10 Best Hydration Packs For Kids - 2020

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Struggling to make sure that your kids stay hydrated during your adventures throughout the year? 

You’re not alone. I struggled with this for years with my own kids. Hating being the helicopter parent who is constantly nagging them to stop and take a drink of their water bottle, yet at the same being annoyed when their energy suddenly crashes on a hike because I told them they could decide when to drink (yet they didn’t).  

We finally came up  with a solution that seems to work well for our kids – hydration packs.  

Top 10 Hydration Packs for Kids

What is a hydration pack?

A hydration pack is a small backpack that fits a bladder that can be filled with water.  Simply put the backpack on and a hose comes over your shoulder so you can drink whenever you’re thirsty.

When do kids need a hydration pack?

Hydration packs come in handy so often. We regularly use them for hiking and mountain biking for our whole family. Any time we are hiking during the summer or through the desert, they’re a must have. Basically, if we are on any serious adventure (over an hour or so), we usually have a hydration packs with us.

We even take them on our international trips since our kids are so prone to losing water bottles when we travel.

Little girl with camelbak in petra
Wearing a hydration pack in Petra Jordan

Do kids drink more water if they wear a hydration pack?

Absolutely!  Well, at least our 5 kids do.  When our kids are wearing their hydration packs, they tend to sip on their water all throughout the day, instead of just a few big gulps every know and then.  In fact, we noticed that our kids often run out of water when they have their hydration packs on all day, so we have to make sure that if we are out hiking, for example, that they ration their water so they have some for the end of the hike.  

boy fishing with hydration pack

What are the downsides to hydration packs?

The biggest downside to hydration packs is cleaning and drying them.  To clean a hydration packs after we use it, we simply wash it in mildly soapy water and rinse it well, including rinsing out the hose and washing the bite valve.  To dry a hydration pack, put it upside down on a paper towel rack. We like to store hydration packs on a bent metal hanger inserted into the bladder to prevent any mold from moisture.

little girl with hydration pack

Do I need more than one bite valve for my hydration pack?  

If kids are involved, ABSOLUTELY!  So often, kids will bite into the silicone on their hydration pack without even realizing it.  I try to keep a spare bite valve in the bottom of each pack so we can quickly replace it in case one of the kids bites a hole in the valve while we’re out and about.  For this reason, you may want to get a hydration pack with an on and off switch as well.

little boy with hydration pack

Here are some common bite valves so you can buy replacement valves right away.

I also came across this awesome system that adds a shutoff valve to the end of your hydration pack so water never leaks out. It’s surprisingly affordable and I’d highly recommend adding this to your kids hydration pack. We haven’t used it, but it looks brilliant and gets great reviews.

Top Hydration Packs for Kids

little boy with camelbak

Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E. 50oz

Best for ages 3-9

The Camelback Mini MULE is one of our all time favorite hydration packs for kids.  We have had ours for almost 8 years and it’s still going strong, and just got passed down to it’s 4th kid in our family.  It goes almost anywhere that we do and keeps going strong. The design is pretty simple and straightforward and has changed very little since we first got ours almost a decade ago.

Features we love about the Camelbak Mini MULE

  • It can carry 50oz of water which is plenty for most young kids for the day.
  • It does have a small pocket to carry things, but it’s pretty small.
  • The tube has on on/off switch.
  • There is a small pocket big enough for some snacks, and an expandable area that’s big enough for a layering piece like a shirt or a light jacket.
  • Valves are easily replaceable with generic versions (we even found a replacement at a grocer in Switzerland)

What we aren’t crazy about

  • Chest straps aren’t fully adjustable for really small kids.
  • There isn’t much ventilation, so this pack really feels hot on warm days.

Osprey Moki 1.5L

Best for ages 2-9

The Osprey Moki is very similar to the Camelbak Mini MULE in many regards.  It can carry a decent amount of water at 1.5L and has a lot of great features that we already love in our other Osprey packs.  The best thing about the Osprey Moki is that it’s covered by Osprey’s lifetime guarantee on their packs. Personally, I almost always take my own Osprey pack for women on our adventures and I love that the bite valve is magnetic so the hose isn’t always flopping around, or requiring me to always snap it into place.  

