The Best Kids Hydration Pack of 2020

Keeping our kids active, playful, and enjoying life is part of the job description of parenthood, but it’s also up to us to make sure they’re staying healthy and safe while they’re getting their heart rates up.

That means drinking plenty of H2O, but convincing your sweaty, overheated kiddo to trade the hockey stick for a water bottle is a hard sell, especially with friends demanding him back in the game.

Kids hydration packs are the best of both worlds, keeping water at the ready without forcing them to worry about heavy canteens or wasteful plastic water bottles.

We’ve put together a list of our favorites, many of which have bonus features like safety whistles, reflective elements, and extra storage that makes life easier for you both — check them out.

What are Hydration Packs?

A hydration pack is a water receptacle that is worn on the back, with fluid being accessed through a long tube. Typically, kids hydration packs are styled as small backpacks worn over the shoulder. They will feature a zippered compartment in which a soft, flexible plastic bladder is placed. The bladder is fillable through a large opening in the top; in some cases, ice can also be added. The bladder is secured with a screw-on cap, which attaches to a long plastic straw or hose.

The bladder remains fully contained within the backpack, while the hose protrudes from the side in order to be accessible to the wearer. They may feature push-pull caps, much like those seen on sport-top bottles, or they may have a bite valves which can only be opened through pressure from the wearer’s teeth.

Hydration packs may sometimes have additional safety features, such as reflective elements and safety whistles. They may also have additional storage, though this can vary significantly from model to model. Both child and adult sizes are available, with kids hydration packs tending to range between 1 and 3 liters in volume. Older children and teens may wish to choose an adult hydration pack depending on their size and needs. The use of kids hydration packs can help to prevent the dangers of dehydration during heavy physical activity and on hot days.

What Features Should I Consider When Buying Hydration Packs for Kids?

  • Appearance: Let’s face it, parents — it’s hard to get away with picking stuff for our kids that isn’t “cute” or “cool”, even if it’s highly functional. If style matters to your child, you’ll be glad to know there are lots of trendy designs out there — the Osprey packs and Sojourner Rave on our list are both great for style options.
  • Total size: If your child is on the smaller side, a hydration pack that’s large will be difficult and uncomfortable for them to carry. There are plenty of compact packs designed for running and cycling, so don’t be afraid to choose one that’s compatible with your child’s body size — some of them even have the same reservoir volume as larger picks, though they may not have as much storage.
  • Reservoir volume: Your child’s age, level of activity, and the amount of water they typically drink can all influence the reservoir size you choose for their hydration pack. The best hydration packs for kids tend to have reservoir sizes between 1 and 3 liters, which is generally enough for a younger child on a day trip. If your child is getting older, is larger, is going distance hiking, or drinks more habituallly, you may wish to consider a hydration pack for a teen or adult in order to be sure their needs are met.
  • Storage: A little bit of extra storage can go a long way when you’re on a day hike, visiting a theme park, or doing any other activity with on-foot travel. No one really wants to haul an extra pack, so a hydration pack with plenty of pockets, like the Osprey, is perfect for stashing snacks, wipes, sunscreen, and other day-trip essentials.
  • Bite valve vs push-pull cap: This is largely a matter of preference. A push-pull cap, much like the ones seen on sport-top bottles, is something just about every child knows how to operate. The only downside is that these caps can sometimes be more leaky than a bite valve, and they sometimes require kids to use their hands. In contrast, bite valves are less likely to leak, because they will not open without pressure from the teeth. While this is convenient, some children do not like the sensation of drinking through a bite valve, as it requires teeth to stay clenched.

How Do I Keep My Child’s Hydration Pack Clean?

Even if only water goes into your child’s hydration pack, regular cleaning is necessary to prevent mold or mildew from growing inside the bladder and tube. Per the experts at camelbak.com, here’s the best way to keep their pack fresh for as long as possible.

Create a solution with hot water and 2 tbsp of bleach OR baking soda(NOT both). Place the solution inside the bladder and hold it up, allowing the cleaning fluid to pass fully through the tube. Pinch the bite valve or open the push-pull cap to allow water to flow through the tube, but close the valve or cap before the fluid exits the tube.

Let the reservoir soak for about 30 minutes before cleaning it thoroughly with hot water and mild soap, being sure to eliminate any residue from the cleaning. The bladder must then be air dried in order to prevent mold or mildew growth.

A quick side-note: CamelBak offers a hydration pack cleaning kit with essentials that can make this process easier, including a dedicated brush set and cleaning tabs which dissolve to form  a cleaning solution that’s ideal for your reservoir.

How Much Water Should My Child be Consuming?

We’re sure you’ve heard the resounding advice on water consumption for adults, which advises that eight 8 oz glasses of water be consumed each day. If that seems like far too much for your young child, you’re right — but, you may be surprised at how quickly their water consumption needs will match yours.

It’s actually quite easy to figure out how much your child should be drinking based on their age. Once your child reaches the age of eight, they should be drinking 64 oz of water a day, just like you. Before that, they should have as many 8 oz cups of water a day as they are years old — in other words, your one-year-old should have one cup, two-year-old should have two cups, et cetera.

