Last Updated on August 11, 2022

Whethere you are trekking in the Mojave desert or camping in the Sahara, a quality backpack is an essential piece of equipment for your desert trip.

It can be a challenge to find a backpack that is lightweight enough not to become a burden in the desert heat, while at the same time spatious enough to let you carry large amounts of water you will need to stay hydrated. Luckily, there are bags out there designed specifically for the desert backpacker.

Why Hydration Packs are Great for Desert Hiking

A hydration pack is essentially a backpack with a built-in water reservoir. Hydration packs are easily the best backpack choice for desert hiking: they allow you to carry several liters of water (the equivalent of two to five large bottles), while also keeping enough room for snacks, clothes and other desert gear.

Most hydration packs are designed so that you can sip water on the go through a hose, which is especially useful if you are cycling or running in the desert, but not essential for more slow paced hikes and walks.

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Best Backpack for Desert
Desert Backpackers

Best Hydration Packs for Desert

1. CamelBak Sparta Hydration Pack


  • Imported
  • Laser-cut Mountain MOLLE panels on front and sides for secureattachment of accessory pouches
  • Low Rider Reservoir compartment shifts weight down on the back
  • Four-zipper, full clamshell opening on main compartment
  • Webbing waistbelt with lumbar adjustment stows when not in use
  • Multiple drink tube exit ports – for routing tube over the shoulder orunder an arm


Perfectly sized and equipped for single day missions, the new Sparta includes over 30L of cargo, laser-cut Mountain MOLLE and our new 3L, 100oz Mil Spec Crux Lumbar Reservoir, which delivers 25% more water per sip. Low Rider technology uses a lumbar reservoir to move the water weight low for increased stability and a lower center of gravity. It is constructed of 500D Double-Rip Cordura fabric for long lasting durability.


The CamelBack Sparta is one of the most impressive backpacks you’ll ever see: versatile, hardy and durable, will peform great in all outdoor weather conditions.

It comes with compression straps that allow it to be compressed to a size compliant with airline guidelines making it a great travel backpack, and yet it comes with large bladder compartments that allow you to carry great quantity of liquids on your hike. Highly recommended!

2. T3 Tactical Reload Hydration BPack


  • PREMIUM MILITARY HYDRATION BACKPACK: The T3 100oz Reload Hydration carrier can hold a 100-ounce water bladder, features 2 medium-sized pockets for gear storage, and includes a built-in pouch for two 5.56 mags. It weighs 1 lb., 13.42 oz. and measures 9″ W x 17″ H x 4″ D.
  • BUILT TO LAST: With an outer layer of 500-denier CORDURA, our hydration pack is water-resistant and ready for long-term rough wear. Rugged reverse stitching and a T3 Maritime MOLLE closure system keep your gear secure as you move into wild territories.
  • TRAVEL WITH EASE: This backpack is ideal for continued hydration and small gear storage. Hooks and ports in key areas secure the bladder and allow routes for a drinking tube. Adjustable chest, waist, and padded shoulder straps help to avoid rubbing while running.
  • TAKE WATER & ESSENTIALS ANYWHERE: During civilian life, use this pack as a survival backpack for the lightweight carry of water and essential emergency preparedness items. Rely on it during rigorous hunting, hiking, and other outdoor recreation trips.
  • THE T3 DIFFERENCE: Owned and operated by former Navy SEALs, T3 embraces the Navy SEAL lifestyle. We know which products meet SEAL Team standards, and we’re also highly involved with research, development, testing, evaluation, and marketing of new equipment.


The T3 100oz Reload Hydration Backpack is designed to store water on the go and is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Created with an outer layer of 500-denier solution-dyed CORDURA, this pack is made to be roughhoused and last through long-term wear. CORDURA is an incredibly tough synthetic water-resistant fabric, so the elements don’t stand a chance no matter where you travel.

This bag features 1 main compartment to store a 100-ounce hydration bladder, 2 medium front compartments with internal pockets to secure small items, and a built-in mag pouch that holds two 5.56 mags for quick access.

