Updated May 2017
There are some new products for Spring 2017. We add in a new award winner for the budget conscious and add in a number of new comparison tools to help you find the right product for your needs. Deuter replaced our Top Pick with a newer version, and the EVOC FR Team Lite is discontinued but you can still find it through the manufacturer while supplies last!
Best Overall Hydration Pack
Osprey Raptor 10
The Osprey Raptor 10
was the dominant winner in our tests because it's so well-rounded. Other packs scored higher in some metrics, but they made a tradeoff for overall greatness. Not so with the Raptor. It scores high for everything: storage, stability, and overall usability. Every one of our testers said it was their favorite.
Read full review: Osprey Raptor 10
Best on a Tight Budget
With a street price of $27, the WACOOL 2L
is so much less expensive than the competition; we had to try it out. While it is not the most refined pack and has some annoying quirks, it's a great value for anyone on a tight budget or who doesn't expect to use their hydration pack more than a few times a year. It's relatively light, easy to use, easy to fill and has a bite valve cover, something few other hydration packs have. The storage is generous for a pack this light.
Read full review: WACOOL 2L
Best Bang for the Buck
We find the CamelBak Classic, a variation on the original popular hydration system, is still one of the best values out there. It retails for $55 but can usually be found for $40 on sale because it is carried stocked by many retailers. Considering the reservoir itself retails for $30, this a good way to get a reservoir to use with your other backpacks and still have the option of a light and fast CamelBak.
Read full review: CamelBak Classic
Best Mountain Biking Technical Pack
EVOC FR Team Lite
When the going got rough, the EVOC FR Team Lite
was our best friend
on or off the bike. With its built-in spine protector, low-profile design, and bomber stability, the FR Team Lite is the way to go. Though it lost major points for its storage and lack of included hydration bladder, the FR Team Lite is the go-to choice for lapping the bike park, charging techy lines, or light and fast enduro races. If this sounds like you, we'd also encourage you to check out the next size up, the EVOC FR Team Enduro, which sports the same design but with more storage.
Discontinued - April 2017
Read full review: EVOC FR Team Lite
The EVOC FR Team Lite has been discontinued. Evoc still makes the FR Lite, but they no longer make the "team" version, just the regular and the Race. They still have some of the Team models left, so if you're interested, get them while supplies last!
Top Pick for Hot Weather
Deuter Compact EXP 12
New Version Available
Deuter updated and replaced the Compact Air EXP 10 with the new Compact EXP 12. This new model has a brand new back system aiming to improve their already excellent ventilation, and new shoulder strap and hip belt design for a tighter fit to keep up with your body movements. Details on the update are highlighted in the individual review of this product.
We would be amiss to not somehow award the Deuter Compact
for its fantastic chimney-like heat dispersion. Though all of the packs boast some revolutionary hot weather antidote, the Air system without a doubt does the best job in making your back feel free. With a few inches of separation from the pack itself, not only do we sweat less, therefore, needing less water, we also have cooler water! If the only thing on your list is day hiking desert canyons in the summer, this could be the difference between making your goals or not.
Read full review: Deuter Compact EXP 12