It’s been almost a full day now and still, there’s no one in sight. You estimate that you’ve been walking for about three hours since your last break and you’re just about out of water. The two small bottles of water you carried got you this far, but you’ve got further to go. Three hours on your feet, and there hasn’t been a sign of another living soul. There’s got to be someone down this next stretch, you say to yourself.

Regardless if the above scenario played out on a nature hike or during a disaster, a lack of hydration can still be fatal. We won’t belabor the reason why you’d need as much clean drinking water as possible. If you’re reading this magazine, you already know why.

With space already limited in your pack and on your person, what’s the best way to carry a large amount of water? Sure, you can carry a few half-liter bottles in a backpack or on a belt, but it can get mighty cumbersome and be an inefficient use of precious space. In this buyer’s guide, we take a look at backpacks that are made to carry hydration reservoirs. Also called hydration packs, these backpacks have compartments for water bladders and furnishings that help route drinking tubes through and around the pack to keep them in place for ease of drinking.

What to Look For

Purpose: When buying a hydration pack, it’s good to start out by deciding how much cargo space you need first. What’s the purpose of this pack? Is it for a single-day hike? A multi-day camping trip? A get-home bag from the office in case all hell breaks loose? Pick the size of your bag accordingly.

Weight: Also be mindful of the overall weight after your gear and water is loaded into it. The great thing about a hydration pack is that it uses a refillable water reservoir that usually is positioned vertically on the back of the backpack. This helps with the overall balance of the bag, even when full with other gear.

Ease of Use: Consider how easy (or difficult) it is to access the reservoir for refilling and cleaning. Look at the hydration tube and make sure it’s easy to access and stow while on the move. As with all gear considerations, these are personal choices that require some in-person fiddling.

Frame Size: When buying a backpack, make sure the bag’s size is suitable for your body’s frame. An over- or undersized pack can reduce your stamina and create back problems you simply don’t need to deal with while contending with the Apocalypse.

You wouldn’t hike with an ill-fitting boot would you? A properly fitted pack can enhance your endurance and reduce fatigue. A reputable retailer should be able to help you choose the correct size backpack.

Bladder: A key factor to consider is the hydration bladders themselves. There are many different variations, so shop around. Investigate how easy or difficult each is to clean. Also examine how they’re secured inside your pack of choice.

Yes, water is a heavy commodity to carry, but the difficulties of storing and carrying water is greatly reduced with the use of a hydration pack. Which one is right for you? Let’s examine some of the newest models out now.

Hydration Pack Buyer's Guide

  • hydration-pack-buyers-guide-511-triab-18-backpack-001

    5.11 Triab 18 Backpack

    Dimensions - 20 x 13 x 7 inches
    Weight - 3 pounds, 4 ounces
    Colorway - Midnight Ash (shown), Sandstone
    MSRP - $140
    URL - http://www.511tactical.com/

    The TRIAB 18 is designed as a one-strap sling bag that can be used for a wide range of applications.

  • hydration-pack-buyers-guide-black-diamond-nitro-22-pack-001

    Black Diamond Nitro 22 Pack

    Dimensions - 19 x 10 x 7.5 inches
    Weight - 2 pounds
    Colorway - Moroccan Blue (shown), Deep Torch , Black
    MSRP - $120
    URL - http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/

    The Nitro 22 is a highly capable daypack with an external-access hydration sleeve that can accommodate reservoirs of varying sizes.

  • hydration-pack-buyers-guide-camelbak-rim-runner-22-001

    CambelBak Rim Runner 22

    Dimensions - 19.25 x 12.62 x 10.43 inches
    Weight - 2 pounds, 1 ouch (with reservoir)
    Colorway - Fallen Rock/Orchid Orange (shown), Sienna Red/Gun-metal, Charcoal/Chilli Pepper
    MSRP - $100
    URL - http://shop.camelbak.com/

    The Rim Runner is a good example of what CamelBak does best _ make products with hydration as its central focus.

  • hydration-pack-buyers-guide-condor-outdoor-solveig-assault-pack-001

    Condor Outdoor Solveig Assult Pack

    Dimensions - 20 x 11 x 6 inches
    Weight - 3 pounds, 3 ounces
    Colorway - Tan (shown), Black, Olive Drab
    MSRP - $95
    URL - http://www.condoroutdoor.com/

    The Condor Solveig was originally conceived as a discreet assault pack and is jammed full of features.

  • hydration-pack-buyers-guide-elite-survival-systems-pulse-24-hour-backpack-001

    Elite Survival Systems Pulse 24-Hour Backpack

    Dimensions - 19 x 11 x 8 inches
    Weight - 3 pound, 12 ounces
    Colorway - Coyote Tan (shown), Black
    MSRP - $160 ($180 with 3L reservoir
    URL - http://www.elitesurvival.com/

    Elite Survival System's Pulse is a feature-rich, hydration-ready pack that is constructed of 1,000-denier nylon and incorporates heavy-duty zippers that feature covered zipper chains to help prevent moisture seepage.

  • hydration-pack-buyers-guide-grey-ghost-gear-stealth-operator-pack-001

    Grey Ghost Gear Stealth Operator Pack

    Dimensions - 17 x 9 x 4 inches
    Weight - 1 pound, 5 ounces
    Colorway - 14 colorways including, Kryptek Yeti (shown)
    MSRP - $109
    URL - http://www.greyghostgear.com/

    Grey Ghost Gear's Stealth Operator Pack is designed to blend into the crowd. The pack features a hydration pocket big enough to swallow up a 3-liter reservoir.

  • hydration-pack-buyers-guide-tactical-tailor-removable-operator-pack-001

    Tactical Tailor Removable Operator Pack

    Dimensions - 16.5 x 10 x 7 inches
    Weight - 2 pounds, 3 ounces
    Colorway - 7 colors including Foliage Green (shown)
    MSRP - $115 (as shown) to $135
    URL - http://www.tacticaltailor.com/

    The Removable Operator Pack is designed as a quick attach assault pack that attaches directly to Tactical Tailor's line of modular vests or larger packs.

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