Which CamelBak Should I Buy? [In-Depth Guide]

With well over 50 different hydration packs to choose from, deciding which CamelBak to buy can seem a bit overwhelming.  

But once you start to narrow down exactly what you need from your pack, the picture becomes a lot more clear. 

When choosing a CamelBak hydration pack, the quickest way to narrow down your options is to think about what activities you plan to use it for and compare that to what each pack offers.

The main things to consider are the pack’s reservoir size, gear capacity, weight, insulation, and ergonomics, alongside your budget. 

The Cloud Walker 18 is my preferred pack for day hikes because it’s durable, can comfortably fit a full day’s worth of gear, and is relatively light for what it can hold. For multi-day hikes, where you need to carry more gear, the Fourteener 32 is a better choice, with nearly double the capacity and a padded hip belt to redistribute the heavy load off your back and shoulders. 

The Repack LR 4 Waist Pack is the best CamelBak for cycling. It sits around your lumbar back, keeping your center of gravity low for increased stability and unrestricted movement in your upper body while riding. 

Vest-style CamelBaks, like the Circuit Run Vest are best suited for running and trail running, since they compress to your body to minimize the bouncing and shifting with each stride. 

Ultimately, the best CamelBak for you may be different than the best for someone else. 

It all depends on how you plan to use your pack. 

I own a few different CamelBaks, so each is more specialized to the specific activity that I use them for. I have one for day hikes and casual use, one for thru-hiking, one for cycling, and another for running. 

If you want a more versatile CamelBak, I’ve included a few additional uses for each recommended pack as well.  

How To Choose The Right CamelBak For You

Once you consider the activities you’ll be using your CamelBak for and what features work best for those activities, finding the right pack should become a lot easier.


Setting a realistic budget is an important first step when choosing which CamelBak to buy. 

If your budget’s firm, it’s an easy way to eliminate options. Just keep in mind, you can often find packs for a good deal less than their MSRP on Amazon — sometimes a lot less. 

CamelBaks aren’t cheap, but if you care for them properly they should last for many years.

If the only packs in your price range don’t offer what you need, it’s probably worth waiting a bit and setting aside some spare cash to save for the pack that suits you best.

Hydration Capacity

CamelBak bladders range in size from 1.5 liters to 3 liters, and all half liter intervals in between. 

Generally, larger reservoirs are useful for things like hiking and travel, where you need your water to last for a good portion of the day. 

Smaller reservoirs are better suited to shorter, higher-intensity activities like jogging and cycling, where the extra weight of a heavier bladder would be cumbersome and you don't necessarily need to carry an entire day’s worth of water all at once.

I still typically recommend going for the largest bladder available. The reservoir itself hardly adds any weight since you don’t need to fill it all the way every time you use it, and you gain the added flexibility of carrying more water whenever needed.

That being said, many smaller, lighter packs only come with a 1.5 liter reservoir, so your options may be limited. 

Check out my deep dive on picking the CamelBak size that suits you best to learn more. 

Gear Capacity

CamelBak Women's Shasta Hike Hydration Pack - Integrated Rain Cover , Castlerock Grey/Lake Blue, 100 oz

A CamelBak’s gear capacity is the amount of stuff it can hold aside from the bladder. 

For cycling and running, where you probably only need to stick a few extra things in your pack (like a protein bar or phone), a few liters of gear space is plenty. 

When it comes to day hikes and longer rides, where you may need to pack a lunch and rain jacket as well, seven to fifteen liters or so gives a bit more flexibility without adding too much extra weight.

Packs made for thru-hiking and travel land in the 20 to 30 liter range — and are able to comfortably handle several days worth of gear on the higher end.  


The larger your bladder and the more gear your pack can carry, the heavier it’ll be. 

It may not matter so much for casual use, but when you’re doing something active, like hiking, cycling, or running, every ounce matters.

