8 Best Mountain Bike Backpacks in 2023

Check out the best mountain bike backpacks that will keep you hydrated and carry all your trail tools, snacks, and layers for every ride.

Mountain biker riding down forested singletrack trail wearing mountain bike backpack

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If there’s one thing you always carry with you on a ride, let it be water. Ideally, you’d also have some basic trail fix-it tools like a multi-tool, some tire plugs, a hand pump, and a few snacks in your mountain bike backpack but water is really the essential item. Even if you’re just going out for a short spin, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of always bringing water. You don’t want to find yourself stranded and parched, right? Right.

There are a few options for carrying water as a mountain biker, but my personal favorite is a backpack with a hydration reservoir for a water bladder. I like backpacks because they can carry extra gear (see my post on What To Carry In Your Pack) and I find that they’re more comfortable and accessible than a fanny pack.

There are a ton of different options out there for good mountain bike backpacks and in this post, I’ve rounded up a few of the best.

A good mountain bike backpack should allow for airflow between your shirt and the back panel, have small pockets to keep things organized (some even come with built-in tool rolls), and be lightweight so that the straps don’t hurt your neck and shoulders.

Tops Picks at a Glance

Here are (what I consider) to be the best mountain bike hydration packs and backpacks on the market

Buying Guide – FAQs & Features

Not sure what to look for? Here are some FAQs and tips to consider when shopping around for a mountain bike hydration pack.

This really depends on how much you carry in your backpack. I recommend packing at least the mountain bike pack essentials for every ride, but you may also need to carry warmer layers, a first aid kid, medications, etc…

Personally, I like a mid-sized pack like the Osprey Raven 10, which has ample room for tools, a layer, snacks, and other essentials.

You can also go larger and smaller.

Mountain bike packs range from low capacity 3-6 L to larger packs with 14 L or more capacity.

Just know that smaller packs will limit your ability to carry a lot of water/tools and larger packs will be bulky and heavy.

Again, this will depend on what kind of riding you’ll be doing.

If you plan on doing big days in the desert, for example, you’ll need a bladder that can carry at least 2-3 L.

If you’re going to stick to shorter days in cooler temps, you could probably get away with a 1.5-2L reservoir.

Personally, I almost always opt for a 3L reservoir, but I recommend get at least a 2L. You don’t have to always fill it up.

Mountain bike packs actually come with a lot of features. Here are a few that I recommend looking for when shopping around:

  • Lots of organization and pockets to keep your tools and essentials easily accessed. (Maybe even a pack with a dedicated tool pouch)
  • Quick and easy removal of the hydration bladder. I’ve spent too many frustrating moments trying to wrestle a bladder out of the pack to refill.
  • A magnetic clip for the hydration hose (usually on the sternum strap) so that it doesn’t hang loose and floppy while you pedal.
  • Safety features (optional) like a whistle, spine protector (or spine-protector compatible), and reflective detailing for visibility.

Actually, yes, a women’s-specific pack does matter. Mostly due to the torso length, which tends to be shorter for women, and narrower shoulder straps.

I’ve tried to make a ‘men’s’ pack work and it just felt too big and uncomfortable.

1. Osprey Raptor & Raven series

>> Two Wheeled Wanderer Favorite

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 10 L & 14 L
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 2.5 L
  • Included? Yes
  • Women’s specific? Yes, the Raven
  • MSRP: $165 (10 L), $175 (14 L)

Where to shop

  • Great for: Everyday riding
  • What I like: Included tool roll, mesh back panel for ventilation, specifically designed for mountain bikers, women’s version
  • What I don’t like: Can’t unclip the hose from the hydration reservoir for easy filling, the hose is a bit long, so safety whistle on the sternum strap

The Osprey Raven (or Raptor for the guys) has quickly become my favorite hydration pack for mountain biking.

It is specifically designed for mountain bikers with an integrated tool roll, a helmet lid-lock carry system (for when you’re not riding your bike, obvs…), and plenty of pockets to stash your snacks, spares, sunglasses, and other trail necessities.

I also love that the back panel is mesh to provide good ventilation because I don’t know about you, but I get sweaty on those climbs.