Parents should note that this recommendation refers to water exclusively, and doesn’t include the milk or juice your child may consume throughout the day.

When Might Hydration Packs for Kids Come in Handy?

While this answer can vary from family to family, there are many times a hydration pack can be a more convenient option than a water bottle.
If your family likes long walks and hikes, a hydration pack saves kids from having to carry a heavy canteen, a reusable bottle they could lose, or a disposable bottle that creates waste.
During a visit to the theme park, zoo, or other large event, having a hydration pack means no waiting in line for water, paying exorbitant prices, or having to dispose of a cup or bottle.
While playing sports and cycling, a hydration pack gives kids immediate access to water without having to stop the fun(or use their hands).

Are There Any Downsides to Hydration Packs?

We won’t lie to you — as great as ha hydration pack can be, there are a few minor disadvantages that are worth noting.
Because of their complex construction, a hydration pack is a good deal harder to keep clean than a reusable water bottle, and they need to be thoroughly cleaned after each use
Since they’re worn on the back, move around a lot, and are made out of flexible plastic, they’re more prone to eventual leaks and dysfunction than other hydration options
Refilling the bladder can be a bit of an undertaking compared to the ease of refilling a reusable bottle
Because the hydration pack is worn on the back and contained in a protective backpack, it’s hard to know how much water is left in it.

The Winners

The Best Kids Hydration Pack to Buy in 2020

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From stylish options for casual day-trips to highly functional, large-volume hydration packs that are great for serious hikes, these are the best kids hydration packs for both quality and function. Don’t miss out on bonus convenience features, especially the easy-access whistles and reflective accents on the kids Camelbak options, which double as important safety features.

#1 KBNI Hydration Backpack

Best Overall

Colors: Green, Blue, Red, Black
Reflective: Yes
Adjustable Straps: Yes
Cap Style: Push-pull

Hydration packs for kids that offer plenty of water in a sleek, compact backpack design make life on the go easier. When there’s safety features present, like the reflective elements on the KBNI Hydration Backpack (check price on Amazon), it’s an automatic win for parents — kids stay healthy and hydrated during hiking, long day trips, and during intense physical activity, and it’s also easy to spot them in low-lit areas which can otherwise be dangerous.

The 2 liter bladder featured here has a wide opening that’s perfect for adding ice, and a soft push/pull cap won’t damage their teeth. Finally, breathable construction means that this child hydration pack won’t make them overheat when their heart rate is up.

What we love:
  • It features reflective elements, so it offers extra safety in low-light areas
  • The quick-release soft push-pull cap prevents leaks
  • The backpack is made of breathable material to keep kids cool

Watch out for:
  • Straps may slip out of their adjusted position after repeated uses

Check Price on Amazon

#2 Tadpole Hydration Day

Best for Budget

Volume: 1.5 liters
Colors: Bright blue, Acid lime, Violet tulip
Reflective: No
Adjustable Straps: Yes
Cap Style: Push-pull

There’s really no reason that a kids hydration pack needs to break the bank — after all, their other sports and hiking gear costs a pretty penny on its own. The Tadpole Hydration Day pack (check price on Amazon) is one of the best hydration packs for a long hike, day at the theme park, or other adventure away from the comforts of home.

It boasts tons of storage space, so it’s easy to keep all those on-the-go essentials like sunscreen, snacks, and cover-ups packed along with their water. The 1.5 liter reservoir offers enough water for the average day out, and a simple push-pull valve is easy for kids to assemble and use on their own.

Just one thing parents should note: the water tube on this hydration pack is a bit long compared to some others, and if it gets pressed flat inside the backpack, water flow can be impeded.

What we love:
  • There’s a fair bit of extra storage, so you might not need another pack for a short hike
  • It has a top-carry handle for convenience
  • The straps are breathable and highly adjustable

Watch out for:
  • The water tube is long, which can cause flow issues if it’s too coiled up inside the bag

Check Price on Amazon

#3 KUYOU Hydration Pack

Best Lightweight

Volume: 2 liters
Colors: Green, Red, Black
Reflective: No
Adjustable Straps: Yes
Cap Style: Bite valve

The purpose of hydration packs is to make life easier for kids and parents, which means heavy, bulky, and uncomfortable packs will be deal-breakers.

A lightweight pack like the KUYOU Hydration Pack (check price on Amazon) is comfortable for kids to carry, and features a compact design that’s ideal for young cyclists and runners. This pack connects across the front of the wearer using a chest strap, which helps to balance the load of the pack and secure it for no-worry wear.

The reservoir’s large opening makes it easy to both clean and fill the device, and is big enough to accommodate ice cubes. A bite valve is used to access water, which helps to prevent leaks from the tube end of the device. It’s also a great choice when an ergonomic fit is needed, as the shoulder, waist, and chest strap can all be adjusted to fit the wearer comfortably. Finally, two mesh pockets on the side of the pack offer extra storage for backup sports drinks.

