When doing any athletic activity–especially for long periods like running–you must stay hydrated. If you’re at the gym, you can carry your bottle with you and put it on the machine you’re using, but what about when running?
The following ways to carry water when running are ultra-convenient:
- Hydration pack
- Hydration belt
- Handheld bottle holder
In this guide, we’ll go over the pros and cons of hydration packs, belts, and more as well as recommend some of our favorite products so you can stay hydrated whether you’re running a 5K or an ultramarathon!
3 Options for Carrying Water on Your Runs
This is something we’ve discussed on the blog a few times in the past before, but if you’re new here, we’ll repeat it again. When running, it’s ideal if your hands are free. Yes, we recommended a handheld bottle holder in the intro, but you really want your hands open for a few reasons.
For one, you’re at no risk of dropping whatever you’re holding, often your smartphone but perhaps an MP3 player or an iPod if you’re a little old school. More importantly, your arms are unobstructed during your run.
If you’ve ever noticed that your arms swing when you hit your stride, this is on purpose. Your arm movement provides much-needed balance to your body. Beyond that, you can maintain your stride rhythm, move forward with ease, yet use less energy when your arms move.
That’s why most of the products we’ll suggest are arms-free, hands-free solutions, starting with a hydration pack. Hydration packs are vest-like wearable gear that can hold water. Some hydration packs have pockets or openings for a water bottle while others include a bladder or reservoir built right into the pack.
If your hydration pack does have a reservoir, then it will also include a mouth–complete with cap–for closing the “bottle,” so to speak, and for refilling when necessary. The point of the reservoir is so you can drink without having to fumble with a water bottle in the midst of your run.
You don’t get that benefit if your hydration pack merely has a water bottle holder. Even still, you’re not carrying your bottle in your hand, which is a good thing.
Our Recommended Products
There are plenty of awesome hydration packs to consider whether you’re just getting into running or you’re more serious and dedicated to the hobby. Here are three of our favorite picks.
- CamelBak Nano Running Hydration Vest
CamelBak is a trusted name in bags and backpacks, so their Nano Running Hydration Vest shouldn’t disappoint. The vest boasts 3D Micro Mesh for airflow from several directions at once. The straps at the sternum are also fully adjustable so you can wear your Nano your way.
The wealth of pockets includes one stretch overflow pocket as well as a secure pocket with a zipper for keeping your phone close. CamelBak even throws in a trekking pole, which is removable if you find that you don’t need it.
Bring double the hydration on your runs, as the Nano can hold dual Quick Stow flasks, each 500 milliliters for a total of 1,000 milliliters of hydration on your person. If you’d rather just take one bottle with you, then you can use the other hydration pocket for snacks.
The Nano is protected under CamelBak’s Bak Lifetime Guarantee, which promises that manufacturing defects in the accessories, bottles, backpack, or reservoir will be swiftly replaced.
The CamelBak Nano Running Hydration Vest costs $120. It’s available in Graphite and Sulfur Spring or Nautical Blue with black.
- Salomon Advanced Skin 5-Set Hydration Vest
We’ve recommended the Salomon Advanced Skin on the blog before, but it’s worth discussing again. Suggested for trail runners, the Advanced Skin can hold five liters of all your essentials, not necessarily just water. It includes six main compartments, one of which has a stretch compartment complete with a side opening that zips.
One of the low pockets at the back lets you access it in two ways so you can easily grab your keys, phone, snack, or whatever you want. The back compartment has a mesh pocket, and there are two stretch pockets at the top and two more stretch pockets at the front.
Of course, you’re here for the hydration, and Salomon knows that. Two front flask pockets are made with securing loops for keeping your bottles intact on those more strenuous runs.
With Sensifit design, the Advanced Skin has better weight-loading while not sacrificing comfort. This hydration vest could be your perfect companion for your upcoming marathon.
The Salomon Advanced Skin 5-Set Hydration Vest costs $145. It’s available in two colors, Ebony or Poseidon/Night Sky.