The hydration bladder compartment has ports in key areas to route a drinking tube and hooks to keep it secure. Padded shoulder straps and adjustable waist and sternum straps help with convenient carrying and avoiding rubbing while running or maneuvering. With minimal use of binding tape, our signature T3 Maritime MOLLE closure system and reverse stitching throughout the design further enhance this pack’s durability.

Even for civilian life, this backpack is a reliable investment. Use it to store water and essential emergency preparedness supplies during natural disasters or unexpected circumstances. Take it on hiking and camping trips when only the most rugged outdoor equipment will do. The 100oz Reload Hydration Backpack is available in 4 different colors and patterns to help you adapt to your environment. The pack measures 9″ W x 17″ H x 4″ D and weighs 1 lb., 13.42 oz.

Owned and operated by former Navy SEALs, T3 embraces the Navy SEAL lifestyle. We have a great reputation with the SEAL Teams and would never compromise our standing with friends who still serve. We know which products meet SEAL Team standards, and we’re also highly involved with research, development, testing, evaluation, and marketing of new equipment. You can buy from us with confidence.


Designed with military desert deployment in mind, the T3 Tactical Reload hydration bag is a perfect bag for missions and every day use. It’s light and small, but very well constructed with great features, and a removable 100oz bladder in case you need more room for essentials. It’s especially great if you are looking for something lightweight and not too bulky for trail runs or cycling in the desert.

3. Osprey Atmos AG 65 Men’s Backpacking Backpack


  • Anti-Gravity suspension – feels like you are carrying less weight than is in your pack
  • Adjustable harness and Fit-on-the-Fly hipbelt to dial in perfect fit
  • Front stretch mesh pocket for quick storage of rain gear or extra layers
  • Removable floating top lid with dual zippered pockets and web attachment points
  • Internal hydration reservoir sleeve accommodates up to a 3L reservoir (sold separately)
  • Recommended load range: 30-50 lbs. – Pack weight 4.56 lbs. for a size medium at 34.25 x 15.35 x 16.14 in.


The Atmos AG 65 is the best-fitting, most ventilated and comfortable pack ever made for traditional desert backpacking trips up to a week or more in duration. The innovative AntiGravity suspension makes it feel like you’re carrying less weight and seamlessly wraps around your body, which means you’ll enjoy every mile more than ever. From easy to use stretch mesh side pockets, Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment, and FlapJacket for lidless use, the Atmos AG 65 is still the top contender. Backed by our All Mighty Guarantee, forever.


The Osprey Atmos AG65 is an incredibly comfortable backpack – you’ll barely even realize you are wearing it. Thanks to its netted support system, it does not really get in touch with your back, which is ideal especially in those long sweaty hikes in the desert heat.

The anti gravity system also redistributes weight in the bag which means you will be able to carry all of your desert essentials without stuggling. The hydration reservoir sleeve can accomodate up to 3L. You will need to get a reservoir like the Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir, which is sold separately.

4. CamelBak Mule Hydration Pack


  • 8L of cargo storage in top and bottom front pockets
  • Uses 500D Double-rip Cordura Fabric for the ultimate combination of strength and durability
  • Organizer in lower pocket for essential items
  • Low-profile Mountain MOLLE panel on front for secure attachment of accessory pouches
  • Side-release shoulder straps for rapid removal


The most efficient way to carry your water and gear just got better. With a narrow gauge, low-profile design that holds over 8L of cargo the MULE is perfect for short, sharp missions. The included, all new 3L, 100oz Mil Spec Crux Reservoir delivers 25% more water per sip and the new 500D Double-rip Cordura Fabric ensures lasting durability. Internal essentials organization and the new laser cut Mountain MOLLE makes organizing your gear simple and fast.


CamelBak is known to make some of the best hydration packs out there, and the MULE backpack is a great option for those who are looking for something more minimalistic. It is very compact yet comes with solid compartment and allows you to carry plenty of fluids. We recommend this backpack for trail race running, desert bike rides, short desert hikes and marathons.

Desert Hiking Essentials Checklist

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