Best Water Bottle Holder

Water bottle carrier for backpack shoulder strap mounting to use while hiking and backpacking

A shoulder strap water bottle holder for hiking and backpacking is the most efficient way to hydrate on the trail. A good water bottle sleeve means you will never have to take your pack off to drink, reach back awkwardly to access a side pocket, or resort to using a clunky, heavy, damage-prone reservoir-plus-tube system. Furthermore, carrying water weight up front optimizes your center of gravity and improves balance. All of the above benefits are why most thru-hikers use a shoulder strap water bottle carrier.

This guide is grounded in a mixture of meta-analysis, field testing, aggregate user-review study, and brand familiarity. However, we have not individually tested every possible combination of water bottle and water bottle holder.

Jump ahead for buyer’s advice. And while you’re here, don’t miss our guide to the best shoulder strap pockets and ultralight water bottles. And be sure to check out our favorite backpacking packs, fastpacks, and daypacks.

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Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Sleeve Quick Picks

Best Water Bottle holder for Smartwater, Various Sizes

Best Water Bottle Holder For Soft Bottles, Ex. Katadyn BeFree.6L, HydraPak .5L

Best Water Bottle Holder for Nalgene 1L & Gatorade 1L 

Best Water Bottle Holder for CNOC Vesica 1L 

a shoulder mounted pocket

Water Bottle Holder Comparison Table

Make/Model Weight (oz) Price ($) Mesh Intended to Fit
Zpacks 0.6 30 Static Smartwater 1L
Virga 0.7 20 Stretch
Soft bottles up to .7L
Outdoor Vitals 0.8 19 Stretch
Soft bottles up to .7L
ULA Flow, 500ml 0.9 25 Static Smartwater .5L
ULA Flow, 700ml 0.9 25 Static Smartwater .7L
ULA Flow, 1000ml 0.9 25 Static Smartwater 1L
Trekker Joe’s 1.0 24 Static Smartwater .7L
HMG 1.2 39 Stretch Smart Water .7L
Gossamer Gear 1.4 22 Stretch Smart Water 1L
CTUG, Short 1.4 30 Static Smart Water .7L
CTUG, Tall 1.6 30 Static Smart Water 1L
CTUG, CNOC 1.6 30 Static CNOC Vesica 1L
CTUG, Wide 1.7 30 Static Nalgene 1L
Best Water Bottle Sleeve

Backpack Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Holder Reviews

Chicken Tramper Water Bottle Sleeve, Short

Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear Water Bottle Sleeve

Chicken Tramper makes the most user-friendly water bottle sleeve on the market. It’s durable, attaches with adjustable height snaps, maintains structure for easy access, and is available in four unique sizes. CTUG sets the gold standard!

  • Price: $30
  • Weight: 1.4-1.7 oz
  • Mesh: Static
  • Attachment: Dual snap clips with adjustable height
  • Bottle Retention: Shock cord cinch closure
  • Intended to Fit: Options for all Smartwater bottles, Nalgene, & CNOC Vesica
  • Pros: Highly rated. Good structure for easy in/out. Adjustable attachment height. Durable. Best size range offering. Highly user-rated.
  • Cons: Heaviest in sleeve class by a small margin.


Hyperlite Mountain Gear The Bottle Pocket

Hyperlite Mountain Gear The Bottle Pocket

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Water Bottle Pocket is high quality, highly user-rated, and good all-around. This model is made with stretch mesh; easier to work with but lower durability. It can fit up to 1L sized Smartwater, but definitely prefers the smaller sized models for a more secure fit.

  • Price: $39
  • Weight: 1.2 oz
  • Mesh: Stretch
  • Attachment: Dual gatekeeper clips
  • Bottle Retention: Shock cord cinch closure
  • Intended to Fit: Smartwater .7L
  • Pros: Good all-arounder. Stretch mesh is easier to use. Highly user rated.
  • Cons: Most expensive. Stretch mesh is less durable. One size fits most.
Zpacks Water Bottle Sleeve

Zpacks Water Bottle Sleeve

The Zpacks Water Bottle Sleeve stands out for being the lightest weight model in our round-up. This is thanks in part to its loop-and-toggle strap attachment mechanism, an unusual outlier in a world dominated by nylon webbing-plus-snap-clips. Nonetheless, you also get dual horizontal elastic bands for sway reduction, and an enlarged opening perimeter for easy in/out. A third loop can be pulled over the neck of your bottle to lock it in place.

  • Price: $30
  • Weight: .6 oz
  • Mesh: Static
  • Attachment: Dual cinchable loop + toggle, dual horizontal elastic bands
  • Bottle Retention: Elastic band loops over bottle neck
  • Intended to Fit: Up to 1L Smartwater bottles
  • Pros: Ultralight. Lightest full size sleeve. Enlarged opening for easy in/out. Horizontal elastic bands reduce sway. Highly user-rated.
  • Cons: Unusual attachment mechanism. One size fits most.
ULA Equipment Flow .7L

ULA Equipment Flow

We nod to ULA Equipment’s water bottle holder design for being ultralight, affordable, and available in all three Smartwater bottle sizes – 500ml, 700ml, and 1000ml. It offers a very secure fit enhanced by a top bottle neck loop which keeps the vessel close to body for optimal carrying physics. We also love the center back Velcro strap to use as an additional attachment point, reducing sway. Our only knock against this one is that the narrower-than-average diameter, in conjunction with the minimally structured top perimeter, makes one-handed bottle insertion a bit difficult.

  • Price: $25
  • Weight: .9 oz
  • Mesh: Static
  • Attachment: Dual snap clips, single center horizontal Velcro band
  • Bottle Retention: Cinchable shock cord loops over bottle neck
  • Intended to Fit: Options for all Smartwater bottle sizes
  • Pros: Ultralight. Secure attachment. Good size range. Good value. Velcro strap reduces sway.
  • Cons: Narrow opening complicates one-handed bottle insertion.

Trekker Joe's water bottle holder

Trekker Joe’s Water Bottle Holder

While most water bottle sleeves are black or dark gray, Trekker Joe’s come in a variety of pop colorways made with durable Challenge UltraGrid and Diver Mesh. Beyond that, it’s another great Smartwater sized sleeve, but better for shorter .7L than taller 1L. This holder in particular is marginally lighter weight, and less expensive than average.

  • Price: $24
  • Weight: 1.0 oz
  • Mesh: Static
  • Attachment: Dual snap clips, single center horizontal Velcro band
  • Bottle Retention: Shock cord loops over bottle neck
  • Intended to Fit: Smartwater .7L
  • Pros: Ultralight. Good value. Fun color pop. Durable.
  • Cons: One size fits most. Narrow sleeve complicates one-handed use.
Gossamer Gear Bottle Rocket

Gossamer Gear Bottle Rocket

The Gossamer Gear Bottle Rocket is a great value pickup and the least expensive model in our water bottle holder round-up. The body is a mixture of Robic nylon and stretch mesh, and in conjunction with a top loop, securely holds Smartwater bottles up to 1L. That being said, it does seem a bit short, and can be difficult to use one handed. Furthermore, the attachment mechanism is unusual, so make sure to double check how it may fit your pack.

  • Price: $22
  • Weight: 1.4 oz
  • Mesh: Stretch
  • Attachment: Adjustable nylon webbing and toggle
  • Bottle Retention: Elastic band loops over bottle neck.
  • Intended to Fit: Smartwater .7L
  • Pros: Good price. Highly user-rated.
  • Cons: Narrow opening complicates one-handed bottle insertion. Stretch mesh is less durable. Unusual hard attachment mechanism.
Outdoor Vitals Shoulder Strap Pocket

Outdoor Vitals Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Pocket

We like the Outdoor Vitals water bottle carrier specifically because of how well it fits a Katadyn BeFree .6L. This one is more of a pocket and less of a narrow Smartwater sized sleeve, which better accommodates a soft bottle’s girth. The stretch mesh seems durable enough, albeit less so than static mesh. Its cinchable top keeps your soft bottle in place. Biggest downside is that the wider width and shorter chassis make it less ideal for carrying tall and narrow bottles, like Smartwater.

  • Price: $19
  • Weight: .8 oz
  • Mesh: Stretch
  • Attachment: 1 top snap clip, dual horizontal elastic bands
  • Bottle Retention: Top cinch closure
  • Intended to Fit: Soft bottles up to .7L
  • Pros: Ultralight. Fits soft bottles like Katadyn BeFree .6L. Easy in/out. Good price. Horizontal sleeves reduce sway. Also good for carrying snacks.
  • Cons: Stretch mesh is less durable. Doesn’t work as well for hard Smartwater shapes. No hard attachment point on bottom.
Virga Packing Company Shoulder Strap Pocket

Virga Shoulder Strap Water Bottle Pocket

The Virga Packing Company water bottle pocket is made with durable Venom stretch mesh, akin to ULTRA stretch mesh. This is another short/wide model designed to carry soft bottles like Katadyn BeFree .6L rather than tall and narrow bottles like Smartwater. The gathered opening perimeter has a stretch pull, but is not adjustable via cinching and likely requires two hands for in/out access due to its narrower-than-average top.

  • Price: $20
  • Weight: .7 oz
  • Mesh: Stretch
  • Attachment: Top gatekeeper clip, dual horizontal elastic bands
  • Bottle retention: non-cinchable elastic rim
  • Intended to Fit: Soft bottles up to .7L
  • Pros: Ultralight. Fits soft bottles like HydraPak .5L. Easy in/out. Good value. Durable form of stretch mesh. Also good for carrying snacks.
  • Cons:  Doesn’t work as well for Smartwater shapes. No hard attachment point on bottom. Slightly pre-cinched opening, no adjustability. May require two hands to use.
Best Water Bottle Holder from ULA equipment

Buyer Advice

Double check how your water bottle holder will connect to your pack

Before making a purchase, it’s imperative that you double check attachment compatibility by visually inspecting the configuration of your intended backpack’s shoulder straps. Never assume there will be a match! Does your pack have daisy chains, webbing straps, or other styles of attachment point? How will your desired water bottle sleeve connect? Does the manufacturer lists brands they are known to be compatible with?

Which exact hydration vessel will you be storing in your water bottle sleeve?

Smartwater 1L, .7L, 5L, CNOC Vesica, Nalgene, Gatorade, Katadyn BeFree .6L, HydraPak .5L, or something else entirely? We recommend starting with your preferred vessel, and then pairing it with a water bottle carrier, rather than vice versa. Notably, not all body types can easily accommodate shoulder strap mounting a 1L bottle. Doing so may work well for longer torsos, but shorter people may find them awkward, and should likely stick to smaller bottles, such as Smartwater .5 or .7L.

Pair a water bottle carrier with a gear storage pocket

Check out our guide to shoulder strap pockets, where you will discover phone and gear storage options to attach on the opposite side of your water bottle carrier.

Best Water Bottle Sleeve

Conclusion

Thank you for reading this buyer’s guide where we hope you found your next backpack water bottle holder for hiking. Each model here will serve you well, and collectively, accomodate virtually every possible water bottle you may wish to hike in. Drop us a line in the comments if there is a water bottle sleeve you think we may have missed. Happy hiking!

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