Best CamelBak Backpacks in 2021
Hikers, rejoice. The outdoors calls to you every time you’re stuck in the office, every weekend you have to spend with the in-laws or helping a friend. You should just be able to get up, get out, and hit the trail without a care in the world. The best CamelBak backpacks are one of the ways to get there. These aren’t going to clear up your schedule, but they are going to minimize all the extra water bottles and junk you end up bringing along, allow for longer hikes, and keep you in top physical form to enjoy life out in the great outdoors. As always, we try to narrow your options down to a select ten. This was supposed to be a hydration pack list, but CamelBak can’t be beat, no matter what. In response to their epic products, we glorify them with an entire guide dedicated to their ten best camelbak backpacks.
The Best CamelBak Backpack
We roll in with a stellar price and hundreds of firsthand user accounts. CamelBak poured all of their know-how and years of experience into Mil-Tac HydroBak, giving you durable, comfortable straps that don’t weigh down on your shoulders, and a comfortable exterior (and backing) to the bag itself that keep your reservoir nice and tight. Part of the exterior construction includes reflective materials, keeping the sun at bay and your water nice and cooled. Nothing warms up your water reservoir faster than crappy insulation. With a 1.5L capacity and an Amazon-exclusive price, the Mil-Tac is your perfect companion for a weekend away, or a seriously hardcore hike on your off days. You can’t avoid one thing; you need hydration. CamelBak is the way to get it, no matter where you are.
Includes pocket large enough for multi-tool and ID
Reflects heat to keep water cool
- Weight1.12 ounces
If you’re stepping up your game, and therefore stepping up your water consumption out on the trail, you’re going to need a higher capacity that suits your body’s requirements. Water goes quicker than you think, but with 2.5L on your back, you’ll be ready to go wherever the wind decides to take you. CamelBak is all about making these models different, which is why they took the time to add in a magnetic locking Tube Trap™ to help keep your hose where it needs to be. You’re able to take in 20% more water per sip than the leading base model, but if that’s too much for you, you can simply flick the on or off lever to completely prevent or allow water flow to the hose. You’re in control of the show, but the spotlight’s on the MVP: Rogue Hydration Pack by CamelBak.
Magnetic Tube Trap™ keeps your hose secure and accessible
Overflow compartment for rain cover storage
- Weight8.2 ounces
They mean a stylish mule. Really, they do. Kidding aside, there’s nothing to joke about when it comes to the M.U.L.E. quality build and optimal performance. Firstly, you get up to 3L of storage in the reservoir, allowing you to hike ‘til your heart’s content. We seriously enjoyed the exterior hooks to hang mesh bags onto, (we even trusted it to hold our camera bag; it didn’t disappoint). Thanks to their Tube Trap™ technology, your hose is going to stay right where it belongs: close to you, and within reach. Nothing is more frustrating than having to spin circles to find that thing again. On top of the conveniences, you also get the peace of mind that comes with an air director, keeping the heat off your back, and your water as cooled as possible. Comfortable, cost effective and lightweight as can be, the M.U.L.E ranks as a damn fine hydration pack for long summer hikes, and a weekend camping out under the stars.
Includes Magnetic Tube Trap™ technology
External hooks provide an opportunity to bring extra items
- Weight1.37 pounds
They didn’t go with the Cloud Walker name just because it sounded cool; you’re actually going to have a far better experience in-transit than you’ve ever had before with off-brand hydration packs. Thanks to the hip belt, this lightweight pack rests ultra close to your back, making this feel like an extension of your body instead of a burden to bear. We love the on and off lever to cut-off or evoke water flow in the tubing, as well as the mouth piece that gives you 20% more water per sip than other brands. If you don’t want to stuff essentials into the pockets of your shorts, we’re with you. It’s aggravating when you have a bunch of gadgets just banging around, so use the essentials pocket, and the additional side stitch pockets on either side to store your must-haves while you’re enjoying Mother Nature.
Side stitch pockets for additional storage
Hip belt for maximum stability and minimal strain on your back
- Weight1.43 pounds
Take a look at it, and tell me it’s not a classic design. Their 2016 frontrunner is anything but timid, and comes with a slew of CamelBak features that you’re already in love with. Firstly, you get the Crux reservoir and self-sealing bite valve. More water per sip, but only if you want it. This slingshot design is intended to hang over your back, or come up as tight as you want it to. You get plenty of room if you want to throw this on top of another bag; either way, you’ll be protected by the reflective construction, which ensures your water isn’t going to heat up with the sun’s rays. One of the biggest frustrations with standard, veil-thin hydration packs, is that you reach the summit of your hike, and your water’s about as warm as you are after spending hours in the hot sun. CamelBak’s line, classic 2016 model or not, makes sure that doesn’t happen.
