With summer fast approaching, and the hot weather set to stay (fingers crossed!) it is more important than ever to stay hydrated when you exercise. So Sportsister has rounded up its pick of the best hydration packs, designed to be built into a rucksack or worn around the waist, we give you all the info on the best of the bladders and the backpacks.
A hydration pack is a type of hydration system, usually built into a backpack or waist -pack, containing a reservoir or ‘bladder’ which is commonly made of rubber or flexible plastic. The reservoir contains a capped mouth for filling with liquid and a hose that allows the wearer to drink hands-free. Most hoses end with a ‘bite valve’ than opens when the user bites down on it.
Hydration packs first became popular among mountain bikers and motocross riders, because they allowed them to drink without taking their hands off the handlebars. The product then began to cross over into other sports when scientific studies showed that athletes drank more fluids and performed better when they wore hydration packs. Since then athletes from all sorts of sports and activities from cycling and hiking to running and snow -sports, have used such hydration systems for their convenience and performance benefits.
Things to look for when buying your hydration pack:
Hydration packs vary in capacity from as little as one to about three litres. How much fluid you need to carry depends on how long you will be exercising, the temperature and the availability of refills. But it makes sense to buy a bigger one and just half fill it in the winter or during shorter activities.
A hydration pack built into a backpack means there is some handy space for carrying some extra kit, such as spare tubes, food, tools and extra clothing. However, be careful as no matter how well padded and shaped the backpack is, too much weight can get very uncomfortable on your back and shoulders.
Straps and harness
Almost all hydration packs feature the comforts of a rucksack such as padded shoulder straps and adjustable hip and sternum straps. Where the pack sits on your back, look out for channels that help to get a bit of airflow, or even a suspended mesh back that will help you stay cool.
This is the integral part of your hydration system and you’ll be using it every time you take a drink, so it’s important you consider it carefully. Ask yourself questions like: Is it made of soft materials that are comfortable to bite? Does the water flood out when it’s opened or does it trickle? Does the mounting put it close to your mouth? And most importantly can you lock it closed so is it going to leak everywhere?
Adjustability and fit
The straps and hip belt should be adjustable to keep the pack snugly on your back and under control. The good news is that in the last few years hydration packs have built specifically for women. Happily, these aren’t just men’s regular packs in pink! These packs are shorter and have narrower shoulder straps that are shaped to go round the bust. The sternum strap is higher, and the hip belt is shaped for the flare of women’s waist and hips.
Built-in body armour
Some manufacturers incorporate body armour-style padding and plastic plates into their packs to enhance protection. This is particularly useful for mountain bikers and snow sports.
Hydration pack bladders use a variety of closures to allow you to fill them. Screw caps are the most common, and usually have a tether to keep the cap attached to the bladder. Roll-top closures use Velcro or an external clamp to keep them closed. Some manufacturers offer wide-opening packs for ease of filling, which is also handy for adding ice cubes to your drink.
Cleanliness is essential, the hydration pack should be emptied immediately after use and hung out to dry. Several companies make drying inserts to keep the internal surfaces apart. Most manufactures coat their bladder packs with an anti-mould culture treatment, but a regular rinse with baby-bottle sterilising fluid helps prevent growth in the tube.
Hydration backpacks vary in how you get at the bladder itself. Some put the bladder inside the main pack, which saves weight, while others give it its own compartment so you can fill it without having to unpack everything else.
The number of hydration packs on the market has exploded, and the range on offer is huge and varied. Manufacturers include all sorts of features in their packs, such as special pockets with soft liners for sunglasses; protective pouches for MP3 players, hooks for keys, elastic hoops for carrying soft gear, helmet cradles, expandable compartments and many others. It’s worth reading the detailed specs to find out what’s on offer and get the pack that best suits your personal needs.
So what’s on the market?
Berghaus Mach 7+4 Rucksack
Pack capacity: 7 + 4L
Reservoir capacity: 2 + 2L
Weight: approx 552g (normal) 362g (stripped)
Colours: Black/Thunder, Burnt Olive/Covert, Chinese Red/ Corazon
Click here to buy
At 552g this backpack is an ultra- lightweight, highly specified compact 7L day-sac. It has an expansion zip allowing for an additional 4L capacity. The pack has one internal access hydration reservoir pocket (2L) and also boasts easy external access via the back to a second hydration reservoir pocket (2L)
The Mach 7+4 has a very stable fit, with an additional removable elasticated stability belt as well as a removable height adjustable standard chest and waist strap, making it ideal for fast moving activities over rough terrain such as biking and running.
