goods with this lightweight pack that of course includes a back protector. Winner of a Design & Innovation Award, the DBX Enduro Lite 2.0 includes a convenient and efficient hydration system and ample gear storage. Features include a height adjustable harness that works without a constraining hip strap. Instead the cargo straps secure the backpack. It also has fully-welded seams, a waterproof outer shell, and heat reflective inner back panel that helps keep your belongings dry and liquid hot or cold. There’s even a smartphone pouch with touch screen functionality, and it’s equipped with a lightweight helmet carrier system and a dual hydration tube for two-way routing – over the shoulder or under the arm.

Price: $112

buy now

 


 

HydroFlask Journey 10

Designed around shorter rides in warmer temps, the Journey 10L blends a clean, compact pack design with a unique tech approach to keeping your water cold. Centered around Hydro Flask’s multi-part Cold Flow system; externally, an articulated back panel separates the pack from your body, letting airflow to both your body and your beverages. Internally, a reflective-insulated sleeve houses a 3l bladder (included) further reducing unwanted water warming. The final piece to keeping your water cold is the reservoir itself – HydraPak Isobound insulation works in unison with the other features to ensure that whatever is inside the reservoir will stay cold for more than four hours. What we like about the Journey 10 is it’s sleek, clean design mated with some unique technologies.

Price: $165

buy now

 


Osprey Raptor 14

 

Arguably the gold standard in outdoor sports packs, Cortez, Colorado-based Osprey makes superb gear haulers for all manner of activities. The Raptor 14 is their go-to for mountain biking, and its 14-liters are packed with functional features. Osprey’s BioStretch harness and hipbelt help to comfortably connect the pack to your body, and the 3-liter Hydraulics reservoir reduces liquid movement for increased pack stability when the trail turns techy. The hydration sleeve is zippered for convenient refilling and the hose routes over the right shoulder strap to the sternum strap where it anchors with a magnetic disk for on-the-fly access to the bite valve. The main compartment is accessible via a front zipper panel, and there’s a stretch mesh front pocket for stashing a layer at the bottom of big climbs, zippered hipbelt pockets to keep a phone or other valuables secure, and a special scratch-free sunglass pocket to protect your shades. Finally, the clever LidLock helmet carry system gives you a place to secure your helmet, and the rollout tool pouch provides organized access for trailside repairs.

Price: $149

buy now

 


Platypus Duthie AM 10.0

Best Hydration Packs

There’s lots to like with the utilitarian Platypus Duthie AM 10.0, which hits the sweet spot for size and storage for most mountain bike rides. Construction is durable and water resistant 160D/210D nylon. Storage is ample and organized, and the pack is incredibly stable even when tackling rowdy terrain. We also love its easy-to-access zippered waist pockets, which are perfect for storing snacks. It also ticks the expect enduro’centric boxes with its well-designed pad and helmet carry system, rain fly cover, fleece lined eyewear pocket, and self-securing drink hose, and padded mesh waist belt.

Price: $105
buy now


Thule Vital 3L

Best Hydration Packs

Heretofore best known for its myriad rack solutions, Thule jumped into the hydration pack arena with its new Vital collection about 18 months ago. Available in three sizes, 3, 6, and 8 liter, the Thule Vital features include a hands-free magnetic hose return system and convenient jersey-style pockets for quick access to nutrition, clothing, or tools without having to remove the pack. All Thule Vital packs come with Hydrapak reservoirs ranging from 1.75L to 2.5L sizes, and 3 to 8 liters of cargo storage while maintaining a low center of gravity. Additional features include a tail light attachment, a sternum strap for stability and comfort, and designated interior loops to carry a tire pump and shock pump. We highlighted the 3-liter model here as a great option for riders who prefer a backpack over a waist pack, and/or have a bike that doesn’t accommodate a water bottle inside the main triangle.

Price: $90
buy now


USWE Airborne 9

Known for their unique NDM “non-bounce” a 4-point harness system designed to comfortably mange the packs load. With other features like ventilated shoulder straps and a unique anti-slip back panel, USWE approaches mountain bike packs a bit differently than traditional designs. We’ve been happy with how well the USWE Airborne 9 carries a day rides worth of gear. Well laid out pockets provide adequate organizational opportunities no matter how much random stuff you’re carrying. The total storage capacity of the pack is 9L, distributed by the total of 8 storage pockets including a smart organizer pocket that allows you keep everything organized and in position for quick access. The packs exterior also integrates smart attachment points for a full face helmet along with knee and elbow pads.

