Snowshoeing is one of the most entertaining activities among adventure enthusiasts. Staying hydrated during such activities is a challenge, as to how to carry an adequate amount of water without making your backpack bulky. This is when hydration packs come handy.
With a multitude of hydration pack options out there, it might be overwhelming to choose. Here, we will be breaking down the key features you need to look for to choose the best hydration pack for snowshoeing.
The Unigear Tactical Pack is a smart choice for those who are not aiming for something fancy. It’s minimalistic, highly-functional and gets the job done.
The main pocket is for the replaceable bladder, it’s 2.5 Liters so probably will suffice for your all-day snowshoeing trip. Getting the bladder out of the backpack to clean or fill and putting it back is a breeze. This is something we appreciate, as it’s not the case for all hydration packs out there. It comes with a hands-free hydration hose with a bite valve that is also replaceable.
It features 2 other pockets; the top one is single with a Velcro strip and the bottom one contains 3 mesh pockets inside. Providing good space for your basic stuff. The hydration pack is made of 900-denier polyester that is thick and durable.
Regarding comfort, it weighs 1.3 pounds only. You don’t have to worry about lifting it. Moreover, it comes with adjustable shoulder/ chest straps making it well fitted to your body. The straps and the backpack itself are padded to allow for airflow and to provide extra comfort when used for long hours.
To ensure that there is no chemical or plastic taste, soak the bladder in soapy water or add baking soda overnight before your first use. Rinse it afterward and you’re good to go.
- Pack is compact & light
- Comfortable weight distribution
- Cheap compared to other options
- Limited storage space
- Maximum strap length might be short for some users
Osprey is a well-established brand for backpacks & hydration packs. Among the countless options they present, this is one of my favorites and most convenient for snowshoeing in particular.
The straps are adjustable and there are waist straps as well, however they are a bit loose. The storage space is well structured; 3 interior slip pockets, interior zip, and 4 exterior pockets. It comes with a removable roll-out tools pouch for quick access, a thoughtful touch by the manufacturers.
The water reservoir of this pack is impressive. Starting from the capacious 3 Liters volume to the wide opening that allows easy cleaning or adding ice. The hydration sleeve is zippered to the pack for easy access. The hose is attached to the reservoir through a magnet with access to the bite-valve to ensure that there’s no leakage.
Worth noting is that the hose and mouthpiece are not insulated against cold weather. So, you have to take care if you’ll be spending a lot of time out there in the snow.
- Relatively large reservoir (3 Liters)
- Weight is well distributed across shoulders & back
- Keeps water cool
- Waist straps are long & loose
- Questionable durability due to the thin material
- Not the best choice for long trips
No wonder CamelBak brand has been the epitome of hydration packs for a while now. Thanks to the versatility & functionality they convey through numerous models that nearly suit every need.
CamelBak MULE has a good reputation among adventure lovers. For starters, it’s ultra-lightweight (only 1.37 pounds). It features a built-in helmet hook that is accessible without removing the backpack, which is convenient for snowshoeing. The air director back panel allows for superior ventilation and keeps your back cool.
The crux reservoir is an improvement over previous models, it allows for easier refilling up to 3 Liters. The pockets are compartmentalized well, yet there’s space for the basic stuff only. This makes it suitable for a light packer.
The seal is not the best in the market. Several users reported leakage if the seal is not adjusted properly. You will need to be extra cautious if you went along with this option.
- Air director is a plus
- Little magnet holds the valve
- Limited storage
- Reservoir lid needs proper adjustment to avoid leakage
This bag lies on the fancy side of hydration packs. It’s recommended for the more experienced people. It comes at a higher price than its competitors do, yet it provides a good value proposition for the price.
It provides good endurance as it is made of 1000 denier nylon with reinforced stitching. The extra storage and durability come at a cost; the bag is not light by any means, weighing about 2.2 pounds. Unless you’re going to spend a long time outside or you have plenty of gear, do not go for this option.
The design is well thought out, every single strap is adjustable, various pouches and pockets to organize your gear. The main compartment has an all-way zipper that is flexible and easy to use.
For an encore, the reservoir is the famous Blackhawk hydration system with Microban antimicrobial treatment. You do not have to worry about the plastic aftertaste anymore!
- High tolerance
- Robust waist belt makes it sturdy
- Roomy storage with customizable options
- Heavy compared to other options
- Not comfortable due to the added weight
Designed especially for women, the Platypus Siouxon pack aims to provide optimal comfort and is tailored to fit all female adventurers out there.
It comes with a 3 Liters hydration reservoir with a magnetic hose and various routing options for the hose ensuring flexibility. It has a smart hydration pocket to which the reservoir is suspended by a hook to ensure security & stability.
The pack offers a total of 10 Liters capacity; excluding water, this leaves a roomy space of 7 Liters for your gear. Space is well organized featuring zip meshes and pump sleeves. It weighs 1.69 pounds making it easy to carry all along.
