There’s a lot to consider when looking for the best hydration pack for running. When you need to carry water, snacks, and clothing on a run, you want everything to fit comfortably in your pack and not bounce on your back as you move.
Running has long been considered a simple sport — just lace up your shoes and hit the trail, right? This blissfully simple strategy works great for a few miles, but what happens when the minutes turn to hours — or days, in some cases? From food to hydration, phone to first aid, layers to trekking poles, the longer the run, sometimes there’s simply a lot of stuff involved in making a run a safe and happy experience. When you are in it for the long haul, you need a comfortable way to carry that pile of gear. The running hydration pack, also called a running vest, is a vital accessory when chasing long days on the trails or packing a list of mandatory race equipment.
Choosing the right pack can be daunting, with packs ranging from minimalist to those that can carry everything you need for a full-day unsupported run through the mountains. Our team of trail runners scoured the market for the best packs available and took the most promising of them out on all sorts of terrain to test their comfort, functionality, and durability. Our findings can help make the search for the perfect pack easier.
Best Hydration Packs for Running
Best Small-Capacity (1 to 5 Liters) Hydration Packs for Running
- Best Overall: Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 women’s running vest
- Runner-Up: Osprey Duro 1.5 and Osprey Dyna 1.5
- Honorable Mention: Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Hydration Race Vest and Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Women’s Hydration Race Vest
Best Medium-Capacity (6 to 11 Liters) Hydration Packs for Running
Best Large-Capacity (12 to 15 Liters) Hydration Packs for Running
- Best Overall: Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 women’s running vest
- Runner-Up: UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack
Other Top Hydration Packs for Running
- Best Budget: UltrAspire Spry 3.0
- Best Unique Design: Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L
Best Small-Capacity (1 to 5 Liters) Hydration Packs for Running
Best Overall Small-Capacity Hydration Pack: Salomon Adv Skin 5 Unisex Running Vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 Women’s Running Vest ($140)
- Stretchy pockets can fit a lot of gear securely, exceeding the stated capacity
- Sensifit material and elastic chest straps fit tightly to prevent bouncing without compressing your body
- Flasks and bladder allow for expandable fluid carrying capacity for longer runs
- The panel in the rear compartment traps heat and increases sweating on hot days
- Straws in the women’s version can flop around and may need to be trimmed
- Mesh lining can be scratchy on bare skin
Any search for the best trail-running hydration pack will lead to multiple mentions of Salomon packs, and after months of testing, our testers wholeheartedly agree that the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 women’s running vest have earned their place at the top of the best low-volume pack pile.
The two front pockets carry 500-milliliter soft flasks that are included with the best. Additional stretchy pockets overlay these flask pockets, and a smaller zip pocket on one side can securely carry small items. The flasks sit high on the chest in the unisex version of the pack and are easy to drink without removing the flask from its pocket. An elastic loop secures the top of the flask so that it doesn’t fall into the pocket as it empties.
The additional front pockets can fit plenty of smaller items like gloves, a buff, gels or chews, or lip balm, and they can also fit most cellphones for quick access. The rear has one large compartment with a separate hydration bladder sleeve that fits a 1.5-liter bladder. This compartment includes a panel to protect your gear from moisture from sweat or the hydration bladder, though some testers found that this extra layer of fabric increased heat retention on their back during hot runs.
Across the lower back is another pass-through stretch sleeve to stash a jacket, hat, or smaller gear in an accessible place. Salomon’s Sensifit construction includes well-placed stretch panels so your pack can fit an impressive amount of gear comfortably and securely without shifting, bouncing, or feeling too compressive. This pack easily fits the same amount of gear, or potentially more, than many of the higher-capacity packs we tested, and our testers have used it for multiple supported ultramarathons and six-plus hour training runs in the forests of New England with ease.
An elastic sternum strap has multiple attachment points to personalize fit and make adjustments on the fly easily with a single pull-through toggle to tighten and loosen it. There are several ways to carry trekking poles with multiple elastic cords on the front and back of this pack. Salomon’s pole quiver is also a popular option with this pack. An attached whistle on the front of the pack and a key clip in the rear compartment are small but helpful details.
The Salomon Adv Skin 5 is available in a unisex fit and a women’s-specific version. The women’s fit has a similar pocket setup and positions the soft flask pockets lower to avoid pressure over the chest and uses a longer drinking straw. This changes the fit and feel of the pack significantly, and the best fit for any individual just comes down to personal preference. Most of our female testers preferred Salomon’s unisex pack, but runners with larger chests may appreciate the women’s fit.
To learn more, read our in-depth Salomon Adv Skin 5 review.
Gear Capacity: 5 liters | Liquid Capacity: 2.5 liters | Hydration Carrying Method: Two 500-milliliter flasks (included) in front sleeves, 1.5-liter bladder (sold separately) in rear | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: Unisex and women’s-specific model
Best Small-Capacity Hydration Pack Runner-Up: Osprey Duro 1.5 and Osprey Dyna 1.5 ($120)
- Generous liquid-carrying capacity for its size
- Easily repositioned sternum straps to dial in the fit
- Material is thicker and heavier than some other packs
- Hydration bladder tubing can only be routed to the right side
The Osprey Duro 1.5 and the Osprey Dyna 1.5, the women’s version of the pack, are 1.5-liter, low-volume, race-ready packs with everything you need for short and fast days on the trail. A rear zip compartment fits the included 1.5-liter hydration reservoir, and two large front stretch pockets can fit nutrition, small gear, or Osprey’s 500-milliliter or 360-milliliter soft flasks, which are sold separately, allowing for expanded hydration capacity. Our testers noted that the rear pocket could not fit additional gear if the hydration bladder is used, but there is an exterior bungee cinch cord to carry a jacket or extra layer. Two stretch pockets under the arms can fit a buff, hat, gloves, or other smaller items. There is also a smaller front zip pocket to hold a few other small items securely. The rear hydration bladder compartment has a diagonal zipper opening, which only allows the tubing to route over the right shoulder, something to keep in mind if you prefer it on the left.
The sternum strap is secured with plastic snaps that clip on each shoulder strap instead of having a center buckle, making it easy to adjust their positioning to your comfort. Our testers found this pack to run a little on the small side in the arm holes, so if you have broader arms or shoulders, you may need to size up. The material is a little thicker and heavier than some of the other tested packs but is very durable while maintaining breathability.
