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We all know that staying hydrated is essential for a good run, but knowing how to stay hydrated can be tricky. Whether you’re jogging around the neighborhood or embarking on an all-day trail run, carrying a water bottle is downright annoying, and relying on water fountains is usually impossible. Here’s where the best hydration backpacks for running come in.
Running hydration backpacks are streamlined packs specially designed to stay snug while you run. This means you can carry water (and have your hands free) while avoiding the bouncing and chafing caused by normal backpacks. Hydration backpacks for runners can also squeeze in other essentials like your phone, wallet, snacks or even a light rain jacket with larger packs. In short, that much-needed water (and other stuff) stays out of sight, out of mind and out of your hands while you log miles.
What Are the Best Hydration Backpacks for Running?
As with any running gear, small details can make or break a hydration pack. Below are a few features to keep in mind while picking the best running hydration backpack for your needs.
Size: The ideal hydration backpack for running fits water, essentials and nothing more. Any excess material means more weight and less comfort. Before choosing a pack, consider the length of your typical runs and how much stuff you like to carry. If you’re doing short runs (say, around three to five miles) a small pack with around one liter of water is best. For long runs of an hour, two hours or more, you’ll definitely want a larger hydration pack with at least a two-liter water capacity.
Comfort: The best hydration packs should make you forget that it’s actually there. Look out for padding, ample straps and an overall ergonomic design. These features will make the pack stay tight against your body and prevent bouncing as you run. If you’re a serious runner, it may even be worthwhile to test a couple packs before settling on one.
Pockets: As mentioned, you will want somewhere to stash your phone, keys, gels and other running necessities. Ideally, hydration backpacks should have a few small pockets so that your stuff isn’t bouncing around in one big pocket. Also be aware of pocket placement, as you might want quick-access to things like your phone (say, to change the music).
Bottles or Bladder: Water carrying systems on hydration backpacks come in two varieties: bladder and bottles. Bottle systems break up the load into two small bottles, which is nice for separating electrolyte drinks from water if you carry both. Bladder systems feature a soft water reservoir (usually in the back) with a tube leading to your mouth. This choice really comes down to personal preference, as some people like the quick access provided by bladders, but others don’t like drinking from a tube.
1. Salomon Advance Skin 12 Set Running Hydration Vest
Salomon’s hydration vests feel like second skins (hence the name) that happen to carry water. This Skin 12 vest features a maximum coverage design and therefore more points of contact to keep the pack secure. A flexible sternum strap gives some stretchiness and can be adjusted to fit just about everyone.
Hydration comes from two 500ml flasks situated on the shoulder straps. If you need to carry more water, the pack is ready to be upgraded with Salomon’s Hydrapak bladder. And, although the Salomon pack is quite small, it boasts ample room for running essentials thanks to two zip pockets and two dump pockets on the front. In the back you’ll find two large expandable compartments which are ideal for extra clothing. Overall, it’s a good pack for most runners but really shines with trail and long-distance athletes.
2. Ultimate Direction Ultra 5.0 Hydration Vest
If you don’t need to carry too much stuff, this hydration vest from Ultimate Direction is a great pick. It holds two 500ml bottles in the front, but comes ready for a bladder of up to three liters if you need more. But the best part is its weight, coming in at a feather-light 6.3 ounces. This weight, plus a cinch system to adjust the load, makes for a very comfortable piece of gear. Need to carry more than just water? The pack is ready. Two stretchy pockets on the lower straps offer quick-access storage while a main compartment and a net system on the back provide space for extra layers.
3. Nathan VaporAir Hydration Pack
This VaporAir hydration pack from Nathan is a good choice if you’re looking to squeeze in a variety of running essentials. It doesn’t look or feel very big, but the pack boasts storage options including a dedicated smartphone pocket on the front and secure side mesh pockets. In the back is a two-liter bladder with a quick-release valve up front. This tube cinches down neatly against your chest, keeping it secure and out of your face but ready to go when you need a drink. In terms of comfort, the VaporAir does very well. Nathan uses soft-touch elastic around the perimeters of the pack to minimize chafe and the wide chest strap pulls everything close to your body for less bounce.
4. Black Diamond Distance 4 Hydration Vest
Most hydration backpacks are meant to stay secure while you jog at a reasonable pace, but this Distance 4 vest from Black Diamond is different. It’s designed to stay put at high speeds, making it a good choice for anyone that likes fast downhill sections or interval runs. The vest achieves this snug fit with a very small, lightweight build (weighing in at about seven ounces) and four-way stretch mesh fabric. Despite it’s small, fast construction, the Distance 4 can fit quite a bit of water thanks to two 500ml soft flasks on the front and a reservoir sleeve on the back (the flasks are included, the reservoir is not). You also get ample pockets throughout for your phone, gels, keys and so on.
5. CamelBak Octane 18 Hydration Pack
CamelBak revolutionized athletic hydration back in the Nineties, and the brand is still making some of the best hydration packs on the market. All of its packs are worth a look, but, if you’re embarking on a long trek, check out this Octane 18 backpack. It features a two-liter Crux reservoir in the back, and room for soft water bottles in the front. You also get a whopping 16-liters of storage for other gear in a large back compartment. To keep you comfortable and cool, the Octane uses 3D vent mesh on the harnesses and a thick, padded back. Plus, two adjustable sternum straps allow you to secure the whole pack against your body.
6. Osprey Packs Duro 6L Backpack
Another good hydration pack for longer runs is this Duro backpack from Osprey. You’ll get quick-access hydration from an included 1.5-liter reservoir that feeds through a hose, but the pack also has pockets on the front for optional soft flasks. The reservoir hose on this pack is special, as it uses a sternum magnet to stay put and provide easy access when needed. As with many products from Osprey, the Duro really shines in terms of comfort and build quality. The whole interior is lined with soft, breathable mesh and a snug, ergonomic fit keeps everything stable while you run. The outside of the pack is made of durable nylon, ensuring protection against any drops or snags from branches.