A decent hydration pack is an absolute must to carry all the essentials for both man and machine.

Find the best mountain bike hydration packs with our grouptest that compares hydration packs and bladders from mid-size through to all-day ride capacity.

We start with a list of all our favourite hydration packs. Below this list is our comprehensive buyer’s guide info about what top look out for in a good hydration pack.

The best hydration packs

Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack

Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack

Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack

Price: £90.00
Score: 10/10

Although a shade less stable than other trail packs, the Osprey is very well thought out, and with the best reservoir on the market for £90, it eclipsed the other packs to take the win.

Read the full review of the Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack

Buy Now: Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack at Twelve 50 Bikes from £78.00

Camelbak Volt 13 LR hydration pack

Camelbak Volt 13 LR hydration pack

Camelbak Volt 13 LR hydration pack

Price: £99.99
Score: 9/10

We’re all in favour of innovation, particularly when it genuinely offers an advantage on the trail. In this case, Camelbak has cut the height of its normal reservoir, widened it, and then designed a pack with big wings at the waist belt to carry the bladder.

Read the full review of the Camelbak Volt 13 LR hydration pack

Buy Now: Camelbak Volt 13 LR hydration pack at Chain Reaction Cycle from £72.99

Fox Portage 16L hydration pack

Fox Portage 16L hydration pack

Fox Portage 16L hydration pack

Price: £95.00
Score: 9/10

We were also impressed by the organising pockets — there are plenty of them, sensibly placed and easily accessed. Each had a task that it fitted perfectly and the hip belt even had two well-proportioned zip pockets that are easy to get to on the move.

Read the full review of the Fox Portage 16L hydration pack

Buy Now: Fox Portage 16L hydration pack at 1stMX.co.uk from £94.99

Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 15 hydration pack

Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 15 hydration pack

Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 15 hydration pack

Price: £110.00
Score: 9/10

A Hydrapak reservoir is included, boasting a wide, easy-fill mouth, quick-release hose and lockable bite valve, and there’s a sneaky helmet holder that can be zipped away until needed. The only thing we missed was a magnetic hose retention clip.

Read the full review of the Mavic Crossmax Hydropak 15 hydration pack

Buy Now: Mavic Crossmax Hydropak hydration pack at A Cycles from £91.65

Evoc CC 10L hydration pack

Evoc CC 10L hydration pack

Evoc CC 10L hydration pack

Price: £94.95
Score: 9/10

The slim profile of the CC range makes it ideal for riding fast and light. Similar to other packs it includes a easy-fill, two litre Hydrapak reservoir. Storage is spread over three logical pockets and it also includes a pull out helmet cover for transportation.

Read the full review of the Evoc CC 10L hydration pack

Buy Now: Evoc CC 10L (no bladder) at Chain Reaction Cycles from £67.49

Dakine Nomad 18L hydration pack

Dakine Nomad 18L hydration pack

Dakine Nomad 18L hydration pack

Price: £90.00
Score: 8/10

The helmet-packing compartment at the back also doubles as a mesh-lined overflow pocket for wet jackets. This is a tough, durable and well-thought-out pack, topped off with an excellent Hydrapak reservoir.

Read the full review of the Dakine Nomad 18L hydration pack

Buy Now: Dakine Nomad 18L hydration pack at Snow Country from £84.65

EVOC CC 16L hydration pack

EVOC CC 16L hydration pack

EVOC CC 16L hydration pack

Price: £72.95
Score: 8/10

Evoc has been producing reliable and well-made packs for years. The excellent strap system just clamps on and doesn’t slide around once cinched down. As a result these packs are very popular with the enduro crowd.

Read the full review of the EVOC CC 16L hydration pack

Buy Now: EVOC CC 16L hydration pack at Chain Reaction Cycles from £58.99

Wingnut Enduro hydration pack

Wingnut Enduro hydration pack

Wingnut Enduro hydration pack

Price: £89.99
Score: 8/10

The Wingnut feels stable and well-positioned when weighed down with a lot of kit, but it is less effective when underpacked. More than one tester complained about twisting the straps when taking it off, but overall it is the pack we’d use for toting heavy loads.