This pack has a safety whistle on the front and a place to attach trekking poles when you’re not actively using them. For a small-capacity pack, we found it to include a lot of thoughtful details and a hydration capacity on par with many larger packs.
If you love the fit and function of this pack but are looking for something with more gear storage capacity, Osprey offers a six-liter version of the Duro and Dyna that you can learn more about in our Osprey Dyna 6/Duro 6 review.
Gear Capacity: 1.5 liters | Liquid Capacity: 2.5 liters | Hydration Carrying Method: 1.5-liter hydration bladder (included) and can fit two 360-milliliter or 500-milliliter soft flasks in front pockets (sold separately) | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: Gender-specific, Duro (men’s) and Dyna (women’s)
Best Small-Capacity Hydration Pack Honorable Mention: Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Hydration Race Vest and Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Women’s Hydration Race Vest ($180)
- Lightweight material
- Actual storage capacity exceeds the stated four liters
- Water-resistant pockets to keep a phone or other small items protected
- Pricey, particularly for this capacity range
- It runs big, may need to size down from your usual size
- No hydration bladder included, which adds cost to an already expensive pack
The Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Hydration Race Vest and the Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Women’s Hydration Race Vest are breathable, lightweight running vests that provide easy access to hydration and gear for shorter trail runs and well-supported ultra runs. This hydration vest features a familiar front pocket with two larger stretchy sleeves to fit the included 500-milliliter flasks. These flasks feature extended drinking straws and a firm piece of plastic built in to help them maintain their shape and keep them from sinking into the pocket when empty. Our testers didn’t experience any flopping with the straws and flasks, even when empty. The front storage also includes a water-resistant zipper pocket on each side that can fit most cell phones. The pocket is tucked behind the flask pocket, which our testers found worked well but put increased pressure on the ribs with a phone in the pocket and a full soft flask.
Stretchy rear compartments can fit a 1.5-liter bladder, and there is also a vertical trekking pole pocket that our testers found worked well with no bounce. Small stretch pockets over the front flask sleeves, stretch compartments under the arms, and two kangaroo pockets across the lower back provide additional storage for your long-run or race-day needs.
The hydration pack features a similar but lighter-weight fabric to its predecessor, the VaporKrar and VaporHowe line, and also has a modified shape with a longer back to help disperse gear. Our testers found the fabric soft and comfortable against the body. The nylon sternum straps feature standard buckle closure and a sliding rail to easily adjust their position up and down the front of the pack. This pack comes in unisex and women-specific sizing, and we found it to run on the larger side — a measurement-based sizing guide on Nathan’s website helps determine the correct size for you. A larger 12-liter version of this pack is available for those who need to carry more gear for longer runs.
Gear Capacity: 4 liters | Liquid Capacity: 2.8 liters (can fit a standard 1.5-liter bladder or Nathan’s 1.6-liter or 1.8-liter hourglass-shaped bladders) | Hydration Carrying Method: Two 500-milliliter front flasks with straws (included), rear hydration bladder up to 1.8 liters (sold separately) | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: Unisex and women’s-specific models available
Best Medium-Capacity (6 to 11 Liters) Hydration Packs for Running
Best Overall Medium-Capacity Hydration Pack: UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest ($125)
- Comfortable harness and easy-to-use front cinch closure eliminate pressure points and keep the pack stable
- Less compressive fit than other brands
- Many thoughtful details and well-designed storage compartments
- Affordable and good value
- Heavier material increases weight and retains some heat
- Fit is on the larger side and may not accommodate smaller bodies
- Secure phone storage is not convenient
Mid-volume packs bridge the gap between wanting to carry the bare minimum but not quite needing the capacity for a full-day unsupported journey, and the UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest does this admirably. These packs are an excellent size for a three-plus hour run or a supported ultramarathon where you may need to go a few hours between aid stations but don’t need to carry your whole day’s nutrition and water. This pack has a six-liter capacity and thoughtful features that made it our tester’s top pick in this category.
UltrAspire’s ErgoFit harness design has curved and angled shoulder straps and lowers the center of gravity of the pack to reduce fatigue on the neck, improve weight distribution and stability, and enhance the arm’s range of motion. Our smaller testers found that this pack initially felt large and a little loose but stayed stable with no bounce, even if the front elastic straps were not tight. This allowed for good chest expansion when breathing and eliminated that overly compressed tight feeling common with many other packs.
The front of the pack has two large pockets that can fit quickly needed items like food and gels and hold a pair of 500-milliliter soft flasks or UltrAspire’s flexible hybrid bottles. Since the pockets are lower on the chest than on many other hydration vests, the bottles or flasks must be removed to take a drink. While this may be a negative for some, the pockets are wide enough to make reinserting the flasks easy, so it wasn’t a deal-breaker for our testers. Zippered side pockets under the arms were a favorite feature of ours, keeping items secure but easy to reach.
The rear compartment spans the length of the pack, providing extra storage capacity, and fits the included two-liter hydration bladder in a separate sleeve with a removable Mylar-insulated insert to maintain your liquids’ temperature. A magnetic-closure pass-through pocket and elastic cinch cord provide additional quick-access rear storage for an extra layer or extra snack. Elastic shock cord loops on the bottom of the pack are the only way to attach trekking poles, and we found these to be a bit bouncy and not as stable as other packs.
The hydration pack has a lightweight honeycomb mesh next to the body that wicks moisture well, but the other vest materials are thicker when compared with similar packs. This may improve its long-term durability but make the pack heavier. The profile of this pack can feel long for smaller runners or those with a shorter torso.
The elastic cinch cord sternum closure is fixed but quite comfortable with a simple hook, which minimizes fumbling with a complicated buckle with tired or cold fingers. A small magnetic-closure water-resistant pocket is perfect for pills or salt tabs, and a stretchy sleeve with a cinch closure on the left shoulder is made for a cellphone. This pocket is also an excellent place to stash a gel or chews. For those of us who hate bouncing cords, the front left pocket has a small pass-through to tuck the end of the shock cord away once it is secured and tightened, which is a nice touch. As one of our testers succinctly said, “UltrAspire nails the little things.”
You can also read our in-depth UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest review to learn more.
