For fast-paced activities like mountain biking and trail running, you need a low-capacity hydration pack.
Storage and capacity
While some hydration packs have capacities over 10litres, most are smaller than this, purposed with holding essentials like food, hydration, bike tools and an extra layer or two. Slim-line pockets and hipbelt pockets hold energy bars and basic cycle tools. Bike packs should have a helmet attachment.
Reservoir, hose and bite valve
Made of polyurethane or food grade plastic, reservoir volumes are typically two or three litres. They either have a twist-off cap or a zip/slide top. The latter makes filling and cleaning super easy.
The bite valve prevents water from dripping. Some reservoirs have an on/off valve.
Shoulder straps and hipbelt
Moulded foam shoulder and hip straps provide comfort. They may be perforated or die-cut to save weight and be covered with a mesh fabric that helps wick sweat and promote fast drying. Smaller packs may have a sternum strap rather than a hipbelt.
Back panels consist of open or die-cut foam with ventilation channels to aid airflow and moisture-wicking. The harness works with the shoulder and sternum straps to keep the pack stable and close to the body.
Lightweight ripstop nylon and polyester fabrics predominate.
Cleaning the reservoir
Wash and dry the reservoir straight after use – or as soon as is practical – to prevent mould. This is especially important if you have used a sweetened electrolyte drink. Those who use their packs often might want to invest in a purpose-built brush for the hose and reservoir – though slide-top models allow you to get your hand inside to do the job. Dry the reservoir out of direct sunlight and in a way that allows residual water to run out.
Now you know what to look for, it’s time to choose a hydration pack.