If you’ve read our 10-minute beginner’s guide to mountain biking, you’ll already know that a hydration pack is an essential piece of kit.
And, in this 3-minute guide to the best hydration packs for mountain biking, we’ll explain everything you need to know. We’ll also offer our top picks.
I take a hydration pack on pretty much every ride.
If you plan to ride for more than 30-minutes, there’s a good chance you’ll want a snack, a drink, need tools to fix your bike, and need somewhere to stash a phone, wallet and keys.
You can stow away all these items in your hydration pack.
What To Look For In A MTB Hydration Pack?
Over the years, I’ve had a tonne of hydration packs for running, hiking, mountain biking and motocross.
There are a few things you’ll want to consider before purchasing one.
Padding & Ventilation
You want a hydration pack that has good padding.
If you buy a cheap hydration pack with poor-quality shoulder straps, you’re going to feel chaffing really quick.
And, there are hydration packs that have a breathable back panel, and that’s going to help with ventilation.
After doing research for this article, I’ve noticed that there are some MTB hydration packs that don’t have a chest strap. This is a non-negotiable feature. You must have one.
The chest strap keeps the pack in place when you are bouncing around the trail. But, it also helps to distribute weight across your body, so you won’t be aching at the end of your ride.
Bladder & Storage Capacity
Unless you go on rides that are specifically under 1-hour, I’d be looking towards a small daypack.
For a hiking daypack that usually means in the 25-30L range. For MTB, you’ll be getting away with something in the 8L-15L range.
The actual size really depends on how much you drink, and how much stuff you take.
Considering the minimal weight of a hydration pack, I’d be aiming towards something with a 1.5L-2L bladder and total capacity of at least 10L.
The Best Camelbaks For MTB
I’ve got the M.U.L.E and it’s a great multi-purpose product, especially for those looking for an daypack, not just a reservoir in a bag!
The CamelBak M.U.L.E is the perfect hydration rucksack for MTB riding.
It’s got a Camelbak reservoir and that means you get their quick-link system. It’s quick to open and close, easy to fill and extremely low profile.
That means stashing other gear inside is easy too.
What’s probably most important (besides the chest strap) is the spaced back panels and padding.
This offers more breathability than most MTB hydration packs. Nobody wants hot-back syndrome. It’s no fun.
It’s suitable if you free-ride, trail ride or even do XC and DH.
There’s a tonne of interior space (11L in total), but there’s also a magnetic tube strap, a tool organiser and even helmet hooks. So, there’s plenty of exterior space too.
Inside, you’ll be able to fit tools, a pump, tubes, a few layers, your snacks and drinks, phone, keys and wallet without any problems.
If you’re looking for something leaning towards the lightweight category, the Hydropack isn’t a bad shout.
You’ll get a 1.5L hydration capacity here, and there is some space in addition to hydration.
This is still mimimalist though. You’ll be able to fit keys, wallet, phone and a multi-tool at best.
Camelbak M.U.L.E Or The Camelbak Hydropack?
Unless you are specifically aiming for a minimalist hydration pack for MTB, I’d go with the M.U.L.E.
The 11L overall capacity sits right in the sweet spot for 1-hour ride up to full day rides.
You can carry everything from clothing to spare tubes.
And, for just a little more than the Hydropack, it’s excellent value for money too!
The Best Small & Lightweight Hydration Pack For MTB
If you’re looking for a branded small hydration pack for MTB, the Camelbak Classic is an excellent choice.
You’ll only get a 2L capacity. But, it’s easy to fill up, thanks to the external fill.
Only carrying 2L, you probably don’t need the chest strap, but it’s there, so you might as well use it to grab that additional comfort.
Asides from the reservoir itself, you do get an exterior zipper pocket, but it’s not exactly huge.
Camden Gear 2L
The Camden Gear 2L will offer slightly more storage space than the Camelbak.
It fits chest sizes 27”-50” so is designed to fit pretty much anyone.
The waist belt padding looks trail running inspired, and that’s going to give a nice comfortable fit.
It’s not waterproof, but it is water-resistant.
So, if you plan on riding in the rain, anything you stash will be kept reasonably dry.
Camelbak Classic Or The Camden Gear 2L?
The price difference makes it hard to recommend the Camelbak here. If you’re on a budget, head for the Camden.
But, Camelbaks have always been a favourite brand of mine, so if budget allows, that’s where I’d be throwing my cash.
Best Cheap Hydration Packs
If you’re on a budget, there are cheap hydration packs available in the $20-30 range.
Personally, I’ve always had branded hydration packs (see “The Best Camelbak Hydration Packs For MTB Section”).
Even though they cost slightly more, I’m of the opinion that they are worth the extra cash.
Mubasel Gear 2L
Basic design and a 2L bladder.
But, you won’t just get storage space for hydration. You’ll be able to fit essentials to last almost a day.
Manufacturer specs show it can hold a weight of 132 lb, So, if you crash and land on your back, the bladder shouldn’t explode!
A slightly more modern design, but still the same 2L capacity. It’s lightweight, and Miracol do offer replacement bladders if you ever have one split.
It’s been racking up some great online reviews.
Mubasel Gear 2L Or The Miracol 2L?
I like the Miracol for the top spot in the cheap MTB hydration pack category.
It’s got a sleek design, plenty of storage space, good reviews, and it has both a chest and waist strap.