A hydration pack is arguably one of the most important and most personal items a mountain biker has. It can quite literally save your life, whether by providing water or in the cases of many, by cushioning your back in a serious crash. Aside from water, a hydration pack carries all our favorite stuff–a cell phone, your snacks of choice, maybe a special rock or two.
Considering that the hydration pack has a lot of important work to do and that you are going to be carrying it for many many hours and miles over its lifetime, it makes sense to put some thought and energy to picking one out. For women, this task may be even more critical, as most hydration packs are not particularly female-friendly.
Women to have different upper-body builds then men. Our shoulders are narrower, our hips are wider, and our torsos are shorter. All this means that they best hydration pack is likely women-specific.
MTBers also need a slightly different hydration pack than folks in other sports. We need large quantities of water for long rides and plenty of pockets and straps for storing tools and helmets.
All that in mind, here are our favorite women-specific, MTB-specific hydration packs.
Note: These are traditional backpack-style hydration packs. If you prefer (or think you might prefer) a hydration hip pack, check out our list of the best women’s hip packs.
The Osprey Raven is my personal hydration pack of choice. It works equally well on lunchtime quickies and all day epics.
It comes in an array of bright, solid colors, has a roll-out tool pouch, a clip for your helmet, and plenty of other extras. The hydration bladder holds up to 3L which is plenty for most rides.
Read Our Review: Osprey Raven
Price: $140 (Raven 10) / $150 (Raven 14)
Camelback MULE Pro 14
The Camelback MULE Pro is my go-to pack for all-day rides. It has a TON of storage including multiple internal pockets, a full size stuff pocket up front that easily fits a jacket, and external hooks for pads and helmet.
The pack also includes a tool pouch and 3L hydration reservoir. The reservoir and it’s hydration pocket are a little ackward, but easy to overlook for the convenience of being able to carry ALL my stuff on a long ride.
The pack comes in both a “mens” and “women’s version.” The women’s version is a better fit for ladies with narrow shoulders and small waists.
Read Our Review: Camelback MULE Pro 14
Price: Price not available (Last updated: 2023-10-19 at 05:57 – More Info)
Dakine Women’s Session
The Dakine Women’s Session does more than “pink and shrink” the popular men’s Session pack. The female version has a higher sternum strap so it doesn’t squeeze your boobs and a waist strap that accommodates larger hips.
We appreciate the fleece-lined sunglasses pocket and the attractive two-tone color scheme. The only bummer is that the bite valve doesn’t have an on-off knob so its easy for its prone to leaking when sitting in the backseat of your car.
Camelbak is the original pioneer of hydration packs, and the Camelbak L.U.X.E is their most popular women’s-specific mountain bike pack. It offers a 3L water bladder, an on-off bite valve lever, and an expandable outer pocket that works well for stuffing a jacket.
As expected in a mountain bike pack, it includes a tool compartment and a helmet clip.
If you don’t want to have the same hydration pack as everybody else on the trail, consider the Platypus B-Line. This attractive pack is made in the U.S.A., has a clip for a blinky light, and offers all the other extras you would expect.
The pack doesn’t leak (score!), but it is a little tougher to suck water out of than other packs, so keep that in mind.
The Evoc CC isn’t actually a women’s-specific pack, but its narrow profile makes it work well for a woman’s anatomy. The self-adjusting shoulder straps help with getting a good fit as well.
The pack has a handy tool compartment, good back ventilation, and includes a 2L water bladder.
|Water Bladder SIze
|Osprey Raven 10
|Osprey Raven 14
|Dakine Women's Session 8L
|Dakine Women's Session 12L
|Evoc CC 16L
|Evoc CC 10L
|Camelbak MULE Pro 14
Things To Consider When Choosing A Hydration Pack
Not sure what you should be looking for when shopping for a hydration pack? Keep these things in mind.
Nozzle / Bite Valve
Ah, the great bite valve debate. Everybdoy seems to have their favorite brand of hydration pack with their favorite bite valve. Some folks prefer Camelback, some prefer Osprey, some prefer something else all together.
Honestly, which will work best is largely a matter of personal opinion and trial and error. (There’s not a great way to test nozzles in the store, I’m afraid). For what it’s worth my favorite nozzle is the one on the Osprey packs.
All of the packs on this list are pretty great in terms of water flow. Some cheaper packs you might find from off-name brands on Amazon, for instance, might be a little tougher to suck water from. (Not ideal when you’re huffing and puffing and gasping for air).
You should definitely look for a pack that has a nozzle that you can turn on and off. An off switch keeps water from dripping when not in use.
You may also want to pay attention to how the nozzle/hose attaches to the pack. Magnets are kinda cool, but they don’t always work the best. A clip keeps the hose more secure, but might take more effort to clip and unclip during use.
Are you looking for a pack for a quick after work spin, for racing, or for a backcountry epic? Intended use will make a big difference in which pack you should pick.
If you are only riding for an hour or two at a time, pick a smaller pack. It won’t hold as much stuff, but it will be lighter and more comfortable.
On the other hand, if you love doing big rides and all-day epics, then choose a pack with more storage space. You’ll need it for storing tools and a jacket and food.
Water Bladder Capacity And Ease Of Filling/Cleaning
Similarly, the length of your rides (and the temperature you’re riding in) should determine how much water capacity you need. Short rides? You might only need a 1.5L water bladder. Long rides? Opt for 3L.
When choosing a pack, also pay attention to the water bladder itself. Does it have a large enough opening that it looks easy to fill and to clean? Is it easy to close securely?
Personally, I prefer zip-lock type bladder closures as opposed to screw on lids. The screw-on closures can be difficult to close properly and tend to leak.
I’ve had enough hydration pack issues (like squirrels chewing a hole thru the fabric), that I pay attention to and appreciate brands that offer great warranty or replacement guarantees. You should too.
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- What To Wear Mountain Biking: Everything You Need To Know!
About The Author
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.
An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.
Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life. Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son. If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.
Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.