Hydration packs are a fantastic way to extend your run while staying hydrated and comfortable. They can be lifesavers for all kinds of runs, from city jogging to long-distance treks. Traditional water bottles require you to hold extra equipment in your hand, which can be unbalanced and uncomfortable. The hands-free approach of a hydration pack means you can keep your hands relaxed and your mind on the run. After researching hundreds of current models, thousands of customers, and taking a few packs out on the road, we have compiled our top-10 favorite hydration packs of 2020. All things considered, we think your best bet is the CamelBak Octane Dart for its lightweight design, high-quality reputation, and o verall versatility.
Top 3 Comparison Table
CamelBak Octane Dart
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Osprey Duro 1.5
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How to Choose the Best Running Hydration Pack – Buying Guide
If you’ve never run with a hydration pack before, you might not be sure what features to consider. The buying guide below outlines the main elements of a hydration pack so you can make the right selection for your needs.
The biggest difference between a hydration pack used for running, hiking or backpacking is the weight. A running pack should be as lightweight as possible to reduce strain on your shoulders and help you maintain good form. Look for a pack without a lot of accessories.
The bladder reservoir is what defines a hydration pack. Without it, you just have a regular backpack! The bladder itself goes inside the pack, and the tube hose wraps up over your shoulder, giving you easy access to the mouthpiece. You can find hydration packs that come with their own specific bladder, or you can find one that allows you to use any bladder of your choosing. If you are using the hydration pack for long-distance racing, you want to make sure it is easy to access the bladder for quick refills. You also want to make sure the refill opening on the bladder itself is user-friendly so you can refill without risk of spilling.
Some packs come with back panels that allow for breathability between the pack and your body. This can improve your comfort, but it is not an absolute necessity. You can consider the benefit of an airflow panel against the added weight.
The back panel and shoulder straps should come with enough padding to be comfortable during your run. Insufficient padding can cause problematic chaffing and blistering.
Most packs come with adjustable shoulder straps, but you may also want to have adjustable chest straps or hip belts as well. Hydration vests offer extra fit options to keep the vest super snug.
Most of the main brands are limited in their style options. If you are looking for something flashy, you might want to look off the beaten path.
It seems that a nylon material is the most common for a pack shell. If you have a specific need in mind, you will want to research this carefully. Some products are designed to be waterproof, while others are designed to be as lightweight or rugged as possible.
If water temperature is important to you, you’ll definitely want to make sure you find a pack with good bladder insulation. Some packs do a great job keeping water cool and refreshing for extended periods of time. But this may not be the case with all packs.
The amount of water you want to hold at one time is completely up to your personal preference and hydration needs. If you are a short-distance runner, you likely do not need a high capacity pack. However, if you will be trail running for miles at a time (and potentially away from refill opportunities), you may want a pack with a large water capacity. If you want to use the pack for a variety of situations, a higher capacity pack will give you the most options. But be careful, because the packs with the highest capacities will also be heavier.
Pockets and storage
Another consideration is whether or not you need multiple storage options. Do you want your hydration pack to hold your money and ID? Food? If you will be taking your pack out to the mountains for the day, then you will have extra supplies that need storage. But if you are doing an ultralight run through the city, you may want the bare minimum to reduce weight.
There are packs that just serve to hold a water bladder, and there are packs that operate like traditional backpacks. For running, to keep weight down, look for something that has what you think you absolutely need and nothing else. Some people choose to use a minimalist pack and clip extra storage to the outside if necessary.
There are a wide range of hydration packs on the market today. Some from well-established brands like Osprey and CamelBak may come with a higher price tag but also the certainty of higher quality. Options from lesser-known brands may be cheaper but are potentially riskier investments. If your budget is very low, it may be worth the risk for you depending on the features you need. If you are an inexperienced runner, do a few test-runs first to make sure you know exactly what you want before shopping. Also, check the return policies for packs you are considering; some will certainly be more flexible than others.
10 Best Running Hydration Pack Reviews in 2020
1.CamelBak Octane Dart Hydration Pack – Top Pick
The CamelBak Octane Dart has long been a runner’s favorite, and with good reason. It offers a highly durable and reliable design, with a patented bladder reservoir and ultralight shell materials. It has a harness pocket for easy access to power bars and a rear zipper pocket for extra storage.
Features: Included 1.5L reservoir, chest strap, 7 oz total pack weight (unfilled), padded shoulder straps, reflectivity, mesh harness pocket.
- Extremely lightweight
- Good value for the quality
- A trustworthy brand known for durable products
- Easy access mesh pocket
- Price can be high for the small size of the hydration reservoir, but ultimately you are paying for the assurance of quality
2. CamelBak Mil-Tac Hydrobak – Best Ultralight
The CamelBak Mil-Tac Hydrobak is a great minimalist option for ultralight runners. It carries 1.5 liters for roughly 1.5 hours of exertion and a pocket to hold just the essentials (like your keys and wallet). The well-ventilated harness and reflectivity help keep you safe and comfortable during your run.
Features: Diamond mesh back panel, Big Bite Valve, wide mouth fill opening with quick seal cap, machine washable nylon, essentials pocket, 1.5 liter capacity, 5.5 oz weight.
- Minimalist profile
- Antidote hydro guard reservoir
- Has a scratchy material. Be sure to wear something underneath to prevent chafing or rubbing against your skin.
- This model does not have a quick-release tube for the bladder. It makes cleaning a bit more difficult but goes a long way toward preventing leaks.
3.Osprey Packs Duro 1.5 – Best Vest
Of all the hydration vests we reviewed for this list, the Osprey Duro impressed us the most. Osprey is one of the most consistent and popular outdoor brands due to the longterm durability and comfort of its products. The Duro series hydration vest is no exception. This is a minimalist offering with a 1.5L bladder.
Features: Included 1.5L reservoir, chest straps, traditional Osprey mesh straps and panels, front access pockets, safety whistle.
- Best fit of the reviewed vests
- Osprey’s mesh harnesses are well-made and breathable
- Very well-regarded brand
- Amazing warranty
- The Duro 1.5 is the most lightweight of the series and can be insufficient for some runners. Fortunately, there are other Duros with larger bladder capacities that are just as well-made and comfortable.
- Osprey products are not cheap. However, you get what you pay for with Osprey, high-quality and durable, long-lasting products.
4. TETON Sports Oasis 1100 – Best Daypack
The TETON Sports Oasis 1100 is one of the larger hydration packs on this list. It’s a great choice, if you’re planning to do a full day on the trails; it has multiple storage pockets to hold food, sunscreen, and keys.
Features: Included 2L reservoir, chest strap, hip belt, lightweight nylon shell, 2lb total pack weight (unfilled), several pockets, high-density notched foam straps.
- Chest and hip straps allow for a customized fit and superb support
- A reputable brand known for durable products
- Multiple options for accessory storage
- The uninsulated pouch may not keep liquids cool.
- Not as lightweight as others, but this is due to the extra support from the hip belt and the multiple storage pockets.
5. Kuyou – Most Budget-Friendly
The Kuyou Hydration Pack is definitely a consumer favorite. It’s one of the most affordable options we’ve seen and still includes its own hydration bladder. The mesh back panel helps prevent excessive sweating and chafing, and the nylon fabric keeps the pack lightweight for long runs.
Features: Adjustable wide-webbed shoulder straps, mesh backpanel, double-layered reflective design, mouthpiece with on/off valve to reduce leaking, quick-release hydration tube, good return policy, 2L reservoir capacity.
- Super Affordable
- Highly-rated by many consumers
- Protected mouthpiece
- External storage strap option
- Large accessories compartment
- Some users report leakage from inside the bladder. The price point leaves plenty of room to replace the bladder if needed (we recommend Platypus brand), and the generous return policy should alleviate any serious concerns.
6.TETON Sports TrailRunner 2.0 – Best Mid-Range
Teton Sports is one of the most trustworthy brands in outdoor athletic equipment. The TrailRunner 2.0 is a lightweight hydration pack for serious runners. It is one of the few that comes with a chest strap to ensure the tightest fit with minimal bouncing. The included bladder can hold up to 2L for approximately two-hours on the road. This is a hydration pack you can trust to be well-built and well-suited to its purpose.
Features: Included 2L reservoir, chest strap, lightweight nylon shell, .9lb total pack weight (unfilled), padded shoulder straps.
- Comes with chest-strap for a better fit
- Great return policy
- A reputable brand known for durable products
- External storage net option
- There is no sealed pocket for accessories. It does include a net pocket on the back as an effort to reduce overall weight.
- The bladder is not the easiest to fill when compared with some of the other products, but it should get easier with practice. If you are only filling it once for a run, it won’t even be an issue.
7.Mubasel Gear Backpack – Most Versatile
Mubasel is one of the lesser-known brands on our list, but you can’t argue with its popularity! This is a budget-friendly minimalist hydration pack that holds a 2L bladder reservoir and weighs 0.8 lb. There are 3 included storage compartments, including two zippered pockets and a mesh pocket on the front of the pack.
Features: Included 2L reservoir, adjustable chest strap, padded shoulder straps, quick release reservoir hose, 3 storage compartments, 0.8lb weight.
- Comes with chest-strap for a better fit
- Waterproof shell
- Lots of storage room
- Reviewers report some instances of poor craftsmanship during runs. While this was not an issue during our testing, it is worth considering when balancing against the low price point.
8.Ultimate Direction FastpackHer 20 Pack – Best for Women
The FastpackHer 20 by Ultimate Direction is designed specifically with women in mind. It includes an easy-to-reach pocket on the front of the shoulder strap, offering some security for women unsure about solo trips. The roll-top main panel allows for increased gear storage if needed, and the many pockets will make packing a breeze.
