The best hydration backpacks are those that let you pack exactly what you need for your adventure – no more and no less. Check out our top suggestions for UK hiking and trail running.
Top 5 best hydration backpacks for UK hikers
Hydration backpacks are a fantastic solution when wanting to carry minimal gear without compromising on the fluids we need to operate at the top level.
Typically below 10L in volume, hydration rucksacks are small in size but offer a ton of features to get excited about. Runners will really appreciate the sung fit and lightweight approach and hikers will love the freedom to move without a heavy pack when heading out on technical or long-distance walks.
Hydration packs come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes with top brands including Osprey, Black Diamond and Camelbak all giving it their best to produce the top backpacks. Check out our top picks for hydrations backpacks for both hiking and trail running in our list below.
What to look for in the best hydration packs
The best hydration backpacks typically follow a common recipe, but that doesn’t mean that the ingredients are the same for each available pack.
There are plenty of different flavours of hydration backpacks, so what exactly should you be looking for when choosing the perfect pack for you?
Type of hydration pack
Hydration packs come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and configurations with different types of packs available for different sports and activities.
In our list of the best hydration packs, we’re sticking to those best for trail running and hiking, but there are plenty of others available that may be best suited to different adventurers.
Hiking hydration packs
A hiking hydration pack offers a small example of a daypack that comes with plenty of fluid options. These aren’t as small as the running packs and offer just enough space to pack everything that you’ll need on a minimal gear day.
Running hydration rucksacks
A running hydration rucksack is the most popular type of pack available and is often used for hiking as well as trail and road running. These packs come with impressive harnesses that prevent the vests from moving around when quickly covering ground.
Biking hydration backpacks
Cycling or biking hydration backpacks are used when out on a ride and use a harness that doesn’t interfere with the pedalling. These are usually sport-specific – for instance, a mountain biking pack will be different to a road cycling pack.
Ski and snow hydration packs
Finally, ski and snow sport hydration packs are unique in the environment in which they are used. The hydration tubes are insulated to prevent any fluids from freezing and ruining the day on the slopes. These packs may also have safety mechanisms built-in in the case of an avalanche.
The amount of drinkable liquid that you can fit into a hydration pack is the top feature that we all look for when searching for the perfect pack.
A hydration pack puts hydration first (rightly so) and both the amount of fluid, as well as where it is located, is super important. The majority of hydration packs use a soft bottle system in which a pair of collapsible bottles can be stored in the chest straps of the pack.
In addition to these soft bottles, hydration backpacks may also support a reservoir or bladder that can be loaded into the back of the pack. These can massively boost the hydration capacity of the pack with bladders often spanning between 1L and 3L.
The volume of a hydration rucksack, the amount of gear you can fit in the pack, is often the ultimate decider for hikers and trail runners looking for the perfect pack.
The ideal volume will depend on the individual and how much they are planning to pack for their typical adventure. For ultra-lightweight hikers, 4L or less may be the perfect amount whereas those looking to pack a handful of extras may be best with around 8L.
We tend to steer right towards the middle and think that a 6L hydration pack occupies the goldilocks zone and is perfect for the bulk of runners and hikers. It should be noted that these packs are strictly for those that are still able to fit everything they need in the smaller volume.
It is important not to get sucked too far into minimalism and although hydration backpacks are great thanks to their super lightweight and minimal design, this can be as much of a problem as it is a solution. Hikers that are looking for a good all-rounder should check out our list of small hiking rucksacks for a more comprehensive pack that can fit all of their hiking essentials.
The harness of the hydration pack is the part that keeps everything nice and tight against the wearer.
There are countless different types of harnesses out there with each different type of pack offering a tailored solution to their specific problem. For example, a trekking harness is much different to the harness of a lightweight daypack.
The harness of a hydration pack is a vital component and are typically designed to avoid any movement when moving quickly. Hikers and trail runners typically want to find a hydration pack that comes with either a dual sternum strap or a quick link system that secures the pack to the chest in multiple areas.
Similarly, a hip belt is a good, but not always necessary, addition that gives a further security point to keep the pack as stable as possible.
Hydration packs are often loaded with additional features that separate one pack from the next.
There are plenty of different features out there from ice-axe storage to internal key clips that help separate different packs.
The best hydration backpacks by category
Looking to find the best hydration backpack for you? Check out our top picks for each category below:
- Author’s choice – best hydration backpack – Osprey Dura 6 (Amazon.co.uk)
- Best value for money – Salomon Active Skin 4 Hydration Backpack (Amazon.co.uk)
- Top hydration backpack for larger loads – Black Diamond Distance 15 (Amazon.co.uk)
- Top trail running belt – Osprey Duro Solo Belt (Amazon.co.uk)
- Favourite Camelbak hydration backpack – Camelbak Ultra Pro (Amazon.co.uk)
1. Osprey Dura 6 Unisex Hydration Pack
The Osprey Dura 6 is a unisex hydration pack that is a great piece of kit that is perfect for any serious hiker, trail runner or mountain conqueror.