Gear Capacity: 6 liters | Liquid Capacity: 3 liters | Hydration Carrying Method: 2-liter hydration bladder (included) and can fit two 500-milliliter flasks or UltrAspire bottles in front pockets (sold separately) | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: UnisexShop the UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest
Best Medium-Capacity Hydration Pack Runner-Up: USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest ($140)
- Simple chest buckle and elastic side cords for easy adjustments
- Harness design eliminates bounce without feeling tight or constrictive
- Lightweight and breathable
- Flasks have narrow openings that are hard to refill, and straws can shift and bounce around
- Rear storage is not easily accessible with the pack on
- The only pole-carrying option is across the front of the pack
The Swedish company USWE (pronounced “you-swii”) originates in the off-road motorcycle and bicycle world, with a fairly recent foray into running hydration packs, including their USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest. Their experience and innovation for other outdoor activities have led to some unique features for this vest, one of our top picks in the mid-volume pack category.
This eight-liter pack features USWE’s signature “No Dancing Monkey” harness system, providing a secure fit with no bounce. The front closure system is unique, with one large circular buckle that our testers praised for its simplicity and ease of use. The pack’s adjustment points are elastic draw cords on the sides that cinch to tighten the fit while allowing some breathing and movement expansion. The material is very lightweight and stretchy, comfortable when on, and expandable to accommodate gear. A bonus is their polygiene material treatment, which prevents odor and improves the pack’s longevity.
Two front pockets carry the included 500-milliliter soft flasks. These are oriented lower on the body and have attached drinking straws to allow for sipping on the go without having to remove the flask. The flasks have relatively small openings, which we found inconvenient for refilling, especially if using an electrolyte powder or drink mix. Two stretch pockets over the flask pockets are nicely expandable and can fit a cell phone, gels, and other smaller items.
The rear compartment can fit a two-liter bladder (not included) and utilizes two pull-tight straps on the shoulders to compress the bladder, securing it and preventing movement and bouncing. Two zippered pockets along the lower rear of the pack provide secure storage. These overlie each other and can be challenging to reach with the pack on, making them less convenient than an open-ended kangaroo-style pocket. One of these compartments has a zipper opening on the bottom, which could lead to gear falling out if it is not fully zipped. There is reduced storage space underneath the arms due to the pack’s cinch system.
The trekking pole attachment sits diagonally across the front of the pack, which can interfere with the storage pockets and may be uncomfortable for runners with narrow builds or larger chests.
If you like the fit and design of this vest but are looking for a lower-capacity race-ready vest, USWE also makes a two-liter version with the same design and fit but eliminates the larger rear pocket. You can check it out at our USWE Pace 2 Running Vest review.
Gear Capacity: 8 liters | Liquid Capacity: 3 liters | Hydration Carrying Method: Two 500-milliliter straw soft flasks (included) and can fit a 2-liter bladder (sold separately) in the rear | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: UnisexShop the USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest
Best Large-Capacity (12 to 15 Liters) Hydration Packs for Running
Best Overall Large-Capacity Hydration Pack: Salomon Adv Skin 12 Unisex Running Vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 Women’s Running Vest ($160)
- Just as comfortable with minimal gear as it is loaded up
- Stretch compartments hold a lot of gear and distribute weight well
- Stretch panels conform snugly to the body without compressing
- Flasks can be difficult to get back into their sleeves when removed
- Opening on the women’s version flask is small, and the straw flops around some
Look around the starting line of almost any ultramarathon. You will see many runners wearing the Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 women’s running vest, and for good reason! This 12-liter vest was our testers’ hands-down favorite in the high-volume pack category and has topped the list of many other hydration pack reviews. This pack is essentially a bigger version of the Salomon Adv Skin 5 hydration packs reviewed above, with some modifications that make it the perfect pack for long days on the trail and self-supported adventures where you’ll be carrying your gear and nutrition for the entire day.
This pack features the same stretchy materials, elastic cord chest straps, mesh lining, and Sensifit construction as the five-liter version, so it can haul a serious amount of gear while maintaining a snug vest-like fit. The front pocket setup is also similar to the smaller version, with sleeves for two included 500-milliliter soft flasks, large stretch stuff pockets, and two zipper compartments to keep small items or your cell phone secure. Our testers found the flasks were a little tricky to get back into their sleeves on the unisex version compared to other packs with wider flask pockets.
A thermal sleeve for the bladder pocket can help keep water cool in the heat and keep it from freezing if you’re running in the cold. A vertical side zipper accesses the large rear main compartment and has impressive stretch to fit all the gear you need for a full day of running — bungee compression cords on either side of the back help to stabilize the load. A smaller stuff pocket at the top of the rear can fit an emergency blanket or small jacket, and the pass-through tunnel pocket across the lower rear provides additional storage that is easily accessed on the go.
Unlike many other packs, this one is equally as comfortable to wear when it’s empty as when it’s stuffed full. This makes it a popular choice for ultra runners who want one pack that can do it all, from shorter training runs to long efforts in the backcountry. There are multiple attachment options for carrying trekking poles on the front and rear, and a separate quiver can be attached. This pack is available in a unisex and a women’s version, which has lower flask pockets and straw flasks that sit below the chest.
To learn more, check out our in-depth Salomon Adv Skin 12 review.
Gear Capacity: 12 liters | Liquid Capacity: 2.5 liters | Hydration Carrying Method: Two 500-milliliter soft flasks (included), 1.5-liter hydration bladder (sold separately) | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: Unisex and women’s-specific fit
Best Large-Capacity Hydration Pack Runner-Up: UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack ($185)
- Well built, durable, suitable for long days requiring a lot of gear and fluids
- Multiple zipper pockets for secure storage
- Excellent storage capacity
- Heavy materials increase the pack weight
- Retains heat and runs warm
- Items bounce in front pockets if not full
The UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack is a well-built 14-liter hydration pack for fully loaded all-day adventures. As with the UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest reviewed above, this pack also features the ErgoFit harness design to enhance fit, stability, and comfort. The liner material of the pack features a soft mesh combined with thicker padded material at pressure points on the back and chest to optimize breathability and comfort. The pockets combine reinforced nylon and Dyneema fabric, making them durable yet stretchy for comfort and increased storage capacity.
The front of the vest has large stretch pockets that can fit 500-milliliter soft flasks or UltrAspire’s hybrid bottles, as well as additional zip and stretch compartments for food, maps, a cell phone, and any other smaller gear you want to have close at hand. These pockets are a bit loose, and our testers found that small items would bounce and shift if there were nothing else in the front pockets.
