How Do I Choose a Hydration Backpack

Last Updated on October 28, 2021

Hydration packs are growing in popularity among mountain bikers.

They provide easy access to water and ensure that you are hydrated all the time. Simply stick out the hose tube that hangs on your shoulders, place it on your mouth, and you then gain access to the water that you can drink.

It’s as easy as counting one, two, and three, literally.

But with the many choices out there, you’ll surely get confused on which ones to buy.

Good thing you found this article because here, we’ll help you with just that.

We will tell you the things you need to consider so you can choose the right hydration backpack for you, knowing that each of us has our preferences, riding style, and mountain bike discipline.

Drinking process

The drinking process should be the first thing you consider because the ease of drinking plays a huge role in convenience. Make sure that you won’t have a hard time drinking water from the hydration pack. Hydration packs have a hose or drinking tube that ends with a mouthpiece.

You then need to bite this mouthpiece or bite valve to open it and gain access to the water. See to it that you can do this easily or with as little effort as possible. It shouldn’t take more than five or even three seconds to do this.

Some hydration packs have a very hard bite valve which you need to bite heavily. Although this is nice because it keeps your water secure and lowers the chances of spilling.

It can be a hassle especially if you’re already exhausted and you don’t have much energy left. Meanwhile, a bite valve drink tube from a hydration pack that is also very easy to chew on because of its soft texture, can also easily lead to accidental spills which can just waste water.


Another thing to consider is the refilling process. Make sure that the hydration bladder isn’t just easy to drink from, but it must also be easy to fill.

The ease of filling your hydration pack is an important factor when choosing hydration backpacks because you are going to do this every time you go on a bike ride. Determine how easy it is to fill your hydration pack with water.

Most models have bladder access on its front and center area, which is very accessible. Simply lift the cover-up and you then gain full access to the opening.

Also, choose a hydration pack that has a dedicated hydration sleeve that stores the bladder inside a zippered compartment as this is an efficient hydration system.

Always note the water sources you’ll get water from because this affects how you are going to do the refilling process.

Are you going to fill water from your kitchen sink? Or are you going to get water from a mineral water gallon?

You might also be fond of getting water from natural sources, such as on a spring or waterfall. If so, then you should choose a bladder that has a quick-release lever for easy refilling.


Another thing you must consider is the comfort factor. Your backpack should be comfortable so you don’t end up prematurely exhausted or stressed in carrying hydration packs.

This is where overall support, shoulder straps length, ventilation, and belt construction comes in. All of these should complement your personal preferences, size, and riding style. The back part of the hydration pack should be soft enough so that your back won’t be stressed.

It should also be thin so that it’ll be breathable and won’t cause your back to sweat too much especially if you have a sophisticated hydration system. The last thing you want is a hydration pack that makes you feel like you’re lugging in more weight.

It should be soft and light enough, but not too much because you also need to make sure that it’s safe and provides stable support on your rides.


The more things you carry in your bag, the more support you need. This is why support is a very important aspect of mountain biking, especially when it comes to choosing the right hydration bag.

Good thing that modern hydration packs are now designed with support and comfort in mind. Take for example the CamelBak Classic which features a minimalist design and is made for carrying small amounts of weight including water and some tools.

Make sure that the straps are made from cushy material so that you won’t feel any shoulder sore especially if you’re into uphills which increases the force of gravity.

It’s also best if you choose a backpack that has a simple and padded nylon mesh at the back because this cools you down and increases airflow to your back. Having a padded nylon mesh and cushy shoulder straps go hand in hand naturally.

This is also where safety and security come in. The better support your backpack has, the more likely it will keep all of your things, including your water, safe and tucked in inside.

Ensuring utmost support also means that your bag straps won’t rip off even if you put a lot of things in them. This also means that you don’t have to worry about your bag ripping off or your things coming out of your backpack if you ride on very rough trails.


A good backpack must be well ventilated because this comes in contact with your shoulders, back, and hips.

It must allow air to enter it and flow to your back so you won’t feel very warm especially if you’re riding on a hot summer’s day and the sun’s heat directly shines on you.

You can ensure proper ventilation by choosing a backpack that has nylon mesh on its back layering. The straps should also be thin but strong enough to allow airflow without compromising safety and security.

Water capacity

Water capacity is another very important consideration to make. This is the amount of water your hydration backpack can store. If you are into short downhill rides then you can just choose the 1 litter hydration packs because you don’t need to stop when hitting downhill trails.

You just start at the top and work your way down nonstop. There’s just no time for you to stop or even spare just a second of your ride to get the tube on your mouth because that can make you crash. Instead, you are most likely to drink water when you’ve reached the finish line.

Hence, you don’t need to carry a large hydration bag. But if you are into enduro rides, then you can choose the 1.5 to 2.5-liter bags because you’re likely going to spend hours out on the trails.

On the other side of the spectrum are the larger 3-liter hydration backpacks which are ideal for long and epic cross-country rides. These come in with lots of water. Unfortunately, this also means carrying more weight. But trail runners are already accustomed to these because they have extra layers to gain more pack weight and hydration capacity.

Ease of cleaning

The bladder should not be just easy to fill water in, but should also be easy to clean. Choose one that can be fully opened because these are the ones that are easiest to clean.

And note that cleanliness is very important knowing that anything can get stuck inside your bladder especially if you use it on muddy rides. Bags that have an extra layer are usually harder to clean than standard packs.

Make sure that the backpack of y our choosing lets you easily reach into the bag and lets you scrub and wash it. It should also be easy to dry to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. What’s more, is that this also gets rid of the nasty tasting water that is very common with new backpacks.


Choose your hydration pack carefully and always remember to consider the things mentioned in this article. Not only will this help you choose the best quality backpack, but this will also make sure that you have a better time riding your bike.