When it comes to running and hydration you have two choices. You can get dehydrated which can result in death, disaster or at least no chance of a PR or you can stay hydrated and bust out PRs like it’s your job. This means you need to do all of your runs on routes with evenly spaced water fountains or you can carry water. We prefer the latter option and thankfully there are lots of ways to do it. Here are our favorites.
The Handheld Bottle
This is a simple and cost effective way to literally keep your water right in the palm of your hand. Handhelds let you comfortably carry up to 20 ounces of fluid with a small pocket for keys or a gel. We love handhelds for their ease of use; you won’t know the bottle is there until you need it. As an added bonus the handheld bottle will help protect your hands during those inevitable trail running falls.
Pros: Handhelds are cheap, easy to use, comfortable and generally dishwasher safe.
Cons: They have limited volume; otherwise they would weigh too much!
Best Uses: Great for runs under an hour or aid station supported races.
Gear we like: Nathan Speed Draw Plus Flask
This is an option that lets you carry up to four 8-10 ounce flasks around your waist; sometimes with a small pocket that can secure a phone, keys and some tasty snacks. The small bottles typically won’t interfere with your arm swing which lets you stay hydrated while maintaining perfect form.
Pros Belts keep your hands free and let you bring your phone for those critical mid run selfies!
Cons: These belts can be prone to bouncing; especially the ones with 4 bottles so you should be sure to read reviews. Those small bottles can also be challenging to refill at aid stations.
Best uses: We use our hydration belt for runs under an hour or at aid station supported races.
Gear we like: The 2 bottle version of Nathan’s Trail Mix Plus lets you carry 20 ounces with a pocket that will hold an iPhone 6, keys and a gel or two. Ours has never bounced or done anything besides be a comfortable and reliable running companion. We also have the 4-bottle version to but that thing bounces with each step and will literally eject your bottles all over the trail.
Running Lumbar Packs aka Fanny Pack
It is up to you if you want to call this a lumbar pack or fanny pack. What you get is an option to carry 1-2 larger size bottles with large pockets to stash gear. However these packs come with plenty of trade offs and you will generally be happier with some of the other options on this list.
Pros: These give you the ability to carry a large volume of fluid.
Cons: Large bottles can interfere with your arm swings. This option is also heavy and makes it easy to carry more stuff than you need.
Best uses: We don’t use this option a lot but these packs work well for long and slow runs and hiking.
Gear we like: Ultimate Direction Kaviti Hydration Pack
Hydration Vests/ Bladder Pack
You will see a lot of these at ultra marathons and its not just because they look cool. Hydration Vests let you carry a lot of liquid on front mounted bottles and/ or in a hydration bladder along with storage for food, jackets and anything else you need when aid stations are few and far between or nonexistent. We have packed ours with enough stuff to knock out 20+ mile-training runs without stopping. Most vests also do a great job of balancing the weight and they won’t interfere with arm swings or running form.
Pros: Vests provide storage and liquid volume in a package that distributes the weight well. You also get easy access to hydration and stuff you need while running.
Cons: Vests can act as an unneeded extra layer on hot days. Hydration bladders can also be hard to clean and difficult to refill during a race.
Best Uses: Break out the vest for long unsupported runs and ultra marathons. They are also great for runs in variable conditions where you need a jacket, want to take it off and then need it again.
Gear we like: Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0
We find that a 2-bottle hydration belt with a single handheld is the best option for most training runs and races on any terrain. This gives you around 40 ounces of fluid with just enough pockets for essentials without weighing you down. We used this setup with great success at the 7 Sisters Trail Race, the Vermont City Marathon and in countless training runs.
New England Outside has no affiliation with any of the gear companies mentioned in this post. We only recommend gear because we have used it and we like it.