Weight is even more important with CamelBaks when compared to other backpacks, since you also have to consider the weight your water will add once your reservoir is filled.

Many larger CamelBaks can get pretty heavy when full of water and gear. 


CamelBak SnoBlast 22 Hydration Pack, 70oz – Insulated Winter Hydration Backpack - Tri-Zip Access – Ski & Snowboard Carry, Vapor/Flame/Beet

A common problem with using CamelBaks in freezing conditions is that the water in the tube and reservoir can freeze, leaving you without drinking water.  

While you can add insulation to your reservoir for occasional cold weather use, an insulated CamelBak will work much more efficiently for frequent use in freezing conditions.


Most CamelBaks fit more or less the same, but there are a few specialized ergonomic features that make some packs much better suited for certain activities. 

  • Some CamelBaks come with a waist strap that helps offload the weight of your pack from your back and shoulders onto your hips. For longer hikes and heavier loads, it’s more or less mandatory. 
  • Waist packs are designed to sit around your lumbar back rather than your upper back, which lowers your center of gravity and increases your stability and upper body range of motion while cycling. 
  • Vests are much better suited for running, since backpack-style packs tend to bounce and shift around more with the impact of each stride. 
Hydration Gear CapacityWeightDesigned ForBest ForMSRP
Arete 14 Hydration Pack Crux 1.5 liter Reservoir12.5 liters250 gramsUnisexEveryday Use, Day Hikes$65
Arete 18 Hydration Pack Crux 1.5 liter Reservoir16.5 liters640 gramsUnisexEveryday Use, Day Hikes$75
Chase Bike Vest 50ozCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir2.5 liters285 gramsMensCycling$105
Chase 8 VestCrux 2 liter Reservoir6 liters420 gramsUnisexCycling$130
Circuit Run VestCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir5.5 liters360 gramsMensRunning, Cycling$90
Classic Light 70ozCrux 2 liter Reservoir2 liters190 gramsUnisexCycling$75
Cloud Walker 18 Hydration PackCrux 2.5 liter Reservoir15.5 liters790 gramsUnisexDay Hikes, Everyday Use$90
Fourteener 26 Hydration PackCrux 3 liter Reservoir23 liters1060 gramsUnisexThru-Hikes$155
Fourteener 32 Hiking PackCrux 3 liter Reservoir29 liters1190 gramsMensThru-Hikes$175
H.A.W.G. 100 oz Mil Spec CruxCrux 3 liter Mil Spec Reservoir20 liters1150 gramsMensMilitary Spec$207
H.A.W.G. Commute 30 BackpackCrux 3 liter Reservoir30 liters1030 gramsUnisexEveryday Use$170
H.A.W.G. Pro 20Crux 3 liter Reservoir17 liters1015 gramsUnisexCycling, Everyday Use$170
Hydrobak 50 oz Mil Spec CruxCrux 1.5 liter Mil Spec Reservoir1 liter400 gramsMensMilitary Spec$57.50
Hydrobak Light 50ozCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir1 liter170 gramsMensCycling, Running$65
Kid’s Mini M.U.L.E. PackCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir1.5 liters210 gramsYouthCycling$55
Kid’s Scout Hydration PackCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir12.5 liters311 gramsYouthDay Hikes, Thru-Hikes$60
Lobo 100 oz Hydration PackCrux 3 liter Reservoir6 liters480 gramsUnisexCycling$75
Lobo 9 Hydration PackCrux 2 liter Reservoir6 liters510 gramsMensCycling$100
M.U.L.E. 12 Hydration PackCrux 3 liter Reservoir9 liters580 gramsMensCycling, Day Hikes$130