Features we love about the Osprey Moki:

  • Large carrying capacity of 1.5L.
  • Small pocket to carry snacks and a stashing pocket for larger items like clothing.  
  • Good ventilation on the back to help keep kids cool.
  • Magnetic attachment for bite valve.  
  • Chest straps are fully adjustable up and down so it works well for smaller kids.

What we weren’t crazy about:

Although we’ve never had major problems I know that others have problems with the bite valves not lasting long (mine lasted over 5 years before replacement).  If your child likes to bite, this might not be the best hydration pack choice for them, or you’ll want to have a set of replacement valves handy.  


Outdoor Products Tadpole

Best for ages 3-9

The Outdoor Products Tadpole hydration pack is quite similar to the Camelbak Mini MULE and the Osprey Moki, but at a lower price.  It has a very similar pocket configuration to the Moki with 2 exterior pocket and a stash pocket for larger items as well. Overall this hydration pack has a capacity of 3.5L and a 1.5L hydration pack.  

Features we love about the Outdoor Products Tadpole

  • Readily available – can be purchased at many Walmart stores
  • Easy to find valve replacements at Walmart
  • Limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty

What we weren’t crazy about:

Sometimes the valve doesn’t fully close, so it can leak


High Sierra HydraHike 

Best for ages 10+

The High Sierra HydraHike is technically an adult pack but it works well for older or bigger kids.  It takes the benefits of having a hydration pack combined with the storage of a small backpack. It not only has more storage, but it also holds more water (2L) so it’s perfect for those bigger and longer adventures that older kids crave.  I also love that this High Sierra hydration pack has a waist strap so it really stays in place well when you’re being more active.  

Features we love about the High Sierra HydraHike:

  • Large water carrying capacity of 2L.
  • 8L of overall storage (which includes the hydration pocket).
  • 2 different external pockets for extra storage AND a stashing pocket as well.  
  • Outer bungee cord for attaching gear or clothing.
  • Waist strap.

What we weren’t crazy about: :

Attaching the hose to the bladder can be a bit difficult and if not properly attached, it will leak.


Nathan Hydration Running Vest

Best for Ages 10+

If you’ve got a kid who does a lot of running, or complains about having an uncomfortable hydration pack, this is an amazing option.  The Nathan hydration running vest was built with marathon runners in mind. It’s designed to stay in place while you’re running without causing uncomfortable chafing or hot spots.  The backpack is specifically designed to stay still while running and to evenly distribute the water across your back.  

Features we love about the Nathan Running Vest:

  • Holds 2L of water
  • Front pockets for easy access to snacks
  • Pocket in the back that’s big enough for a lightweight layer
  • Ergonomic design that holds still even when running
  • Designed for adults, but can also fit older kids well

What we weren’t crazy about:

Nothing!  I just wish it could fit smaller kids too. 


TETON Sports TrailRunner 

Best for ages 12+

The Trail Runner hydration pack from Teton Sports is a pretty simple bare-bones pack that works well for adults and older kids.  It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but if you just need to carry water and not much else, this might be a good option. This hydration pack for kids is a good fit for kids who will be doing mountain biking or trail running.  

Features we love about the Teton Sports Trail Runner

  • Large water carrying capacity of 2L
  • No frills design.
  • One external mesh pocket and exterior bungees for holding losing clothing.  

What we weren’t crazy about:

  • Small storage area.
  • Pack bulges when full of water making it a bit awkward.
  • Chest strap isn’t fully adjustable, so won’t fit kids with a narrow frame well. 

