Keeping hydrated during a tough run is essential but carrying a water bottle in your hand is a real pain. Backpacks aren’t much better either, there’s simply too much bounce to make running with a backpack comfortable. Particularly on long backcountry trails. A specifically designed running hydration vest or belt could be the compromise you’re looking for. They allow you to carry water and snacks comfortably on your chest, back, or hips without inhibiting running performance. They’re also a practical way to carry your emergency wet weather gear and other kit. You might find, however, that choosing the right running hydration vest or belt for your next trail running adventure is more challenging than the trail itself! Researching the latest brands and models is sure to eat into your runtime.
- FAQ’s about running hydration vests and belts
- The best running hydration vests
- The best running hydration belts
- Features of the best running hydration vests
- Features of the best running hydration belts
- What to look for when choosing running hydration vests and belts
- Belt vs vest
- Comfort and fit
- Water system
- External attachments
Don’t unlace you’re running shoes just yet though. We’ve got you covered. We’ve put together a list of the best running hydration vests in 2020 — with some superb hydration belt options, too. And for more information on the different things to consider when choosing the perfect running hydration vest or belt for you, skip to the bottom of the article.
The best running hydration vests in 2020
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|Product||Vest or belt||Water capacity||Features||Cost|
|Nathan Vaporhowe Hydration Pack||Vest||2.24 litres||Female fit||$$$$|
|Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set||Vest||2.5 litres||Very comfortable||$$$$|
|Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0||Vest||2.5 litres||Lots of storage options||$$$$|
|Osprey Duro 6 Running Hydration Vest||Vest||1.5 litres||Male fit||$$$|
|CamelBak Nano Vest||Vest||1 litre||Ultra-lightweight||$$$|
|Ultimate Direction Mountain Belt 4.0||Belt||600ml||Good amount of storage||$$|
|Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Running Belt||Belt||600ml||Bounce-free||$$|
|Salomon Agile 250 Hydration Belt Set||Belt||250ml||Streamline||$$|
|LotFancy Running Fuel Belt||Belt||354ml||Good amount of storage||$|
FAQ’s about running hydration vests and belts
Running vests are ideal for long runs when you need to carry more than half a litre of water, snacks, and extra layers. On these occasions, you should wear a running vest. Running hydration vests are often part of the required kit on trail marathons or ultras because you need to carry water and other gear.
Running vests are also useful on short runs. It might be that you’re running in hot weather and therefore need more water. Or that you will travel in cold weather to the start point of your run and therefore need to take a jacket. Even when your kit is minimal, some people find that vests are more comfortable to wear than belts because the weight is spread across the upper body.
Extreme trails aside, sometimes it’s nice to turn your 5k park run into a day in the fresh air. On these days it’s great to have the option of carrying extra water for after the run, a clean t-shirt, and a small book.
A running vest should fit snugly to your body – snug enough that it doesn’t move around. A loose fit will cause chafing, and the vest will bounce. But it shouldn’t feel tight. If it’s restricting your movement and breathing or if, after a run, you see marks from the vest, you’re wearing it too tight.
To get the right fit, always try on the vest before purchase. Start by clipping and adjusting the chest straps, both vertically and horizontally, then adjust any side compression straps. Fiddle with the fit until it feels comfortable and doesn’t rub.
There are countless high-quality running hydration vests and belts on the market. This review only covers a handful of our favourites. From our selection, the Salomon Advanced Skin and the Nathan Vaporhowe Hydration Vest are the best for all-round usage. These two vests balance storage with fit and practicality. The Nathan Vaporhowe Hydration Vest even offers men and women-specific fits.
We recommend vests such as the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 for trail running and ultra-marathons. Meanwhile, vests like the Osprey Duro 6 pack and the CamelBak Nano Vest are the best running hydration vests for people who need minimal storage.
There are three main ways to carry water on a long run. The first with a running hydration vest which offers the most water capacity. Typically the water is stored in a water bladder that fits inside of the vest’s main compartment. This way, the water weight is on the upper back. However, hydration vests with water bottle pockets on the front, like the Salomon Advanced Skin, balance the weight over the chest and upper back.