M.U.L.E. Commute 22Compatible but not included22 liters300 gramsUnisexEveryday Use$140
M.U.L.E. Evo 12Crux 3 liter Reservoir9 liters790 gramsUnisexCycling, Day Hikes$150
M.U.L.E. Pro 14Crux 3 liter Reservoir11 liters845 gramsMensCycling, Day Hikes$160
Octane 12 Hiking PackFusion 2 liter Reservoir10 liters540 gramsUnisexDay Hikes$130
Octane 16 Hiking PackFusion 2 liter Reservoir14 liters650 gramsUnisexDay Hikes$150
Octane 22 Hiking PackFusion 2 liter Reservoir20 liters890 gramsUnisexDay Hikes, Thru-Hikes$170
Octane Dart Hydration PackCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir0.5 liters200 gramsUnisexCycling$70
Podium Flow 4 Hydration Belt21 oz Podium Dirt Bottle4 liters220 gramsUnisexRunning, Day Hikes, Cycling$60
Podium Flow Belt21 oz Podium Dirt Bottle2 liters190 gramsUnisexRunning, Day Hikes, Cycling$50
Powderhound 12 Hydration PackCrux 2 liter Reservoir10 liters850 gramsUnisexWinter Sports$110
Repack LR 4 Waist PackCrux 1.5L Lumbar Reservoir3.5 liters520 gramsUnisexCycling$85
Rim Runner X22 Crux 2 liter Reservoir22 liters820 gramsUnisexDay Hikes, Thru-Hikes$100
Rogue Light 70 ozCrux 2 liter Reservoir5 liters215 gramsMensShort Hikes$85
Skyline LR 10 Hydration PackCrux 3 liter Reservoir7 liters650 gramsUnisexCycling$135
SnoBlast 22 Hydration PackCrux 2 liter Reservoir20 liters1010 gramsUnisexWinter Sports$120
Stealth 85 oz Mil Spec CruxCrux 2.5 liter Mil Spec Reservoir1 liter520 gramsMensMilitary Spec$111.50
Trail Run Vest2x 17 oz Quick Stow Flasks6 liters190 gramsMensRunning$100
Women’s Chase Bike VestCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir2.5 liters285 gramsWomensCycling$105
Women’s Circuit Run VestCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir5.5 liters350 gramsWomensRunning$90
Women’s Circuit Vest 50 ozCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir3.5 liters160 gramsWomensRunning$85
Women’s Fourteener 24Crux 3 liter Reservoir21 liters970 gramsWomensThru-Hikes, Day Hikes$140
Women’s Fourteener 30Crux 3 liter Reservoir27 liters1170 gramsWomensThru-Hikes, Day Hikes$175
Women’s Helena 20Crux 2.5 liter Reservoir17.5 liters690 gramsWomensDay Hikes, Thru-Hikes$100
Women’s Hydrobak LightCrux 1.5 liter Reservoir1 liter170 gramsWomensCycling, Running$65
Women’s L.U.X.E. Hydration PackCrux 3 liter Reservoir7 liters590 gramsWomensDay Hikes$115
Women’s Lobo 9Crux 2 liter Reservoir6 liters500 gramsWomensCycling, Running, Day Hikes$100
Women’s M.U.L.E. 12Crux 3 liter Reservoir9 liters790 gramsWomensCycling, Day Hikes$130
Women’s M.U.L.E. Pro 14Crux 3 liter Reservoir11 liters820 gramsWomensCycling, Day Hikes$160
Women’s Magic Hydration PackCrux 2 liter Reservoir5 liters390 gramsWomensCycling$100
Women’s Rim Runner X20Crux 2 liter Reservoir20 liters770 gramsWomensDay Hikes, Thru-Hikes$100
Women’s Sequoia 24Crux 3 liter Reservoir20 liters1020 gramsWomensDay Hikes, Thru-Hikes$155
Women’s Shasta 30Crux 3 liter Reservoir27 liters1240 gramsWomensThru-Hikes, Day Hikes$175
Women’s Trail Run Vest2x 17 oz Quick Stow Flasks6 liters190 gramsWomensRunning$100
Women’s Zephyr Pro Vest2x 17 oz Quick Stow Flasks11 liters210 gramsWomensRunning$160
Zoid Hydration PackCrux 2 liter Reservoir1 liter510 gramsUnisexWinter Sports$90

Which CamelBak Should I Buy For Hiking?

