Gear Review: R.E.I. Hydration Ski Pack

R.E.I. is no stranger to the outdoor market, and their backpacks show that they have paid attention to details. In addition to carrying other brands, R.E.I. has their own line of equipment. Snowshoe Magazine chose to look at R.E.I.’s Hydration Ski Pack to see how it stacks up to the competition.

The design team at R.E.I. made the Hydration Ski Pack with snow lovers in mind. First they designed it with a ski or snowshoe carrying system of no-slip top buckles and hook-and-loop bottom straps. These straps are adjustable to fit any number of winter accessories such as shovels, skis, probes, and snowshoes. Another good feature is that you can still access the inside of the pack while your snowshoes are strapped on. You can tell that the designers tried to anticipate the needs of snowshoers and make the pack user friendly. R.E.I. is promoting this pack by saying, “for those who like to explore lift-served areas with forays into the backcountry.”

As the name says, one of the many features in this pack is a hydration system. This is an important, almost necessary feature that can separate a backpack from its competitors. The R.E.I. pack has a two-liter reservoir included with the pack that can be accessed through the back panel for fast refills. The hose is routed through the shoulder strap to prevent freeze-up on those long winter treks. Another convenient feature is a top pocket lined with fleece. Made to hold a MP3 player, this pocket can house anything from sunglasses to a cell phone.

The U shaped aluminum rod frame gives plenty of support without being too rigid or poking you in the back. The sturdy frame and the waist belt made carrying heavy loads a breeze. It is constructed of water resistant polyester and weighs only 2 lbs 5 oz. The interior volume is estimated at 1,300 cubic inches, plenty of room for stowing extra layers and your lunch.

One potential drawback to snowshoers is that this backpack is not waterproof. Although it is water resistant, when I dipped it in water the water leaked in through the seams and through the headphone jack opening at the top. The pack was resistant to snow, but this isn’t a pack you can take out in the summer when there is a threat of rain. If you are looking for an all season backpack, this probably isn’t the one. My suggestion is that if you intend to bring anything valuable on your winter excursion, buy a small waterproof pouch and pack your items in that before you throw them into the backpack. Then you will have the piece of mind that they are protected against any moisture. This is much safer and smarter than wrapping your iPod in a t-shirt.

This pack sells for $89 at R.E.I. stores and is affordable when you consider the hydration system, the durable construction, and the sturdy internal frame. If being waterproof is a must, R.E.I. offers many other choices depending on your price range. For more information or to shop the rest of R.E.I. products go to


  • Judy Nugent is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast from Chicago. In addition to snowshoeing, Judy enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, and exploring the Wisconsin wilderness. Her articles and photography can be found in several regional publications.