Safari Hydration Backpacks

Page Updated: Dec 2021

Safari backpack water carriers or hydration packs are ideal for long, hot days out walking in the African bush. Worn on your back, they carry a lot more water than most reusable water bottles and all the gear you might need.

The soft sided reservoir of water is contained in the backpack and a tube to sip from can be attached to the front of your clothing for easy drinking on the go. This has the major advantage that you remember to drink to more often and therefore stay well hydrated.

African hunters who opt for this water carrying system will need to consider whether it is really necessary for the type and location of their hunt. If the intention is for possibly long distance walking on elephant or buffalo tracks in a wilderness area, this system can be ideal. Every African hunter has his own way of doing things but generally hunting is best done with nothing but the minimum of kit hanging off your body. Things might get a little snarled up if you add another layer of strapping plus a drinking tube while carrying your rifle sling, binoculars and other oddments. The alternative of a tracker or gunbearer carrying your water backpack makes it difficult to drink on the move.

So for African hunters considering a backpack water carrier it is recommended to choose the lightest, sleekest design with the least extraneous loops, additional straps and webbing, which will carry the amount of water you want. As hydration backpack manufacturers are hardly going to include hunting as a recommended activity in their range of products, go for packs designed for biking or hiking - not for climbing the winter.

More about the importance of keeping well-hydrated while hunting in Africa.

Backpack Water Carrier Options

  • A water-only backpack which is basically a set of straps and pouch to hold the water reservoir on your back with no, or minimal, additional gear storage space.
  • You could add the bare water reservoir and tube to your own backpack if it has an adequately sized, convenient pocket to take it.
  • Or you calculate the amount of storage space and volume of water you want and choose a more spacious hydration backpack with several pockets and compartments.

Blinded By The Hydration Backpack Science?

It can be quite hard to make a choice between so many hydration backpacks with different unexplained and weirdly brand-named parts in the spec lists, so here are the most common ones you may come across in your research...

  • Reservoirs - the bladder or part of the system that holds the water.
  • Crux - is Camelbak's latest reservoir brand name which delivers 20% more water per sip. Comes in various sizes.
  • Antidote - is Camelbak's previous reservoir brand name which is still available in the military spec range.
  • Bite Valve - is the mouthpiece from which you drink. You gently bite or squeeze the mouthpiece with your lips, which opens up a slit that allows water to escape. No water will come through the valve unless you are biting down on it - sucking like a straw does not work.
  • Quick Link Exit Port - allows the drinking tube to be disconnected and still remain in place in the pack. The reservoir exit port automatically shuts off for leak-proof removal and refills.
  • Quick Link HydroLock Bite Valve - is for the same purpose as Quick Link Exit Port but at the mouthpiece end of the drinking tube. Also allows one-handed on/off water flow control on the drink tube.
  • Fill port - is the hole through which water is added to the reservoir. It is locked closed with a screw cap.
  • BPA/BPS/BPF free - means there are no Bisphenol A (BPA) and Bisphenol S (BPS) in the product. (These are both chemical compounds used in the production of plastics which may adversely affect health).
  • Embedded silver ions - is the use of silver ions as a antimicrobial coating in some reservoirs to protect clean water from mould and bacteria.

Water-Only/Minimum Storage Safari Backpacks

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This is the smaller and lighter pack in the Camelbak Thermobak range. The external cap allows for easy refilling, quick-release shoulder staps unclip for easy removal and it comes with hook & loop strapping. Capacity is 2 litre (70 oz) Buy Now Hook-and-loop strap management

This rugged hydration pack is constructed from heavy-duty nylon and is resistant to tears and abrasion. The fully removable water bladder has a 3 litre (100 ounce) capacity. Water is drawn via the hands-free hydration hose with bite valve to open up the flow of water. Sleek and compact in design. Buy Now

This 3 litre hydration pack has a velcro top opening for quick and easy reservoir access for cleaning, draining or refilling, MOLLE attachment system and insulation to keep drinks cool. Buy Now