- Nathan QuickStart
One of the more renowned hydration packs is the Nathan QuickStart, and rightfully so. This pack includes a 1.5-liter hydration bladder and has a four-liter storage capacity. When you remove the bladder, the pack weighs a very light 5.5 ounces. With the bladder, the weight of the QuickStart is only 9.5 ounces, which isn’t bad.
Besides the hydration bladder, the QuickStart also includes a main back pocket with zippers that has layers for hiding your valuables as well as a front pocket and two more storage pockets around front, one of which is zippered. The main front pocket can fit a flask up to 22 ounces so you can carry even more water with you on your runs.
The side and front straps of this hydration pack are both adjustable for a customized fit for men and women. That said, Nathan does state that the pack runs small in size, so keep that in mind when ordering yours!
The Nathan QuickStart costs $70 and comes in blue or black.
Hydration packs are made for holding water bottles or flasks, something that you can’t always say about backpacks. The hydration packs with bladders let you drink without using your hands and even without stopping your run (although we would recommend you slow down so you don’t choke!).
Many hydration packs on the market today are pretty inexpensive, costing around $100, so it won’t break the bank to add this gear to your collection of running equipment.
Depending on the hydration pack, how much water you can bring with you fluctuates. You’d have to shop carefully if you get especially thirsty on your runs, as you don’t want to find out halfway through the trail that you don’t have enough water.
Also, some hydration packs only have pockets or holders for water bottles rather than a built-in bladder, making them glorified backpacks.
The biggest downside to wearing a hydration pack is that you need to adjust to the extra weight, which can take time. Check out that link for tips on adding weights to your run, as it will come in handy if you purchase a hydration pack!
Your second option for carrying water on a run is to wear a hydration belt. Sitting around your natural waist like a fanny pack would, hydration belts have loops, straps, and/or pockets for you to attach a water bottle.
Although you might think that you wouldn’t get as much of a hydration capacity compared to a hydration pack, you’d be surprised! Hydration belts can carry as much as 20 ounces of water, which should be more than enough to get you through your everyday runs and perhaps even a short marathon. Other pockets across a hydration belt let you hide your phone, cash, cards, and maybe some small snacks as well.
Our Recommended Products
If you’re considering a hydration belt, check out these highly-rated options.
- Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure Waist Pack
If you get especially thirsty on your runs, don’t miss the Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure Waist Pack. The “Ultimate” in this waist pack’s name is certainly well-earned, as you can carry 20 ounces of water courtesy of dual pockets capable of holding 10-ounce water bottles apiece.
Other pockets across this waist pack are movable and intended for bringing snacks, your phone, and even other small electronics. Even better is the bungee system included with the Jurek, as you can now attach hats, gloves, and other cold-weather gear to your waist pack. Reflective features throughout the pack make you visible in dark conditions, another helpful feature.
The Ultimate Direction Jurek Endure Waist Pack costs $40 and comes in black and gray with orange accents.
- Nathan Hydration Running Belt Trail Mix Plus
The second waist pack we suggest is the Nathan Hydration Running Belt Trail Mix Plus. Like the Ultimate Direction waist pack, the Trail Mix Plus can carry two 10-ounce bottles. The storage pouch is for everything from car keys to food gels and smartphones like the iPhone 6 through 8 or any other smartphone measuring 6.5 inches.
This waist belt is made of a gentle monofilament material that stretches and moves with your body. Even still, you can adjust the Trail Mix Plus so it stays secure as you push the limits of your running speed and performance.
The Nathan Hydration Running Belt Trail Mix Plus costs $50 and comes in colors like blue, red with blue, black with neon green, and purple.
- Salomon Pulse Hydration Belt
The Salomon Pulse Hydration Belt should be on your radar as well. If the other two hydration belts have come across as a touch bulky to you, then you’ll appreciate the streamlined approach Salomon took with this belt’s design.