Price: $117
buy now

Feedback from our forums

We found some great conversation regarding hydration packs in our Apparel/Protection Forum:

str8edgMTBMXer said: “Osprey Raptor 14…mine is 5 years old now, and it has been awesome! Replaced an old Camelback. I bought it because it is much easier to fill, it has much more storage options as far as pockets go. I wear it at work too in the summer, so it gets a lot of use. It has a 3 liter bladder. Osprey is reeeaalll good about replacing parts. When the clear rubber nozzle thing wore out, I e mailed Osprey asking for a new plastic cover. They sent 3 for free…I have heard that they send other parts the same way.”

Arebee said: “I have the Raptor 14 as well. I chose it over the Mule NV a few years back. The two were very similar, but the Raptor just felt more comfortable. I closed the clip on the chest strap in my car door and they sent me two for free to replace it. I really like the detachable tool wrap as well.”

Outrider66  said: “I just finished my first ride with the Camelback Rogue I bought recently. I was extremely pleased with it. Along with the good hydration hardware, ample capacity and good fit/function, it has 2 zipper pockets which perfectly fit the stuff I always carry – wallet, phone, car keys, bandana, about 2′ of toilet paper (for me, the most essential item – lol), and 3-way hex wrench. It has an open “pocket” where you can stuff a shirt, etc., plus a tire pump.


Mtbr is committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.



About the author: Mtbr

Mtbr.com is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.



Comments:

  • C. says:

    I can speak for the Hauser by mission workshop : Hands down it is ‘thee’ best, most high-quality, well made, exceptionally comfortable pack I have ever owned. I have had it for going on 3 years now, and unlike ALL other packs I have owned, this one continues to impress me. The quality of the pack in terms of how incredibly over-built it is, along with how comfortable it is on very long rides..makes it the best investment I have made on a pack. I would never go back to Camelcrap after owning the Hauser.

  • chase says:

    Hauser is $205 and you still need to buy a bladder? What a bunch of overpriced hipster trash!
    I wouldn’t ride with a hydropack again unless it is a 4hr ride or better.

    What’s next up MTBR? Best Toe Straps?

  • Shark says:

    Been using Osprey for about 6 years or so. They’ve been fantastic, and their customer service is amazing. I stepped on and broke one of the belt clips, I offered to buy a replacement, they sent me 2, free of charge.
    Recently bought one of their duffels on sale, & the quality is very nice.

  • Ron Gillilan says:

    Don’t forget the ability to carry trail tools. I have an older osprey synchro 15 and it can carry a 16″ saw inside the main pocket, a rake, shovel, and polaski on the back with no extra rigging. Can any of these packs? This comment is aimed at the reviewers, and manufacturers.

  • Robert G says:

    USWE is the best out there! If you don’t know what that is, then you shouldn’t be talking about the best hydration packs. http://www.uswe-sports.com

    • Drew says:

      This is the correct answer. I got my USWE this summer and don’t know how I have been using other brands before this. It doesn’t move at all and you can barely tell its there.

  • Kevin says:

    Wow, kept scrolling looking for a USWE pack and it wasn’t there!?! I’m with Robert and Drew, ditched my camelpack for the USWE Airborne 9 last year after hearing about it from MTBPodcast and am sooo happy with the change. It literally becomes part of you, and there is never an issue with weight shift or support.

  • Nicky G says:

    Agree…incomplete w/o USWE on the list. Changed out all my other gear for USWE. It’s comfortable, doesn’t move around, and the quality has been great.

  • Rob Gibson says:

    Add another to the USWE bandwagon. They most definitely belong in this conversation.

  • FC says:

    + another for USWE! I’m really surprised they’re not included in the article. For me, top criteria is to not have my pack slapping be in the back of my head as I leave the ground. USWE is the best at this, and still have functionality. Nice snug fit and hardly know it’s there.

  • Ed Knight says:

    Here is another ‘wow – no mention of USWE’ packs. We’ve got 4 – two for light weight race days and two for longer day rides to carry more gear.

  • Bass says:

    USWE USWE USWE

  • brian williams says:

    That’s funny: my first reaction was, without USWE on here this list is a joke. Looks like I’m not the only one!

  • Willie says:

    I’ve got a USWE Lizard and honestly don’t really love it. The shoulder straps don’t have proper padding and it bounces around too much. Maybe I’m just not fat enough, but I’m 5′ 10″ and I have it as tight as I can get it. The build quality, look, and storage is great, though.

  • Frank says:

    I’m 5′ 10″ 160lbs and my USWE doesn’t bounce around at all, unlike my previous osprey and camelbak packs. No more pack smacking my helmet on steep descents, so nice.

    I have a small one for races or rides under 4 hours and a larger one for more extended trips into the forest.

  • Wai San Liu JOHN says:

    Hands down…..USWE. Come on guys…I’ve used so many backpacks…USWE is one of the best out there…..I too, kept scrolling down to see if you guys have got it right, wrong. No USWE on the review. Disappointed

  • Eric says:

    USWE all day long.

  • Eric C says:

    Dakine Seeker 15 is one I can recommend. Stand-out features the others generally do not have:
    -water proof
    -sits off back for air flow
    -back protector!
    -doesn’t shift around and try to beat you down the hill like Osprey Raptor 14 (had 2, great service but a mushy pack that turns into a round sausage rolling around when full)
    -Lumber based bladder
    Nuff said

  • RandomDaveness says:

    I replaced my Camelbaks and Ospreys with USWE packs and never been happier. You forget they are back there, whereas with CB and Ospreys you ALWAYS know they’re weighing you down.

    • Bman says:

      That’s because this article didn’t even mention the best thing about the USWE packs! Sure, they have NoDancingMonkey technology, but the 4-point harness is the best thing about these as it, if fit properly, allows a lot of the weight to be off of your shoulders and held up by your chest straps. These packs sit up high but put much less pressure on your shoulders than the other ones.

  • Matt says:

    I’m still with the hydro pack crowd. Can’t beat a small pack if you have multiple bikes and don’t want to compromise how much water and gear you need. I downsized to a Dakine Shuttle 6l pack – small, 70 oz bladder and just enough room for necessary tools plus a little extra storage.

  • BmanInBigD says:

    They didn’t even mention the best thing about the USWE packs: with the 4-point harness, the chest straps keep a lot of the weight off of your shoulders, the worst thing about the other packs I’ve used.

  • Abe says:

    I will stick with my Vaude Hyper Air 14+3. Best cooling back panel for hot rides in the desert. Used it skiing also. The minus with this pack is it isn’t very compartmentalized, 2 main compartments. About $70 on Amazon.

  • Charles Coker says:

    After running Camelbacks for like 20 plus years I recently bought the USWE Outlander 4 with 3 liter reservoir. I wanted the lightest, most minimal pack that held 100 oz of water for our Texas summer rides. I have used it now numerous times and love it. It is very lightweight and doesn’t bounce around or move at all. https://www.uswe-sports.com/c-outlander-4-black

  • Michael says:

    Wingnut Gear for the win.

  • Seb Roche says:

    Same here as many other answers, I have been riding for more or less 20 years and switched from traditional type (namely Camelback and Dakine) to Uswe Airborne 9 a couple of years ago and will not go back, the 4 point harness makes one hell of a difference as it totally removes the weight from the shoulders and gives you total freedom of movement (no waiststrap). I really regret that I did not make the move earlier.

  • Jerry says:

    The bite valves on the USWE are terrible. Do not last very long before starting a heavy drip/drizzle. Bag great, valve kills them.

  • Paul Lehman says:

    After reading this original article w/o a USWE I researched them and ended up buying one. It. Is. The. Best. Pack. Ever. Owned. And I had 11 packs at the time.
    Have unloaded 4 of them now and looking for a second USWE.
    5 point harness is amazing and snug – no moving…plus another serendipity is that there are no hanging straps on this pack! It’s just a simple clean setup that delivers.
    See now they have a USWE added to the list – good to see they responded to comments like I did.

  • Julie says:

    USWE is pretty much a men-only pack. I feel left out of the fun.

  • Zachary Abelardo says:

    Raptor 14 does me good. Had a Camelbak Mule for nine years, which was great…. but the Raptor clearly trumps it. Looking forward to another decade of worry-free service…

  • Rod C. says:

    I ordered both an Osprey and an Uswe. After trying them both on and examining the features, I kept the Uswe and returned the Osprey.
    Uswe fit better, was a smaller pack even though they both had the same fluid and cargo capacity, and looked more streamlined and modern.

  • john says:

    What did you miss:

    The best backpack for bike riding that sits low on your hips and does not try to throw you off the bike when it no longer is a straight line you ride:
    Wingnut.
    They do not deliver bladder so you need to get one and the best for military come from
    Source
    so that is good enough for me also.
    Magnetic bite valves can be found many places now, but when I started only
    Osprey
    had one I liked.

  • Nick McCarthy says:

    Recently purchased the Osprey Raptor, it is absolutely fantastic. Very versatile, lightweight and well designed. I can tell that there has been a lot of thought during the design process. Wouldnt have anything else.

  • Craig Bryan says:

    CAMELBAK pack, bladder and BITE VALVE is the BEST!!
    They are super durable, quality and well thought out.
    The bite value is soft and will not injure your teeth or mouth like some of the others.
    It works great!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*


THE SITE

ABOUT MTBR

VISIT US AT

© Copyright 2020 VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved.