Whether you’re trail-racing, running a marathon, a casual runner or training for your next event, after your shoes a hydration pack for running should be the most essential piece of equipment on your list. We’ve compiled reviews, a guide and answered some FAQs to help you find the best hydration packs for running.
Since aid stations are spaced far apart, a hydration pack ensures runners have enough hydration to make it to the next station. Some hydration packs in our review have bladders or reservoirs, which are soft, flexible plastic bags that sit on your back. Others have pockets for soft flasks of water that rest in the front pockets. We’ll go over the differences in our buying guide towards the end. For now, let’s get started with our review of the best hydration packs for running.
Best Affordable Hydration Pack for Running
Slated as the most affordable hydration pack, the Circuit Vest 50oz (men’s; women’s) is also CamelBak’s most popular running vest. With a 1.5L CRUX reservoir that delivers 20% more water per sip, it’s perfect for various occasions.
The front pockets are specifically designed for QuickStow flasks, and the dual adjustable sternum straps help the vest fit snugly. The zippered front pocket fits most phones, and the 3D micro-mesh improves breathability. What more could you want in a vest?
- Reservoir and flask pockets
- High breathability
- Not too much storage
Best Hydration Pack for Female Runners
Packed with convenient features and created with a women-specific fit, the Skimmer 16 with 2.5 reservoir is perfect for female runners. There’s plenty of room in the sizable pack for multi-day treks or all-day runs. It’s ideal for when you want something with a bit more storage than a standard running vest and want your pack to be lightweight. It adjusts easily with a belt at the waist and another at the chest, and its look is versatile enough for a long day in the sun at a festival, or other summer activities where you want to stay hydrated.
- Bounce-free stability
- Comfortable and lightweight
- Ample storage
- Minimal storage capacity
Best Waist Hydration Pack for Running
For minimalist runners who want a lightweight and convenient way to carry water, the Savu 2L, designed for biking but suitable for running, is the answer. Its two rigid pockets make it easy to pull flasks out of when you’re on the move, so you can stay hydrated without slowing down. The contouring lumbar wrap and breathable AirScape back panel provide maximum stability, so the pack stays close to your body.
- Sleek design
- Maximum stability
- Only comes in black
Best Hydration Packs for Marathon Runners
When you're running a marathon, you want a hydration pack with room for multiple reservoirs and water bottles. The Women's and Men's Pinnacle is a breathable vest, perfect for the big day. Both vests feature 360-degree visibility, various pockets, and adjustable straps for fit.
- Apparel-like fit
- Plenty of storage
- 360-degree Reflectivity
- For specialized, not general use
Best Hydration Packs for Ultra Runners
If you're looking for a vest that feels like you're wearing nothing, try the Distance 4 from Black Diamond. It comes with two soft water bottles and there are also several pockets for your phone, snacks, gels and any other gear you might need for your run. The best part is probably the stretchy structure that conforms to your body to provide the feeling of not wearing anything.
- Innovative hourglass bladder design
- Zippered water-resistant chest pocket
- Plenty of storage in the back with kangaroo pocket
- Some bouncing when full
Best Minimalist Hydration Pack
If you're the kind of person who hates bulky running vests, the Trail is for you. It's ultra-lightweight and has room for two 500ml QuickStow water bottles. The sleek design lets you carry essentials like your phone, trekking pole and other gear in dedicated pockets. Also available for men.
- Carries all the essentials
- No extra material
- Quite small
What to Look for in Hydration Packs for Running
Like all products, not all hydration packs are created equal. The main difference is how the bag stores water, either with soft water bottles or a flexible plastic bladder. Other things to consider are the overall fit, ease of access to the water supply, and the gear storage capacity.
Hydration backpacks are a lot like day-hike backpacks but with running features. They have a simple hip belt, low profile, and an abundance of pockets. Often, hydration packs will offer the user more storage than vests.
Hydration vests fit snug to the body. They secure around your body like to a backpack, but the profile is lower. They also usually have more pockets on the front of the shoulder straps and a secure hip belt. There is often storage for water bottles on the front pockets.
As the name suggests, hydration belts encircle the hips, as a belt would. The cargo space is often smaller than you’d have in a pack or vest. For this reason, they’re a fantastic option for light and fast adventures like a trail run or hike. If you don’t want the hindrance of a pack or vest, a belt is a perfect substitute for staying hydrated.
As we’ve suggested, hydration packs usually have two different types of water storage: flasks in the front pockets or a reservoir pack in the back. Most bags that are designed for storing containers in the front have less storage space behind.
Take a mental inventory of the essential gear you’ll need on runs. Now, ask yourself how much space you need to fit a jacket, food, and anything else for your comfort. Then, choose an accommodating pack, whether that’s 2 litres or 7 litres of storage.
The volume of water the hydration pack holds is arguably the most crucial factor when deciding on a product. Most packs accommodate both types of hydration flasks (bottle or bladder), but they will only come with one of the two. You’ll have to purchase the one not included separately.
All in all, it’s essential to think about the types of runs you’ll be doing. Are you going to go on all-day trail runs with few refilling stations? Are you going to be on the road where water is widely available? Water is heavy (1 litre weighs 32 ounces), so think carefully about how much you need.
Again, it’s wise to mull over the types of running you’ll be doing. If you don’t want to be weighed down by a chunkier pack, choose a lightweight model. If you have a lot of gear to carry and don’t mind the weight, you’ll be safe with a heavier one that secures against bouncing too much.
FAQs for Best Hydration Packs for Running
Are hydration packs really worth it?
A hydration pack eliminates the need for bulky water bottles and costly (financially and environmentally) plastic ones every time you run. Though hydration packs require an initial investment, you’ll save considerable plastic and cash in the long-run.
After experiencing the incredible convenience of a water pack, you may feel that you’ve needed one for a long time.
How much water should I bring?
For lightweight activities like running or walking, 0.5 to 1 litres should suffice. For short-distance bikers, hikers or runners, go for 1 to 1.5 litres. If you’ll be doing moderate to long runs and want minimal refilling, 2 to 2.5 litres is ideal. Lastly, for ultra-runners and explorers, go for 3 litres or more so no refilling is required.
How to clean the hydration pack tube
It’s best to detach the tube from the reservoir before cleaning it. I have one and can recommend cleaning it after each use, or mould will start to build up. Combine hot water and two tablespoons of baking powder or bleach. Let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes. Then, run it through the tube, releasing it at the bite valve.
After reading this extensive guide on best hydration packs for running, we hope that you have a better idea of their features and differences. A hydration pack adds convenience and safety to your runs for years to come.
Due to the different nature of running and the wide array of personal preferences, we’ll refrain from recommending just one pack—there is a pack to suit everyone’s needs. Please browse the broad range of water packs on Altitude Sports to find the best fit for you!