A 6L capacity is, in our eyes, the perfect size for carrying just enough without compromising on any essential kit. The pack is compatible with and includes two Hydraulics 500ml soft flasks, complete with the bite valve and extension hose and can be used to incorporate the Osprey Hydraulics water hydration reservoir in the back of the pack.
The pack isn’t just hydration focused and comes with some great storage and organisation features including a Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment, a front zippered pocket, stretch mesh side pocket and an internal key attachment clip. This is all tightly strapped to the wearer with a pair of adjustable and removable sternum straps.
- Twin adjustable removable sternum straps
- Two Hydraulics 500ml soft flasks with bite valve and extension hose included
- Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment
- Internal hydration sleeve compatible
- Hydraulics reservoir purchased separately
- Volume: 6L
- Weight: 0.3kg
- Dimensions (cm): 41L / 20W / 13D
2. Salomon Active Skin 4
The Salomon Active Skin 4, also available in an 8L volume, is a fantastic hydration backpack that has proven incredibly popular among UK trail runners and hikers.
The Salomon Active Skin 4 really does give trail runners and hikers the best bang for the buck with a pair of 500ml soft bottles included in the mid-range pack. The storage options in the pack are great too, with a trekking pole attachment and internal storage options for gear and snacks that wearers love.
The Quick Link sternum straps are one of the top features of this hydration pack, allowing for quick adjustment and top breathability. This also allows for Salomon’s Sensifit construction, conforming around the body and preventing any vest bounce.
- Twin harness pockets with 2x 500ml soft bottles included
- Compatible with Salomon 1.5L hydration system
- Quick Link sternum straps and vest bounce preventions
- Great organisation including trekking pole attachment
- Salomon hydration bladder must be purchased separately
- Volume: 4L
- Weight: 0.2kg
- Dimensions (cm): 42L / 34W / 1D
3. Black Diamond Distance 15
For trail runners and hikers looking for a lightweight companion that bridges the gap between trail and mountain, it’s hard to find anything much better than the Black Diamond Distance 15.
The 15L pack is full of impressive features including a fully waterproof main compartment, twin harness pockets perfect for soft water bottles and a trekking pole compartment for Z-poles. For mountaineers, the hydration backpack also offers storage for ice tools and a metal dog bone toggle fastener used for securing a pick.
The harness is one of the most impressive on the list, utilising a dry membrane to wick moisture away from both the wearer and the hydration rucksack. This is paired with seamless, edgeless shoulder straps to offer the most comfortable wear.
- Fully waterproof main compartment
- Twin harness pockets for soft water bottles
- Seamless harness and edgeless shoulder straps
- Trekking Z-pole compartments
- Water bottles are sold separately
- Volume: 15L
- Dimensions (cm): 36L / 12W / 24D
- Weight: 0.39kg
4. Osprey Duro Solo Belt
Although it may not resemble a typical hydration backpack, the Osprey Duro Solo Belt is our top pick for trail runners and hikers looking for an alternative to the twin-strap tradition.
A running or hiking belt is great when you’re not planning on scaling particularly tricky terrain and aren’t looking to bring too much with you. A 570ml water bottle is all the hydration that the pack can carry so it’s no surprise that this is best for shorter trips unless you’re planning on refilling from streams etc. on the go.
Despite its small size, the pack does come with some handy features including a large pocket for quick access to gear and food, a TPU touchscreen smartphone window and a zip pull emergency whistle. As always, the Osprey quality shines through, offering an impressive bit of kit for short hikes.
- 570ml water bottle included
- Large pocket for quick access to gear and food
- TPU touchscreen smartphone window
- Zip pull emergency whistle
- Not as secure as traditional hydration pack
- Volume: 4L
- Weight: 0.15kg
- Dimensions (cm): 19L / 49W / 8D
5. Camelbak Ultra Pro
Our Camelbak hydration backpack of choice is the Ultra Pro, a 6L unisex pack designed for long-distance hikes and trail runs.
The hydration pack comes with a long list of features including two 500ml soft bottles (included with purchase), a trekking pole attachment, support for a 1.5L hydration bladder and a mobile phone pocket. This is all strapped to the back of the wearer with a pair of sternum straps that can be adjusted for the perfect fit.
The hydration pack is a well-priced option from Camelbak and uses a micro-mesh to keep everything nice and cool in the back. This is not only great for avoiding that dreaded sweaty back but top-notch for preventing moisture from working its way into the gear pocket.
- Mobile phone pocket can be tight
- Volume: 6L
- Weight: 0.15kg
- Dimensions: 36L / 23W / 11D
FAQ: The best hydration backpacks for hikers and trail runners
Have a question about the best hydration backpacks for hiking and trail running? Check out our FAQ below and we’ll hopefully be able to help out!
A hydration bladder can be installed into a backpack by sliding the bladder into the dedicated reservoir location. The hydration tube can then be threaded through the portal (the hole that leads to the wearer) and attached to the bladder.
There you have it, our list of the best hydration backpacks for tackling the hills, fells and mountains of the UK. If you do have any other questions or would like some personal advice, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!