Camelbak Scout Backpack

Best for ages 3-8

If you want a small backpack that’s a combination backpack and hydration reservoir, the Camelbak Scout is a great option so you can kill two birds with one stone backpack.   It has a good sized kids backpack on one side and then a pocket for the hydration bladder to fit in form the back. Inside the backpack, there is one large compartment as well as a smaller outer pocket.  This pack also has mesh pockets on the side, which are typically used for water bottles, but since this is a hydration pack, your kids can happily fill them with rocks.  

Features we love about the Camelbak Scout Backpack

  • It can carry 50oz of water which is plenty for most young kids for the day (smaller kids probably only need it half full). .
  • The tube has on on/off switch.
  • Large carrying capacity for other things besides water
  • Valves are easily replaceable with generic versions (we even found a replacement at a grocer in Switzerland)

What we aren’t crazy about

There isn’t much ventilation, so this pack really feels hot on warm days.


Osprey HydraJet15

Best for Ages 4-9

If you’re looking for an Osprey pack that does a little more than just carry water, this is an excellent option for younger kids.  I like that kids can use it for more than just a hydration pack so the Osprey HydraJet is more versatile than the Moki. Like the Moki it has a 1.5 L hydration bladder, but it also has an overall carrying capacity of 15L.  I especially like that this pack has the osprey magnetic bite valve so I don’t ever have to worry about fumbling to attach or remove it.  

Features we love about the Osprey HydraJet:

  • 15L overall bag capacity
  • Water  carrying capacity of 1.5L
  • Includes a waist strap for extra security 
  • Good ventilation on the back to help keep kids cool.
  • Magnetic attachment for bite valve.  
  • Chest straps are fully adjustable up and down so it works well for smaller kids.

What we weren’t crazy about:

Like I mentioned above with the Moki, some people report having problems with the bite vavle.  Although we’ve never had major problems I know that others have problems with the bite valves not lasting long (mine lasted over 5 years before replacement).  If your child likes to bite, this might not be the best hydration pack choice for them, or you’ll want to have a set of replacement valves handy.


Camelbak Women’s Daystar

Ages 10+

If you’re looking for a hydration backpack for your tween or teen that has more storage space, consider getting a Camelbak Daystar.  While tecnhically a women’s hydration pack, it works well for older kids because it’s widely adjustable and easily accomodates the narrower frame of most older kids. This pack will give you 16L of storage as well as an 85oz hydration bladder.  It’s a great pack because since it’s made for adults, you know you’ll get years and years worth of use out of it before your kids outgrow it.

Features we love about the Camelback Daystar

  • Lots of storage pockets, so it can work as a complete daypack + hydration.
  • Extra large hydration bladder – 85oz.
  • On-off switch for bite valve.
  • Side mesh pockets which can hold water bottles or other treasures.

What we aren’t crazy about

The back mesh feels a bit rough, so if you have skin sensitivity this probably isn’t a good choice for you.


ALPS Mountaineering Hydro Trail

Best for Ages 12+

This is another hydration backpack that’s made for adults, but fits older kids well too.  They Alps Mountaineering Hydro Trail backpack has an overall carrying capacity of 17L and comes with an enormous 3L hydration reservoir.  One of the things that I like the most about this backpack is that it has a suspension system made of mesh that separates the pack from your back and allows air to flow through, keeping you nice and cool.    

Features we love about the ALPS Mountaineering Hydro Trail:

  • HUGE 3L water reservoir
  • 17L of overall carrying space
  • Back suspension system keeps you cool

What we weren’t crazy about:

  • The sternum strap isn’t very adjustable so it may hit kids at a weird spot on their chest.
  • Hydration reservoir is hard to fit in the inner sleeve when it’s completely full.

Can Regular Backpacks work with hydration bladders?

Absolutely. In fact, a surprising number of backpacks for kids have either a hydration sleeve, or a laptop sleeve that can be used to hold a hydration bladder. If you want to use a backpack like this, grab either this 1.5 L bladder or this 2L hydration bladder and you’ll be all set. Both have shutoff valves, making them perfect for kids. Tip: If the tube is too long for your kids, remove the bit valve, cut the tube to the length you need, and simply reattach.

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