Hiking, paddling, skiing, boarding, cycling, running, etc. When you are out in the elements pushing your body to its extreme, there is nothing quite as important as keeping your body hydrated. While 64 ounces of water a day is enough for the average individual, when you are exercising, you'll need to replenish the body frequently, up to a liter worth of water every hour. Hydration systems, portable and convenient, are an essential accessory for athletes and outdoor adventurists.
Things to look for in all hydration systems:
* Comfortable, ergonomic straps with adequate padding.
* Extra pockets for storage if you plan to bring along snacks, a jacket, sunglasses, or other small items.
* Heavy-duty materials sewn with reinforcements and either rust-proof metal zippers or heavy-duty plastic ones.
* The material should be synthetic and breathable and moisture-wicking on the back portion.
* A removable bladder for easy cleaning and so that the bag serves multiple purposes.
* Reflective trim is a must-have if you plan to exercise at night.
Other things to remember about hydration systems is that there are models built with women in mind, designed to hug the body better, and models that have the winter sport enthusiast in mind, insulated to keep the water at an ideal temperature. For hunters, look for packs that are clad in camouflage.
Below are the basic parts that make up a bare hydration system. Most complete hydration pack systems include all of the components below as well as a backpack or other carrier in which these are carried. For an inexpensive alternative to a complete system, some people buy these items individually and place them in another bag.
The Size and Shape
The size of the system should be chosen according to your immediate needs or those of the person for whom the hydration system is intended. Should you typically bike for half a day, it's not practical to get a gigantic system. Similarly, if you have a very small frame and don't want something cumbersome and weighty (a gallon of water weighs nearly 8lbs) you should find something that will best suit both your water intake needs as well as your personal comfort. Sizes typically range between 64 ounces (two quarts) to 128 ounces (a gallon).
When choosing a particular shape or style of hydration system, you'll want to take into account the type of sport you are doing since there are hydration systems for each type of physical activity.
Popular Hydration Systems
Top Rated Hydration Systems
Outside magazine rates the following hydration systems as being the best for gear. See the full Gear of the Year feature.