How to Choose the Right Size & Type of Hydration Pack

Rilor Staff
Update: July 20, 2021
Table of Contents

Many are asking how to choose hydration packs correctly. Of course, this is a reasonable inquiry as it is an essential utility for day hikes and short outdoor excursions. 

Basically, these hydration packs are tailored so that people can carry water with them on their trips, ensuring that they can access it conveniently to keep themselves hydrated. This quality is quite the opposite for water bottles where you still have to take from your backpack you can drink their contents.

Interestingly, most hydration packs today will not hamper your journey at all. You don't need to halt or move slowly before you can have a drink. You just have to take the tube connected to the reservoir and direct it to your mouth.

Fundamentally speaking, the best hydration pack may vary depending on your intended application. You should also take into account factors such as fit and capacity. This guide will help you refine your choices.

How To Choose Hydration Packs

Before we proceed, let me remind you that most backpacks and daypacks today have interior sleeves on them that are compatible with various reservoirs. If you ever find such a bag, all you need to do is integrate a reservoir and pack your portable hydration station!

But if you are searching for a hydration pack exclusively, you should check the following guidelines.

The Type

These days, hydration packs are divided into two: hydration waist packs and hydration backpacks. Just as their names suggest, their primary difference lies in their placement or how you carry them. 

Within these categories, they are plenty of options that you can choose from. Some are designed for biking, running, and hiking, and even snowy expeditions. Of course, they can guarantee that they can let you have a sip anytime you need it. 

Specifically, here are some of the categories that you need to check out.

Hydration Backpacks

  • Hydration backpacks for hiking - A hydration backpack somewhat resembles the appearance and structure of standard backpacks used in hiking and trailing. It has sufficient space that lets you carry your essentials such as food and extra clothes. These packs vary in size. There are small ones for overnight trips and burly options for extended adventures. 
  • Hydration backpacks for cycling - There are also packs specifically tailored for biking and mountain cycling. These packs have a unique compact design that makes them less cumbersome to carry. Their slim profile also improves their weight management so that users won't have difficulties carrying them while they are pedaling. Meanwhile, hydration packs for mountain cycling are somewhat bigger than road biking packs. The extra size is for you to bring your tools and extra clothing.
  • Hydration backpacks for running - These hydration packs can either come as running vests or running backpacks. They sound the same, but they aren't. Running vests have a slim profile and snug fit so that they remain stable and don't hinder your action. There are a plethora of pockets on their shoulder straps. However, they don't have a hip belt included in their construction. On the other hand, running backpacks possess hip belts and a number of pockets that you can access easily while you are on the move. They have more storage space, which is ideal for trail runs.
  • Hydration backpacks for snow activities - Choosing this pack means that you are doing stuff like snowboarding and skiing. Specifically, these low-temperature hydration packs have innovative construction that prevents the water they carry from freezing. 

Hydration Waist Packs

Hydration waist packs are designed to be placed around your waist. Instead of reservoirs, these packs include a water bottle in their construction. Furthermore, it is also noticeable that their storage space is not as big as their counterparts. 

These packs are an excellent option if you intend your trip to be quick and light. Adventures like day hikes and trail runs don't really require extra gears, so you are free only to bring these hydration waist packs.

The Fit

Whenever choosing any type of backpack, you should always mind the fit. It is the one that determines if you are going to experience comfort while carrying the pack. 

So what's the right fit? 

Basically, the appropriate fit for you should match the length of your torso and not your height. Moreover, the excellent fit provides a snug hold on your hips, even if your pack doesn't have a hip belt. 

  • Torso - Needless to say, hydration packs also vary in size, which, in turn, should accommodate a myriad of torso lengths. Of course, not all manufacturers follow the same sizing table, so you might want to check these details first before buying. Meanwhile, other hydration packs have suspension systems that you can adjust so that they can conform to the length of your torso. 
  • Waist - The hip belts of hydration packs can accommodate a plethora of hip sizes. You can guarantee that there's a size for you, regardless if you are in the 20 inches category or 35 inches or higher. Again, you should refer to the manufacturer's sizing guide to ensure that you are getting the correct size. 
  • Women - There are hydration packs out there that are specifically tailored for women. One of their noticeable features is their contoured shoulder straps and hip belts. Such a design is compatible with most women's bodies. Moreover, their torso length is short and narrow. Even if you are a guy, you can still use these women's hydration packs, especially if you have a small frame. 

The Capacity

The capacity of a hydration pack is divided into two: the capacity of the reservoir and the capacity of the primary storage compartment. 

Reservoir Capacity

Keep in mind that a single liter of water weighs around two pounds already. Hence, we can easily say that water isn't as lightweight as it appears to be. Therefore, when carrying a hydration pack, you have to make sure that you have a good idea of the amount of water that you need on your trip. But then again, you still have the option not to fully fill the reservoir if weight is an issue for you. As long as you can grasp your needs, it is alright to pack light. 

  • 0.5 liter or less - This one is definitely a waist pack that can carry up to two bottles of water. It is ideal for lightweight activities like walking or jogging. 
  • 1 - 1.5 liters - Still a good choice for lightweight activities. It is also an excellent option for hikers and bikers. 
  • 2 - 2.5 liters - Hydration packs that belong to this category are highly sought, given that they strike the perfect balance between weight and reservoir capacity.  They have no problems if you refill them from time to time since they are designed for that.
  • 3 liters up - If your trip is exhausting enough that you need to drink water at regular intervals, this option is the best for you. With such a capacity, refilling will never become a thing. It is also a suitable pack for those who want to go on terrains where water sources are rare to non-existent--such as deserts. 


  • Raincover - A rain cover is a nice addition to any hydration pack, especially if you are anticipating rain, snow, and other harsh elements. 
  • Cold-weather components - If you are looking for a hydration pack that you can bring in your cold-weather expeditions, make sure that they have insulated parts. Specifically, the reservoir, bite valve covers, and sip tubes should have sufficient insulation so that they won't succumb to the low temperatures. 
  • Clips - It would really be great if the hydration pack you get has a number of clips integrated on their shoulder straps. In this way, you can easily position the tube to your mouth for hassle-free drinking
  • Detachable tubing - A removable tubing is a nice feature, especially if you are expecting constant refills on your trip. By detaching the tube from the reservoir, you will be able to refill conveniently.
  • Shutoff switch - A switch on the bite valve is quite handy. It can prevent the water from spilling whenever you are not drinking from the valve. 
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