Features: Included 2L reservoir, chest strap, waterproof shell, 20L gear capacity, 9+ storage compartments, frameless design, 1lb 3.7oz weight.
- Includes shoulder strap pocket for easy-access storage
- Chest strap for extra comfort
- Single panel design reduces rubbing for different body types
- This pack is heavier than most of the others. It would not be our top choice for ultralight runs, but is a great option for longer treks where storage and comfort are key.
9.Unigear Tactical Hydration Pack Backpack – Most Rugged
This pack was designed and constructed with a specific runner in mind. Most features are standard, including the adjustable shoulder and chest straps included 2.5L reservoir bladder and multiple storage pockets. However, there are a few features that set it apart from the competition. The emergency whistle, heavy-duty construction with PVC lining, and unique digital camouflage print are ideal for deep trail runs outside of the city.
Features: Included 2.5L reservoir, chest strap, rugged shell, 22oz total pack weight (unfilled), camouflage design, multiple storage compartments.
- Abundant storage options
- Chest strap for tight-fits
- Unique design
- Durable materials
- This is one of the heaviest packs on the list due to the heavy-duty shell material and large reservoir bladder. It is perfect for a rugged adventure.
10. Nathan VaporAiress – Best for Small Runners
Hydration vests are a unique take on the traditional backpack-style pack. They have been increasing in popularity in recent years, and none more so than the Nathan VaporAiress. This vest offers a wrap-around style fit, with wider front straps and multiple chest straps to ensure that no bouncing takes place. There are two front-access pockets and side mesh pockets as well. It’s a great option for those looking to improve fit and comfort while possibly carrying more essentials.
Features: Included 2L reservoir, quick release valve, front access pockets, chest straps, 14.9oz unfilled weight.
- Snug fit
- Easy-reach front pockets (can fit extra bottles)
- Lots of great storage
- Good breathability
- The fit for tall or large-chested women is a bit awkward. It seems best suited for more petite users.
How do the valves work?
The valves on hydration packs can work in a few different ways. Most commonly, they are soft bite valves that work similarly to many water bottles on the market. You bite gently on the mouthpiece and suck in, releasing your bite when finished. Some products have covers for the valves to prevent accidental leakage if something is pressed against the mouthpiece.
Will my fluids remain at a cold temperature?
This depends on the specific product and how they designed their reservoir holder. Typically, the thinner the shell material, the less insulation it will provide. Some products offer specially insulated compartments to keep the water cool, so you should look for those if the temperature is a priority.
How do I drink the fluid from a hydration pack?
The fluid in a hydration pack is stored in the reservoir bladder inside the main compartment. It is attached to a flexible hose that wraps up around the shoulder strap and is secured near your chest. To release the fluid, you use the soft bite valve mouthpiece like you would use a bite-straw on a water bottle.
Can liquids leak from the bladder?
Liquids shouldn’t leak from the bladder, but it can happen inadvertently. If the pack is set down and its weight pushes against the mouthpiece, water may leak out. Additionally, water could leak from the fill opening if it is not properly secured. And of course, if there is a defect in any part of the bladder, it may not fully hold the water.
How much fluid will a hydration pack hold?
Most hydration packs will hold between 1.5 and 3 liters, with 2 being the most common. Larger packs give you the option of adding additional flasks or bottles as well.
How long will my hydration pack last?
A high-quality hydration pack may never need to be replaced. Most other hydration packs should stay strong for at least a few years before experiencing any issues with the seams.
How do I wear a hydration pack?
Hydration packs are worn like traditional backpacks, with two shoulder straps and sometimes a chest or hip strap as well. Hydration vests fit a bit more like vests (as the name implies) and come with additional chest straps for a tighter fit. You can adjust the shoulder straps on virtually all models.
Can I race with a hydration pack?
Absolutely. Hydration packs are a great way to make sure you stay hydrated without the distraction or extra bulk of a water bottle.
What Is the Best Running Hydration Pack – Final Thoughts
While hydration packs have come a long way since they first hit the market, we don’t think anyone has truly exceeded CamelBak in overall quality. There is something to be said for a company that truly specializes in one particular type of product. Their care, industry knowledge, and attention to detail shines through their products.
For the best hydration pack for runners in 2020, we are choosing the CamelBak Octane Dart . This pack has a sleek and reflective design and CamelBak’s typical level of quality and comfort. It offers sufficient storage and bladder capacity for all levels of runners and is guaranteed to get the job done.
While the price may be high for some, you can be sure you are getting a product built to last. A failure of your hydration pack in the middle of a run can be not only devastating but also dangerous. The number one complaint among reviewers of various hydration packs was of poor quality and shoddy craftsmanship; this is something you definitely will not find in the CamelBak Octane Dart, and it will be well worth the cost.
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