The Best Mountain Bike Backpacks & Other Hydration Options For The Trail

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.

Osprey Raven hydration pack

Two Wheeled Wanderer Pick

1. Osprey Raptor/Raven ($140/$150)

  • Gear capacity: 10L & 14L
  • Liquid capacity: 2.5L
  • Reservoir included? Yes
  • What I love: Included tool roll, contouring AirScape back panel
  • What I don’t: Can be challenging to access things without taking the pack completely off

The Osprey Raven (women’s) and Osprey Raptor (men’s) are two of the most popular mountain bike hydration packs on the market. They are specifically designed for mountain bikers with a lot of great features including a removable tool roll, zippered hip pockets to stash some snacks, a LidLock bike helmet attachment, and an Airscape back panel to provide maximum ventilation on the trail.

These packs come in two sizes: 10L and 14L, both of which come with an included 2.5L water reservoir.

The only downside to this pack is that it is a little difficult to access without completely taking it off.

Shop Osprey Raven (women’s):
Shop Osprey Raptor (men’s):
EVOC Hydro Pro vest-style mountain bike backpack

Best vest-style hydration pack

2. EVOC Hydro Pro ($125/$135)

  • Gear capacity: 1.5L & 3L
  • Liquid capacity: 1.5L
  • Reservoir included? Yes
  • What I love: Fits close to the body, sleek design
  • What I don’t: Not great airflow or ventilation across the back, may not work for smaller women

For those riders that really don’t want to carry a heavy pack, but also don’t like the idea of relying on water bottles, the new EVOC Hydro Pro is the perfect solution.

This mountain biking backpack comes in two different gear capacity sizes – 1.5L and 3L – and each size accommodates a 1.5L hydration reservoir. Additionally, there are two front chest pockets where you can stash extra soft water bottles. There are also several small pockets for snacks, tools, and your phone.

The Hydro Pro is small, lightweight, and fits close to the body so it doesn’t feel bulky or move around when slaying the trails.

Shop Evoc hydro pro:
POC VPD Column mountain bike backpack

Best hydration pack with spine protector

3. POC Column VPD ($160/$170)

  • Gear capacity: 8L & 13L
  • Liquid capacity: 3L
  • Reservoir included? No
  • What I love: Simple design & chest pockets
  • What I don’t: Expensive, especially since a reservoir isn’t included

If you’ve been reading Two Wheeled Wanderer’s gear reviews and round-ups, you know that I’m a big fan of POC mountain bike gear. Their women’s shorts are my all-time favorites and the rest of their gear is top-notch, too. What sets POC apart from other mountain bike brands is their dedication to rider safety. POC puts a ton of research and funds toward designing gear – like helmets – that can literally save lives.

Their POC Column VPD backpack is no different. Designed with a flexible back plate, this pack helps protect your spine in case of a crash.

In addition to the VPD Air Protector, it also comes with a ton of other great features like chest pockets for easy access to snacks or your phone, a 3L reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included), tool organization pouches, and more. The larger 13L size even comes with a removable helmet net that can attach to the outside of the pack.

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Best hydration pack for rowdy riders

4. uswe MTB Hydro Packs ($120 – $150)

  • Gear capacity: 3L, 8L, 12L
  • Liquid capacity: 2L – 3L
  • Reservoir included? Yes
  • What I love: The No Dancing Monkey’s Harness that minimizes bounce
  • What I don’t: May not work for women with larger chests, love or hate the colors

USWE, a brand out of Sweden, is most commonly known among moto 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 (awesomingly called No Dancing Monkey’s, 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 MTB Hydro Line is designed for mountain bikes and has three different pack sizes to choose from, all of which have pockets for tools, an included water reservoir, and the No Dancing Monkey’s harness.

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

Shop USWE MTB Hydro:

Best hydration pack for Minimalists

5. Osprey Kitsuma & Katari ($60 – $80)

  • Gear capacity: 1.5L, 3L, & 7L
  • Liquid capacity: 1.5L – 2.5L
  • Reservoir included? Yes
  • What I love: Super simple, lightweight design
  • What I don’t: No 3D mesh back panel like other Osprey packs, will probably need a larger pack for bigger rides

For the riders who don’t need all the bells and whistles in a mountain bike backpack, the Osprey Kistuma (women’s) and Osprey Katari (men’s) are the perfect answer.

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

While this pack does have lightweight mesh straps, it lacks the 3D AirScape back panel that other Osprey packs have for amazing ventilation.