Unlike other hydration packs, the Raven and Raptor come with an included 2.5 L hydration reservoir.

I do find that refilling the reservoir isn’t as easy with these packs because you can’t unclip the hose from the bladder, but the other features definitely make up for this minor inconvenience.

The Osprey Raven and Raptor packs come in two sizes: 10L and 14L. I use the 10 L pack and find it the perfect size for everyday riding.

Integrated tool roll extended from bottom of Osprey Raven mountain bike backpack
The integrated tool roll is one of the many reasons I love the Osprey Raven/Raptor backpack

2. Dakine Drafter

>> Best for ventilation

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 10 L (14 L also available)
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 3 L
  • Included? Yes
  • Women’s specific? Yes
  • MSRP: $160 (10 L), $190 (14 L)

Where to shop

  • Great for: Heavy sweaters or warm climates, everyday riding
  • What I like: Mesh suspension back panel for ventilation, good organization, lumbar hydration backpack sits lock on the back, comfortable, can detach the hose from the hydration reservoir, safety whistle built into the sternum buckle
  • What I don’t like: Questionable color choices, front zippered pocket is located inside the outer stash pocket which is a bit weird and hard to reach

If you’re a heavy sweater or live in a hot/humid climate, take a look at the Dakine Drafter hydration pack. I used a similar model – the Dakine Syncline – for many seasons and while I liked that pack, I’d choose the Drafter next time.

The Dakine Drafter is designed with an awesome AirLite Suspension back panel that allows air to flow between you and the pack. It also has breathable shoulder straps for even more ventilation.

Dakine uses a lumbar hydration reservoir system where the bladder sits low on the back instead of vertically along the spine. I honestly didn’t notice too much of a difference in how it sits on the Syncline, but what I do like about this system is that it’s really easy to access the reservoir from the bottom compartment. Other packs, like Osprey, require you to pull the reservoir out from the top of a hydration sleeve which can be awkward.

I also really like that you can detach the hose from the reservoir with a quick-connect for easy filling, which Osprey doesn’t do for some reason.

The one thing I don’t love about the Drafter is the questionable color choices… You’ll either love them or hate them. The zippered front pocket is also located inside the stash flap, which is a bit weird and awkward to access.

The Dakine Syncline does come in a 14 L version, but I find that to be a bit big for most mountain biking adventures.

Becky riding bike on singletrack trail through field with dry, golden grass in New Mexico
Wearing an older version of the Dakine Drifter on the South Boundary Trail in New Mexico

3. EVOC Hydro Pro 3

>> Best hydration vest

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 3 L & 1.5 L
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 1.5 L
  • Included? Yes
  • Women’s specific? No
  • MSRP: $140 (3 L), $130 (1.5 L)

Where to shop

  • Great for: Cross-country chargers, racers
  • What I like: Fits close to the body to minimize movement, sleek design, lightweight
  • What I don’t like: Doesn’t have great airflow or ventilation across the back, may not work for smaller women, can only carry 1.5 L of water, can’t carry a ton of tools, spares, or snacks

For those riders (looking at you, cross-country chargers) that don’t want to carry a heavy pack, but also don’t like the idea of only relying on water bottles, the EVOC Hydro Pro (smaller version) is the perfect solution.

Both pack sizes come with a 1.5 L hydration reservoir that slips into the back panel while the two front mesh chest pouches can store easy-to-access snacks and gels.

There are two zippered pockets on the chest straps as well that you can store tools and spares, but you don’t want to load them up too much, or else they’ll feel bulky and uncomfortable.

I personally wouldn’t use this vest-style hydration pack because I like to carry more than 1.5 L of water, especially on bigger rides, but if you don’t need as much water or you know you’ll be able to fill up the EVOC Hydro Pro could be a great option.

4. USWE MTB Airborne

>> Best for rowdy riders

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 3 L & 9 L
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 2 L (SM), 3 L (LG)
  • Included? Yes
  • Women’s specific? No
  • MSRP: $125 (3 L), $140 (9 L)

Where to shop

  • Great for: Enduro riding, rowdy terrain, big backcountry days
  • What I like: The No Dancing Monkey (NDM) Harness system that minimizes bounce, tons of thoughtful design features
  • What I don’t like: May not work for women with larger chests, love or hate the color choices and/or look

USWE is a brand out of Sweden that is wire widely known amongst moto and dirt bikers, but their hydration packs are becoming more and more popular with mountain bikers thanks to their no-bounce design.