The side underarm pockets are large and stretchy, perfect for stashing gloves or a buff. One has a zip and magnet closure to keep the gear more secure. The rear has a bladder sleeve with a removable insulated insert that holds the included two-liter hydration reservoir. A large zip pocket spans the back of the pack and has an excellent wide opening for gear access. It also has an inner small zip compartment with an attached key clip and an external stretch stuff pouch to stash an extra layer. There are two draw cords across the back to cinch down and compress the pack when loaded with water and gear, which can also be used to stow a jacket. The materials are thick and durable, but this, along with the black color, retained heat, and we found this pack to run warm — but not intolerably.
The shock-cord MaxO2 Form closure system on the front of the pack is the only fit adjustment point. Elastic cords join together with two clips across the chest, and the closure is then tightened by pulling downward on the excess cord through a bungee locking mechanism. This pulls the cord tight, cinching the pack down across the chest.
This is easily undone by loosening the two bungee clips on either side to let out a little of the cord. Rear bungee loops across the low back of the pack hold trekking poles horizontally in place. We found this pack a little heavier than others but very sturdy and an excellent workhorse for long trail and mountain days.
Gear Capacity: 14 liters | Liquid Capacity: 3 liters | Hydration Carrying Method: 2-liter bladder (included) and can fit two 500-milliliter soft flasks or UltrAspire hybrid bottles (not included) | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: UnisexShop the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack
Other Top Hydration Packs for Running
Best Budget Hydration Pack: UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Race Vest ($70)
- Lightweight and breathable
- Very affordable, even with the extra cost of bottles or a hydration bladder
- Quality materials and good pocket setup
- One-size-fits-most sizing may not accommodate all bodies
- Have to remove bottles or flasks to drink
- You have to remove the pack to access the rear storage
The UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Race Vest is a 3.5-liter capacity pack that offers excellent storage and features at a very affordable price. The materials are breathable and lightweight, with just enough pockets to hold your essentials for anything from a half marathon to a fast, well-supported ultra run. In addition to being our budget pick, this vest also rated very highly overall in the low-volume testing category.
Two front pockets are oriented lower on the chest and can hold hydration in a soft flask or the UltrAspire Ultraflask 550 hybrid bottles. These front pockets are also great for holding snacks and other small items. Our testers didn’t love that the flasks needed to be removed to drink but otherwise liked the front pocket arrangement. A single rear pocket can fit a one-liter bladder and includes a sweatproof liner, and it also has a smaller water-resistant zipper pocket and magnetic closure. An external elastic shock cord on the back can stash a jacket.
This vest utilizes the same ErgoFit harness with its elastic chest strap and hook closure as the above-reviewed UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest, with simple webbing straps on the sides to adjust fit. Unlike most other packs on the market, this is a one-size-fits-most vest. According to UltrAspire’s size chart, it can fit a chest size range from 26 to 48 inches, accommodating a wide array of body types. No flasks or hydration bladder are included, which will add cost if you want them. Even with that extra cost, this vest is still more affordable than most similar setups.
To learn more, read our UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Race Vest review.
Gear Capacity: 3.5 liters | Liquid Capacity: 2 liters | Hydration Carrying Method: Can fit two 500-milliliter flasks or hybrid bottles in the front and a 1-liter bladder in the rear pocket. No flasks or bladder are included in the vest purchase | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: Unisex, one size fits mostShop the UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Race Vest
Most Unique Design Hydration Pack: Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L ($127)
- The innovative sternum strap system provides a secure fit
- Angled drinking straws on the flasks for ease of use
- Convenient phone storage pocket
- The front cord and clip system is more complicated and could be difficult to attach in the dark or with gloves on
- Rear storage is not easily accessible on the fly
- No hydration bladder compartment
At first glance, the Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L looks similar to many of the other low- to mid-range packs on the market, but this pack has a few unique design elements that set it apart from the rest.
The pack’s materials are lightweight and breathable, with just enough stretch in the pockets to expand for gear storage while still keeping things secure. Our testers found the mesh honeycomb lining breathable in hot and humid weather. The front features the standard stretch soft flask pockets, which fit the included 500-milliliter soft flasks. The short angled drinking nozzles on the flasks rotate and make drinking from them easier. Additional stretch pockets add storage for small things like nutrition.
On the front left is a dedicated cellphone pocket, which zips along the side to allow easy access, and a tunnel underneath the flask pocket tucks in the top of the phone, keeping it secure and flat against the chest. The zipper makes sliding the phone in and out easy, even with a full flask in the upper pocket. The rear of the pack has a familiar layout with one large stuff pocket on the top and another across the low back.
The lower pocket is only accessible from the top rather than having the kangaroo-style bottom access offered by some other packs tested. We found this pocket style more difficult to access while wearing the pack. A zipper pocket sits against the low back inside the lower stuff pocket. The pack does not have a sleeve or clip for a hydration bladder and is designed to use the front flasks only. If you want more hydration and storage capacity, Kailas also offers an eight-liter pack with more rear storage and a compartment for a hydration bladder.
The chest closure on this pack is a cord system with three plastic clips that attach to fixed points on the shoulder straps. These are adjusted with a Boa-like system that Kailas calls its ADF or “All-round Dial Fit” adjustment system. It cinches the cord system tight across the chest for a secure fit. Turning the knob clockwise tightens the cords, and pulling out on the knob loosens them.
Our testers liked the innovative strap system but found that pulling out on the knob loosens the cords significantly. This made it difficult to dial in a precise fit. The cords are not stretchy and can compress the chest if over-tightened, so finding the best fit can take trial and error. The cords can also twist and tangle some when the pack is off, which makes taking the pack on and off during use on the trail or in a race inconvenient.
There are multiple attachment options for trekking poles on the front and back of the pack using elastic cinch cords. The pockets where the cords are located all have small reinforced pass-through openings so they can be tucked away when not in use to eliminate annoying flopping and bouncing without having to remove the cords altogether, a small detail we appreciated. An attached whistle and key clip tucked into the front pockets complete the list of small but helpful accessories.
Gear Capacity: 5 liters | Liquid Capacity: 1 liter | Hydration Carrying Method: Two 500-milliliter soft flasks (included) | Gender-Specific or Unisex Sizing: Unisex
Comparing the Best Hydration Packs for Running
|Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest
|Osprey Duro 1.5
|Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Hydration Race Vest
|UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest
|USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest
|Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest
|UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack
|UltrAspire Spry 3.0
|Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Hydration Pack for Running
One of the main delineating features of the best running vests is the size of the pack. Pack capacity is typically described in liters, much like a hiking or backpacking pack. Running hydration packs are much smaller than a traditional backpack and are designed to be form-fitting and more vest-like to eliminate bounce. The storage capacity of running packs is usually broken up into multiple pockets and compartments, usually split between the back and the front chest area rather than having one large rear pocket like a traditional backpack.
While many variables go into choosing the best hydration pack for running for you, a good rule of thumb is to select a pack size based on how long you will be out on the trails. For shorter runs of less than two hours or a race with frequent access to aid stations, a pack of two to five liters of capacity, like the Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Hydration Race Vest or the Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Women’s Hydration Race Vest, will be adequate to carry your hydration, food, and essentials. For those mid-range runs that are in the three- to six-hour range or in more challenging or slow-going terrain, one of the midsize six- to 11-liter packs, such as the USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest, will give you a little extra storage space for gear and liquid carrying capacity.
For all-day adventures or runs in more mountainous terrain where extra gear and layers will be required, a larger pack in the 12- to the 15-liter range, like the Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 women’s running vest, will be needed. If you are considering a race with a mandatory kit, this larger capacity is the best choice for stowing your rain jacket, layers, headlamp, and other essentials. Running-specific hydration packs max out in the 15-liter capacity range. If you are looking for a larger capacity pack for a longer or multi-day adventure, check out our best fastpacking packs guide, as these will better serve the needs of that type of run or hike.
Fit and Adjustability
Once you decide on the right capacity, the most important consideration when choosing the best hydration pack for running is the fit. Running hydration packs are close fitting, with a vest-like wraparound style that sits higher on your torso than a traditional backpack. This fit makes it easier to access storage on the go and keeps the pack close to your body to reduce bouncing and shifting as you run.
Most running vests are made of material that has some give to move with you while you are twisting, running, or breathing. They typically have at least one point of adjustment, most often an adjustable chest strap to tighten and loosen the pack easily on the fly. The straps can add and remove gear and hydration without compromising the pack’s fit. The USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest has a unique front adjustment system that helps reduce pack bounce while running. Some packs, like the Osprey Duro 1.5 or the Osprey Dyna 1.5, have two front adjustment straps, while other packs, including the Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L, have a single piece of cord for adjustment.
Some running vests have additional areas of adjustment on the sides or back of the pack and the shoulders to help distribute weight for comfort and eliminate bouncing and shifting of your gear when loaded up for a long run. These can range from a simple strap to a more complicated webbing or a Boa-adjustment system to really dial in the fit.
In an ideal world, we can try on a pack in a store before buying, but depending on where you live and which company you are shopping for, this is often not a feasible option, and many of us are shopping for our running vests online. All hydration pack manufacturers have different sizing and fit, so it is important to review their brand-specific measurement and fit guides to be sure you are selecting the correct size and fit. Some people like their packs super snug, while others want a little breathing room, so this will be subjective based on your needs. The most important measurements for pack fitting are around the widest part of your chest and the bottom of your ribcage.
When trying a pack on for the first time, you’ll find that you can get the best fit if you load a long run’s worth of essentials — or some volume resembling it — into it beforehand. Loosen all the straps completely, then tighten the sternum and side adjustments until it feels secure but not constrictive.
If you must try on an empty pack rather than one loaded with gear, put the empty vest on without tightening the sternum strap, leaving a few inches gap between your chest and shoulder straps. This will allow for adjustments once the pack is fully loaded with fluids and gear.
Some packs offer a vertical sliding rail to adjust the position of the sternum straps, while others have a hook or “T” attachment with several fabric loops along the front to allow you to customize the fit by changing the position of the straps across your chest. This extra layer of adjustability across the chest allows runners of all shapes and sizes to use a pack. A hydration pack should fit snugly but not restrictively, and you should be able to twist your trunk, swing your arms, and breathe easily without the pack shifting or excessively bouncing.
Some packs come in a gender-specific fit, meaning anything from smaller sizes and colors to a completely different pocket and hydration-carrying configuration. It’s important to note that these changes don’t always translate to a better fit. For example, many of our testers, regardless of gender, prefer the fit of the Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest over the women-specific option. The takeaway here is to consider your body type and do a little research into the size ranges and existing reviews for the pack to help you choose the best hydration pack for running for your body type.
When temperatures rise, a hydration vest will allow you to carry the water you need on a run. Unfortunately, adding a hydration pack also adds extra material to your back and chest that can increase heat retention and sweating. The breathability of a pack is crucial to mitigate this effect and keep you comfortable when running in the heat.
The two factors that most impact the pack’s breathability are the inner mesh that contacts your body and the outer body material. All of the packs we tested have some type of lightweight mesh material lining next to the body, usually polyester, that is perforated or honeycombed to improve ventilation and moisture wicking. The place where heat retention of the pack really differs is in the rear pocket and outer pack materials.
Packs that scored very highly among testers for breathability, such as the UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Race Vest, UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest, Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L, and USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest, all have a mesh lining and pockets that are made of lightweight stretchy materials to allow for good airflow. There are no water-resistant panels to retain moisture and heat, and any insulating panels are removable to improve breathability when you need it.
In contrast, some of our other top picks, such as the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest, Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest, and the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack, have nylon panels or outer pocket materials that improve durability and moisture protection but increase heat retention. All of these are great packs that our testing team ranked very highly, but if you are routinely running in hot conditions or have a high sweat rate, the breathability factor will weigh more heavily than for those who run more frequently in cool, dry conditions.
The main point of a running hydration pack is, well, hydration! A handheld bottle or running belt can suffice for short runs and moderate temperatures, but when tackling hours on the trails, especially in hot, humid conditions, you’ll need more fluids to keep you going and an excellent way to carry them.
The water capacity of running hydration packs varies based on pack size. Smaller packs, including the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 women’s running vest, can typically hold around one liter of fluids, while larger packs meant for longer runs can hold three liters or more. Most hydration packs carry fluids in two ways: soft flasks in front pockets on the chest and in a hydration reservoir, commonly referred to as a bladder, that fits in a rear compartment on your back.
All but the smallest packs can use both, allowing you to expand the amount of water you can carry. The debate between flasks and hydration bladders has no right or wrong. It simply comes down to comfort and personal preference.