Shop Osprey Kitsuma (women’s):
Shop Osprey Katari (men’s):

Best pack for overnight bike packing trips

5. Osprey Mira & Manta ($180 – $200)

  • Gear capacity: 22/24L & 32/34L
  • Liquid capacity: 2.5L
  • Reservoir included? Yes
  • What I love: Very comfortable even when packed with gear
  • What I don’t: Nothing!

I’ve used my Osprey Mira 32L backpack on several overnight bikepacking trips including the Black Canyon Trail in Arizona and the Telluride to Moab Hut-to-Hut Trip. For short overnights or trips where I don’t have to carry much gear, I prefer to carry everything on my back instead of on my bike. The Osprey Mira (or Manta) works great for this.

The 32L capacity is large enough to haul quite a bit of stuff and the pack is designed to distribute weight evenly. It’s actually quite comfortable to wear while riding and I’ve spent multiple days pedaling with it loaded on my back!

I also love that the included hydration reservoir has an updated hose that can be detached in two places, making it super easy to fill and helping prevent it from getting kinked.

You can read my full Osprey Mira/Manta review here.

Shop Osprey Mira (women’s):
Shop Osprey Manta (men’s):
EVOC Stage mountain bike hydration pack

Best pack for organization

6.  Evoc Stage Technical ($140/$150)

  • Gear capacity: 6L, 12L, 18L
  • Liquid capacity: 2L – 3L
  • Reservoir included? No
  • What I love: Great for keeping everything organized
  • What I don’t: No women’s sizes for shorter torsos

Ideal for trail riders looking for a relatively compact mountain biking backpack with lots of pocks for organization, the Evoc Stage Line is a great option. Choose from three different sizes, each of which provides lots of pockets for storage (including a separate tool compartment) and a streamlined design for comfort and ventilation.

This hydration pack also has an integrated rainfly and designated compartments to carry your helmet and knee/elbow pads.

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.

Shop Evoc stage:

Best budget-friendly hydration pack

8.  REI Link  ($80/$100)

  • Gear capacity: 10L & 15L
  • Liquid capacity: 1.5L & 2L
  • Reservoir included? Yes
  • What I love: Good price for both a pack and hydration reservoir
  • What I don’t: Sits high on the back, a bit bulky compared to other packs on this list, only one color option

If you’re looking for a budget mountain biking backpack option, the REI Link Hydration Packs are a good choice. Both the 10L and 15L packs can hold a lot of gear and they come with a 1.5L or 2L bladder reservoir, respectively (which personally I think should be 3L for their sizes, but that’s just my opinion).

These packs also feature plenty of pockets to stash gear and food in as well as an external stuff pocket for layers. For under $100, it’s a steal!

Shop REI Link:

Key Mountain Bike Hydration Pack Features

A good mountain bike backpack should should have the following key features at the least:

  • A magnetic clip for your hydration hose
  • Small pockets to keep things organized (some even come with built-in tool rolls)
  • Hydration reservoir system & compatibility

Magnetic hose

If you’ve ever worn a hydration pack that doesn’t have a magnetic clip to keep the hose in place, you know how frustrating it is. The hose flaps around and gets in your way while riding and there’s nothing you can do about it.

So when shopping for a new pack, make sure it has a little magnetic clip or some other clip system on both the hydration hose and the chest strap so that you can avoid struggling with a wayward tube.

Most of the packs above come with a magnetic hose system. Some – like the REI Link pack – have a more simple clip system.

Pockets

One of the reasons I like the Osprey Raptor/Raven packs is because they have lots of pockets for storage and organization including a tool roll for your trail tools.

Whatever pack you choose, make sure it has several different pockets and compartments to keep small tools and spare parts organized. It’ll save you a headache when fixing a trailside flat!

Hydration reservoir system & compatibility

Most mountain bike hydration packs come with an included hydration reservoir, but a few brands, like Evoc, require you to purchase them separately. Be sure to check whether one is included with the pack that you want.

Furthermore, not all hydration reservoirs (aka bladders) are created equally when it comes to filling them up. I personally don’t like the CamelBak reservoir system because I find the large screw-on plastic cap to be super awkward. I prefer the slide-on closure found on Osprey hydration reservoirs.

Another consideration is that not all hydration reservoirs can be used with different packs. They come in different shapes and sizes, so be sure to check which one you need before buying.

Dakine lumbar reservoir for mountain bike hydration backpack
Short lumbar reservoir
Osprey hydration reservoir for mountain bike backpack
Tall ‘regular’ reservoir

Additional 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 Dakine Hot Laps 5L Waist Bag.

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.


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!

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

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