The highly breathable mesh at the back optimizes weight distribution and allows for cool airflow. It comes in 2 colors: Blitz Black & Wicked Plum. You can still look stylish while snowshoeing!
- Good value for money
- It has a built in rain fly
- Waist belt has pockets for easy access of essentials
- Bottom pocket might wear out
What makes this hydration pack different is that its manufacturers claim it’s designed for snow trips. This is true to some extent, as it can carry your snowboard or snowshoes inside. There are helmet attachment points as well.
Thanks to the tri-zip. You can access all compartments easily. The time of worrying about the hassle caused by skiing gloves is over now and you don’t have to blindly ‘fish’ for your stuff inside the pack.
The hose & mouthpiece provide good water flow that is convenient for cold weather. The bite valve can be zipped into the bag; this keeps it clean and protects it from dirt. Make sure to blow the water out of the hose and put it back inside your pack to avoid water freezing.
The reservoir capacity is 2 Liters and the SnoBlast pack expands offering extra 6 Liters of storage. It weighs 2.2 pounds. Although this is not the lightest weight available, users did not complain of heaviness or back pain.
- Can hold snowshoes
- Adjustable shoulder straps & removable waist straps
- Bite valve guarantees good water flow
- Zippers are unreliable
- Water might freeze, but if you blow water out of line, it’s less likely to happen
Before Buying: What to Consider?
Hydration Packs have more details and features than you might think0 Here are some factors you should consider before buying:
Backpack VS Daypack
For most of us, a hydration pack is a backpack with a water reservoir inside it. But for the more knowledgeable experienced people. There is a difference between a daypack and a backpack.
Technically, any bag with shoulder straps is considered a backpack. A daypack is a smaller lighter pack, designed for one day outdoor activities like hiking or snowshoeing.
We advise you not to overlook these naming conventions while making your decision. Evaluate your needs and the time you intend to spend outside thoroughly to take the right decision.
As we’ve discussed, most hydration packs come with adjustable shoulder, chest or waist straps to ensure stability. However, this does not guarantee a great fitting. Some straps have a maximum length that won’t suffice for bigger people, while others are too loose.
We advise you to take measurements for your torso and chest and compare them with measures offered by the manufacturers. Also look for the padded ones, with air meshes to allow ventilation and reduce sweat.
It’s worthy to note that you should pay extra attention to this point when you decide to purchase sex-specific backpacks, as measurements may vary.
Having attachment points in your hydration pack is a necessity during snowshoeing to hold your snowshoes. Some packs integrate front flaps for this purpose. If this option is not available, look for side compression straps. They come in handy and do not take away space from your pack.
Pro Tip: When you strap your snowshoes to your pack put them back to back to protect the pack’s fabric from tearing and damage.
How the storage capacity is divided is an important factor to consider. We favor zipped pockets as they’re easy to open and give you full visibility of what’s inside the pack. Having an outside pouch to hold your tools in an easy to grab position is definitely an asset. But be careful that having too much stuff hanging outside can be disturbing, especially in the snow.
Hydration packs come with different water and storage capacities. Reservoirs, for example, start from 0.5 Liters up to 3 Liters capacity. As for storage, some have minimal storage as hydration vests while others can carry up to 7 Liters. Depending on the length of your activity and the amount of gear you intend to carry, you decide the appropriate size.
Most hydration reservoirs are BPA free, yet users have reported a chemical or plastic taste. This can be solved easily by soaking your reservoir overnight before the first use in water with baking soda or soap. Then rinse it thoroughly.
Concerning regular cleaning, there are cleaning kits that can be purchased separately at a low price or you can go old school and use the soaking method.
After making the choice, many people worry about their water reservoirs and hoses freezing. Here are some tips & tricks to prevent that from happening:
Insulate the tube
Some bladders come with insulated tubes; this will save you some trouble. If your tube is not insulated, no problem, you can manually insulate it using a separate cover. Alternatively, simply place the whole pack under your jacket.
Tip: Blow into the tube after drinking to ensure it’s free of water. If there’s no water, there’s nothing to freeze.
Use warm water
Some people advise starting to fill the reservoir with warm water. Although not very convincing, it might work for snowshoeing as the weather is already freezing!
Fill the reservoir
A larger amount of water will take longer time to freeze. Fill your reservoir fully to hinder the freezing process. Needless to say, do not add ice.
There’s no ultimate perfect hydration pack to choose. You need to examine your needs thoroughly, this will help you decide better. Personally, I prefer the Osprey Raptor 10 pack overall. It has a decent weight distribution and a wide water reservoir with multiple storage options. That would be suitable for a one-day snowshoeing trip.
In case you want something more durable and you don’t mind the heavy weight, you should go for the Blackhawk titan pack. It provides good endurance and plenty of space.