The amount of water-carrying capacity you need in your pack should be determined by the type of terrain and conditions you most frequently encounter. A smaller capacity pack will do the trick for shorter runs or races with frequent aid stations. Easy access to water sources such as stream crossings can also lighten your load, as you can filter water along the way — check out our best water filters for trail running guide for some of our favorite water filters to carry out on the trails. For long days without easy access to water or in very hot weather, a larger pack that can fit at least a two-liter reservoir and two 500-milliliter flasks in front is the best choice.
Soft Flasks or Bladder
As mentioned above, running hydration packs have two ways to carry water: flasks or bottles and a hydration bladder. Choosing the best hydration pack for running comes down to weighing comfort, ease of access, and the amount of water you need to carry. Larger packs, like the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack, make it easy to carry a lot of water comfortably with a combination of flask and bladder storage options.
The earliest versions of hydration packs were essentially a water bag inside a backpack. While the technology has changed tremendously, a hydration bladder in the back of the pack is still a go-to for most hydration packs. Even if the pack does not come with a bladder, as many have switched to include front flasks only, there is usually a pocket to accommodate a hydration reservoir in all but the smallest packs.
There are definitely some pros to using the reservoir, including increasing your liquid-carrying capacity, as most packs can fit up to two liters this way. This also frees up front pockets for stashing essentials like nutrition and your phone in an easy-to-reach place. On the negative side, hydration bladders tend to slosh more if there is excess air and add extra weight to your back, which some runners might not prefer. It is more difficult to keep track of how much you are drinking with the bladder since it is out of sight and requires you to remove your pack to get to the reservoir to refill it.
While a few running vest options have a rear bottle holster, most running hydration packs use bottles or collapsible soft flasks in pockets on the front of the vest over the chest. The usual capacity of these is about 500 to 600 milliliters (20 ounces). Soft flasks give quick access to your fluids, making refilling easy without taking the pack off. They also make it much easier to mix and match your hydration needs with electrolyte drink mixes, plain water, or even soda (because sometimes ginger ale or Coke are the only things that work, am I right?)
On the downside, two 500-milliliter soft flasks will only give you one liter of liquid capacity. They also usually sit in front pockets over the chest, which may be uncomfortable for some runners, especially those with larger chests. The Osprey Duro 1.5 and the Osprey Dyna 1.5 are designed primarily to use a bladder but can also fit small soft flasks.
Pocket Placement and Storage
While hydration may be the primary function of your running pack, the gear storage sets the best packs ahead of the rest. The pocket size and placement are crucial to the organization and functionality of the pack. Easy access to essentials on the go and secure storage for extra gear and valuables are key features of our favorite packs.
The most common pocket arrangement for running hydration packs is a combination of smaller front pockets and larger rear compartments, with some packs utilizing the material under the arms for storage. The best pockets are stretchy enough to expand their capacity while being elastic enough to prevent sagging and bouncing and keep your gear secure.
Front pockets are found on pretty much all running hydration packs on the market today, and for good reason! Front pockets are usually separated into a pocket designed to hold a soft flask and additional compartments overlying the soft flask pockets for storage. These make it super easy to stash and access frequently needed small items such as nutrition, lip balm, a cell phone, and more without removing your pack.
Most pockets are made of stretchy material to expand for easy stowing and to keep items secure when moving. Most packs have at least one zipper pocket to secure a key, money, or other important items. Many packs also have smaller pouches on the shoulder straps to store small things like salt tabs. Packs like the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack have seemingly endless pockets to keep everything you need access to during a run.
All but the smallest running hydration packs have at least one storage pocket on the back, usually a pouch spanning the length of the pack that holds a hydration bladder and can serve as a stuff sack for a jacket, extra layers, a first-aid kit, and other gear that does not need to be quickly accessible. Most running vests add additional storage capacity by adding stretchy overlay pockets onto the larger back compartment to provide extra room without adding excessive weight.
Common rear storage and pocket arrangements include an inner sleeve inside a single large back pocket to separate it into two compartments, a top-loading or kangaroo-type tunnel pocket across the bottom for access without removing the pack, an open stuff pocket on the outer part of the pack, or bungee cinch cord attached to the outer compartment. Our favorite packs feature some combination of these to maximize gear capacity without adding bulk.
The best pocket setup is entirely subjective and will vary from runner to runner and depend on what type of racing or terrain you run on the most. Minimalists will reach for a lightweight pack for simple essentials, while mountain runners spending hours in remote terrain will have much bigger gear storage needs. Runners with shoulder mobility issues may be unable to reach behind their back to access gear from a rear pocket with their pack on.
In addition to the basic storage setup of the pack, there are a few extra details that are worth considering depending on your intended use of a pack. Secure closures, such as zippers, Velcro, or clasps, are an important consideration if you do a lot of bending, scrambling, or taking your pack on and off frequently to avoid inadvertently dropping or losing important gear.
A water-resistant pocket for valuables such as your key or cellphone may be an important addition in wet climates or all-day rainy ultras. Perhaps the most important pocket add-on detail is a key clip — because no one wants to return to their car or home to find their key dropped out of their pocket somewhere along the trail.
Clasps and Closure System
The chest strap closure system is a small detail with a significant impact on the fit and functionality of a hydration vest. The best hydration packs for running use several methods for chest strap closures, but overall, our testing team agreed that no matter the type, simplicity and ease of use are hands down the most important features of any clasp.
The most common chest strap closure is a simple buckle, and for good reason. Similar to a traditional backpack sternum closure, these are easy to use and typically do not require much focus or dexterity, which is important for cold fingers and tired brains. The straps are quickly and easily adjustable by simply pulling them tighter or looser at the buckle.
Many of our tested pack manufacturers, including Nathan, utilize buckle closures on their sternum straps, and our testers appreciated their ease of use. In the case of the USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest, one single large buckle centered on the chest is about as simple as it gets! The Osprey Duro 1.5 and Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L employ a slightly different variation of the plastic buckle closure, with plastic clips attached to the sternum straps that clip on to an attachment along the front of the pack.
Another commonly used chest strap closure is a cord that stretches across the chest and attaches to a plastic hook. The strap is then adjusted by pulling the cord through a bungee clasp system to tighten and loosen it as needed. The Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest, Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest, UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest, UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack, and the UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Race Vest — all of which are included in this guide — use some form of this closure. The adjustability on the fly and stretch with chest expansion while breathing are features our testers found very positive. These closures require a bit more dexterity to align the strap over the hooks and thus can be tricky in very cold conditions with gloves on or for runners with fine motor movements with their fingers.
