Best Hydration Packs for Kids

Osprey vs. Camelbak vs. Budget Brands

What are the best kids’ hydration packs?

We tested and reviewed 7 different hydration packs with kids and found that Camelbak and Osprey hydration packs offer the best quality and experience.  For those on a tighter budget, we also found a few budget brands that also get the job done for older kids! We tested these packs with kids aged 2 to 14 and also purchased all new packs to make sure we were testing the latest products available.

We found some clear winners but also confirmed what we’d discovered through years of personal experience – for kids, the best hydration pack may just depend on whether or not your child loves to bite and chew anything they can put in their mouth! 

Collage: 1) 9-year-old boy riding mountain bike through meadow with singletrack while wearing a hydration pack 2) Group of kids 6 to 11 years old hiking with hydration packs 3) 6-year-old biting on hydration pack bite valve

Best Hydration Packs for Kids

  1. Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E. – Best Overall for Younger Kids, even Chewers, $50
  2. Osprey Moku – Best for Younger Kids in Hot Climates, $50
  3. Water Buffalo – Best Budget Buy for Chewers, $25
  4. Osprey Women’s Verve – Best for Older Kids with Narrow Frames, $80
  5. Camelback Women’s LUXE – Best Overall for Older Kids, even Chewers, $110
  6. Mubasel Gear – Best Budget for Storage, $33

 


Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E

Best Overall for Younger Kids (Toddler to Age 10)


Camelbak Mini MULE hydration back in blue

A true workhorse, we’ve had several M.U.L.E.s over the years. Not only do they perform great, but they’re also extremely durable and very easy to use.  The water comes out quickly without much effort and the on/off valve (which is essential to keep the tube from dripping, especially when kids bite through the bite valves) is very intuitive and simple – even for kids!

When the bite valve gets chewed to pieces by ambitious chewers, the Camelbak M.U.L.E. really shines as it can easily be used without the bite valve (the Osprey cannot, see testing section below).

While the Camelbak was able to fit all of our testers, the chest strap is rather long, so really petite kids would benefit from the Osprey Moki, which can cinch down smaller.  For hot climates, the Moki is also better as it offers much better air ventilation in the back.

MSRP: $50

Rating: Exceptional

Bite Valve Type: Traditional “Camelbak” Style

Capacity: 1.5 L

PROS:
  • Easy to use on/off tube valve
  • Water comes out easier and faster than other brands
  • Comfortable, thin, mesh straps
  • Whistle on chest buckle
  • Tube can be positioned on left or right side
  • Ample storage space

CONS:
  • Chest straps cannot be adjusted high enough for some small kids (Osprey Moki is best for really petite kids – listed below)
  • Clips that attach chest strap to shoulder straps can be finicky
  • Less ventilation along the back than the Osprey Moki


Osprey Moki

Best for Younger Kids in Hot Climates  (Toddler to Age 10)


Osprey Moki kids hydration pack in green

The Osprey Moki is another great choice for young hikers and bikers, especially for those in hot climates.  As shown above, the foam pad in the back of the pack is ribbed and vented to allow for plenty of air flow (the Camelbak M.U.L.E. has no vents).  Additionally, all of our testers also loved Osprey’s unique magnetic tube clip. The clip allows the water tube to clip into place across the body with the mouthpiece pointing up, which helps keep it clean and out of the way.

For smaller kids, especially those with narrow frames, the Moki is an ideal choice because the chest strap can cinch down more than the Camelbak.

The main reason we ranked the Camelbak above the Opsrey is due to Osprey’s mouthpiece design.  The mouthpiece and valve are round in shape and took more effort for kids to get water out of.  Most importantly, the on/off switch on the mouthpiece is challenging for young kids to use.  Without the valve turned off, the tube will constantly leak if the bite valve has been damaged.  The design of the mouthpiece also makes it very difficult to use without a bite valve, so if your child is biter, we don’t recommend the Moki.

If your child is a left-hander, the Moki may not be the best choice for them either as the tube cannot be moved over to the left shoulder strap.