The second option is a running belt with a water bottle pocket. This puts the weight in the centre of the lower back or on either side of the lower back, just above the hips if the belt has two water bottle pockets, like the Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Belt.
The third option is a hand-held flask. These come in two forms, either a water bottle that is hollow in the centre and has a shaped handle on one side. Or a soft holster with a handgrip that fits a small water bottle or soft flask inside. Hand-held flasks are popular on short runs, up to an hour, but can feel unbalancing. You might prefer to run with two hand-held bottles to keep your form balanced.
The Nathan Vaporhowe Hydration Vest is specifically designed to fit the female figure, although it is also available in a men’s version. Compared to other women’s hydration packs for running, its super lightweight design, soft materials, and adjustable sternum straps make it one of the best for cross county trails or long distances. The water system offers versatility with space for a bladder bag (up to 1.8 litres), as well as front pockets for 22 ml soft flasks or energy snacks. The overall capacity of this Nathan hydration vest is 12 litres.
- Comfortable fit for women
- Multiple pockets
- Internal and external water storage
- Very lightweight
- High price tag
The Salomon Advanced Skin 12 Set is designed to fit like a second shirt rather than a backpack. Its combination of motion fit and four-way stretch fabric allows the vest to hug the runner’s torso without constricting movement. What really stands out about the Salomon Advanced Skin Hydration Vest is its functional storage features. The vest is fitted with 2 500ml soft flask pockets, as well as 2 mesh pockets, 2 zippered side pockets, and a 1.5-litre water reservoir on the back. This vest even has a place to store your running poles.
- Simple and practical design
- Quick access pockets
- Comfortable materials
- High price
- Bladder bag is not included
If you’re someone who needs a lot of storage then the Adventure Vest 4.0 from Ultimate Direction is the best running hydration vest on our list. Not only does this product come with a total of 10 zippered pockets, 5 on each side, but it also leaves space for a small flask and trekking poles on the front. There are even external compression bungee cords and a stretchy kangaroo pocket on the back to attach extra kit.
Additionally, the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 4.0 comes in a selection of sizes. It uses a clever clinch system which adjusts horizontally across the lower back using bungee cords. This helps to reduce bounce and can be adjusted easily whilst wearing the pack.
- High storage capacity
- Adjustable back panel
- Bladder bag is not included
Subtle yet highly practical, the Duro 6 Pack from Osprey is one of the best running hydration vests for men. The side compression straps provide extra stability whilst the minimal weight of this pack makes it comfortable for anything from short runs to adventure trails. Its zippered reservoir sleeve, built in safety whistle, and accessible mesh and zippered front pockets, coupled with its bounce-free harness are what give the Osprey Duro 6 Pack its edge.
The Osprey Duro 6 Pack also comes with a reasonable price tag and a lifetime guarantee. It doesn’t offer as much internal storage as its competitors but its stretchy mesh back pocket does provide external storage. This running vest is available in a women’s version too; the Dyna Series.
- Comfortable Men’s specific fit
- Includes 1.5L hydration bladder
- Reasonably priced
- Lifetime Guarantee
Limited internal storage
The CamelBak Nano running hydration vest offers a minimalist design aimed at ultra-trail runners. The vest is lightweight and fitted with 3D Vent Mesh which maximises breathability and provides comfortable cushioning for the back and shoulders. The CamelBak Nano Vest comes in a selection of sizes with adjustable sternum straps for an improved fit. The storage on this running vest is limited. However, there’s still room for the essentials including trekking poles, phone, keys, and two quick stow soft flasks.
- Includes 2 x 500ml soft flasks
- Budget price
- Few adjustments
- No bladder bag system
The best running hydration belts
Ultimate Direction Mountain Belt 4.0The Ultimate Direction Mountain Belt 4.0 is one of the best running hydration belts for all round users. The dual compression belt ensures a snug fit while the flexible mesh fabric is breathable and allows the body to move. The zippered main pocket has a respectable 1.2-litre capacity, large enough to store some snacks, emergency kit, and your mobile. We like that the Ultimate Direction Marathon Belt 4.0 also gives runners the option of attaching extra clothing with external bungee cords.