Hydration packs are an expensive piece of gear and a significant investment for most runners that we hope to last for years of water carrying, gear toting, and trail running. The durability of a pack depends on the fabric type, clasps, and cords used in its construction, as well as your use and care of the pack.
A zipper, pocket, or clasp failure could range from minor inconvenience to catastrophe if it happens in remote terrain, so your intended use of the pack and the terrain you plan to run on should be factored into choosing the best pack for you. Someone whose runs take them to remote mountain ridges or bushwhacking through trees and rocky terrain will have different durability requirements for a pack than someone who mostly runs on gravel roads.
As with many other pieces of trail running and outdoor gear, when material weights decrease, durability also tends to decrease. Running hydration packs tread a fine line when it comes to the thickness and weight of the materials and maintaining durability, both of the fabrics and straps, cinch cords, buckles, and clasps. All the packs we tested fared well in terms of their durability, with no significant tears or breakage in our testing period.
Some packs, such as the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest, have been used by our testers for much longer, and there were no reported issues with their durability. In general, all of the running hydration packs tested for this guide are made of stretchy mesh materials and nylon panels to optimize the balance between gear capacity, weight, and durability.
Some packs, like the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0, have more nylon ripstop materials to prevent snagging and potential tears, while others, like the Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L and USWE Pace 8L Trail Running Vest, are lighter-weight mesh and stretch materials.
As detailed above, the closure systems between packs vary as well, and fatigue of the clasps and buckles should be considered in terms of the pack’s overall durability. A runner frequently removing the pack may want a system like the stretch cords of the Salomon or UltrAspire packs versus a plastic buckle or clip found on the Osprey or Kailas packs to decrease the potential for a broken clip.
As we discussed in the above sections, many thoughtful details have gone into the design and construction of the best hydration packs for running, making them a crucial piece of gear for most trail and ultra runners today. In addition to the pocket layout, materials, and fit, several additional features enhance the safety and functionality of the pack.
- Whistle — Most of the best running vests today, including the Osprey Duro 1.5 and the Osprey Dyna 1.5, have a whistle, most often attached to one of the front straps by a loop or cord. These usually tuck into an adjacent pocket to stay secure and prevent bouncing, yet are easily accessible when needed in an emergency. This small and simple accessory can have a significant impact if you are lost or injured and need to summon help. Many races with mandatory kits include a whistle as part of the required gear, so this is something to keep in mind when shopping.
- Trekking pole holders — Trekking poles have become a staple at mountain races and ultramarathons around the globe, and running hydration pack design has reflected this with the addition of trekking pole holders to store poles when not in use. These are often elastic or bungee attachments to cinch poles in place, allowing easy access when needed. There are a variety of configurations of these, including both front- and rear-mounted options or an additional quiver that can be mounted to the pack. It may take a little trial and error to find the most comfortable position for your poles, and if you aren’t sure what you like, choosing a pack with multiple options for pole carrying may be the best bet.
- Cellphone pocket — Many of us carry cell phones on our runs for safety, photography, music, and more. To accommodate this and the ever-growing size of cellphones today, many pack manufacturers have created a designated pocket to fit a cellphone in an easily accessible place, usually a front or side pocket that can be reached without taking the pack off. In some cases, like on the Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Hydration Race Vest and the Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Women’s Hydration Race Vest, these pockets are water resistant, and other pockets may include a zipper or cinch cord to keep the phone secure when taking the pack on and off, bending over, or scrambling on rocks.
- Attachments for ice axes or helmets — Ice axe loops or helmet attachments are uncommon among most smaller-capacity running-specific packs but may be an integral accessory for runners who frequent mountainous alpine terrain. These features are more frequently found on higher-capacity packs like fastpacks or larger-volume packs like the Black Diamond Distance series. We tested the Black Diamond Distance 4, which does not include ice axe loops, but the larger eight-liter and 15-liter versions of this pack do and may be a good choice for those who want a light alpine pack.
Why You Should Trust Us
As with all of these guides, our testing process began with extensive research into the running hydration packs and vests available today. After compiling a list of over 130 packs ranging from the small Osprey Duro 1.5 to the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack, which will carry everything you need for a long day out, we narrowed it to 25 for intensive testing.
We spent several months piling water and gear into our packs and hitting the trails from humid U.S. East Coast ultramarathons to high-elevation mountain terrain and everything in between. Our testers ran everything from dirt roads to rocky ridgelines, putting in fast, flat miles and slow-moving scrambling to find packs that performed well in all conditions.
We know that runners have various pack needs for different situations, so we tested options ranging from ones that would work well for urban runs or short races to those that could hold everything we’d need for big days in remote areas. Whether we had a pack out on a short recovery run or a long romp in the desert where we had it filled with as much water as it could carry, we were constantly assessing the wearability and functionality of the pack, especially whether or not we could get to everything we needed easily without having to take the pack off and dig through it.
Our team assessed each pack’s fit, pocket layout, ease of use, comfort, style, weight, breathability, pole-carrying ability, and durability. We also considered the flasks and/or bladders they came with and any extra features. Testers took the packs in all weather conditions, from hot and dry to cold and rainy, and everything in between to see if we’d overheat or if the fabric got saggy when wet.
With seemingly endless options on the market, we endeavored to find packs in a variety of sizes with the right balance of features.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Hydration Packs for Running
When should I run with a hydration pack?
The temperature, terrain, and duration of your run, in addition to personal preference, will all play a role in answering this question. A good rule of thumb is to consider running with a pack if you will be out for more than an hour or two, as this will ensure that you have enough fluids and nutrition to get you through your run or race. In hotter temperatures, you may want to load up on extra water or carry a small pack like the Osprey Duro 1.5 or the Osprey Dyna 1.5 for even shorter runs to avoid dehydration and overheating.
Runs in more remote locations or difficult terrain may require extra gear, like a first-aid kit or trekking poles. Also, keeping your hands free by wearing a pack will make life much easier, even if you aren’t heading out for a long run. Any multi-hour adventure and almost all ultramarathon races will require a pack to allow you to carry the gear, food, and water needed for a safe and comfortable day on the trails.
I frequently reach for a smaller pack on almost all of my runs, as it gives me an easy place to store my phone, a little water, and some dog treats while keeping my hands free to wrangle my four-legged running buddy’s leash.
What capacity hydration pack do I need?
