Updated September 22, 2020
We’ve discussed before what criteria to look for when buying a hydration pack for specific endeavors such as paddle boarding and hunting, and how different activities can vary in the length of time for which you’ll need water, the amount of effort you’ll make, the amount of weight you can afford to burden yourself with, etcetera. Today we want to highlight the best 3-liter hydration packs for overall use. Some of these you would have heard about from us before, some we’re mentioning for the first time, all are options we encourage you to look at.
The DolfinPack is one that offers straight-to-the-point functionality with its light and minimalistic structure.
First of all, its design is particularly futuristic. Then, it seems that you can put the Trojan army in that monster of a backpack and then a few bricks from the pyramids. This pack has 4 external pockets including a special one on the bottom of the pack that’s described as a “tool pouch” to organize some of your gear for quick access. It has a blinker light attachment point on top of it and straps that you can apparently attach a bicycle helmet to. It has a waist and chest strap for extra support, and the hose can be attached to the chest strap for a quick sip. It weighs 1.8 lbs. which is a tad heavy, so consider that weight while buying. Also, the bag is not insulated and neither are the reservoir and hose. Other than that, we found this one worthy of our top spot.
This one seems to be less about containing as much of everything as possible and more about comfort and convenience. For one, it is lighter at 1.3 lbs. It can carry up to 6 liters of objects with the water included, it has a chest strap and is designed to fit multiple sizes and be adjustable. It is also designed to attach a helmet and a blinker light. Its back is made of mesh for air flow and it is also not insulated. It seems to have most of what the Osprey has but the reason why we’ve placed it second is that its capacity isn’t quite as big which, given the fact that a 3-liters reservoir is designed to last one day, may not be enough to hold all that that day needs.
You were probably wondering, “When is the CamelBak option coming?” well, wonder no more. The hose on this pack is mainly what sold us because CamelBak implemented their expertise into making sure it is easily accessible, extra secure and has a higher flow of water. The bag is also quite comfortable with good airflow and a chest and waist strap. It weighs only 1 lb. and can carry up to 6 liters of objects with the water included. It is also available in a wide variety of colors. Why did we place it third, you ask? Because it isn’t unisex; this option is designed for men. While there are similar options to it for women from CamelBak such as the Women’s Magic or the Women’s Aurora, they don’t carry as much water or other objects. There is a similar unisex option which is the Ratchet pack, but it can only carry 0.5 liters of objects, meaning you can put almost nothing but water and a couple of very small objects in it. The Lobo is also not insulated.
We told you we’d mention this one again… yes, we’ve mentioned it first in our hydration packs for hunting article. ALPS OutdoorZ specializes in hunting and has chosen a special camouflage pattern (Realtree Edge) it has a chest strap and an insulated hose and a wide-mouth bladder, can contain up to 17 liters of objects with water included, has two attachment points for helmets and similar objects, its straps are padded for air flow. A couple of downsides to it is that 1. As we’ve mentioned before, the opening of its bladder is quite narrow which can cause some difficulty in cleaning or adding ice 2. It weighs overall 1.6 lbs. which is heavier than many options on this list, and again, you decide whether or not you want to sacrifice a bit of lightness for this one. It is, after all, a way cheaper option than the last three.
This is another option that you’ve seen before on our hunters’ list. Let us refresh your memory: This was the uber comfortable one with the extra support, a special cooling system for your back, a wide enough mouth for the bladder to clean or stuff whole jars of ice in there and a 360˚ rotatable bite valve for ease of drinking. The couple of downsides to it were that its capacity was a bit disappointing especially for its weight (2 whole lbs.) and that its hose was hard to fix on the shoulders, but again, for its price which is one of the cheapest on this list, it is definitely worth including here. This pack is not insulated.
This is another monster with a whopping 20-liter capacity. It rocks a pretty secure bite valve with a high flow and a wide-mouth bladder, adjustable straps including a wide waist strap and a chest strap which are all padded with mesh and foam for comfort and airflow, all while being one of the mid-range options on this list. One thing you need to consider though is that is it the heaviest option on this list, weighing 2.45 lbs, and yet it is not insulated. Given the fact that its storage is huge though and that it is quite comfortable and well-supported, we still placed it on this list and we think it is worth a look. It is available in black and blue.
This pack is quite small and comfortable with a weight of only 22 oz. and yet enough space for essentials and an expandable main zipper for even more space, with waist and chest straps in addition to the shoulder straps which are all adjustable and padded with mesh for comfort, despite its light weight and small size the pocket which contains the bladder is insulated, and the bladder is large enough to have a wide mouth which allows for easy cleaning and ice input. This one is good for people who want to travel light, but in our opinion, we prefer higher capacity which is why this one placed the lowest on the list.
Three liters of water is the amount that an adult needs in a day of light exercise. You will need a 3-liters hydration pack if you’re going to spend a whole day out without being able to refill, but will be able to refill before the next day. This ideal for practicing sports such as hunting, hiking, climbing, and fishing where you’re spending a full day in the
If you’re going to be near places from which you can refill throughout the day, we don’t recommend burdening yourself with 3-liters; 1.5 or 2 will do (we’ve mentioned this before in our article about the best packs for paddle boarding.) Otherwise, 3 liters should be your top pick.
Three liter hydration packs are meant to accompany you for a whole day, so there three important factors: Capacity for the objects that the day needs, lightness and comfort for your back, support and security for your pack and your water. We have selected the options on this list with varying degrees of these three factors for people with different needs, and within different prices ranging from $30 to $99, for people willing to invest differently.
At the end of the day, a buying decision is a purely personal choice. As we’ve previously stated, we’re not here to sell you a specific thing, but to tell you the pros and cons of everything, and the listing order of these items indicates how we sort our priorities, not necessarily how you should sort yours. We encourage you to check out all of these options and make an educated decision.