- Good sized pocket
- Useful bungee cords
- Includes 600ml flask
- Water bottle placed on one side may feel unbalanced.
Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Running BeltThe Trail Mix Hydration Running Belt from Nathan is a compact companion for a mid-length or hot run. It comes complete with 2 300ml double-wall insulated flasks which are easy to open and keep water cool for longer. These flasks fit snugly into holsters on the belt, allowing for one-handed access to water. The grippy texture helps to prevent drops, too. We like that the belt itself provides just enough stretch to be comfortable without jumping about, however, the Nathan Trail Mix Hydration Running Belt doesn’t offer much storage.
- Bounce-free belt
- Includes two insulated bottles
- The pocket may be too small for some phones
If you’re looking for a running hydration belt to carry your essentials and nothing more, the Salomon Agile 250 is a streamlined solution. Its compact tube shape provides enough space for a 250ml soft flask while the back zippered pocket and hidden front pouch leave just enough space for your phone and keys.
The Salomon Agile 250 is designed for running long distances. Its narrow shape won’t restrict your upper body or leg movement while the combination of stretch fabric and 3D Mesh provides excellent comfort and breathability. Due to its limited water and storage capacity, however, we think that this product is equally suited to short city runs in hot conditions.
- Streamline design
- Includes 250ml soft flask
- Perfect for agile running
- Available in one size only
- Limited storage
Coming in at under $20, the LotFancy Running Fuel Belt is one the lowest priced items on our list. The zippered main compartment provides enough space for a 6.5-inch smartphone and, to avoid scratching the screen, there are internal pocket dividers. Another useful feature is the headphone cable hole and external cords for attaching race numbers. This running belt from LotFancy is designed for both men and women and fits waists from 29 to 41 inches. It comes with 2 BPA-free water bottles.
- Budget price tag
- Two water bottles included
- Large storage space
- May feel bulky on longer distances
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Features of the best running hydration vests
Hydration reservoir pocket
A separate sleeve in the main compartment of the running vest for a water bladder to slot into. This holds the bladder in place and minimises bounce. Often these come with a Velcro loop or clip that fixes to the top of the water bladder.
Running vests with an internal hydration sleeve should have a hydration port – a small hole in the top of the bag for the drinking hose to go through. The best running vests have a hydration port on either side of the bag so you can run the hose over your preferred shoulder.
Hydration hose clip
Now that the hose is on the outside, you’ll want to stop it from smacking you in the face. A hose clip does this by securing the hose to one side of the chest strap. Often running vests also have elastic strips on shoulder straps to thread the hose through. Some running hydration vests even have magnetised hose clip systems.
Adjustable chest straps
Most running vests have two chest straps, one that closes over the upper part of the chest and another that closes over the lower rib cage. These should be adjustable width-ways, allowing for a snug fit, but also vertically so you can adjust the vest to fit the length of your chest.
While running, you want to be able to reach things quickly, so front pockets are a must. Most running vests have one or two water bottle compatible pockets on the front which allow you to balance the weight of a water bladder. But, at least one zippered pocket for phone and snacks is also useful.
Zippered pockets should come with a cord that you can easily get hold of. It makes a huge difference when you’re trying to access gear whilst moving.
A compression strap on either side of the running vest allows for an even more tailored fit. The snugger the fit, the less bounce you’ll get and less chafing too.
Features of the best running hydration belts
Water bottle pocket
An essential feature of any hydration running belt is the water bottle pocket or holster. This gives you a secure place to put your water bottle. The bottle should be easily accessible but not able to bounce whilst you run. For this reason, most running belts are designed for bottles or soft flasks of 250 ml up to 300 ml. Often the pockets have an elasticated loop that holds the top of the bottle in place.
