How to Choose a Hydration Pack

How to Choose a Hydration PackHydration packs are nearly a must-have for any serious hiker. While you could lug around several bottles of water, the hydration pack keeps your water stored comfortably and accessible whenever you need a sip. There are a ton of options on the market and it's easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily, hydration packs are pretty simple and there's really just a few points to compare.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Determine the size of pack that you need. Although a hydration pack may serve primarily to carry your water, you'll probably want to pack some other items in there. Packs range widely in their capacity, from no storage space at all to about 2000 cubic inches. Any larger than that and you'll be looking at a medium-sized backpack. Decide what you need to bring with you including things like extra clothing, navigation gear, food and sun protection. Then purchase a pack that has enough room to store it all. If you need more room than a hydration pack provides, opt for a backpack with built-in hydration storage; you'll need to purchase the bladder with hose separately.
Step 2
Consider how much water that you'd like to carry in your hydration pack. Standard sizes include 35 oz., 50 oz., 70 oz., 72 oz. and 100 oz. How much water you need will depend upon where you hike, how long that you're out and how strenuous the hike or activity is. If you decide it prudent to carry water beyond the 100 oz. mark, look for a hydration pack with stretch side pockets, which you can use to store water bottles. Bear in mind that a liter of water (approximately 68 oz.) weighs roughly 2 lbs.
Step 3
Consider the compartments available. Organized compartments can help you to keep your belongings separated and easy to access.
Step 4
Check the hydration bladder and system. A number of different filling systems are available including top seals and screw-on lids. Consider how easy the system will be to fill with water, put ice cubes in and clean. Look for a bite valve with a turn-off knob to prevent leaking.
Step 5
Get a winter hydration pack. If you plan to use the pack solely for winter sports, look for packs with insulated parts that will mitigate freezing. You could also purchase a kit to convert a regular hydration pack into a winter pack.
Step 6
Try the pack on. Make sure that it fits comfortably. For a more accurate feel, put a few pounds of gear in it to see how comfortable it feels when full. A sternum strap is a handy design feature that will keep the pack stable and prevent the shoulder straps from sliding off during use.

Tips & Warnings

Empty and clean your hydration pack after every use.

Article Written By Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.

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