Where to find it:
Platypus Kayak Hydrator
Who wants to be stuck sucking suds in the Potomac? The no-frills Kayak Hydrator (third from left; 60 fl. oz., no cargo space) can be snapped to a boat's deck or stashed in the cockpit for a clean shot of water even in the nastiest of brown runoff. A bladder made from three-layer flavorless polyurethane features a user-friendly bite valve with a soft nozzle--you could easily keep it in your teeth through an Eskimo roll. Closed-cell foam insulation keeps liquids cool, and a pair of narrow shoulder straps makes it easy to haul the system when it's time for a little land-based exploration. One caveat: Lean on the bladder hard and you can make the bite valve leak, so don't stow it in your drybag with your fleece jacket.
Eastern Mountain Sports Waterslide $75
If you happen to be one of those cash-poor folks who worked for ILostMyJob.com, send a thank-you note to Eastern Mountain Sports. With the Waterslide (second from right; 100 fl. oz., 1,550 cu. in.) they've eliminated the need to buy more than one pack. Indeed, the Waterslide is two packs in one. This hybrid design lets users pull a streamlined, bikeable hydration system out of a larger rucksack. Feel like hiking? The daypack has room for a box lunch, notebooks, a camera, and raingear. Want to squeeze in a road ride? The smaller pack has a mesh pocket appropriate for small bike sundries, and the X-strap of bungee cord is perfect for lashing on a shell or a vest. While the Waterslide might not be the most ergonomic pack on the market, it's certainly the most versatile.
Most of us need to perform with aplomb in both the natural world and urbania. To that end, the gearheads at Hydrapak designed the Keg (far right; 100 fl. oz., 1,310 cu. in.). A traveling office with pockets for your laptop, PDA, and cell phone, it's also roomy enough to load with a cookset, sleeping bag, and pad instead. Don't worry about stowing water in the same compartment as your electronics; there's a separate sleeve for the bladder that's accessible through a clever hatch in the foam back. Hydrapak's drybag-style reservoir is so simple to clean we'd consider filling it with a sports drink (although the mouthpiece, which requires you to tongue a little button to drink, is annoying). A built-in rain fly keeps your gear dry on Wall Street or the Ho Chi Minh Trail.