The Best Hydration Packs for Mountain Biking // Staff Favorites
One of the most limiting factors for a long ride is the ability to carry enough water to stay hydrated. While a single bottle can usually suffice for a quick after-work lap, for high mileage rides in remote areas where refilling a bottle isn’t an option the ability to carry enough water is paramount. There are plenty of hydration storage solutions on the market, with styles varying from hydration vests, to hip packs, to Specialized’s SWAT systems. Along with the ability to carry more water, these pieces of kit provide ample storage space for essential gear, such as tools, first aid kits, snacks, extra clothing, and even small personal belongings, all conveniently within reach. I checked in with some of my co-workers to see how they prepare for big days out on the bike, which hydration systems they rely on to keep them going, and share my own setup as well.
EVOC Hydro Pro 3 + 1.5L Bladder
- 1.5 Liter Bladder
- 3 Liter Pack Volume
- Magnetic chest strap and hydration tube
- Three zipper pockets
- Internal organization
This EVOC hydration vest has quickly become one of the preferred hydration packs for big days among our staff. Not to be confused with a clumsy backpack-style hydration system, this vest is sleek and compact, even when its 1.5L bladder is full. The Hydro Pro sits relatively high on the back, and its two adjustable chest straps keep a close-fitting feel, even when hitting jumps or pinning it through rock gardens. EVOC’s bite valve hydration tube can be easily actuated and remains securely in place via a magnet on the chest strap. For riders that don’t like the weight distribution or feel of a hip pack, this EVOC vest is a fantastic option.
Aside from its generous 1.5-liter bladder capacity, the EVOC vest offers tidy, secure storage via three zipper pockets. The largest zipper pocket on the back is ideal for a wallet or a phone, while its two chest pockets are ideally placed for easy access to tools and snacks out on the trail. Internal organizational pockets help eliminate clutter, and an integrated key clip can be used to securely store car keys.
The EVOC Hydro Pro has been the personal go-to hydration choice for our graphic designer, Ian. Not shy of big days out on the bike, Ian has already relied on this vest to keep him hydrated through a handful of massive rides.
“The EVOC vest sits close to the body and doesn’t tend to sway around like hiking packs and hip packs. You can still stuff an extra layer in there if you need it, along with plenty of water. I can carry all the gear I need for 5+ hour rides in the vest and on my bike. I think the hydration vest is the move these days.” - Ian, Graphic Design.
A slimmer, more refined take on backpack-style hydration packs, the EVOC hydration vest is a fantastic option for anyone looking to increase their hydration carrying capacity out on the trail. This vest can enable one to ride for substantial distances without needing a refill, especially when paired with another bottle on the bike.
Patagonia Dirt Roamer Waist Pack 3L
- Four zipper pockets
- Secure 2-Bottle Capacity
- Jacket/Pad Straps
- 3-Liter Pack Volume
- Internal organization
Built for large backcountry days and after-work rides alike, the Patagonia Dirt Roamer is one of the most refined hip packs we carry. Thoughtfully crafted for the actual needs of mountain bikers, this Patagonia hip pack offers a generous 3-liter storage capacity across four zipper pockets. Its main compartment is large enough for ample gear and snack storage while having a few internal pouches to keep items organized. An outer zipper pocket is perfectly sized for a phone or wallet and features a key clip. Two smaller side pockets offer more storage alongside the pack’s two bottle sleeves, which have draw-string retention loops to ensure a secure fit. An adjustable waistband is secured via an oversized plastic buckle that can be easily used with riding gloves on. The final touch to this hip pack is its external gear straps that can be used to secure knee pads or a jacket during long fire road pedals.
My co-worker Dan has relied on the previous version of this hip pack for numerous years and recently upgraded to its latest iteration.
“I’ve worn a hip pack for years, and there are a few features that I know I need: the capacity to strap knee pads or a jacket to the outside, a holster for a water bottle (or beer), an easy-access pocket or two on the waist strap (for a tool and/or snack), and enough length to fit a small pump. The Dirt Roamer has all of that, along with several interior pockets to keep your car keys and some cash, plus enough storage space to carry any other odds and ends I need for a given ride.” - Dan, Marketing.
The Patagonia Dirt Roamer is a polished take on the standard mountain biking hip pack. Patagonia has made the most of its 3-liter volume throughout its internal organization. The ability to carry two bottles extends one’s range before needing to refill, while its adjustable strap comfortably keeps the pack secure when descending.
Specialized SWAT System: Mountain Liner Bib and Zee Cage II
Bib MSRP: $120.00 $59.95
- Breathable VaporRize™ mesh fabric
- Three large back pockets
- Secure Zipper Pocket
- Comfortable molded chamois
Cage MSRP: $50.00 $36.99
- Side Loading Cage
- Integrated Tool with 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm, T25 Torx, and #1 flat-head screwdriver
Specialized’s SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) ecosystem has created a new alternative for increased hydration and storage for longer rides. The SWAT pockets integrated into the bib’s design allow riders to conveniently carry essential tools, snacks, and water without the need for additional backpacks or hip packs. This practical solution ensures that riders can have easy access to their necessities without fumbling with a bag or pack. Made from highly breathable VaporRize™ mesh fabric and featuring a molded chamois pad, the SWAT bib is highly breathable while eliminating any saddle discomfort or numbness. Three SWAT Pockets run the depth of the lower back and are deep enough to store a multitude of essentials. I can easily store my phone, wallet, and necessary nutrition between its two side pockets while securely storing a 16oz water bottle in its largest center pocket. An additional, smaller zipper pocket is ideal for valuables such as car keys, cash, or an I.D. The bibs pair nicely with the Specialized SWAT bottle cage I run on my Stumpjumper Evo, allowing me to carry another bottle along with its integrated tool storage. Small and compact, the Specialized SWAT tool comprises 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm allen keys, T25 Torx, and a flat-head screwdriver.
“The combination of the Specialized SWAT Bib, Swat Bottle cage, and a SWAT Storage compartment on my bike allows me to carry all the same items I would with a pack without actually wearing one. The bib is an extremely comfortable garment and an effective storage solution for bigger rides. Another bottle on my bike, and a downtube’s worth of storage in my frame means I have been able to eliminate the need for a separate pack distractingly hanging off me while descending.” -BK, Marketing.
With the Specialized SWAT system, convenience and preparedness are synonymous, making it an indispensable companion for any mountain bike rider.