Read the full review of the Wingnut Enduro hydration pack

Buy Now: Wingnut Enduro hydration pack at Wingnut Gear

Osprey Viper 9 hydration pack

Osprey Viper 9 hydration pack

Osprey Viper 9 hydration pack

Price: £70.00
Score: 9/10

Osprey’s Viper 9 is a compact daypack that comes with a 2.5-litre reservoir, and five varying sized compartmentalised pockets, giving you a place for everything. A magnet holds the bite valve in place. The Osprey Viper 9 allows organised carrying and can be loaded up for all-day riding, but it works best when travelling fast and light.

Read the full review of the Osprey Viper 9 hydration pack

Buy Now: Osprey Viper 9 hydration pack at Wiggle from £58.49

Camelbak Hawg Low Rider hydration pack

Camelbak Hawg Low Rider hydration pack

Camelbak Hawg Low Rider hydration pack

Price: £139.99
Score: 10/10

The Hawg LR is one of the few packs on test that came with a reservoir as standard and, while we like the ability to choose our own, in this case it was a good thing. Sure, it’s one of the most expensive packs out there, but it’s easily the best for big days out.

Read the full review of the Camelbak Hawg Low Rider

Endura MT500 hydration pack

Endura MT500 hydration pack

Endura MT500 hydration pack

Price: £119.99
Score: 8/10

The Endura features many innovative ideas, such as the use of metal hooks rather than plastic clips everywhere, and there was something quite satisfying with silently sliding a hook into place every time the pack was accessed. We found them equally secure, too.

Read the full review of the Endura MT500

Buy Now: Endura MT500 hydration pack at Chain Reaction Cycles from £94.99

EVOC FR Trail hydration pack

EVOC FR Trail hydration pack

EVOC FR Trail hydration pack

Price: £129.95
Score: 9/10

With its slim profile and long contact area, the Evoc pack was undoubtedly one of the best trail performers on test.

Read the full review of the EVOC FR Trail

Buy Now: EVOC FR Trail hydration pack at Tredz from £119.99

Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 25L hydration pack

Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 25L hydration pack

Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 25L hydration pack

Price: £110.00
Score: 9/10

The first thing that caught our eye on the Mavic was its clean lines. With streamlined, but generously-sized, side pockets and one large rear panel, it really appealed to the minimalists among us.

Read the full review of the Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 25L

Buy Now: Mavic Crossmax Hydropack 25L at Tredz from £100.00

Ortlieb Packman Pro2 25L hydration pack

Ortlieb Packman Pro2 25L hydration pack

Ortlieb Packman Pro2 25L hydration pack

Price: £106.00
Score: 8/10

We got this pack to test as a pure bike-packing option, rather than an all-round trail performer. It’s designed for carrying loads and keeping them dry, rather than organising kit, and, we’ve since found out, it does this rather well.

Read the full review of the Ortlieb Packman Pro2 25L

Buy Now: Ortlieb Packman Pro2 25L at Rutland Cycling from £91.99

Osprey Syncro 20 hydration pack

Osprey Syncro 20 hydration pack

Osprey Syncro 20 hydration pack

Price: £75.00
Score: 8/10

We often overlook the weight of packs, considering it largely irrelevant once fully laden with kit, but we could immediately feel a benefit from the lightweight Syncro — it is more than half a kilogram lighter than most of the others on test.

Read the full review of the Osprey Syncro 20

Buy Now: Osprey Syncro 20 hydration pack at Evans Cycles from £59.99

Wingnut MPS hydration pack

Wingnut MPS hydration pack

Wingnut MPS hydration pack

Price: £139.99
Score: 8/10

The ride is as good as any other Wingnut we have tried; the weight is down on the hips, keeping the centre of gravity low and making the waist belt work hard. It all felt very secure on the move, and even heavy loads sat well on the back.

Read the full review of the Wingnut MPS hydration pack

Buy Now: Wingnut MPS hydration pack at Rough Ride Guide from £119.99

 

 

How we test

Working from these basics we set about packing and unpacking, thrashing our local steep and twisty trails to test stability, and grinding over distant Scottish mountains on longer routes to check long-term comfort. We got soaked, got baked and scraped mud off once we were done. We also packed them half full to see how they coped at less than maximum capacity.

For the packs that don’t include a reservoir, we tried several different types, from our favourite Osprey Hydraulics stiff-backed bladder, to the widely available Hydrapak. We also assessed the little extras, such as helmet carriers and tool rolls, to see that everything functioned, before finally throwing them into a pile, and deciding which one should sit at the top.

