The day after Christmas 2020, we loaded up our five kids and headed across the country. Destination: Grand Canyon by way of a two-week adventure. I learned some things amid all of the fun we had. One of those things was that it wasn’t even cold and WE. COULD. NOT. PACK. ENOUGH. WATER. for our hikes. We could try but the backpacks quickly filled up. So, when he suggested that we head to Glacier National Park sometime in the beginning of August, my brain kicked into high gear. My number one thought – are water backpacks worth it? And if they are, which brand is best and does the brand even matter. I decided to compare them and share my water backpack reviews with you all.
I wanted all five kids to have their own color so they could easily identify and grab their water backpack. The brand I settled on for the kids, KBNI only had four colors, so I ordered a fifth from a different brand, Miracol for the fifth kid. I ordered a Camelpak from marketplace for an awesome price and then ordered one for me from Rockrain that had plenty of pockets for snacks, allergy medicine, some bandaids, sunscreen, bug spray and a place to clip the bear spray on for me.
Just to compare a few features from the four different brands –
Camelbak – I will start with this one because it’s the most popular brand name for these types of backpacks.
- 3L bladder – I was aiming for big, yet affordable
- Narrow back design – I’m not positive this is the right way to say it, but when you look at all of the backpacks, this tapes up the least back space which allows for more air flowing through on the back
- Easy fill, no zipping it in or out so it’s easily accessible to fill
- Covered hose to help insulate the water in the hose more
- Easy flip on and off spot to be sure the water doesn’t leak
KBNI – this is what I ordered for four of the kids
- Fantastic fit for the kids – every one of them
- Small zippered pocket to store a snack although you could also fit things in the large pocket with the bladder
- Exposed hose isn’t covered/insulated – read on to see if I felt like it made a difference
- 2L bladder
- Bungee strap – this came in handy for extra shoes, trekking poles, sweatshirts
- Cushioned pads for back comfort
- Once in awhile, we would catch one of the kids’ dripping water when they didn’t push their valve closed. It was usually the same kid so we put his hose facing up to help prevent that problem since he kept forgetting
Miracol – this is what I ordered for the fifth kid to give each kid their own color
- 2L bladder
- Front storage pocket – bigger than the ones I bought for the other kids
- Front bungee strap
- Insulated / covered hose
- Aluminum foil insulation layer – not on both sides of the bladder, only on the back side
- Easily adjusts for fit
- Two front buckles
- Wide fill space to easily add ice
Rockrain – this is what I purchased for me
- Tons of extra pockets for storage
- 2.5 L bladder – the website says 2L, but I’m staring at it in my hands and it is 2.5L
- Wide fill space which makes it easy to add in ice to keep it really cold
- Insulated/covered hose
- Two side pockets for extra water bottles or in our case, the bug spray or sunscreen or at one point, the bear spray – until we saw a mama grizzly and her two cubs and I realized I should make that bear spray more accessible, then I hooked it onto the front buckle clip
- 2 front buckles for added comfort. As I mentioned above, I only used the top one, I felt the lower one was higher than felt comfortable to me but it was very comfortable with only the top one buckled
- Nicely padded for comfort on my back
- Can also hold a helmet if you bike
- Aluminum foil insulation layer for added coolness
Just an example of how much I was able to pack into my backpack, here’s a picture. Now, in this case, it was below freezing so there was no water in the bladder in this picture. We went on an awesome winter hike in Canada and stopped halfway through to have soup and hot cocoa in our hammocks for a picnic in the winter. So. Much. Fun.
So – having shared some of the notable features from these four brands – what do I think. I like them all for different reasons. The Camelbak fits the boyfriend well – he’s a bigger guy and was able to be pretty comfortable with this. He’s the one who discovered that if you blow back in before closing the end that you could keep more water out of the hose so your first drinks aren’t warm.
I love my Rockrain for all the reasons – it works great and kept he water cold with plenty of space to carry what this family of seven needs.
For the kids – It’s tough for me to declare a winner, they were all happy with their backpacks. The biggest difference to me was how well we could get them to fit. The four that were the same, only different colors – the KBNI brand – fit my six-year-old as well as the 8, 9 and 10 year-olds equally as well. They are very adjustable. The Miracol doesn’t adjust quite as small. My nine-year-old is one of the tallest kids and it fit him fine, although I wanted it to fit a little more snugly but it still worked great for him and fit him fine. As far as how both kids brands worked – The bladder on the KBNI can sometimes be a bit finicky as you screw the cap back on which is fine because I’m filling them most of the time but if the kids are, sometimes they need a little more help. The opening on the KBNI isn’t as large as the Miracol brand but we were still able to put ice in them, so we were happy with them. On a side note – I had the kids try them out for the week before we left to get use to them. One of the KBNI backpacks – the cover wouldn’t stay on the mouthpiece which was a big deal to me considering how much hiking we intended to do and not covering it felt gross. I emailed the company who responded very fast and immediately sent out a replacement that made it in time for the trip so great customer service if you were to have an issue.
Overall, I’m very happy with all of our backpacks and would buy them all again. I don’t know that the brand made a huge difference in how cold our water stayed or anything else. These backpacks will get a lot of use in the future as well, so if anything changes – I’ll be sure to update the post.