Last Updated on January 25, 2023

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

Features

The CamelBak Sparta Hydration Pack is the perfect companion for all your single day adventures. With a 3L, 100oz Mil Spec Crux Lumbar Reservoir, the pack delivers 25% more water per sip. The low rider technology uses a lumbar reservoir to move the water weight low for increased stability and a lower center of gravity. The pack is constructed of 500D Double-Rip Cordura fabric for long lasting durability.

The front and sides of the pack feature laser-cut Mountain MOLLE panels for secure attachment of accessory pouches. The main compartment has a four-zipper, full clamshell opening, and the webbing waistbelt has a lumbar adjustment that stows when not in use. The pack also has multiple drink tube exit ports, allowing the tube to be routed over the shoulder or under an arm.

Review

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

Features

The T3 Tactical Reload Hydration Backpack is a premium military hydration backpack that is perfect for any outdoor enthusiast. The pack can hold a 100-ounce water bladder, and it features 2 medium-sized pockets for gear storage, as well as a built-in pouch for two 5.56 mags. The pack is constructed of 500-denier CORDURA, which is known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear.

This backpack also features rugged reverse stitching and a T3 Maritime MOLLE closure system, which keeps your gear secure as you move into wild territories. The backpack is designed to be comfortable and easy to carry, with adjustable chest, waist, and padded shoulder straps that help to avoid rubbing while running. The pack is perfect for hiking, camping, hunting, and any other outdoor activities. The T3 Tactical Reload Hydration Backpack is available in 4 different colors.

Review

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

Features

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 Men’s Backpacking Backpack is a top choice for desert hikers. The pack’s Anti-Gravity suspension provides a comfortable and secure fit, making it feel like you are carrying less weight than is actually in your pack. The adjustable harness and Fit-on-the-Fly hipbelt allows you to dial in the perfect fit for your body, which means you’ll enjoy every mile more than ever. T

he front stretch mesh pocket is great for quick storage of rain gear or extra layers, and the removable floating top lid has dual zippered pockets and web attachment points for additional storage. The pack also has an internal hydration reservoir sleeve that can accommodate up to a 3L reservoir (sold separately). With a recommended load range of 30-50 lbs and a pack weight of 4.56 lbs for a size medium, this backpack is built for traditional desert backpacking trips of up to a week or more in duration.

Review

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

Features

The CamelBak Mule Hydration Pack is a great option for desert hikers who are looking for a minimalistic and efficient way to carry their water and gear. The pack has 8L of cargo storage in top and bottom front pockets, and it uses 500D Double-rip Cordura Fabric for the ultimate combination of strength and durability.

The pack also has an organizer in the lower pocket for essential items, and a low-profile Mountain MOLLE panel on the front for secure attachment of accessory pouches. The side-release shoulder straps make it easy to remove the pack quickly. The pack also includes a new 3L, 100oz Mil Spec Crux Reservoir that delivers 25% more water per sip.

Review

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 Backpack FAQs

What is the best type of backpack for desert hiking?

The best type of backpack for desert hiking is a hydration pack or a backpack specifically designed for desert hiking. Hydration packs are equipped with a built-in water reservoir and are designed to keep water easily accessible while also having room for other gear. Backpacks specifically designed for desert hiking often have ventilation and comfort features to keep the wearer cool and comfortable during the hike. They are also made of durable and water-resistant materials to withstand harsh desert conditions.

Can I use a regular backpack in the desert?

A regular backpack can be used in the desert, but it may not be as efficient as a hydration pack for carrying water and keeping it easily accessible. A regular backpack will also not have the same ventilation and comfort features that are designed for desert hiking. It is recommended to use a backpack specifically designed for desert hiking or a hydration pack for the best experience.

What are the requirements for a backpack to run the Marathon des Sables?

The specific requirements for a Marathon des Sables backpack may vary every year, but generally, backpacks must have a capacity of at least 20 liters and be able to carry food and water for at least 6 days. The backpack must also be able to carry mandatory gear such as a survival blanket, whistle, and first aid kit.

Desert Hiking Essentials Checklist

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