Running belts are designed to carry the essentials only, but you should still have space for your phone or music device, gels or snacks, house key, and money. A zipper on the pocket will keep these bits and pieces inside the belt while you run.
Just like running vests, you want to be able to access your phone and energy gels whilst moving. A chord on the zippers makes this ten times easier!
Dual compression straps
We like adjustable waist straps that tighten on both sides of the buckle. This keeps the pocket of the belt evenly positioned in the middle of your back.
Additional features of the best running hydration vests and belts
Ideal for carrying extra gear, external bungee cords give you the option of attaching a lightweight top layer or spare t-shirt to your running vest or belt.
Music motivates us on the tough and boring sections of a run, but headphone wires are a pain. Some running vests and belts come with headphone holes so you can store your device inside and feed the wire through – no need to leave the zippers open.
Trekking pole attachment points
Usually found on trail running vests rather than belts. Trekking pole attachments are useful for extreme trail runners or anyone tackling steep climbs.
What to look for when choosing running hydration vests and belts
Hydration belt vs vest
First of all, you should consider whether you’d prefer to run with a belt of a vest.
Belts are often preferred over short distances when you need to carry very little. They usually offer sufficient storage in pockets and spread the weight across your hips rather than adding pressure to your back and shoulders. The best running hydration belts are set up so that any bulky items sit at the back. Like this, they don’t hinder movement.
Vests allow you to carry a lot more water than a running belt and often provide storage for other items too. On a long or remote trail during the summertime, your water supply is even more important than the shoes on your feet. They are, however, usually heavier then belts and a badly fitted or overloaded vest may cause chafing or discomfort.
Comfort and fit
Comfort is what separates an average running vest or belt from a great one. You’ll want it to distribute the weight evenly and the vest should fit like a glove around your body without restricting movement. The fabrics must be breathable and smooth on the skin. They should also have enough stretch to allow your chest and stomach to expand and compress whilst breathing.
Many hydration vests come in two or three standard sizes so be sure to check the measurements before you buy. Some models are unisex but some are specifically designed for men or women. Runners who are taller/shorter than average should look out for a vest with plenty of adjustments. Adjustable straps and buckles on the chest and/or waist are a minimum requirement. These allow you to modify the vest for a closer fit and to prevent it from bouncing on your shoulders.
How long do you run for? In what climate? Most importantly, how much water will you need to carry to complete your route? You should choose a pack which is capable of carrying everything you need. So, think about your usage. Trail runners may require a vest which can hold at least 1.5 litres of water and still leave room for energy bars, a waterproof jacket, and a mini first-aid kit.
On the other hand, if you mainly run in cities then you might only carry half a litre of water, plus your front door key and mobile. You may think the bigger the better however a larger bag can add unnecessary weight and, from my experience, when you have more available space you end up carrying a lot of things you don’t actually need.
Hydration running belts and vests are designed to either carry water bottles or a hydration reservoir (bladder bags), or both. Water bottles usually fit into secure pockets on the shoulder straps or waist, whereas bladder bags are typically carried on the back. Bladder bags are better at spreading the weight — if you’re running long distance then this may be preferable, however, water bottles are easier to refill and clean.
Some running vests on this list have space for both water bottles and a bladder bag. If you pack carefully you can use this system to balance the weight across your chest and back.
A key advantage of a running vest or belt over a standard backpack is that your water and other items are quick to access whilst moving. A phone-sized zippered pocket on the front strap is ideal. You can change tracks or check your performance without breaking stride. Likewise, external mesh pockets and bungee cords mean that you can fix a jacket on the outside and carry more gear without adding much to the size and weight of the vest. Extreme trail runners might want to purchase a running vest with external attachments for foldable trekking poles too.
Wherever your running adventures may take you, staying hydrated is key to your performance, and enjoyment. And whether you’re gearing up for your first ultra marathon, or enjoying backcountry trails in hot weather there is something for every trail runner on our list of the best running hydration vests and belts.
Happy hydrating, happy runners!