How to Choose Hydration Packs

Hydration packs are designed principally to transport water and make drinking convenient and efficient. In fact, with most hydration packs, you don’t have to stop, or even slow down, to take a sip of water; you simply grab the drink tube that’s connected to the included water reservoir (sometimes called a bladder). When you’re shopping for a hydration pack, you first want to make sure the pack is designed for the activity you intend to use it for, and then consider things like capacity, fit and

Types of Hydration Packs

There are two general types of hydration packs: hydration backpacks and hydration waistpacks. Within those groups, there are packs made specifically for different outdoor activities, including hiking, running, mountain biking, cycling, skiing and snowboarding. The common feature among nearly all of them is the included hydration reservoir that makes drinking easy. A handful of packs (usually ones designed for running) include water bottles rather than a reservoir.

Hydration Backpacks

Running hydration packs: These are designed specifically for running. While shopping, you’ll notice that some are called running vests, while others are running backpacks. The line between the two is sometimes blurry.
  • Running vests: As you might expect, these look like a vest and are designed to fit snug to your body. They are similar to a backpack in that they are carried over the shoulders and on your back, but they tend to be a bit lower profile, feature more pockets on the front of the shoulder straps, and don't have a hipbelt like most packs do. Many include dedicated spots for storing water bottles on the front of the shoulder straps. Most vests also accommodate a hydration reservoir (sometimes sold separately) for runners who like to sip from a tube.
  • Running backpacks: These are a lot like a backpack that you’d take on a day hike but with running-specific features, such as a low-profile design, a simple hipbelt (a few have no hipbelt at all) and a bunch of pockets that are easy to access while you’re running. They sometimes provide more storage than vests (mostly in the back of the pack), making them a good choice for long trail runs that require lots of extra food and clothing. Nearly every running pack accommodates a hydration reservoir for easy sipping on the go (reservoirs are sometimes sold separately). Many also include pockets on the shoulder straps or sides if you prefer to use water bottles.

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