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REI Co-op Trail Hydro 20L Review

A comfortable, affordable daypack, but is heavy and has a small water capacity
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Price:  $90 List | $89.95 at REI
Pros:  Comfortable, inexpensive, large storage volume
Cons:  Heavy, small water capacity
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Nick Bruckbauer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 7, 2020
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 15
  • Ease of Drinking - 20% 5
  • Ease of Filling - 20% 8
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Storage - 20% 9
  • Weight - 10% 4
  • Ease of Cleaning - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Trail Hydro 20L is an intriguing option for an affordable hydration pack, but ultimately falls short of our top picks because of its heavier weight and its smaller water capacity. The Trail Hydro is equipped with comfortable shoulder straps, a supportive back panel, and enough storage space to last all day, but is also one of the heaviest options in our lineup and only includes a 2-liter water capacity - which is pretty small for a large 20-liter pack size. While its affordable price makes it a solid option for budget-conscious buyers, we think most folks will find better options in our lineup with similar or lower prices.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Trail Hydro 20L scores pretty well across the board with its comfortable build, huge 20-liter volume, and innovative bladder sleeve, but ultimately suffers from its weight and small water capacity. Users looking for a well-padded back panel and shoulder straps and plenty of storage space in an affordable package will appreciate this design.

Performance Comparison


The Trail Hydro 20 is an affordable  comfortable pack with a huge 20-liter storage capacity.
The Trail Hydro 20 is an affordable, comfortable pack with a huge 20-liter storage capacity.

Ease of Drinking


The Trail Hydro 20 comes with a 2-liter HydraPak Elite drinking reservoir connected to the HydraPak Blaster bite valve. This or a similar combination of HydraPak hardware is found on a number of packs in our lineup. The solid performance and easy use of the HydraPak system are what you would expect from a top manufacturer.

Similar to what is found on competitor models  the HydraPak hydration system is easy to drink from.
Similar to what is found on competitor models, the HydraPak hydration system is easy to drink from.

Where this model suffers a bit is with its scant 2-liter water capacity. This is one of the smallest water capacities in our entire lineup and is surprising to see on what is one of the largest backpacks that we've reviewed. The smaller capacity means that you'll need to stop and refill more frequently, which is an obvious inconvenience.

The 2-liter HydraPak reservoir (far right) is one of the smallest capacities in our lineup and is surprising for such a large pack.
The 2-liter HydraPak reservoir (far right) is one of the smallest capacities in our lineup and is surprising for such a large pack.

One other minor demerit for this model is that there is no secure attachment point on the pack for the Blaster bite valve. There are keeper loops on each shoulder strap and a plastic clip at the sternum strap for the drinking hose, but this still leaves about 10 inches of the end of the hose unsecured. While this likely won't be a huge concern for most casual users, it is worth noting that most other competitors have a better way of securing the bite valve while you're on the go to minimize tube flop.

While there are keeper loops and a plastic clip to help secure the drinking hose  there is no attachment point for the bite valve.
While there are keeper loops and a plastic clip to help secure the drinking hose, there is no attachment point for the bite valve.

Ease of Filling


The Trail Hydro earns high scores in this metric because of its innovative hydration pocket design. The Quickload pocket protects the hydration bladder on all four sides with hard-sided panels that fold away when not needed. This design, along with a velcro hanging loop makes accessing and removing the bladder really easy. Although the drinking hose doesn't have a quick-release button found on some other high-end models, we've found that refilling the bladder is easy enough without having to entirely remove the hose from the pack, especially with its folding wide-mouth opening.

The Quickload hydration pocket can be folded out of the way when not in use.
The two side panels with the orange tabs fold into place to give the Quickload hydration pocket rigid four-sided protection.
The Quickload hydration pocket and the velcro hanging loop make accessing and removing the bladder a breeze.

Comfort


The Trail Hydro is one of the most comfortable models that we tested with its thick, luxurious padding on the back panel and shoulder straps. This padding is soft enough to be comfortable, yet firm enough to be able to support heavy loads with ease.

The thick  luxurious padding is comfortable on any terrain.
The thick, luxurious padding is comfortable on any terrain.

The only drawback to this design is that it doesn't provide much ventilation for the back or shoulders. While the back panel has some airflow channels between the four different panels of padding, this wasn't sufficient for keeping our back from getting sweaty, especially when the pack was fully loaded.

The dense padding on the back panel and shoulder straps doesn't provide much ventilation.
The dense padding on the back panel and shoulder straps doesn't provide much ventilation.

Storage


With one of the largest storage volumes in our lineup that pushes the boundaries of what we would consider a hydration pack, the Trail Hydro has a huge 20-liter capacity. With one cavernous main storage compartment, this pack doesn't have the multitude of pockets and organization features found on other models, but an internal zippered mesh pocket below the lid and an external zippered storage pocket provide enough space to keep smaller items like your wallet, phone, and keys separate from the main storage space.

In addition to the large main storage compartment  one internal and one external zippered pocket provides some space for smaller items.
In addition to the large main storage compartment, one internal and one external zippered pocket provides some space for smaller items.

While the hard-sided Quickload hydration pocket seems to take up a lot of space within the main storage compartment, we've found that there's still a ton of room to stash jackets, a hat and gloves, an extra pair of shoes, or other cargo you need for your adventure. The outside of the pack also has several daisy chain attachment points as well as a mesh water bottle sleeve on each side, adding additional capacity and utility.

The Trail Hydro 20 has external daisy chain attachments for securing additional gear to the outside of the pack.
The Trail Hydro 20 has external daisy chain attachments for securing additional gear to the outside of the pack.

Weight


At a measured 2 pounds 2.6 ounces, the Trail Hydro finds itself among some of the heaviest models in our lineup. This is somewhat surprising given that it forgoes a lot of the extra storage features found on many of the other heavy competitors, but the thick padding on the back panel and in the shoulder straps is heavier and denser than what is found on most other models.

The Trail Hydro is one of the largest and heaviest packs in our lineup  thanks to its thick  dense padding on the back panel and shoulder straps.
The Trail Hydro is one of the largest and heaviest packs in our lineup, thanks to its thick, dense padding on the back panel and shoulder straps.

Ease of Cleaning


The Trail Hydro receives respectable scores in this metric thanks to the easy access to the hydration bladder through the Quickload hydration pocket, and the wide-mouth opening of the bladder itself. The 2-liter HydraPak Elite reservoir can be turned completely inside out and is conveniently dishwasher safe, making it easy to keep the system clean and fresh.

Value


This is a comfortable, supportive, high-volume pack with a bunch of clever design features and quite a reasonable price. While there are other options that have a similar size and features for a similar or lower price, we still think that this provides a great value, especially given the after-purchase support provided by REI.

The Trail Hydro 20 is a large  comfortable pack at a great price.
The Trail Hydro 20 is a large, comfortable pack at a great price.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Trail Hydro 20L is one of the largest hydration packs in our lineup, and provides a comfortable design to make hauling heavy loads a breeze. Although the pack is on the heavier side, and the hydration bladder capacity is on the lower side, this is still a capable model at a great price that is well-suited for casual hiking and general all-around use.


Nick Bruckbauer