This mainly depends on the type of running or racing you intend to do. The smaller capacity packs in the one- to five-liter range, including our favorites, the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 5 women’s running vest, are perfect for shorter runs and races where minimal gear and hydration are needed, such as a two-hour run, a well-supported ultramarathon with frequent aid, or a two- to four-mile repeating loop course where you may not want a bottle in your hand the entire time but don’t need to carry hours worth of nutrition or gear.
A mid-capacity pack in the six- to 11-liter range will give you extra storage space for food, fluids, and layers to extend your unsupported running time. For all-day runs or high mountain adventures where multiple extra layers and safety equipment will be required regardless of the run length, a high-capacity 12-plus-liter pack will be the way to go.
Don’t want to have a closet full of packs? Don’t worry! Most of the higher-capacity packs are made of lightweight, stretchy materials that are made to fit close to your body when not full, so if you need one pack to take you through both your two-hour training runs and your ultramarathon on race day, these will expand to fit gear and also wear comfortably when not stuffed to the gills. The Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 women’s running vest were our favorite of the larger capacity packs we tested.
How should my running hydration pack fit?
Your pack should fit snugly against your body to avoid shifting and bouncing with movement. This improves comfort and hopefully eliminates friction and chafing from the materials. You will want enough room in the arms to have an unrestricted arm swing and enough space in the chest to tighten the sternum straps to secure the pack but not restrict breathing. Packs like the Kailas Fuga Air II Trail Running Hydration Vest Pack 5L have advanced adjustment systems to dial in the fit.
The best running hydration packs are made to sit high on the back and torso to keep things stable while moving quickly. All pack manufacturers included in this buyer’s guide have a size chart for their packs and instructions on taking proper measurements to ensure an accurate fit. That being said, some packs just fit bigger or smaller than expected, even when measurements are taken, so there is definitely some trial and error involved in finding your perfect fit.
What should I carry in my running hydration pack?
First and foremost, running hydration packs are made to carry water, so any pack you choose should have a comfortable way to carry your hydration. Once you square away your fluid carrying in soft flasks, bottles, or a bladder, you will need to look at the type of event or run you are doing and plan accordingly. Food, energy gels, and electrolyte powder are important for unsupported events or sensitive stomachs.
Depending on the weather, a hat, gloves, buff, jacket, or extra layer may be in order. An emergency blanket and small first-aid kit are never a bad idea to have on hand. At the very least, some band-aids and tape will help in a pinch. A cell phone for safety, music, and photos is a must-have for most of us! A small external charger for a phone may also make the cut for long days. The moral of the story is that hydration, food, and safety should always be at the top of your packing list. A pack like the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack will carry everything you need for a day in the mountains.
Is there a difference between men’s and women’s running hydration packs?
The answer here is … sometimes. As we noted above, the Salomon Adv Skin 5 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest both have a men’s or unisex version and a women’s-specific version that have different layouts and pocket configurations that change the fit of the vest. Other brands have men’s and women’s versions that differ in colorways and sizing range, but the general layout and capacity of the pack are unchanged. Many others have one unisex version.
The gender-specific designation typically doesn’t mean much in terms of the pack’s actual technical specifications and function — it simply changes the fit. We always recommend runners choose the layout, setup, sizing, or color that suits them the best, regardless of whether it is labeled men’s or women’s.
Should I carry my liquids in bottles, soft flasks, or a hydration bladder?
This is very much a matter of personal preference and may take some experimenting to see which setup you prefer. For faster runs or races where quick aid station turnaround is important, a flask or bottle is much easier to remove, refill, and replace than a bladder. For hot days or long runs, a bladder may be preferable for its additional volume, or a combination of both can ensure you have adequate fluids. A pack like the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack can easily carry three liters of liquid between a bladder and soft flasks.
What are the best hydration packs for larger chests?
Several packs have features designed to improve comfort over the chest area. Women-specific models of packs, like the Salomon Adv Skin 12 women’s running vest and Nathan Pinnacle 4 Liter Women’s Hydration Race Vest, often place the front soft flask pockets lower on the strap than on the unisex model to avoid compressing the chest. Many runners find front flasks uncomfortable over the chest and may find a better fit using only a rear hydration bladder.
The sternum strap configuration and shoulder strap shape are other factors that can affect comfort over larger chests. Sternum straps with adjustable positions and some stretch to the straps themselves will likely be more comfortable than a rigid or fixed-position strap, which may lead to increased pressure. The curved front straps and positioning of elastic sternum straps on the UltrAspire Astral 4.0 Race Vest, which UltrAspire dubs their HerFit Harness, are made to fit comfortably around the chest, avoiding direct pressure over the breasts.
While multiple pack offerings have design elements to fit women’s bodies better, the most important factor to consider is what is most comfortable for you. A larger-sized unisex pack may be a better fit than one marketed as women’s specific for many people, so some trial and error and a good return policy may be in order.
We should note that in the testing round for this guide, we did not have any larger-chested runners to provide detailed feedback about this. As we complete future testing, specific pack recommendations for large-chested runners will be added to this guide.
Which hydration pack is best for cold-weather running?
Hydration packs often provide the added benefit of giving extra warmth to the core when running in cold weather. The downside is that they can cause your back and chest to get sweaty, which is best avoided when running in cold weather. If you’re running in sub-freezing temperatures, you’ll want to ensure the water you’re carrying doesn’t freeze. Some packs, like the UltrAspire Zygos 5.0 Hydration Pack, have an insulated pocket for a bladder to protect the water from the cold. Water can easily freeze in the nozzle and hose of a bladder, so if you’re running in frigid temperatures, you’ll want to blow any water in the hose back into the bladder when you’re done drinking.
What’s the best way to attach trekking poles to a hydration vest?
Unless you’re doing a race or a run that is straight up a hill, you’ll probably want a way to stow your trekking poles when not in use. There are several different styles of attachment systems for trekking poles on various packs, and it comes down to personal preference for which you prefer. A pack like the UltrAspire Alpha 5.0 Race Vest has an elastic cord on the bottom that allows you to attach poles horizontally across your lower pack. Other packs can attach the poles vertically along the front of the pack. While this attachment style often seems the most convenient, it puts the poles in a potentially precarious position should you take a tumble. The Salomon Adv Skin 12 unisex running vest and Salomon Adv Skin 12 women’s running vest have multiple pole attachment options, and many runners are choosing to attach a pole quiver to these packs to store their poles easily.
Call for Comments
- What is your favorite hydration pack for running?
- What types of runs do you use your hydration pack for?
- What running hydration pack feature is a must-have?