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The Best Running Hydration Packs and Water Bottles, According to Runners

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While most races provide aid stations with water or Gatorade along the course, it isn’t always as easy to quench your thirst when you’re running on your own. Fortunately, there are lots of options for carrying water with you — handheld bottles, of course, but also more technical waist packs, and even vests. Andy Waterman, a marathoner and head of content at the running apparel brand Tracksmith, explains one reason why you might consider wearing a so-called hydration pack: “They let you explore new routes where water might not be available while still practicing with the fuel you’ll use on race day.”

Choosing what to use to stay hydrated on a run is largely a matter of personal preference. Some might prefer the minimalist convenience of a handheld bottle, while others may want to go hands-free with a backpack-style vest or a belt with space to stash your phone, keys, and energy gels. Whatever you choose, though, it’s important to consider its capacity, as you’ll need more water if you’re running longer or when it’s very hot out. “Determine your fluid needs, choose the appropriate size, and then prioritize comfort,” advises running coach Jason Fitzgerald. To find the best of each kind, we asked Waterman, Fitzgerald, and six more runners what they use to stay hydrated while training.

Best overall hydration waist pack

Waterman says waist packs are “the Goldilocks combination of being hands-free without adding extra layers across your body like [a vest].” They generally can hold more water than a handheld bottle, but less than a vest, making them a solid choice for marathon training. Bette Clark, co-team captain and former president of Van Cortlandt Track Club, says one advantage of a waist pack is that “you can carry gels, cell phone, [and] money” in addition to a fluid, but she cautions that hydration waist packs “can loosen and or bounce if not positioned just right.” Waterman recommends this Camelbak style that has a generously sized zipper pocket for other essentials, and is easily adjustable for a perfect fit on any body. Plus, it comes with the brand’s popular Podium Chill water bottle — which I and other runners I know have used and praise highly, because it’s insulated to keep water cold longer and has a twist-to-close valve that prevents spillage while you’re moving (Waterman says the 21-ounce bottle stores enough water to get him through a 20-mile marathon training run).

Best hydration waist pack with a collapsible bottle

Designed in collaboration with ultrarunner Rob Krar, this belt comes with a soft bottle that collapses down flat when it’s empty. Clark loves how the wide belt sits securely against her back and has a pocket on the opposite side for storing keys and a phone. Its smaller Velcro pouches can hold energy gels, and thanks to their loop straps, Clark says, “you can even hitch a cap or light jacket to the pack.”

Best overall hydration vest

If you’re training for distances longer than a marathon, it’s probably time to invest in a hydration vest that holds more water and can accommodate extra gear. When Running Ruminations blogger Erin Mink Garvey was looking for a hydration vest while training for her first 50K ultramarathon in 2014, she was intrigued by the women’s-specific fit of this style. “One of the reasons I gravitated toward it was that everything was designed with female ergonomics in mind.” Compared to unisex vests, the Ultra Vesta allows for more adjustment based on bust size and women’s unique upper body compositions. Garvey wore hers during the ultra and had no issues with chafing, rubbing, or bouncing. Five years later, she still uses it and says it holds up to lots of wear and washing. David Roche, coach and founder of the SWAP running team and co-author of The Happy Runner, agrees, telling us that Ultimate Direction makes “cool, light options that work well” for men, too. Both the men’s and women’s vests come with two water bottles to drink from (they’re stored in pockets on either breast), but they’re also compatible with a reservoir (sold separately). If you prefer a vest with a built-in reservoir, read on for a couple options.

Best women’s hydration vest with a reservoir