CamelBak offers well over 20 different packs designed with hiking in mind. 

Choosing the best one mostly comes down to how long your hikes will be and how much gear you need to carry. 

Cloud Walker 18 [Best for Day Hikes]

CamelBak Cloud Walker 18 Hiking Hydration Pack, 70oz, Matte Green

The Cloud Walker 18 is the perfect hydration pack for day hikes. 

It offers a 2.5 liter Crux reservoir (so you probably won’t have to stop and refill), 15.5 liters of gear space (more than enough room for lunch, snacks, and a light jacket), and a waist strap (to keep the weight of the pack off your back), all at a reasonable 790 grams. 

Also Works Well For: Everyday Use and Cycling

The Cloud Walker doubles as a decent pack for regular everyday use or longer bike rides where you may need to carry more gear than most cycling packs can hold. 

CamelBak Cloud Walker 18 Hiking Hydration Pack (70oz)

Designed to be equal parts technical and functional to create the perfect day or play solution. Comes with a massive 2.5L reservoir and plenty of room for snacks or other supplies. Features side cargo pockets for water bottles or gear and a removable waste belt to help distribute the weight when you need it.

Buy Now at Amazon
03/07/2024 10:07 pm GMT

Fourteener 32 [Best for Thru-Hikes]

CamelBak Fourteener 32 Hiking Hydration Pack - Hike Backpack - 100 oz, Gibraltar Navy/Summer Lime

The Fourteener 32 and Women’s Fourteener 30 are my favorite CamelBaks for thru-hiking. 

Able to pack in 29 liters of gear (or 27 for the ladies) alongside a giant 3 liter Crux reservoir, the Fourteener series can handle whatever the trail throws at you. 

A breathable Air Support back and vented hip belt will help keep you cool and comfortable all day long.

Also Works Well For: Day Hiking and Travel

My biggest complaint with the Fourteener series is that the packs aren’t very versatile. 

They’re too bulky and heavy for most other uses, but that’s somewhat to be expected since thru-hiking packs need to be pretty specialized.

Still, the Fourteener works well enough for day hikes and travel, as long as you don’t mind the extra weight and bulk of the pack. 

Hydrobak Light [Best for Short Hikes]

CamelBak Hydrobak Light Bike Hydration Backpack 50oz, Black/Silver

For quick hikes, where I don’t really need to carry any gear, the Hydrobak Light and Women’s Hydrobak Light are perfect.

Weighing in at only 170 grams, the Hydrobak Light is the second lightest CamelBak pack (only 10 grams heavier than the Women’s Circuit Vest) and holds a 1.5 liter Crux reservoir, which is more than enough for a few hours on the trail. 

It may only have enough gear space for your keys, wallet, and phone, but for shorter hikes that’s often all you really need.

Also Works Well For: Cycling and Running

Thanks to its super light weight, the Hydrobak light makes a decent pack for cycling and running as well — at least as long as you don’t need to carry much else. 

Which CamelBak Should I Buy For Cycling?

CamelBak Repack LR 4 50 oz Hydration Pack, Black

In the last few years, hydration packs have fallen out of favor a bit among cyclists, since carrying any unneeded weight above the waist reduces stability and restricts range of motion in the upper body. 

The Repack LR 4 Waist Pack helps solve those concerns.

It sits comfortably around the waist at the lumbar back, keeping your arms free to move, your center of gravity low, and your back (less) soaked in sweat.

For any ride where one of my Podium bottles just isn’t enough, I always find myself reaching for my Repack.