MSRP: $50

Rating: Highly Recommended

Bite Valve Type: Round “Osprey style” valve

Capacity: 1.5 L

Same Size Pack w/ Larger Storage Area: HydraJet 15, $70

PROS:
  • Magnetic, cross body tube clip
  • Ribbed and vented back to keep cool in hot climates
  • Whistle on chest clip
  • Thin, comfortable straps
  • Ample storage space

CONS:
  • Twisting on/off valve difficult for some kids to use (valve is essential for keeping water from dripping from a damaged bite valve – valve not ideal for biters)
  • Tube cannot be moved to the left shoulder strap


Camelbak Women’s LUXE

Best for Older Kids (10+)


Camelbak LUXE women's hydration pack in black

For those kids who are too small for the one-size-fits-most child size and not quite ready for the general adult sizes, Camelbak’s line of women’s packs in a great in-between.  Their LUXE pack offered a comfortable fit for your two 11-year-old girl testers, as well as our 10-year-old boy tester.  The pack was on the larger size for the 10-year-old boy, but not too big and it was a much better fit long-term than theM.U.L.E..

In addition to being longer, the LUXE is wider than the M.U.L.E. to better fit bigger frames, holds more water, has an insulated water compartment, and a larger storage capacity. The LUXE is also large enough for most kids to use into adulthood.  Like the M.U.L.E., the mouthpiece on the LUXE has an easy on/off valve allowing the pack to easily be used without a bite valve if needed.

The shoulder straps on the LUXE are wider than the Osprey Verve, so if your child is petite or in clothes smaller than kids size 10, the Osprey Verve would be a better choice.  Both packs offer great ventilation along the back to help keep kids cool.

MSRP: $110

Rating: Exceptional

Bite Valve Type: Traditional “Camelbak” Valve

Capacity: 3 L

PROS:
  • Easy to use on/off tube valve
  • Great fit for older kids – smaller than men’s models
  • Largest water reservoir
  • Insulated water compartment
  • Hip strap to ease weight on shoulders
  • Water tube can be positioned on left or right side
  • Magnetic tube clip (similar to the Osprey)
  • Large storage area
  • Ribbed back for increased air flow
  • Removable tube for easy refilling
  • Straps are wider than the Osprey Verve, making it better for older kids or those with larger frames

CONS:
  • Chest straps can be hard to adjust
  • No whistle on chest strap


Osprey Women’s Verve

Best for Older Kids with Narrow Frames (9+)


Osprey Verve women's hydration pack in blue

Much smaller that their men’s line of packs, we found the women’- specific Verve to be a great fit for kids ages 9 and up.  While similar in length to the Camelbak LUXE, the Verve is much narrower, making it a better fit for kids 9 and up or older kids with narrow frames.  The straps are much closer together than the Camelbak, which makes it easier to cinch down onto smaller frames (picture shown in testing section below).

Our 8-year-old boy tester in size 10 clothes and our 10-year-old boy in size 12 clothes both loved the fit of the Verve.  Being blue in color, they had no idea it was a “women’s-specific” bag, so they had no problems wearing it!  Our two 11-year-old girl testers (size 14 clothes), who both have slightly larger-than-average frames for their age, both preferred the wider set shoulder straps on the Camelbak. (Additionally, taller women or women with wider shoulders might prefer the LUXE.)

In addition to being a great fit for smaller kids, the magnetic tube clip was a huge hit.  Kids loved being able to clip and unclip the tube while parents loved that it helped to keep the tube clean and out of the way.  The round bite valve, however, was not a favorite for our testers as it required slightly more effort to drink from.

Osprey’s tube locking mechanism is also more challenging to use than Camelbak’s.  Locking the valve is necessary to prevent water from dripping through a damaged bite valve, but the magnetic clip on the pack keeps the tube upright and helps to minimize dripping.

Damaged bite valves, however, are still a problem for kids who excessively chew as they put themselves at risk of swallowing damaged portions of the bite valve.  As are result, we recommend Camelbak for biters as their tubes can easily be used without a bite valve, and Osprey’s cannot.

MSRP: $80

Rating: Highly Recommended

Bite Valve Type: Round “Osprey” Valve

Capacity: 2.5 L

PROS:
  • Larger water capacity
  • Magnetic, cross body tube clip
  • Padded, ribbed, and vented back to keep cool in hot climates
  • Padded and vented shoulder straps
  • Waist strap to ease weight on shoulders
  • Ample storage with smaller pockets within main zippered pocket
  • Narrower straps are a better fit for petite or younger kids than the Camelbak

CONS:
  • No whistle on chest strap
  • Twisting on/off valve difficult for some kids to use (valve is essential for keeping water from dripping from a damaged bite valve – valve not ideal for biters)


Water Buffalo

Best Budget Pack for Older Kids (8+)


Water Buffalo hydration pack in blue

The smallest of the budget backs we tested (in terms of size, not storage), we found the Water Buffalo to be a good fit for ages 8 and up.  With the zippered portion of the pack not dedicated to storage (it holds the water reservoir), the pack isn’t ideal for those who need a lot of storage but is great for short trips.

The longer and lower-set chest strap does limit its use for kids younger than 8 (or kids in clothes smaller than size 8) because the shoulder straps tend to slide off.

The Water Buffalo pack is the budget pack we found that has the more traditional “Camelbak” style bite valve.  The valve is slightly different in shape and the on/off switch isn’t as easy to use as Camelbak’s, but it’s still useable without the bite valve, making it our top budget pick for all older kids, including chewers.  The overall quality of the pack is solid for the price and certainly worth the upgrade from other budget options.

MSRP: $25

Rating: Recommended

Bite Valve Type: Traditional “Camelbak” valve

Capacity: 2 L

PROS:
  • Affordable
  • Whistle on chest strap
  • Good quality for the price
  • Camelbak style bite valve is better for chewers

CONS:
  • Only one non-zippered storage area
  • Smaller on/off tube valve is harder to use

 


Mubasel Gear

Best Budget Pack for Storage and Insulation (10+)


Mubasel hydration pack in teal

 

Great in overall quality and design, the Mubasel was well-loved by our older testers but was way too big for our 6 and 8-year-old testers.  Built more like a backpack, the Mubasel offers the most amount of storage with four zippered compartments in addition to the mesh pocket and bungee storage.  The zippered pockets on the waist belt were a particular favorite for storing snacks while on the go.

As an added bonus, the Mubasel comes with an insulated water reservoir compartment, a wired brush to clean out the tube, an insulated plastic drinking tube, and a plastic cover to keep the mouthpiece clean.

Our main concerns with the Mubasel are its weight and lack of ventilation.  The Mubasel does not offer any ventilation along the back and was the heaviest of the packs we tested.  Mubasel does, however, have a less bulky version that is much better suited for lightweight trips.  This pack (it has no name), is lightweight and better ventilated, but its long chest straps also make it a best fit for kids 10+. The Mubasel is not suitable for chewers as the pack cannot be used without a bite valve.

MSRP: $32

Rating: Recommended

Bite Valve Type: Round (Covered)

Capacity: 2 L

PROS:
  • Covered bite valve to keep valve clean
  • Insulated water tube and reservoir cavity
  • Whistle on chest strap
  • Easy to use on/off valve on tube (pull valve out to use, push in to lock)
  • Great quality for the price
  • Large storage areas
  • Tube can be moved to right or left side

CONS:
  • Heavier and much less ventilated than higher-end brands
  • Waist strap has pockets, but they are too large to allows belt to cinch down to fit smaller bodies
  • Cannot be used without a bite valve (not suitable for biters)

 

Our Testing Process


How we Chose Packs to Review

For this comparison review, we purchased all new hydration packs to ensure we were reviewing the most up-to-date packs available.  We also only reviewed packs that came with a hydration bladder.  Bladders can be purchased separately and added to any backpack, but without the proper hookups in the bag to hold the bladder, as well as a place for the drinking tube, we found it’s easier to purchase a pack specifically designed for carrying a water bladder.

Shot of 6 hydration packs side by side from largest to smallest - Musable, Pinty, Water Buffalo, Osprey Verve, Osprey Moki, and Camelbak MULE

While hiking or biking, our kids often bring snacks or a small lunch and a small jacket, so the ability to store a light load was a requirement for this comparison review.  Since we tend to stick to trails no longer than 10 miles, we selected packs that have decent storage, but not full backpacks.  Packs with additional storage are both available from Camelbak (Scout) and Osprey (Jet 12).

The Problem with Young Kids and Bite Valves

Hydration packs have a lot of great features, but over the years my kids and I have found the design of the bite valve to be the main differentiator between packs that work for us and packs that don’t.  My “chewing” kids (as well as other testers), would often bite through the silicon bite valves within one or two uses.  This applied to their packs, as well as mine!

Whether at the park or on a small hike, I always let my toddlers drink from my Camelbak hydration pack because it was quick and easy (and way more comfortable for me to use and carry than a diaper bag). Sure enough (even with coaching), they would bite through my valves as well.  Part out of necessity and part out of frustration, my solution was to STOP buying replacement valves and just teach my kids to use the on/off valves on the tubes when using their packs. Once we all adapted, we never looked back!

Kids using hydration packs - toddler drinking from mom's pack, two kidson mountain bikes waving and wearing hydration packs, two kids wearing hydration packs while taking a break at a pond during a hike

Osprey vs. Camelbak Valves

Years later, my kids are now ages 6, 10 and 11, so I thought it was only fair to give bite valves another chance.  Hearing rave reviews about Osprey, we decided to see how their bite valve design compared to the Camelbaks we had been using.  With the bite valves intact, our older testers quickly noted that it was easier for them to drink water out of the Camelbak valves.  Drinking required less effort and the water seemed to come faster.

Camelbak does advertise that their CRUX Reservoir provides 20% more water per sip and our testers certainly were able to tell the difference.  Our younger testers didn’t have much to say about how easy it was to drink from the valves, but they did tend to take smaller sips versus larger gulps like our older testers, so the difference may not have been noticeable for them.

Despite our coaching, my chewing kids (ages 6 and 10) as well as our additional 8-year-old tester, all bit through the bite valves during our first or second hike with the new packs.  While frustrating, the kids knew the drill and began using the on/off switch on the tube.  As this point, we quickly realized that the Camelbak tube design is MUCH easier to use without the bite valve than the Osprey.

Differences in Camelbak and Osprey Bite Valves

Collage of Camelbak vs Osprey bite valves comparing new, undamaged valves, damages but usable valves, and hoses without the bike valves

 

As a result of our experience, we highly recommend Camelbak hydration packs, as well as those that have similar bite valves, for kids who chew.  Osprey packs, as well as Camelbak, are both great options for kids who don’t chew.

Locking Mechanism

Locking mechanisms on tubes prevent water from leaking out of the bite valve.  Intact bite valves generally have no issues with dripping, but damaged bite valves tend to always drip.  Since kids often bite or damage their bite valves, kids must know how to lock the tube when they’re done drinking.

We found Camelbak’s lever design to be the easiest and most intuitive for kids to use. The several different budget brand locking systems came in second, while we found Osprey’s twisting design to be the most complicated. The Osprey was the most challenging because it required twisting a clear plastic ring in order to lock, versus pushing or pulling a larger colored knob or lever.

Collage comparing locking mechanisms of water tubes of hydration packs - Camelbak, Osprey, Musabel, and Water Buffalo

**The Pinty hydration pack is no longer available**

Size

Hydration packs come in different sizes.  The bottom of a properly sized hydration pack should come close to the top of a child’s pants so it doesn’t interfere with their mobility.  On our 46″ tall 6-year-old tester in size 6 clothes, the Camelbak MULE and Osprey Moki were both a great fit.  The Osprey Verve and Water Buffalo were slightly too big, but the Mubasel was way too big.

Collage showing size difference in hydration packs worn by a 6-year-old. From the back and best fit to too big: Camelbak MULE, Osprey Moki, Water Buffalo, Osprey Verve, Pinty Upgraded, Musabel

Both Camelbak and Osprey only offer one youth size and we couldn’t find any budget brands that made a pack sized specifically for kids.  The youth sizes of the packs are much smaller than the brands’ women’s sizes, which are in turn smaller than their men’s sizes (shown below).  We found the women-specific sized bags for both Camelbak and Osprey to be a great fit for kids in at least size 10 clothes.

Collage showing size difference between Osprey Men's, Women's and kids' packs, and Camelbak LUXE women's pack vs the Mini MULE for kids

Left to Right: Osprey men’s size, Osprey women’s, Osprey youth, Camelbak women’s, Camelbak youth

The size of the women’s specific Camelbak and Osprey’s also varied.  The Osprey is narrower than the Camelbak and was preferred by our younger 8 and 9-year-old testers, while our taller 11-year-olds preferred the wider Camelbak. Additionally, taller women or women with wider shoulders might prefer the LUXE. At 5’10 with broad shoulders, I regularly use the LUXE, but tried on the Osprey Verve and it was too high and narrow for my body.

