by Diane Spicer
Hiking hydration backpacks are a choice you can make if you're concerned about staying well hydrated throughout the hiking day but don't want to stop for frequent water breaks.
How to select one of these backpacks?
The best hydration backpacks for hiking have a few non-negotiable features that you should be aware of if you're in the market for constant access to your water supply.
Adequate hiking hydration is no joke, and is so often overlooked that it amazes me.
But you're not going to be the dehydrated hiker with a huge headache and weak muscles I meet on the trail, right?
The first thing to do is to dig out your current backpack(s) and look for an already-there (or not) feature:
a portal (hole) for a sip tube that leads to an interior pocket (sleeve) to hold a water reservoir.
Depending on how old your packs are, you might already be set up to purchase only a water reservoir, thus avoiding a new hydration pack purchase altogether.
Next item of business: choosing the size of the water reservoir to carry in your pack.
Tip: If you're just buying the hiking water reservoir, be sure it will fit into your existing pack once it's filled to capacity.
Your decision hinges on what type of hike you're planning.
You can hike with minimal water capacity, in the range of a liter (~30 fluid ounces), but if you practice the "ten essentials of hiking" approach, it's best to bring more than that on any hike.
Take a good look at the 2 liter (64 fluid ounces of watery goodness) reservoirs, again checking to be sure they are compatible with your current or desired backpack.
Also note exactly how heavy 2 liters of water will be in your pack.
In the warmer seasons of the year I always carry 2 liters of water, and rarely end the day with any of it left over.
And if you do extreme climate hiking (desert SW of the USA, for example), you're going to need more than 2 liters a day.
Plot your route with surface water options, and be sure to treat the water before drinking.
To return to hiking hydration backpacks features, it's essential that your backpack can support the weight of the reservoir without straining your neck or back.
Choose a backpack that is small enough to be stable on your back, but large enough to carry your water, ten essentials, and other hiking gear.
When at all possible, women should choose backpacks engineered for our curves and contours.
In other words, spend a lot of time looking for the right woman's hydration backpack that:
The discussion of how to choose water reservoirs for hiking hydration backpacks is right here.
Let's focus only on gender specific hiking packs. I'm sure you can guess which gender, based on the website' name ;)
And in keeping with my advice about always having 2 liters of hiking water with you on a hike, we'll zoom in on two brands that have that capacity while also delivering all of the features mentioned above.
CamelBak is one of the go-to names in the hydration pack business. They make stand alone water reservoirs, but also provide a convenient all-in-one combo: pack plus reservoir plus assorted parts.
This backpack's modest price point doesn't give you a rugged backpack for serious hiking trips, but it will keep you well hydrated on day hikes.
The other company I'd recommend is Osprey. Their backpacks have been hanging in my gear locker long enough for me to state with confidence that Osprey pays attention to female anatomy when designing packs.
Here's their 2.5L hydration pack that delivers lots of pockets, hip belt, adjustment straps plus the reservoir system is in place and ready to go.
Be sure to watch the videos provided on these links, to get a crystal clear picture of what each pack has to offer.
Then decide which pack will serve you best on the trail.
REI has a generous return policy, so if you make a mistake, no worries.
And don't forget the merits of the old fashioned hydration technique: water bottles!
Hiking Hydration Backpacks
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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