As we ease into summer and temperatures skyrocket, it's important to stay hydrated during your favorite outdoor activity. Electrolyte mixes are great for this, but let's be frank: if you don't like the taste, you probably won't drink it.
That's why we gathered a group of testers who regularly use hydration mixes to participate in a month-long side-by-side taste comparison of 10 brands and 23 flavors. We ranked them by brand, with flavor being the most important consideration, followed by package portability and the mix’s ability to dissolve in water, so you know what to expect if you want to use it on the go. These are the results, ranked from best to least favorite.
Best All-Around: Gnarly Nutrition
Flavors Tested: Raspberry, Orange Pineapple
Gnarly's hydration mixes were a fan favorite during our taste test, and the raspberry flavor was the most liked of the bunch. It's rich, juicy, and refreshing, tasting more like raspberries picked fresh from our backyard than an overly-sweet, artificial fruit. Our only complaint? Gnarly's hydration mix only comes in three flavors--we'd love more options.
Best for Salt Fans: LMNT
Flavors Tested: Watermelon Salt, Citrus Salt, Mango Chili
LMNT was a bit more divisive than less sodium-heavy brands--some people absolutely loved them, and others puckered their lips at the infusion of salt and tart flavors. But if you're a salt fiend, you're in for a treat. LMNT's flavors are delicious and satisfying; we've been testing the drink during 90-degree temps in Salt Lake City and reach for it again and again when we feel sluggish or dehydrated.
The packaging is also the smallest and most portable on this list--it's slim and short and can fit in any pocket in your running vest or even your shorts. Another bonus: It makes a damn good margarita mixer.
Best for Everyday Use: Skratch Labs
Flavors Tested: Raspberry Limeade, Lemon-Lime, Strawberry Lemonade, Peach
Sometimes subtlety is the name of the game, especially when bold, punchy flavors may not sit well in the stomach like on a long run or a hike in 100-degree temps. That's where Skratch comes in; its flavors taste like sliced fresh fruit tossed in water, bright, light, and insanely refreshing. Skratch is a great everyday option because it has a third of the sodium as other brands like Pedialyte and LMNT, and although it doesn't have the initial "wow" factor as some other flavors, it's the kind of taste that grows on you with each sip.
One note: While Skratch powders are tasty and portable, we experienced some issues when dissolving them in water. According to Skratch Labs, this happens because it uses real fruit for flavoring, which might result in some pulp or electrolyte salts lingering in your bottle after mixing. This only happened with some flavors, like the peach, while other powders dissolved just fine.
Best for Hot Days: Liquid IV
Flavors Tested: Passionfruit, Lemon-Lime
Liquid IV's electrolyte mixes strike a perfect balance between salty and sweet. The flavors are a bit more artificial tasting than the brands above, but equally delicious. The passionfruit--our favorite--is complex and tropical, but if you want a simple, refreshing drink, the lemon-lime will quench your thirst on a hot day.
Best for Long Days: Pedialyte Sport
Flavors Tested: Lemon-Lime
You may know Pedialyte as the ultimate hangover cure, but they also make an electrolyte mix tailored to exercise. Their Pedialyte Sport has that classic sports drink flavor, but with a more muted flavor and a big hit of salt. All this to say: it doesn't leave a sugary aftertaste in your mouth, just a hint of salty citrus.
Best For Backpacking: Nuun
Flavors Tested: Tropical, Mango Orange, Watermelon
Nuun is known for changing the electrolyte game when it created fizzing tablets over a decade ago. Since then, it has become a go-to for backpackers and runners alike. The tropical flavor is delightful and refreshing, giving hints of pineapple and guava, while the mango orange is fruity with a slight effervescent feeling on the tongue. Both of these flavors are offered in caffeinated and non-caffeinated varieties.
Nuun isn't higher on the list because its flavors are pretty hit or miss. (While we loved the tropical flavor, for example, watermelon was mediocre.) And although the canisters hold 10 tabs and are great for a backpacking trip, they're not the most portable for runs and bikes.
Best Throwback: Gatorade Endurance Formula
Flavors Tested: Lemon-Lime, Watermelon
Gatorade is a household name--you can probably conjure up the syrupy taste of a Glacier Freeze enjoyed during your middle school rec league baseball game. We tested the brand's Endurance Formula, which has a lighter, less sweet taste than these traditional Gatorade beverages. The nostalgia factor is still there, but it appeals to a more adult palate. We especially liked the watermelon flavor, which is light with a super-sour punch.
Gatorade won the taste test over Pedialyte (which has a similar flavor but is a bit saltier), but we moved it down the ranks because it's not very portable--it comes in 49-gram bags compared to Pedialyte's 14 gram--and doesn't dissolve well in cold water. The amount of mix in the pouches is too large for the average 16 oz water bottle (they recommend you use 24 oz of water), so you may find yourself with a half-opened packet of loose powder in your bag or an oversaturated beverage.
Best Deal: Ultima
Flavors Tested: Passionfruit, Lemon
Ultima's hydration mixes are great for people with a sweet tooth, but they ranked low on the list because they are too sweet for those looking for a light refresher. The classic lemon flavor tastes like sweetened lemonade, while passionfruit tastes like a sweet tea beverage you'd buy at a gas station. But, with the added benefit of hydrating electrolytes, these mixes are a great substitution for those sugary drinks. They're also more affordable than other options on this list: 20 mix packets run around $20 (compared to $25 for 14 packets from Liquid IV).
Best for Long Runs: Tailwind
Flavors Tested: Mandarin
For athletes that struggle to keep down calories during exercise, Tailwind's products are known for being easy on the stomach, making them good race-day fuel. But when it comes to flavor, we think they have some work to do--most testers consistently ranked it near the bottom of the list. The flavor is flat and hard to pinpoint because it's neither sweet nor salty, but it's also not quite refreshing. The one main draw is that, at 100 calories per serving, they are more calorie-dense than the other products on this list, so you can use them as a meal replacement during a long run or bike ride.
Best for Sweet Tooths: Honey Stinger
Flavors Tested: Tangerine, Mango Melon, Berry Defense
We love the Honey Stinger waffles, so we wanted to love these powders, but we would be lying if we said we liked these. The flavors are overly sweet (one tester said it tastes like a lollipop in drink form), and the powder clumps when mixed it into water. But if you are trying to kick a soda habit or get your kids to drink more water, these electrolyte mixes may work for you.
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