Instead of using traditional straps and clips, USWE uses a suspension harness system (awesomely called No Dancing Monkeys, or NDM) that minimizes bounce on the back while still allowing you to move freely. If you tend to ride rowdy trails, these packs are for you!

While I haven’t tried a USWE pack out on the trail, I have tried one on to experience the NDM harness and I have to say, it’s quite snug! I also have several moto friends who use USWE packs and they swear by the design.

USWE has several different pack collections, but their Airborne Series is designed for mountain bikes and has two different pack sizes to choose from: 3 L and 9 L. Both sizes have tool pouches, an included water reservoir, and the No Dancing Monkeys harness.

One cool thing about the 3 L pack is that you can remove the small outer pouch to shave off some weight if you’re doing a race or just heading out for a quick spin. I wish they’d designed the 9 L pack to have this versatility as well.

The one major downside to USWE packs is that they may not fit comfortably for women with large chests.

5. Osprey Kitsuma & Katari Series

>> Best for minimalists

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 1.5 L, 3 L, 7 L
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 1.5 L (1.5 L), 2.5 L (3 L & 7 L)
  • Included? Yes
  • Women’s specific? Yes, the Kitsuma
  • MSRP: $70 (1.5 L), $80 (3 L), $90 (7 L)

Where to shop

  • Great for: Casual riding, fast-paced missions, day hikes
  • What I like: Super simple and lightweight design, can double as a hiking pack
  • What I don’t like: Few pockets for organization, will probably need a larger pack for bigger rides, limited room for tools and spares

For the riders who don’t need all the bells and whistles like pockets and organization, the Osprey Kitsuma (women’s) and Osprey Katari (men’s) packs are the perfect answers.

With a minimal design, these hydration packs – which are available in 1.5 L, 3 L, and 7 L models – are meant for casual riding or fast, lightweight missions where you only need to pack the essentials.

Each model comes with a hydration reservoir, but they do lack the mountain bike-specific features found on the Osprey Raven and Raptor like the integrated tool roll, helmet lid lock, snack pockets on the hip belt, etc…

The back ventilation also isn’t quite as robust, although the slimmer design does allow for good airflow.

One big plus for the Kitari and Kitsuma packs is that they are also great for day hikes if you want a versatile hydration pack.

6. EVOC Stage 12

>> Best for organization

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 12 L
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 3 L
  • Included? No
  • Women’s specific? No
  • MSRP: $160

Where to shop

  • Great for: Mountain bike guides, big backcountry rides, remote terrain
  • What I like: Lots of organization, integrated rain cover, good ventilation
  • What I don’t like: Heavy, doesn’t come with a hydration reservoir, expensive

Ideal for trail riders looking for a relatively compact mountain biking backpack that still has lots of pockets for organization, the Evoc Stage 12 is a great option. It’s designed with an easy-to-reach tool compartment as well as numerous pockets to stash your snacks, spares, and other items. As a guide or instructor, this pack is great for carrying all your extra gear and essentials.

The EVOC Stage is also great for year-round riding thanks to the integrated rainfly that stuffs into its own little compartment at the bottom. Raining out? No problem, just pull the cover up and keep pedaling.

Lastly, if you struggle to find a pack to fit your wide shoulders, this one could be a great choice thanks to the shoulder strap design that allows the straps to move side-to-side to accommodate broader shoulders.

If you want a smaller or larger size, the EVOC Stage also comes in 6 L or 18 L models.

6. CamelBak M.U.L.E.

>> CamelBak Option

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 9 L
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 3 L
  • Included? No
  • Women’s specific? Yes
  • MSRP: $130

Where to shop

  • Great for: CamelBak lovers, everyday riding
  • What I like: Lightweight breathable straps, mesh back panel for ventilation, good organization
  • What I don’t like: You either like the CamelBak hydration reservoir system or you don’t

I feel like there are two types of outdoorsy people: Osprey supporters and CamelBak supporters. I, personally, am team Osprey but if you’re CamelBak-loyal check out the CamelBak M.U.L.E. hydration backpack (men’s).

