HOW TO CHOOSE A HYDRATION PACK
DETERMINE PACK USE
The size & style of the hydration pack should be largely determined by the intended activity. Before picking a pack, decide what activity/activities you will be using the pack for.
High Aerobic Sports: Runners, cyclists, & skiers should opt for a waist pack-style or a low-profile backpack-style hydration system. These designs will not throw you off balance or weigh you down.
Hiking: Hikers can afford to go with a bulkier backpack that includes plenty of cargo space for water as well as gear.
Backpacking: Backpackers cannot wear an independent hydration pack, but they can stow a bladder & hose inside their full size backpack. Be sure that your backpack includes a port for the hose & an interior sleeve that will hold the bladder.
CHOOSING BETWEEN INSULATED OR NON-INSULATED PACKS
An insulated bladder sleeve & foam insulation around the hose will help prevent freeze-up in winter. This is great for skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking. The insulated sleeve also keeps cold water from heating up too rapidly in hot weather. Hiking in the Grand Canyon in August? We’d suggest the insulated hydration pack! These can be nice features, but they do add to the cost of the pack & sometimes to the weight of the pack.
DETERMINE CARGO REQUIREMENT & CONSIDER PACK WEIGHT
What do you need to carry besides water? A trail runner might just want to stash an energy bar, while someone on a long day hike might pack a actual picnic. Think about what you usually bring with you on your adventures. The cargo capacities of hydration packs are measured in cubic inches & vary greatly.
When choosing water & cargo capacity, also take into account how much the pack will weigh when full. 100 fluid ounces of water weighs about 6.5 pounds. That is a lot for a runner to carry on their back, but not too much if you will be out hiking all day in hot conditions.
DECIDE ON RESERVOIR SIZE
Hydration requirements change greatly depending on the person, activity, and weather. Know your own body's needs, take into account how long you will be out for & find out if you can refill your water along the way. The most common reservoir sizes are 50, 70 & 100 fluid ounces. 100 fluid ounces of water weighs about 6.5 pounds.
WAIST BELT & STERNUM STRAPS
Any hydration pack that weighs six or more pounds when full should include a waist belt. This will keep the pack from flopping around too much when you move quickly.
A sternum strap is always a good idea as it keeps the shoulder straps in place, no matter the activity.