Conclusion

In the hunt for the best all-round mid-size pack we narrowed our selection to just three. We took them out again and again, hot-swapped and scratched a lot of chins before the final decision was made.

It was almost too close to call between them — the Mavic Crossmax 15, Fox Portage 16L and Osprey Raptor 14 — but at the end of the day the sheer innovation and attention to detail on the Osprey brings it through as a deserving winner.

We love the stiffened reservoir that simplifies the filling process; the well-placed and well-executed storage and the powerful magnetic hose retainer. In fact they are just a few examples of its advantages. Pardon the pun, but the Osprey is just packed with useful features, so at the end of the day its victory was unanimous.

>>> Find the best mountain bike helmets here

When it came to larger capacity packs for all-day adventures then our pick has to be the Camelbak Hawg Low Rider. One of the most expensive packs out there, but it’s easily the best for big days out.

Mountain bike hydration packs have a hard life; rammed with gear, soaked by rain, splattered with mud, poked by tree branches and dragged over rocks. They take a beating when you crash, get sat on when you stop for lunch and tossed in the cupboard under the stairs at the end of a ride, where they’re left to fester until the next outing.

Despite this abuse, a good trail pack can easily last four or five years before it needs replacing. Whether you’re looking to renew your crusty old satchel or purchase your first proper trail pack, we’d recommend choosing one of the mid-sized variety.

>>> Click here to find out how to put your riding kit on a diet

These offer the most versatility, with enough space for a generous lunch, waterproof jacket, tools, spares and room for a three-litre water reservoir (the largest size available), these packs will let you disappear for a day or two into the hills and yet are light enough for a short thrash on a summer’s evening.

To do well in the test, a pack must be comfortable, practical and functional. Scroll down to find the best hydration packs.

Back panel

hydration pack

The most effective packs use a suspended, trampoline-style mesh back to maximise airflow, while others rely on large blocks of padding interspersed with gaps to channel the air over your back. Whatever the style, try it on and get the right size.

Organisation and compartments

hydration pack

Emptying the contents of your pack all over the trailside when looking for that elusive Power Link is a pain, so pockets, compartments and organisers are essential. Look for mesh pockets and a variety of internal compartments to let you organise your tools and prevent them rolling around at the bottom of the bag.

A large main compartment allows you to be flexible in carrying bulky items, but you will still want a variety of smaller ones tagged on for spares and smaller bits of gear. These also help organise your kit and save rummaging around in the pouring rain.

Tool organiser

hydration pack

As with the cargo compartments, having an effective tool organiser can make the difference between emptying kit onto a wet trail and simply reaching in for the part you need. Zipped mesh pockets are handy, as are pump slots, but some manufacturers are now providing a tool roll, which is really handy to remove all your tools with one dip.

Compression straps

The bigger the pack, the more critical the strap system for controlling the movement of this bulk and weight. Compressions straps, when correctly tensioned, not only hug large loads closer to your back, but they can also draw in excess volume to prevent smaller loads rattling about. They are also handy for attaching wet jackets or extra gear to the outside.

Reservoir

hydration pack

More and more manufacturers are selling packs without reservoirs, or making them optional. The upside is that you are free to choose your favourite model, with the best- flowing bite valve or quick-release hose. You may also already have one from an old pack. The downside is, you may have to extend your budget.

Helmet holder

Handy for enduro racers, who might want to swap between full face and open-face helmets during a race, or simply keeping all your kit together in the car. These can come in the guise of clever elasticated tabs that pass through the vents, or just a couple of clips for securing the helmet straps.

Protection

hydration pack

If you spend a fair bit of time on your back looking at the sky wondering what just happened, it might be worth considering a pack with built-in protection. A tough armour-plated lining will protect your spine in case of accident, but remember to keep your harness snug for it to work properly.

>>> Day to day commutes? Check out ‘Best cycling backpacks’ at Cycling Weekly

Satellite pockets

hydration pack

You don’t always want to remove your pack to access tools, food or your phone, so pockets on the waist belt or harness come in very handy. The best ones are secured with zips, as the bumpy world of mountain biking doesn’t respect flimsy elastic closures. Some packs angle the side pockets so they’re easy to reach while wearing the pack.