The pack is comfortable close to the back with an airflow channel to keep you cool.
Its silicone-coated fabric is tough, light and extremely water resistant. The pack also features a useful foldaway helmet holder, three external stretch slip-in pockets, front pockets with splashguard zip and multi attachment points, including a handy key clip. Importantly it is also reflective for safety.
Camelbak Racebak Hydration Vest
Sizes: Small – size 8, Medium – size 10, Large – size 12, Xtra-Large – size 14
Click here to buy
CamelBak introduces the breakthrough concept of wearable hydration with the RaceBak Hydration Vest, the first baselayer with built in hydration capabilities. Designed with cyclists, endurance athletes and triathletes in mind, the vest fits comfortably under any top and has an aerodynamic and stable compartment for a 2.1 litre reservoir. The vest design offers maximum mobility and comfort with chafe-free compression fabric and flatseam stitching, (which replicates a rucksack harness) around the upper body to stablise the water and lightweight, breathable fabric around the lower torso to wick moisture away from the body, to keep the skin dry.
To further keep the water in place the vest contains a Aeroform baffled reservoir that rests tight against the back with an ultra low profile and snug fit, keeping the bladder flatter (i.e. prevents it becoming undesirably “tear drop” shaped).
The removable Air Mesh insulated back panel in the bladder pocket keeps your back cool and comfortable while insulating the water in the reservoir.
The insulated tube cover keeps water in the tube cooler and more comfortable to drink.
The vest is also avaliable to buy without the resevoir so you can have another one for wearing whilst washing the other.
Dakine Session Hydration Girls Backpack
Backpack capacity: 6.5L
Reservoir capacity: 2L
Colour: Clubhouse Plaid, Futurism, and Blackdanna
Click here to buy
This hydration pack offers something for specific for girls/ pre-teens, or those who are particularly petite. The smaller of the Dakine hydration packs, the stylish Girls Session pack features a contoured harness designed specifically to fit a girl’s frame. It offers a 6.5L storage capacity with a BPA and PVC free ‘fold and slide’ 2L reservoir, with Aquaguard anti-microbial treatment, which fits neatly into the back panel. It’s Breathable Dri-Mesh back panel and shoulder straps make it a comfortable fit, whilst it’s body armour carry straps prove a useful addition for everything from boards to helmets.
This low-profile pack carries everything you need for a few hours session in your favourite sport, offering you easy hydration as well as keeping your tools and other kit handy, it even has a fleece line sunglasses pouch and padded MP3 pocket.
Its variety in colour and interesting designs has proved to be popular and stylish choice with both girls and women. This pack looks great and functions really well.
Source WXP Hydration Bladder
Capacity: Available in 2L or 3L
Colour: Transparent/ Blue
Price: 2L – £19.99 and 3L – £21.99
Click here to buy
You will be in hydration heaven with this innovative, smart and successful design from Source. Designed to be integrated into backpacks and other carried bags or equipment, this transparent blue hydration packcombines the best of both worlds on offer from Source.
Taking the best feature from their Clear and Widepac systems, this bladder has a wide screw top opening, making filling, cleaning and draining easier than ever, and it’s still 100% leak-proof. It also has a strong handing/ carrying handle, tube and bite valve.
The pack’s high tech material represents a new generation in hydration systems where cleaning is no longer an issue.
PVC/ Polyurethane-Free Novell Co- extruded film and tubes retain a pure liquid taste with no plastic flavour, whilst liner grunge guard anti-microbial technology prevents bio-film build-up and blocks bacteria growth for the life of the system.
Platypus Insulator Bladder
Capacity: 2L and 3L
Price: 2L = £26.99, 3L = £29.99
Click here to buy
This versatile new hydration system provides all-season protection for your water supply. No more sipping near scalding water on your desert hike, or licking a solid ice-block on your ski trip! The Platypus Insulator helps to keep liquids cool on the summer and delaying freezing in the winter. You can lash it to a kayak deck or a backpack (using the handy D-rings) with the confidence that this insulated bladder will fend off freezing temperatures or blazing sun for extended periods, keeping your water just the way you like it.
A rugged exterior protects the reservoir and seals it up tight with a side release buckled lid. The bladder’s Big Zip SL reservoir makes filling and cleaning easy whilst Platypus’ SlimeGuard antimicrobial treatment means your water will stay fresh and tasty.
Hannah Galloway, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine