Ideally, mountain bike rides don’t require any bag. But for longer rides, a hydration pack is necessary not just for storing water but other essentials such as food, tools, spares, and layers. Hydration backpacks come in all sizes and shapes, which leave many people wondering: how do you choose the best one?
The best hydration backpack for mountain biking has enough capacity for water and your gear, which will depend on the length of your ride, the weather, and refilling options. A 3-liter reservoir will do the job for most rides but you can go up to 15 if you want the pack to carry some gear.
Having said that, there are other factors to consider in order for you to choose the best mtb hydration backpack for your specific riding needs. Read on to learn more.
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How to Choose the Best MTB Hydration Backpack
Hydration packs are a necessary accessory for mountain biking. They allow you to easily sip water from a tube instead of reach for your water bottle, which in turn enables you to stay more hydrated especially in longer rides. Aside from that, they are also handy in storing some other extras you may need such as a pump, spare tube, and more.
Choosing a hydration pack that best suits your needs is a personal preference. There are some things to consider:
The length of your ride and the items you plan to bring will determine the size of your pack. For short rides under two hours that require nothing more than water, then you’re good with a small pack under 3 liters. Now for longer days riding, it’s best to consider those with 8 to 15 liters of capacity which will have enough room for snacks, spare parts, layers, and other tools you may need.
Hydration packs on the bigger end of the scale can carry as much as 3 liters of water on top of other essentials you’re bringing in them. However, packs that are over 20 liters in size are already backpacks and not actual hydration packs, so you may want to keep this in mind when shopping around.
When determining the appropriate water capacity in a hydration pack, remember that water, or any liquid you decide to fill the bladder with, translates to weight. Each liter of liquid will add around 2 pounds of weight. With this in mind, you will also want to think about whether or not you want to fill up the bladder to the brim when you go out for a ride.
As a general rule of thumb, most riders will need to drink around 22 ounces of water for every hour of riding. Again, this is a personal choice; some people simply need more water than others. Also take into consideration the difficulty of your ride and the weather, because during a harder right in hot weather, you’ll need more water than usual.
Some water bladders have fill lines to help you as a guide, but if not, you can always use a measuring cup to help you fill up just what you need; not more and not less. This way, you can avoid bringing more weight than is needed.
Hydration packs in the market present numerous options when it comes to gear capacity. Deciding how much gear to bring along is another personal decision, because while some people are alright with receiving sustenance through protein bars or energy gels, others will need sandwiches.
The same will apply for the kind of spare parts or tools that you’ll bring along with you. There will be some people who prefer to ride with a complete suite of tools and spare clothes, while others can ride with just a pump and tire plug. Remember that the more gear you’ll need to bring, the more fabric and more weight you’ll have to carry around.
If you are leaning towards a larger pack in order to have more space for gear, it’s also helpful to think about how all that capacity will be organized. A hydration backpack with a simple design allows you to stuff everything into one spacious pocket, while other designs are equipped with several compartments so that you can separate your sandwich from your tools. It’s always recommended to go with packs designed with accessible pockets so that you don’t waste time looking for what you need.
A great deal of packs out there come in a one-size fits-all design together with adjustable straps so you can customize its fit on your body. However, in order to ensure the best fit with maximum comfort, measuring your waist and torso is always best before you decide on a pack. If you can’t try on a pack before purchasing because you’re shopping online, go with a brand that offers hassle-free exchange or return policies.
After deciding on the essentials – water and gear capacity as well as fit, think about the features you’ll want to have in a pack. Some recommended features to look for include easy bladder insert/removal, rugged bite valves, stable bite valve storage, wide mouth bladder openings, and quick disconnecting hoses.
Best Hydration Backpacks for Mountain Biking
Here are some great examples of hydration packs perfect for mountain biking that are available on to compare on our website:
Frequently Asked Questions
How much water should you drink while mountain biking?
Drink enough water based on the difficulty of the ride, how hot it is, and your body’s personal needs. On average, a 150-pound cyclist should consume a 16-ounce bottle of water each hour when riding in cool water though this should be adjusted to as much as four 16-ounce bottles an hour in hot weather.
It helps to hydrate before you start riding as well, which helps you prevent getting dehydrated on the road. Ideally, drink 12 up to 16 ounces of water three or four hours before you get on the bike. Then sip another 12 ounces two hours before.
Once your ride has finished, replace lost fluids by sipping water and eating a small meal within the first hour of finishing up the ride. Since people sweat differently, the best way to determine how much you should hydrate with is to weigh yourself on a scale before and after a hard ride. If you weigh more after a ride, reduce your water intake since this can lead to overhydration but if you weigh less, drink more.
Can you put a hydration pack inside a regular backpack?
A regular backpack can be turned into a hydration pack as long as you know how to work a hydration bladder. The main reason mountain bikers use a bladder is for them to be able to efficiently drink their chosen fluids during a ride, whether it’s water or energy drinks. For this reason, hydration bladders are designed with a rubber tube attached to it, and the tube exit is at the bottom because it relies on gravity for you to sip liquid out of it.
To use a hydration pack inside a regular backpack, place it on one of the exterior side pockets or any large pocket that is snug enough. The hose exit should be placed on the bottom, then use a chest harness to clip the bladder in place. Give it a few tries to make sure that the liquid gets to your mouth without any knots or twists.