What we love:
  • This compact design is perfect for cycling and running, minimizing the load through ergonomic placement
  • The large opening of the bladder means it’s easy to clean and ice can be added
  • Air mesh straps promote airflow and keep wearers cool

Watch out for:
  • The cap needs to be fastened very carefully and securely, or leaks can occur

Check Price on Amazon

#4 CamelBak Kid’s Scout

Best Reservoir

Volume: 1.5 liters
Colors: Maui Blue, Crimson Red and Blue, Purple Sapphire and Azalea
Reflective: Yes
Adjustable Straps: Yes
Cap Style: On-off lever

A CamelBak water backpack is considered one of the best hydration packs for a good reason — the company was the original maker of the hydration pack, designed by Texas paramedic and avid cyclist Michael Eidson in 1988.

A CamelBak for kids, like the CamelBak Kid’s Scout  (check price on Amazon) hydration pack, is a choice parents know they can trust for quality and durability. We absolutely love the safety features that are incorporated here, from a safety whistle placed conveniently on the sternum strap to reflective accents that make kids easier to spot in dim light.

They’ll stay cool and comfortable during hiking, biking, and other activities thanks to breathable air mesh construction, and the durable 1.5 liter reservoir is resistant against leaks, even during intense physical activity. It also uses a simple on-off lever instead of a bite valve to trigger water flow, simplifying things for kids. Parents should note that some older kids may find the close joining of the shoulder straps to be uncomfortable, but this isn’t likely to be an issue for younger children.

What we love:
  • A safety whistle on the sternum strap gives kids a quick way to grab attention if needed
  • The back panel is made of a breathable air mesh for comfortable wear
  • Reflective accents add extra safety in dimly-lit areas

Watch out for:
  • Some wearers may find the close joining of the shoulder straps to be disruptive

Check Price on Amazon

#5 CamelBak Mini MULE

Best for Smaller Kids

Volume: 1.5 liters
Colors: Azalea/Aruba Blue, Atomic Blue/Navy Blazer, Baton Rouge/Flames, Black/Flames, Camelflage, Hot Pink/Purple Stripe, Lapis Blue/White Stripe, Racing Red Check
Reflective: Yes
Adjustable Straps: No
Cap Style: On-off lever

Even the youngest hikers, bikers, and adventurers can benefit from a kids hydration pack, but it needs to be the right size for a comfortable carry. The CamelBak Mini MULE (check price on Amazon) has a compact design that’s ideal for younger or smaller children, but still boasts a 1.5 liter reservoir that will help them to stay hydrated throughout the day.

It has similar safety features to the CamelBak scout pack, including reflective accents that keep kids safe in low-lit areas, and a whistle attached to the sternum strap that lets them get adult attention quickly if needed. The reservoir design on the Mini M.U.L.E. is especially helpful, using an ergonomic handle that makes refills simple and an on and off lever that makes leaks easy to avoid.

The cap uses a screw in design that’s a bit simpler than bite valves, making things easier for younger kids. Breathable mesh helps to keep this backpack comfortable and prevent overheating, but parents should note that there’s no adjusting the straps; when they’ve grown out of this CamelBak, an upgrade will be necessary..

What we love:
  • Reflective accents make kids easy to spot in low-lit areas
  • The narrow shape makes it ideal for bike riding and running, cutting down on wind impact
  • There’s a built-in safety whistle that kids can use to grab an adult’s attention if needed

Watch out for:
  • The straps aren’t adjustable, so once they’ve outgrown this pack, it will need to be replaced

Check Price on Amazon

#6 Sojourner Rave

Best in Style

Volume: 2 liters
Colors: Holographic silver, Flamingo, Floral Traditional, Galaxy, Black Glitter, Copper Glitter, Light Blue Glitter, Holographic Blue, Holographic Pale Pink, Holographic Rainbow Glitter, Luminous Green, Pineapple, USA
Reflective: Holographic options only
Adjustable Straps: Yes
Cap Style: Bite valve

If simple, stylish, and compact is what you’re looking for, the Sojourner Rave (check price on Amazon) just might be the right kids hydration pack for your child. The range of cool design options makes it ideal for older kids, but it also has adjustable straps and a lightweight design that are comfortable at any age.

The 2 liter reservoir offers plenty to drink through a high-flow soft bite valve throughout the course of their hiking, biking, and other activities, and filling, cleaning, and replacing the bladder is easy thanks to a zippered top-loading pocket. 

A chest strap helps to keep the pack securely in place during intense physical activity, so it’s good for sports despite its trendy appearance. Just one note for parents: because the design of this pack is small, there’s not much room for storage once the reservoir has been filled completely.

What we love:
  • The design options are stylish and trendy, so they’ll be a quick favorite with older kids
  • The straps connect across the front of the pack for even weight distribution and stability
  • The bag itself is quite lightweight, so it won’t get uncomfortable over long periods

Watch out for:
  • Storage space in this pack is limited when the bladder is full

Check Price on Amazon

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing a great kids hydration pack, a design that’s compact, trendy, holds a satisfying volume of water, and holds up to repeated uses is best. The KBNI Hydration Backpack features two liters of water in a durable, budget-friendly unit with a wide-mouth opening and a backpack design that’s cool and sporty. Bonus storage, adjustable straps, and reflective accents also help to make this pick both functional and safe, making it the one of the best hydration packs for kids.

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