With very few unnecessary bells and whistles, the Hydra is a practical women-specific day pack that distributes weight well and allows you to move fast and free on the trails.
- Great stabilizing frame in a lightweight pack
- Quick drying back panel
- Good volume to weight ratio
- Sternum strap lacks elastic adjustability
- Shoulder straps could be softer
North Face Women's Hydra 26 Daypack: first impressions
Made specifically for the female form, like all of our featured best women’s hiking backpacks, the North Face Women's Hydra 26 Daypack features best-in-class load lifters, a real boon for a pack as light as this. Usually, stability is the first aspect sacrificed when reducing material weight, but Northface pulls off the trick with great success. Weight distribution into the hips spares the wearer aching shoulders and keeps the pack snug on your back without endless fiddling around and making adjustments. Other endearing features in this backpack include a large stash pocket in the front for safe storage of all your smaller hiking essentials, a full-trampoline back panel that enhances airflow when you’re working up a sweat, an integrated hydration sleeve, and a T6 aluminum frame that provides enhanced load control whilst giving the user ample freedom of movement. The Hydra 26’s back panel also uses the North Face’s FlashDry fabric, which wicks sweat away from your body quickly when hiking in high temps. The only potential drawback of note is the pack’s use of a cinch closure at the top - while this does provide easy, one-handed access to the main compartment, it does leave a small gap when the pack's fully loaded, which is not ideal, of course, if you’re planning on doing any wet-weather hiking.
• RRP: $149.95 (US)/£109 (UK)
• Weight: 30oz/850g
• Volume: 26L
• Compatibility: Day hiking, scrambling
• Colors: Urban navy
North Face Women's Hydra 26 Daypack: on the trails
We found that the shoulder straps (see: parts of a backpack) themselves could feel scratchy at times and the sternum strap, while perfectly functional, uses old-school nylon straps in place of the elastic materials some newer packs use. Nonetheless, the pack fit was spot-on once we had made all the initial adjustments and made ourselves comfortable.
Because of the streamlined, no-frills design, the pack features are pretty much standard issue and nothing to write home about. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the standout feature is the comfort of the aluminum frame rather than the pocket layout or exterior strap setup. The waistbelt does feature a nice map and compass and/or snack pocket, with wide zipper pulls, an intuitive touch that we think is well worth the slight weight penalty on an otherwise ultra-light pack.
As mentioned above, this pack's quirky closure did cause us a few concerns - unless you're carrying a separate rain cover, you'll always be worried about H2O sneaking inside the pack via the small gap left behind at the top of the pack when it's stuffed to the brim.
The best-selling author of five Colorado mountain hiking guidebooks, including Best Summit Hikes in Colorado, James’ work has been published in National Geographic, Backpacker, Outside, Discover Magazine, and many more. He's climbed in Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, Japan, and Antarctica. James lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Sheila and their two rescue collies, Mystic and Fremont. As of 2021, he's only had one of his tents trampled by a moose.
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