This pack has most of the great features the other packs on this list are designed with, but the biggest difference is the hydration reservoir. CamelBak reservoirs use a screw-on ‘lid’ rather than a sliding closure. I find them to be a bit finicky and hard to fill, but that’s my personal opinion.

The M.U.L.E. is pretty spacious with two main zippered pockets and several smaller organizational pockets.

Mountain biker riding on singletrack trail in Hurricane Utah
Wearing the CamelBak M.U.L.E. in Hurricane, Utah

8. EVOC Trail Builder

>> Best pack for trail builders

Key Features
  • Gear capacity: 30 L
  • Hydration reservoir capacity: 3 L
  • Included? No
  • Women’s specific? No
  • MSRP: $300

Where to shop

  • Great for: Trail builders
  • What I like: Heavy-duty material, lots of pockets and pouches, attachment system for larger tools, hydration sleeve, reinforced shoulder straps
  • What I don’t like: Heavy, expensive

Need a pack to carry all your trail building and maintenance tools? (First off, thanks for your work!) The EVOC Trail Builder is specifically designed for trail builders to carry their heavy equipment from chainsaws to axes to hoes and more.

While this pack doesn’t have an internal frame, it does have a robust design that allows you to carry heavy loads easily and without too much discomfort.

It’s also got a ton of pockets and storage compartments to keep your gear organized so you can quickly move along the trail.

Comparison Table

PackTWW AwardGear CapacityH2O CapacityPrice
Osprey Raptor & RavenTwo Wheeled Wanderer Favorite10 L, 14 L2.5 L$165/$175
Dakine DrifterBest Ventilation10 L, 16 L3 L$160/$190
EVOC Hydro ProBest Hydration Vest1.5 L, 3 L1.5 L$130/$140
USWE AirborneBest for Rowdy Riders3 L, 9 L2 L, 3 L$125/$140
Osprey Kitsuma & KatariBest for Minimalists1.5 L, 3 L, 7 L1.5 L, 2.5 L$70/$80/$90
EVOC Stage 12Best for Organization12 L3 L (not included)$160
CamelBak M.U.L.E.CamelBak Lovers9 L3 L$130
EVOC Trail BuilderTrail Builders30 L3 L (not included)$300

Other Ways to carry water on your bike

Fanny Pack

Some people really like using a fanny pack (aka hip pack if you didn’t grow up in 80’s) instead of a backpack. Personally, I haven’t found a fanny pack that works for me because I feel like they sag in the back and dig into my stomach.

Some people avoid that sag by only carrying tools and snacks in their fanny pack and using water bottle cages for water.

That being said, some people – like my brother – only ride with fanny packs, so if you think they might work for you, give it a try! He uses the EVOC Hip Pack Pro.

Mountain biker sitting on bike looking out over view of Mount Mansfield in Vermont during the fall
My brother wearing the EVOC Hip Pack Pro

Water Bottle Cage

Water bottle cages are great for shorter rides, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on them solely for big rides or rowdy terrain. I’ve had water bottles go flying off my bike on rocky descents and I’ve actually seen the top of a water bottle get sheared off when it made contact with the front wheel on a big compression.

Use them for short spins, but don’t rely on them for bigger rides.

Water Filter Bottle

I was riding with one of my brother’s friends a while ago and during a quick rest stop, he walked over to the river and filled up his LifeStraw Squeeze soft water bottle filter. I thought that was a super clever way to carry water on big rides!

Of course, this solution will only work if you are sure there is going to be water along your route.

Final thoughts

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ‘best’ mountain bike hydration backpack. It really comes down to personal preference, what kind of riding you’ll be doing the most, how much stuff you need to carry, etc…

Take your time and really think about what features are most important to you. There are lots of options out there, so with a little shopping around I’m confident you’ll find the right one for your adventures.

Happy trails!

I hope this roundup helps you find the best mountain biking hydration pack for your rides! Do you have a favorite mountain biking backpack not listed above? Which one and why do you love it? Leave a comment below!

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