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The Best Hydration Packs for Runners

If you’re looking for a run down of the best hydration packs for runners, this ultimate list can help. Whether you’re looking for hydration marathon packs, packs for women or packs for men, use this list to help you.

runner with a red hydration vest on

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Hydration is an important component of running. Being adequately hydrated before and during running events will help you to feel and perform your best.

Hydration backpacks for running are popular options for carrying hydration on the run. Hydration for runners is of utmost importance for performance.

In fact, endurance performance can be impaired with just a body water loss of 1–2%, which may not sound like alot.

But if you’re a heavy sweater, this can happen.

We’re going to discuss how to choose a running hydration pack that meets your needs.

What is a Running Hydration Pack?

A hydration pack for running can be a backpack, fanny pack, belt or vest that holds water bottles or a hydration bladder.

The purpose of a hydration pack is to provide runners with a continuous supply of water during their runs. This is very helpful for trail running, and is a big part of the trail running nutrition plan.

These packs are designed to fit comfortably and securely on a runner’s back, chest or even hips.

Hydration packs for runners typically come in different sizes, colors, and styles to suit different preferences and needs.

closeup of running hydration pack on man with blue shirt

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Hydration Running Pack Features

When choosing a running hydration pack, there are several things to consider.

Do you want a handheld option, a wear on your back option, or a wear around your waist option?

These are the most common types of hydration packs for runners.

Many of these features will depend on your needs. For example, are you looking for a trail running hydration pack, or the best marathon hydration pack?

You’ll also want to consider the following:

  • Do you prefer a hydration bladder or water bottles? Most hydration packs for runners come with a hydration bladder that holds a certain amount of water, ranging from 1.5 to 3 liters, depending on the pack’s size. Some packs have the option of using water bottles to drink from instead of a bladder.
  • What clothes are you wearing under? Are they breathable? Check out this guide for what to wear for jogging in the summer.
  • Bite valve – This is the part of the hydration pack that is inserted into the mouth to drink water. It is designed to prevent the water from leaking when you aren’t using it. You can suck on them or gently bite them to release water.
  • Pockets – Many hydration packs have multiple pockets for storing items like cell phones, energy gels or energy chews, snacks, keys, and other essentials.
  • How Heavy is it – How much extra weight do you want to be carrying? How long are you running for? Does it hold adequate water for you?
  • Adjustable straps – Most hydration packs have straps that can be adjusted to fit different body types, allowing for a comfortable and secure fit.
  • Reflective material – What time of day are you running, and is it a shaded or sunny area? Some hydration packs have reflective material that enhance visibility during dark or low-light conditions.
  • Ventilation – Most running hydration packs are designed with ventilation in mind, keeping the runner’s body cool and minimizing sweat buildup.
  • Cleaning – Is it easy to clean? Especially if you’re mixing in sports drinks or electrolytes, you’ll want to make sure you can clean it adequately between uses.

Many of these are common features among most hydration packs for ultra running, so in addition to these, you’ll want to consider style, price and fit.

Don’t forget to pair your hydration with the best foods for ultra running.

When Should You Wear a Hydration Pack?

A hydration pack can be a great option for any runner at any time.

If you are a runner who struggles with dehydration, wearing a hydration pack may be a good option so you can carry more fluids with you.

If you are a heavy or salty sweater, you may want to wear a hydration pack to help you stay better hydrated.

water bottle belt on back of runner

If you are running in hot and/or humid conditions, a hydration pack may be a necessity.

Lastly, if you are going on a long run or racing, you may want to wear a hydration pack to help you stay hydrated. It can really help with your hydration for half marathon and up.

Alternatives to hydration packs include handheld water bottles and running belts.

Popular Hydration Packs for Runners

Here are some of the popular hydration packs for runners on the market.

This Women’s Rogue Light 70oz hydration pack from Camelbak is sleek, lightweight, and breathable.

This ADV Skin 12 running vest or hydravest from Salomon has an ultra versatile storage unit and up to 12L capacity. It is breathable and lightweight, yet great for very long distance events. There are tons of pockets on the shoulder, bladder sleeves and more.

The UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Hydration Pack reduces weight and increases heat dissipation and holds up to 2L.

Nathan Pinnacle 12L Hydration Pack  – The Pinnacle 12L is equipped with a 1.6L insulated bladder and quick release valve system for easy drinking on the go

girl running in hydration vest

Personally, I’ve always loved Nathan, like the Nathan Pinnacle 12L Hydration Pack. To me, it’s the best running hydration vest.

How Hydration Packs Keep You Hydrated

Having a hydration pack on you can help with hydration because you will be able to drink to thirst as your source of hydration is with you at all times.

You don’t have to necessarily plan ahead and have water or sports drinks stashed somewhere on your run, or wait until you get to a water fountain or back to your car.

You can also easily measure how much you drink during your run so you know if you are staying adequately hydrated or not.

Furthermore, if you are a salty sweater, you can appropriately mix in necessary electrolytes. If you can prefer, you can even mix in your own homemade sports drink.

If your hydration pack has a straw or tube system, this allows you to drink fluids without stopping, which may improve your overall running time.

man sipping water out of hydration backpack for running

How Do You Add Electrolytes to Hydration Packs?

With a hydration pack, you can add electrolytes to your liquid using a powder or tablet form of electrolytes. We like Nuun Sport, Tailwind, UCAN and Skratch.

The popular electrolytes for runners are sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride.

Note that most hydration packs say they are only meant for water, so you’ll want to be sure you’re able to clean the hydration pack well after using an electrolyte powder or supplement.

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You can also use an all-in-one hydration solution, such as a sports drink that has electrolytes already added in.

Most hydration packs say they are only meant for water, so you’ll want to be sure you’re able to clean the hydration pack well after using an electrolyte or energy supplement.

hydration pack and bladder for runner

How Much Do Hydration Packs Weigh?

How much a hydration pack weighs depends on how much fluid it holds, and what else you have stored in it. They can range from 17-50 oz. or more!

The packs themselves are usually relatively light.

For example, this Camelbak that holds 17 oz of fluids only weighs only 8 oz.

This UltrAspire Spry 3.0 Hydration Pack that holds up to 2.1L of fluid only weighs 7.2 oz. itself.

Should You Run with a Hydration Pack or Vest?

Whether you run with a hydration pack or vest is completely up to you. You will want to test it out to make sure it fits properly and doesn’t rub anywhere on your body.

Most hydration packs also have pockets for other things such as fuel options, your cell phone, and car keys.

You may decide that you only want to wear a hydration pack or vest on long runs or during the hotter months, and settle for handhelds or belts on shorter runs.

It is a personal decision and only you can know what feels best and what works best for you.

Females also have different nutrition needs than men and should be considered. Sports nutrition for women needs to be individualized!

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References:

  • Costa RJS, Knechtle B, Tarnopolsky M, Hoffman MD. Nutrition for Ultramarathon Running: Trail, Track, and Road. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2019 Mar 1;29(2):130-140. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0255. Epub 2019 Apr 3. PMID: 30943823.
  • National Athletic Training Association (2000). Fluid replacement for athletes. J. Ath. Training 35:212-224
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