I've always been a bargain hunter.
From the very first day I started carrying a credit card in my wallet, I've always gravitated towards the clearance racks, searching for the best deals on stuff that I need.
The problem I've found with making purchasing decision on price alone is that I tend to consider the price first, and the features and quality come second.
When it comes to outdoor gear, I've realized that I can't shop the racks of Walmart or Shopko for things I need for a trip into the backcountry.
Nothing against those stores, but the gear just doesn't hold up.
Not only that, but you get a broken zipper or hole when you're camping or hiking, and you're left with trying to figure out how to fix it when you should be enjoying the outdoors.
That's why I've found it's better to spend a bit more to get quality gear, and you can comfortably go for a weekend camping or hiking trip without worrying about your gear falling apart.
I'm always exploring Utah, from the rugged mountains of the Wasatch Front to the sandstone of Moab... so these reviews come from my own experience and what I think is important when I'm outdoors.
In this comparison review, let's look at tactical hydration backpacks and why you should consider purchasing one for your next trip or adventure.
There are 3 main features of a good tactical hydration pack:
1. Storage - The best tactical hydration packs and backpacks should have separate compartments and pockets. Outdoor preparedness starts with a system of staying organized, and making sure your small items are easy to find, and separate storage compartments means all your gear can be kept in the right spots.
2. Durability - Look for military grade gear built with heavy duty nylon, so you can use it in the snow or rain without worrying that your stuff will get ruined. Nylon is going to be more durable than other materials like polyester, and make sure the tactical hydration backpacks and vests you're looking at have big teeth zippers.
3. The bladder - Keep in mind that not all tactical hydration packs come with the bladder, but they will have a compartment for it. You may need to purchase the bladder separately, so make sure you're getting the proper size.
Pros and Cons of Tactical Hydration Packs
When you're trying to decide between a military hydration pack and a larger daypack-hydration system, it's a good idea to weigh the pros and cons.
A tactical backpack is designed to hold only the essentials, so when you've got your hydration bladder, a few snacks, a jacket and other gear packed into it, the pack will be heavy and you'll quickly run out of space.
A daypack can hold more gear, but you lose a bit of the water capacity. Also a daypack really isn't designed to carry a water bladder, so if staying hydrated is your main focus, consider buying a hydration pack instead.
Here's a short list of the pros & cons of a tactical hydration pack:
- Light weight
- Can hold your essential gear
- Rugged and durable construction
- Multiple pockets for extra storage capability
- Bladder can be hard to clean
- Limited storage
- May develop leaks over time
- Sometimes more expensive than a regular hydration pack
How to Choose the Right Tactical Hydration Pack
When choosing a tactical or military style hydration pack, the best way to find the best one for you is to consider the following metrics:
For the reviews in this post, I'm going to present each product with five elements:
1. The name of the pack
2. Star ratings on price, size, features and durability
3. An "I like" vs. "I don't like" comparison
4. A summary of the product, and
5. A link to the product on Amazon so you can purchase the pack
19" X 10" X 1.5"
Adjustable shoulder and chest straps, and includes a 2.5L BPA free bladder
600 Denier polyester construction with PVC lining
- 60-day guarantee from the manufacturer
- Wide screw cap on the bladder for easy cleaning
- Fits chest sizes from 27" to 50" (teens through adults)
I Don't Like
- Water has a plastic taste the first few times you use it
- Mouthpiece is sometimes hard to get water out
Summary: This is a rugged and durable hydration pack with ample storage for your essential gear. I didn't experience any leaking from the bladder on a few hikes I went on, and my water stayed cold. I did notice that the hole for the water in the mouthpiece was a bit small, so sometimes it was difficult to suck water through the hose. Otherwise, I was happy with this pack.
19" X 10" X 7"
Water resistant with 3L bladder included
600 Denier polyester materials
- No questions asked refund and exchange guarantee from manufacturer
- Comes with bladder and D ring
- Higher quality zipper and straps than most packs for this price
I Don't Like
- Shoulder straps feel rough, and may cause a rash on your shoulders on a longer hike
- Some reviewers notice leaking over time
Summary: I like the fact that this tactical hydration pack is camo (looks different than most packs out there). The hose for the reservoir is at the bottom, which means you can get every drop of water out of it during your hike. I did wish the shoulder straps had padding, but overall this is a great tactical pack for the price.
1,113 cu. in.
180-degree zippered opening and 2L reservoir
- Padded shoulder straps with adjustable sternum strap
- 2L reservoir included
- Larger capacity than other packs
I Don't Like
- Initial quality is good, but may wear out faster over time
- Narrower than a typical backpack
Summary: This tactical pack is in the lower range for pricing, but I feel like it's worth spending a few extra bucks to get a pack that will last. I do like the extra space in the main compartment. Overall this is a great deal for the price.
5.9" X 11" X 15.5"
Quick release flap allows for easy refilling, and reflective strip on back for safety
- Sleek design
- 2 external pockets for small items
- Good quality pack from CamelBak
I Don't Like
- Small size meant for endurance sports
- Not much storage space
Summary: If you're looking for quality construction, this CamelBak is ideal. Even though it's on the smaller end for hydration packs, it's got enough space to hold the essentials like your wallet and keys.
14" X 13" X 21"
Wide mouth opening with patented "Big Bite" valve and insulated flow tube.
Military spec 500D cordura material
- Large capacity bag
- High-flow tube for the reservoir
- Military-spec construction
I Don't Like
- Heavier than other packs
- Shoulder harness is thinner than you'd expect
Summary: Large capacity hydration pack that is built to last. This is the best pack for the money, with high quality fit and finish. Large pockets for storage, and can even fit a laptop. Clam shell opening for easy access to your stuff.
Whether you're looking for an outdoor ready survival bag or a multi-size tactical bag with hydration capabilities, these are the five best tactical performance hydration packs for the money.
Yes, you will pay more for higher quality materials and additional features, but if you're serious about getting the best quality and longest lasting tactical hydration pack, you really do get what you pay for.
Here are a few other tactical hydration backpacks on Amazon: