Whether you’re tackling your first marathon, digging in with some trail running, or just love going for a run for the exercise, adding a hydration pack can be a great way to keep up your energy, prevent dehydration, and really get the most from your running experience! To help you navigate the many hydration packs available on the market, I’ve compiled this guide with my personal suggestions for the best hydration pack for running.
Different runners will tend to have different requirements for their hydration packs. If you are running competitively, for example, you probably want absolute minimalism – just enough of a pack to keep you hydrated. On the other hand, if you’re training or jogging, you may want a bit of baggage space to bring your phone, MP3 player, and maybe even a snack. If you’re planning an extended hike interspersed with running, you may need even more storage space.
Since everyone’s uses will be a bit different, I haven’t been able to select the single best hydration pack for running. Instead, I’ve selected these 5 options, each of which provides its own benefits and compliments a particular style of running.
Finding the Best Hydration Pack for Running
When I first came across the DolfinPack, I had never heard of the brand before. But I was immediately impressed with how slim and lightweight the design is. Taking minimalism to its utmost extreme, the DolfinPack is all about carrying water and nothing else. It has a 1 liter hydration bladder, but other than that no additional storage space. This is because the DolfinPack is incredibly small, and its design is geared towards maximizing the mobility of the wearer.
Made from the ground up with the demands of a variety of sports in mind, the DolfinPack is ideal for running thanks to its no-nonsense design. It won’t weigh you down any more than is necessary, doesn’t flap against you while you run, and is lightweight and non-intrusive enough to practically disappear after wearing it for awhile. The DolfinPack is also great for much more than just running: touted as the “first hydration pack made to go underwater,” the waterproof design and tiny footprint make it ideal for water sports like paddle boarding, surfing, or land-based activities like cycling, hiking or hunting. Since the DolfinPack has virtually zero bulk, it can easily be worn under additional clothing or gear.
I selected the DolfinPack as the top pick because it is the ideal solution for having a hydration pack without being over encumbered. It is as close as you can get to feeling like you’re wearing nothing while still having a quality hydration pack on. The quality construction, water proof design, and bargain pricetag all contribute to make this one of the best hydration packs for running available, especially if you’re in a competition where having any extra weight is not an option. However, if you need something with a little extra carrying room, check out the next pick…
(UPDATE: Check out the new, improved DolfinPack 2.)
Even though compared to the DolfinPack this TETON Sports Trailrunner 2.0 might seem bulky, its actually an incredibly light-weight and versatile hydration pack. Holding 2 liters of water in the included BPA-free plastic hydration bladder, the Trailrunner 2.0 gives you plenty of water for your run and also includes some storage space in its 9″ mesh pocket. While not enough to bring supplies for a hike, the pocket affords plenty of room to bring a phone, keys, a few snacks or some other small items, making it ideal for training or short trail running.
Although not quite as well-fitting as the DolfinPack, the Trailrunner 2.0 doesn’t bounce around much at all and includes a chest shock absorber which really helps cut down the turbulence! Running in the Trailrunner 2.0 doesn’t feel clumsy and this is a great pack for everyday running, training, trail running, or even as a companion on a marathon.
CamelBak has been a leading name in the hydration pack market since the beginning. We’ve touched on their products before, like the M.U.L.E3, my favorite hydration pack for cycling, which I did a full review of. We also named a CamelBak hydration pack as the #1 best hydration pack for summer 2015, the massive MULE 100oz. Of course, you don’t want something like the MULE 100oz for running, but it is enough bag to pack your whole hike in and never run out of water!
Given the fame of CamelBak, it is unsurprising to see them mentioned here once again. Pictured above is the Camelbak Hydrobak for Men, but a version is available for women as well, called the Charm Hydration Pack. While the names are different, they are more or less identical.
This ultra-slim CamelBak holds 1.5 liters of water and has a narrow profile to promote maximum range of motion. It is quite comfortable to run in, but it is important to adjust the straps well to get a tight fit which won’t jostle as you move. There is a small additional storage pocket on the Hydrobak, but it is very minimal and can only accommodate very small items.
From another company which we’ve talked about before here on Hydration Anywhere, we have the High Sierra Propel 70 Hydration Pack, an offering with considerably more additional storage space than the other options on this list. The two exterior pockets provide enough room to bring some equipment for a day out hiking or trail running, or an ideal space to bring phone, keys, and a protein bar while running for training. Not to mention the Propel 70 holds an impressive 2 liters of water. In contrast to some of the super-minimalist options above, the Propel 70 can be a great backpack for more extended runs, or made into a versatile pack by bringing it along cycling, hiking, or even camping.
OPTION FIVE: Hydration Pack Alternatives
For some runners, no matter how lightweight or well-fitting the hydration pack, having something on their back at all cramps their style. If you find yourself falling into this category, the hydration belt is an alternative worth looking into. Hydration belts don’t have bladders or hoses like hydration packs, but they are the ideal way to hold easily accessible water bottles on your waist which don’t mess up your stride. My favorite hydration belt has to be this offering from Camden Gear (~$45 on Amazon.com).
Letting you easily carry a few items in addition to the 2 12-ounce water bottles which are conveniently located for access while running, the Camden Gear hydration belt is a great way to avoid the burden of a whole hydration pack while still having enough water to hydrate on your run and even a bit of storage space to bring along some essentials. The main appeal of this (or any) hydration belt is that it doesn’t really mess with your center of gravity in the way that a hydration pack will, and is much less likely to flop or bounce around while running if properly fastened.
Another alternative to the traditional hydration pack design is the hydration vest, such as the Nathan Firecatcher Hydration Vest (~$55 on Amazon.com). Somewhere at the cross roads between a hydration pack and a hydration belt, the Firecatcher Hydration Vest is equipped with several front pockets for carrying water bottles or other items, as well as a spacious back pocket which can either be fitted with a hydration bladder (not included) to make the Firecatcher function as a hydration pack, or used as additional storage space.
While you still have something on your back with the design of the hydration vest, having the option of carrying your water supply in your front pocket or in the back gives you the flexibility of controlling how your load will change your center of gravity. The vest can also provide some great additional storage space and is well-suited to running thanks to its extensive adjustable straps.
A final alternative could be the the HydroSleeve Armband. This armband straps to your bicep and provides easy access to your water even without breaking your stride. Carrying just enough water for your run (about 7.5 ounces) it doesn’t weigh you down and provides a convenient way to carry and access your water on the run.
Helpful Hydration Pack Shopping Tips from Nathan Sports
This short clip provides some interesting insight behind the mechanics of running with a hydration pack and provides a bit of helpful advice on choosing the right hydration pack for running. This video comes courtesy of Nathan Sports and features the Firecatcher Hydration Vest!
That’s All, Folks!
Good luck on your quest selecting the best hydration pack for running! Hopefully my recommendations will serve you well, but always keep in mind that the needs of every runner are different. In a lot of cases, which hydration pack you prefer for running can come down to more of a personal “feeling” than anything else. Ultimately, let your comfort be the judge. Does this hydration pack allow you to move freely? Do you now feel encumbered while running? Ask yourself these questions extensively while you test out different options! When you find a hydration pack which truly lets you move freely and functions as it should, it can seriously improve your running experience.
If you can’t find something to stand up to your hydration needs in the form of a hydration pack, belt, or vest, check out our guide to the best water bottles in 2015 to pick out a more suitable container. Once you’ve got your bottle, if you still want some added portability, don’t miss our feature on water bottle holders. If you’re looking for something to use while exercising or at the gym, we’ve got you covered with our gym water bottle guide!
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We examine the best hydration packs to sort out the ideal pick for complimenting you on your runs.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.