CamelBak's Classic Hydration Pack has a 2.5 litre (85 oz) hydration reservoir. Breathable-mesh back panel circulates air between your back and the pack to keep you cool. Durable water-repellent coating for long-lasting performance. Lightweight mesh harness. External fill. Essentials pocket. Buy Now

CamelBak lightweight Hydration Pack has breathable mesh construction which keeps you cool, easy-to-access, quick-release reservoir flap for quick refilling and a few convenient pockets for small gear items. 2 litre (70 oz). Buy Now

CamelBak Octane Dart hydration pack has simple, comfortable and streamlined features with a zippered pocket in the back and a stretchy pocket on the harness. Hydration capacity of 1.5 litre (50 oz). Buy Now

The CamelBak ThermoBak Hydration Pack has 3 litre (100 oz) has the military-spec Crux Reservoir which delivers 25% more water per sip. External cap allows for easy access to the reservoir for easy filling, cleaning and ice addition. It's made of strong nylon fabric with quick-attach pressure strap for easy on-the-move hydration. Buy Now

Water Reservoirs For Your Own Backpack

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The Camelbak Crux water reservoir delivers 20% more water per sip, with an ergonomic handle for easier refilling, and an on/off lever that makes it easy to prevent leaks. It comes in a rangle of capacities - 1.5 - 3 litres (50 - 100 oz) Buy Now

The Platypus reservoir has a high flow rate, self-sealing bite valve, 5/16 inch drink tube, simple one-handed filling, easy cleaning, fast drying, quick access drink tube disconnect and leak-proof shutoff valve. This hydration reservoir has embedded silver-ion to protect clean water from mould and bacteria. Buy Now

The Camelbak Mil Spec Antidote reservoir has a HydroLock bite valve adapter - the tube clicks off for faster refilling with auto shut-off. The fill-port has a quick secure seal that can't be over-tightened. The drink tube is insulated. Buy Now

Hydration Packs With More Storage Space

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The Camelbak Ambush hydration backpack is a simple pack with big compartments, a velcro strip and the hydration bladder. The main compartment is covered in webbing so you can add compatible pouches onto it if you choose. It's made of sturdy material and features a 100oz polyurethane hydration reservoir which is designed to collapse in on itself. The opening is large enough for easy cleaning and makes filling with ice or drink mixes much easier. Buy Now

CamelBak's M.U.L.E. mil spec hydration pack is built to hold gear, has an advanced hydration system and the comfort of a cushioned back panel that maximizes airflow. 3 litres (100 oz) 'Antidote' reservoir with 'Quick Link' system lets you easily remove the tube for quick filling. 'Big Bite Valve' self seals after each drink and 'HydroGuard' technology lets you turn off water flow. Available in tan or camo colours. Buy Now

This 3 litre hydration pack has 17 litre / 1000ins3 of storage space and comes with an air support back panel, a dual wing belt and a stretch overflow pocket. Buy Now

Hydration Backpacks For Women

Most of the lighter unisex hydration backpacks may be used by women without any discomfort. It is really only the heavier hydration backpacks with more storage space that need to be designed and sized especially for women.

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The Camelbak Charm hydration pack with a women’s-specific fit is light and simple for the bare essentials. The women specific feature is a shorter back panel and an S-curved harness for a closer fit. The Crux reservoir is designed to make refilling your water supply even easier and the on/off valve lets you seal it shut. Water capacity 1.5 litres (50 oz). Buy Now

The Camelbak Aurora hydration pack is just the right size for essential gear and hydration for about 2 hours. It features interior organizer pockets and a stretch external storage pocket. It is designed to be a more comfortable fit for a woman's frame. Water capacity 2.5 litres (85 oz). Buy Now

Hydration Backpack Cleaning Kits

It is very important to regularly clean out your hydration system, particularly in Africa where it is easy to get stomach upsets and also if you have added energy drink tablets or electrolyte powders to the reservoir. You will need to use a Camelbak Cleaning Brush Kit which comes with brushes to keep the reservoir clean and taste-free and a long, thin brush for the drinking tube.

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