Also Works Well For: Day Hikes

CamelBak Repack LR4 Hydration Pack (1.5L)

This 1.5L reservoir is deal for rider who need more than a bottle but less than a full pack. Features a load-bearing hop belt with cargo pockets to keep everything close at hand and dual reservoir compression straps to allow you to cinch the reservoir into the small of your back for stability and a tight fit.

Buy Now at Amazon
03/07/2024 02:02 am GMT

The Repack works well enough for day hikes if you want to keep your shoulders from getting sore and your back from getting sweaty but, for some body types, it can fit a bit awkward when standing upright. 

Which CamelBak Should I Buy For Running or Trail Running?

CamelBak Women's Circuit Run Vest with 50oz Hydration Bladder, Gibraltar Navy/Silver

CamelBaks designed for running need to handle the repetitive impact of each stride without much shifting or bouncing. 

Lighter backpack-style CamelBaks, like the Hydrobak Light, do a decent enough job. But if running is your main concern, a vest is the way to go.

The Circuit Run Vest and the Women’s Circuit Run Vest compress snugly against your body, preventing excessive movement of the pack. 

Lightweight, breathable mesh helps keep you cool and reflective accents make sure you’re visible no matter when you train.

Also Works Well For: Cycling

Despite the name, the Circuit Run Vest also works great for cycling, thanks to its lightweight and comfortable fit. 

Which CamelBak Should I Buy For Casual Everyday Use?

CamelBak Arete 14 Hydration Backpack, 50oz, Black/Reflective

If you want a pack that you can take to the office, around town, or as a carry on while traveling, the Arete 14 Hydration Pack fits the bill perfectly. 

It offers 12.5 liters of storage, a padded sleeve for a 13” laptop, and an easily accessible cell phone pocket. If you need a bit more space, the Arete 18 holds 4 more liters of gear, and comes with a sleeve for 15” laptops.

Whichever you choose, the Arete series is perfect for casual hydration on the go. 

Also Works Well For: Day Hikes

While they’re not quite as rugged as many other CamelBaks designed for hiking, the Arete series still works perfectly for less demanding day hikes.

Which CamelBak Should I Buy For Winter Sports?

CamelBak Zoid Hydration Pack, 70oz, Grey/Orange

If you need a pack that’ll prevent your water from freezing in even the nastiest conditions, the Zoid Hydration Pack or SnoBlast 22 Hydration Pack are the way to go. 

For skiing, snowboarding, and other cold weather activities where you don’t need to carry much extra gear, the fully insulated Zoid Hydration Pack is the perfect match. 

Weighing in at only 510 grams (insulated packs always weigh more than non-insulated ones), it won’t bog you down on the slopes. 

For cold weather hiking or cross-country skiing, where you need to carry more gear, the SnoBlast 22 can pack in 22 liters alongside its 2 liter Crux reservoir. 

Also Works Well For: Cycling (Zoid) and Hiking (SnoBlast 22)

03/07/2024 08:57 pm GMT

Insulated packs aren’t only helpful in cold weather, they also help keep your water cold longer in the summer heat. 

The Zoid works great for cycling, while the SnoBlast 22 works well for day hikes or minimalist thru-hikes. 

Which CamelBak Should I Buy For My Kid?

CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. Kids Hydration Backpack for Hiking, 50 oz, Black/Flames

CamelBak makes two specialty hydration packs for children — the Kid’s Mini M.U.L.E. and Kid’s Scout Hydration Pack

The Mini M.U.L.E. is a super lightweight minimalist pack with a 1.5 liter Crux reservoir. It’s great for cycling and hikes where your kid won’t be carrying much gear (either because it’s a quick hike or simply because you’re doing all the carrying).

The Scout Hydration Pack offers a bit more space (12.5 liters worth), and is great for casual everyday use and day hikes or thru-hikes where they’ll be lugging some of their own gear. 

By the time your kid hits their early teens, any of the adult CamelBaks should work just fine.  

Check out my deep dive on the best CamelBaks for kids to learn more. 

03/06/2024 10:27 pm GMT