Self-sealing bite valve
Breathable back to prevent profuse sweating
- Weight12.6 ounces
It’s not just about function; it’s about flair, the two golden rules of men’s products here on Gear Hungry. If you’re sick of basic black, the Lobo lineup has seven different colors for you to choose from, each a bit more outrageous and fun than the one before it. Functionally, you get a 3L water reservoir, complete with a magnetic Tube Trap™ setup to keep the tube right where it belongs: by your side, accessible when you need it to be. Apart from that, you’re also going to get an air director panel to ensure your back isn’t turning into a sweat waterfall, keeping it cool and ventilated on the walk up, and the slow wind back down the trail. We love the hip strap, which allows you have this as close to you as possible, which cuts down on any heavy feeling you’re going to run into. Price point; prime features; perfection, if we do say so ourselves.
Air director panel for sweat reduction
Overflow storage compartments
- Weight1.63 pounds
Designed for hot-weather activities, the CamelBak ThermoBak Hydration Pack keeps your water cold throughout the day. That means, no matter how much sweat is dripping down your face, you can always access some cold water to keep you going. It has an external fill design that lets you add water, add ice, and clean the reservoir – all without removing it from the pack. It can hold a total of 100oz (3 liters), which is approximately the same as the guideline amount a man should drink in a day.
The quick-release shoulder straps are wide enough to spread the load and it comes with an adjustable sternum strap to spread it further. Plus, when you’re done carrying it, you can stow the straps away inside the built-in pocket.
External fill design
Quick-release shoulder straps
Adjustable sternum strap
Optimal infrared reflection
We’ve been searching for the perfect CamelBak backpack for running and we think we’ve found it. When you’re deep into a run, there’s nothing more annoying than carrying a water bottle in your hand. Except for maybe not having any water at all. The CamelBak Ratchet Hydration pack solves that problem. The reason we like this pack over the others is that it has wide shoulder straps and a sternum strap, which keep everything secure on your back. It’s not going to bounce around and mess up your rhythm.
We also like the fact that the straps and back have a mesh design that lets air to your back and shoulders as you run. Add this to the three liters of water you’ve got to drink and you should stay cool and hydrated throughout your run.
Breathable air mesh back panel
Magnetic Tube Trap
Wide shoulder straps
Available in five colors
If you’re serious about cycling, the other CamelBaks on this list aren’t going to cut it. With thin straps and just one sternum strap, the bag is going to be flying all over the place as you hurl down a single track. The CamelBak Chase Hydration Bike Vest is designed specifically to stop this happening. As you can see from the product pictures, it has a vest-style design that wraps tight around your body. The wide shoulder straps and back have a 3D vent-mesh design that lets airflow, keeping you cool.
The reservoir is also pretty small (1.5 liters) compared to some CamelBaks. The thinking behind this is that you can refill it more frequently when you’re cycling, so it keeps the design nice and lightweight. The vest is also stacked with pockets – two zippered pockets in the front and a stretch overflow pocket for a raincoat or jacket. For cycling, it’s hard to think of a way to improve on this design.
1.5 liter Crux Reservoir
3D vent mesh
Dual adjustable sternum straps
Two zippered front pockets
Stretch overflow pocket
Available in four colors
- Weight11 ounces
When you’re on a one-day hike, you need more than just water to keep you going. You’ll be carrying food, valuables, rain gear, sunscreen, a first aid kit, and whatever else you deem necessary. That means you need a CamelBak that has additional internal space. The CamelBak Arete 18 fits everything you need along with 1.5-liters of water to keep you hydrated. It’s made from ultralight, compressible materials and has an adjustable sternum strap for added comfort.
But this pack has a bonus feature that you really wouldn’t expect. If you flip it inside out, it becomes an insulated reservoir sleeve for a larger backpack. So, if you want to start doing multi-day hikes, you can convert a large backpack into a CamelBak-style hydration pack. This makes the CamelBak Arete 18 one of the most versatile hiking packs on this list.
2-in-1 design – converts to reservoir sleeve
Made from lightweight, compressible materials
Removable sternum strap
Tube trap management
- ModelArete 18
- Weight14.6 ounces
CamelBak Backpack Buying Guide and FAQs
Q: What is a Hydration Pack?
A: CamelBak makes the best of the best, but if you’re not certain exactly what these are, let’s break it down a bit, and tell you one of the most common and effective forms of use. Hydration packs are insulated containers on your back, taking the place of your backpack or fitting beside/over them, giving you access to a tubed mouthguard. That has a bite grip (usually) that releases water from the reservoir on your back, keeping you hydrated out on your hike.
To put things into perspective, an active person will shed 0.8 to 1.4 liters of their body’s water supply through sweat, during physically straining activities. It all depends on the user’s familiarity with the task, the muscles built up beforehand, the temperature outside, and difficulty of the incline. Depending on what you’re doing, you’ll want a larger pack. If you’re planning a six to eight-hour hike, you’ll want a 2.5L with a freshwater stream near the end of your trail so you can refuel. People underestimate the amount of water it takes to truly stay hydrated.
Things to Consider When Buying a CamelBak Backpack
Reservoir Size - Hardcore hiker? Perhaps you can bike for eight hours without needing to turn around? You’re looking for a much larger reservoir, around 2.0 to 2.5L. Newcomers will do well with a single liter up to 1.5L on their back without adding too much weight and/or strain.
