One wag has noted that Camelbak represents one of the most successful marketing efforts in history, having convinced millions of people that a $75 hydration pack" is superior to an $8 Nalgene bottle.
Im pretty ambivalent about Camelbaks and other bladder-based watering systems (what a funny phrase: bladder-based"). I use one occasionally on mountain-biking trips when a couple of water bottles on the bike frame arent enough (plus my dualie has practical space for only one bottle). That way I can carry fluids plus a jacket and lunch. Once in a while Ill use a bladder with a backpack, but Im usually happier with a water bottle. I just like the ritual of stopping, taking off the pack, flopping on the ground, and having a nice drink. Sipping through a tube while marching along makes it all seem too much like Im racing in The Raid (www.theraid.org) or something.
That said, a pretty good hike/bike hydration pack is the Ultimate Direction Teocalli ($100; www.ultimatedirection.com), which can be configured to carry about 600 cubic inches of gearbarely enough for a minimalist day hike, but its something. Camelbaks H.A.W.G. ($100; www.camelbak.com) has a little more capacity, although you risk too big a load to bicycle comfortably. But its the better choice for day-hiking. The North Faces Megamouth ($95; www.thenorthface.com) is a little larger yet (1,100 cubic inches).
I simply wouldnt recommend a hydration pack for youngsters. I think trying to manage a bike is challenging enough, without giving a child something else to do, like trying to get a drink while riding. In any event, I just cant imagine a trip thats arduous enough for an 8-year-old to require constant fluid replenishment. A water bottle in a small daypackbetter yet, in dads pack!should be fine for nearly any outing.
Get more advice from the Gear Guy as he picks this seasons top gifts in Away.coms Holiday Gift Guide. Youll probably find a few things to put on your own wish list, too.