Built from stretchy mesh, Salomon’s hydration belt includes a variety of pockets with zippers for stashing all your must-have small items. Salomon themselves say you should use this belt for “short adventures,” so no marathons here, please.
The Salomon Pulse Hydration Belt comes in sizes extra-small to extra-large in such colors as Goji Berry (reddish-pink), Fiery Red, or Urban Chic (gray-green).
Hydration belts weigh less than hydration packs, and they require far less of an adjustment period when using them as well. You just strap your belt on and you’re ready to go!
You certainly cannot bring as much water with you when wearing a hydration belt. For short runs, that’s not such a big deal, but when running for miles at a time, the amount of water you can get from one of these belts will not suffice.
The same goes for snacks too, by the way, so you’ll have to pack extremely small. In other words, if you don’t like food gels, there’s not a whole lot more you can fit in the pockets of a hydration belt.
Further, if you’re a runner who doesn’t like to leave your phone at home, you might be out of luck with a hydration belt. Even the Nathan Hydration Running Belt Trail Mix Plus can only fit older smartphone models, not the newest large iPhone.
Handheld Bottle Holder
If you want to make running with water about as easy as possible, then a handheld bottle holder or flask is the way to go. Rather than risk slippage by carrying your water bottle with your bare hand, you’d put the bottle in the soft holder and then go about your run.
Handheld bottle holders are made of a soft material that won’t rub and chafe against your hands even if you get especially sweaty on your runs (which, hey, is most of us!). You also typically have the option to bring one of your own trusty water bottles rather than use a small flask. When you want a drink, all you have to do is pop the cap or lid, raise your hand, and take a sip! It’s quite convenient, that’s for certain.
Our Recommended Products
The following handheld bottle holders are worth investing in if this is how you’d prefer to bring water on a run.
- Nathan ExoShot Handheld Flask
The Nathan ExoShot includes both the flask and the bottle holder in one. The flask itself is 12 ounces and made of plastic that’s free of BPAs. A bit valve and locking cap are both included with the bottle for fewer leaks and lost hydration.
The neoprene sleeve features hand straps which you can remove if you ever want to use the sleeve in other applications. A grippy surface that’s designed to be sweat-free makes carrying your water bottle almost effortless. Nathan says their strap can even improve your running efficiency.
The Nathan ExoShot Handheld Flask costs $28 and is available in two colors: a yellow bottle with black sleeve or a blue bottle with black sleeve.
- CamelBak Nano Handheld
We also like the CamelBak Nano Handheld, which goes especially well with the Nano hydration pack if you decided to buy that. This handheld bottle holder with Quick-Stow flask can tote 17 ounces of water.
The holder collapses when not in use so you can easily stash it in a waist pack or elsewhere without it taking up too much room. An X-Grip Hand Strap System lets you carry this bottle holder in a few different ways. Reflective surfaces are a smart feature as well.
CamelBak even added a small zip pocket in the Nano Handheld for a credit card or your keys. Keep in mind your phone will not fit in there.
The CamelBak Nano Handheld costs $28 and comes in colors such as Graphite, Crimson Red with Lime Punch, Corsair Teal with Sulphur Spring, and Atomic Blue with black.
Handheld bottle holders are appealing since you don’t have to worry about wearing anything on your body. If you’d rather be as unhindered on a run as possible for aerodynamics, you’ll love the freedom of carrying your water right in your hand.
As we discussed at the beginning of this article, holding something weighty in your hand is not a good idea when running. You affect your pace, gait, momentum, and speed. Although you don’t have to worry about your water bottle flying out of your sweaty hand since it’s strapped on tight, the weight of the full bottle could increase your risk of injury.
Once again, you can’t bring your phone with you when using a carrying strap, which is something to think about.
Today’s runners have more options for staying hydrated than ever before. You can wear a hydration pack, slip into a waist pack, or even use a handheld bottle holder. Now that you know the pros and cons of each option, you can make an educated decision about which is the best way of carrying water for your runs!