Backpack Size - How bulky is this thing going to appear on your back? It’s going to tie-in to the possibility of fatigue (read further down0 and soreness. CamelBak packs are specifically designed to be as densely-built as possible, leaving you with plenty of space, and a centralized sense of gravity.
Cargo Capacities - You’re not just getting hydration, here. Most of these are going to come with additional storage, albeit it only sized enough to fit essentials. While these are nowhere near a replacement for your hiking pack, it’s still some viable storage for mult-itools and identification.
Style - A man’s gotta have style, right? If it’s not you, it’s not you. CamelBak comes with some varying style,s but no matter what, basic black goes with just about anything. We get it; you don’t want to look awkward or silly on your pit stops on the way to the hiking trail.
Weight - This is the weight that your pack rests at when fully empty. From the reservoir material itself, the size, insulation, strap weight, and more, you’re going to see multiple weights across the board. CamelBak has done their best to keep them at lightweight as possible, while still offering excellent use and quality. Pay attention to your own physique and what you can handle before committing to a purchase.
Q: Why Choose CamelBak?
A: There are a bunch of hydration packs out there, a bunch of brands, but they still act like they’re meddling with a new concept. CamelBak has perfected the process, making each one of their packs absolutely excellent against just about any condition. You get dedicated customer support, stellar warranties, and a company that focuses on one thing, and one thing only: giving you the best hydration pack experience.
While that all sounds a bit arbitrary, a few broken-down reasons CamelBak have taken the hydration pack scene by storm are their ease to clean, killer insulation, and prices that don’t drain your hiking gear budget (you know, so you can also check out our other outdoorsman guides). They’re reliable, persistently high quality, and built on a name that’s synonymous with attention to detail, and attention to their prospective buyers.
Q: Can I Experience Back Pain With a Hydration Pack?
A: It all depends on where you’re starting from. If you’re going to strap a 2.5L pack over your shoulders, you need to have the proper physique to support it. Inexperienced hikers who still have a lot of weight to lose, or those who haven’t built up enough lean muscle, may encounter some back issues. Mountain biking and hiking both call for constant hydration, so a proper hydration pack from CamelBak is recommended. That being said, don’t get one that’s too heavy for you. The more fit you are, the longer your hikes/rides will be, and the more water you will need. If you’re still getting the ball rolling, you’ll be going for shorter stretches. Just apply this guideline to your purchasing process.
Q: How to Properly Clean a CamelBak
A: There are two ways, each of which is fairly simple and straightforward. We’ll cover both, the steps to achieve them, and why they work as well as they do.
Baking Soda or Bleach Solution
Cheap and effective, you can spend about $2.00 to maybe $6.00 depending on which method you expect to use, and clean the hell out of your reservoir. Here’s how to do it
- Use two teaspoons of baking soda or bleach for every one liter of reservoir space; don’t mix
- Drop them into your pack after loading it up with water; lukewarm is preferable, nothing colder than 65F
- Shake up the pack, and allow to sit for three to five minutes
- Pinch bite nozzle (if your hydration pack has one), and let it run its course. Once everything has left, rinse your pack with another full cycle of water, potentially up to two times
Take extra special attention to flush everything out of your reservoir and tubing afterward to avoid unpleasant odors and/or mold buildup. While the CamelBak packs don’t encounter these problems, poor care of the product is a surefire way to make it near impossible to clean in the future.
Using CamelBak Tablets
Our preferred method is to use CamelBak’s cleaning tablets and follow the instructions. These take, at most, three to five minutes, and will allow you to take a more hands-free approach. There’s no measuring, just simply following the instructions. The best part about this method is that these are designed specifically for CamelBak bags, by the same creators, so you know you’re in the right hands.
A Short History of CamelBak Products
CamelBak Products was the brainchild of Michael Edison, an EMT by training and something of an extreme athlete in his free time. While preparing to compete in a bike race appropriately named the “Hotter n’ Hell” back in 1989 Edison, like a lot of bike racers, triathletes and others at the time, came face to face with the single biggest non-mechanical issue facing any endurance athlete: the lack of proper hydration options.
Birth of a Business - His solution was to fill an IV bag with water, stick it in one of his tube socks, fasten the tube sock to the back of his jersey and run the tube from the IV around to the front where he could access it during the race. The difference this simple innovation made in his performance that day was measurable and gave Edison the idea that launched the entire CamelBak line of hydration packs.
Trial by Fire - It didn’t take long for Edison’s invention to come to the attention of the US military. Within a year soldiers stationed in the deserts of the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm were purchasing his hydration packs by the score from mobile PX’s and their reputation spread. Widespread use during subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq further cemented the CamelBak reputation for practicality and dependability. Contracts with both the US and foreign militaries followed and by 2012 these contracts made up nearly 40% of the company’s business.
A Hot Property - Edison sold the company in 1996 for $5 million and eight years later it was purchased by the merchant bank Bear Stearns for $210 million. The company would change hands two more times, most recently in 2015 when it was sold to Vista Outdoor for more than $412 million. Today the company retains Edison’s original vision of making highly effective and lightweight hydration systems available to athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, military personnel and more at affordable prices.