Collage showing size difference of Osprey women's pack vs. Camelbak women's hydration pack on an 11-year-old in size 14 clothes. Osprey's base and shoulds are much more narrow.

Chest Strap

The length and design of the chest strap play a large role in the fit of a pack.  Made specifically for smaller frames, the chest strap on the Osprey Moki, Camelbak M.U.L.E., and even the Osprey Verve were all able to cinch down small enough to fit our six-year-old tester.  The Camelbak M.U.L.E., however, was not able to cinch down as much as child or women’s Ospreys, which is why we recommend Osprey packs for kids with smaller frames (shown in the next picture).

The chest straps of the Osprey packs include a magnetic tube holder which our testers and their parents LOVED!  This feature alone is worth buying an Osprey pack (as long as you don’t have a biter).  The magnetic clip is easy to use and does wonders to help keep the bite valve clean and out of the way.  A similar clipping feature is available on the Camelbak LUXE (women’s pack) but is not available on the Camelbak M.U.L.E. (child pack).

Collage showing different hydration pack chest straps on a 6-year-old - Osprey Moki, Osprey Verve, and Camelbak MULE are all a good fit.

Left to Right: Osprey Moki, Osprey Verve and Camelbak MULE

All three of the budget packs we tested did not allow the chest strap to adjust high enough or tight enough to properly fit our 6-year-old tester.  None of the packs included a magnetic clip holder, but the Water Buffalo does have a plastic clip that can be used to hold the tube upright.

Collage showing different hydration packs chest straps on a 6-year-old - all of the cheaper packs were too large for a child

Left to Right: Pinty Upgrade (no longer available), Mubasel and Water Buffalo

Reservoir Design

Filling and emptying the water reservoirs was relatively easy for all of the packs.  However, we did find Camelbak’s built-in handle to be very well designed, making it the easiest to fill up.  Osprey’s unique top-filling reservoir was the most challenging to fill up, but certainly not difficult.

Osprey’s closing mechanism (the gray sliding clip shown below) was the easiest to ensure a leak-free closure as there really wasn’t a way to close it wrong. The twisting top on the M.U.L.E. did take us a couple of times to correct screw on. Camelbak’s LUXE reservoir, however, is slightly different than their M.U.L.E. reservoir as you only have to twist the round cap a quarter turn to lock it into place, which makes it very easy to correctly lockdown.

Water reservoir of Camelbak has a round opening that you screw closed. Osprey's top folds over and is clipped closed.All three budget models (the bottom row below) had simple screw on lids.  Without a handle like Camelbak’s design, they are slightly harder to fill, but certainly not difficult.

Collage showing the different water reservoirs from the packs we tested.

Top left to bottom right: Camelbak MULE, Osprey Moki, Osprey Verve, Mubasel, Pinty (not available) and Water Buffalo.

Ventilation

Lastly, ventilation along the back of the pack is also notable, especially for those who plan on hiking or biking in hot weather.  The child-size Osprey Moki offered much more ventilation than the Camelbak M.U.L.E.  The Camelbak LUXE and the Osprey Verve both offer great ventilation, while none of the budget packs did.

Ventilation on back of Osprey Moki hydration pack vs. Camelbak MULE. The Moki has much better ventilation.

Left to Right: Osprey Moki, Camelbak M.U.L.E., Osprey Verve, Camelbak LUXE

Bottom Line

Hydration packs are a must-have for biking or hiking with kids!  While there are various features to consider, based on our experience, we found the size of the pack and the bite valve style to be the most important.  If your child is a “chewer”, we recommend packs with a “Camelbak” style bite valve because they can easily be used without replacing the bite valve.  If your child is not a chewer, almost any pack will work, but the magnetic tube clip, ventilated back, and value of the Osprey (in the women’s specific line) is hard to beat.

Two Wheeling Tots
Login/Register access is temporary disabled
Compare items
  • Balance Bike (0)
  • Pedal Bike (0)
  • Bike Trailer (0)
  • Helmets (0)
  • Child Bike Seat (0)
Compare