Few off-road locations have water fountains or 7-Elevens, so savvy dirtbags need to bring their own fuel. With so many hydration pack options, the smartest multisport athletes should look at a running-focused design that can easily be adapted for cycling. The best hydration packs will keep you from overheating, fit snugly to avoid chafing and have enough storage for your gear. We tested four different options that will keep you moving when there’s no place to reload in sight.
Camelbak Octane XCT
The draw: A simple, no-frills staple
Since Camelbak was one of the first to the game, it makes sense that it’s gotten the basic hydration pack down to a science. The Octane XCT is a bare-bones bag with light weight and a low price tag. A small back footprint and mesh shoulder straps ensure that this bag won’t overheat when temperatures rise, and small side pockets still store the essentials. The fit of this pack is the most backpack-like of the bunch, with the full load secured behind you.
Osprey Duro 15
The draw: All the bells and whistles, all the pack space
The Osprey Duro 15 is not only the largest pack on our list at 15 liters of pack space, but it also boasts an endless parade of features: double sternum straps for weight balance; a magnetic clasp to hold the hydration hose; and enough pockets to hold a tool chest. When not on the trails, it can also serve double-duty as a small daypack with room for a laptop, jacket, extra clothing and more. Even with all that gear, the vest-like fit keeps loads balanced.
Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 3.0
The draw: Super cooling, lots of hydration options
The SJ Ultra Vest is not only crazy light, but it also keeps you cooler than any other pack tested. Out of the box, this pack is meant to be used with two soft flasks carried on the front: The upside to chest-mounted hydration is the ability to refill on the go, but weight on the front may not be for everybody. Add a hydration bladder (not included) to the back to better balance the load. (Off-road tri option: Use the bladder on the bike, keep the flasks in T2, then grab them for the run only.) Bonus points for small details like soft-trimmed fabric edges.
The draw: Close fit, awesome bladder
The Geigerrig stands out with its pressurized bladder system. Using a rubber bulb—like the one on blood pressure-test sleeves—it squirts so you don’t have to suck. You can share your water better, and you can use it to clean a wound after a wipeout. Attach an additional inline water filter to make the world your drinking fountain. The pack itself is very form-fitting, light on straps, and also one of the warmer options we tested.