Best Ways to Carry Water While Running

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As runners, we all know that staying hydrated is important when you’re running. Even on a cool day, water is a must-have.

But we also all know that carrying water while running can be a challenge.

So we’ve listed some of the best ways to carry water while running. You may not have tried all of these methods, so if holding a regular old water bottle is tricky for you, why not look at ways to do it more comfortably?

Dehydration can ruin a great run, so it’s worth it to always bring water on the go. Read on to see your options and figure out what works best for you.

How to Calculate Your Hydration Needs

Most of us simply estimate how much water we’ll need throughout our runs. For many, this works quite well. But if you want to get technical, you can try this method.

Right before you go for a run, weigh yourself without any clothes. Take note of that number. Then, run for one hour at around your race pace and keep track of how much water—in ounces—you drink during that run.

When you’re finished, weigh yourself again, without any clothes. Subtract that number from the original weight and convert it into ounces. Then, add that number to the amount of water you drank during your run. This will tell you how much water you should consume on a run.

As an example, let’s assume you lost one pound—16 ounces—and you drank 8 ounces of water during your run. That means your total water loss per hour is 24 ounces. Divide this by two, and you’ll see that you need to drink 12 ounces of water every 30 minutes. Or, divide it by 4, and you need to drink 6 ounces every 15 minutes.

What to Consider

How often do you fill up the same old water bottle and head out for your run without considering if you have enough water?

It happens to all of us! Here are a few things to consider to make sure you’re taking along the right amount of water.

Run Distance & Time

The further you plan to run, the more water you’ll need to stay hydrated. If you’re only going for a short run, you may be able to get away with hydrating before and after your run and leaving the water at home.

But anything longer than 30 minutes or so will likely benefit from some hydration during the run. Remember, as you sweat, you actively lose fluid, which needs to be replaced. You lose about 3 to 10 ounces of fluid per mile, depending on the weather and how much you naturally sweat.

If you’re running at a moderate intensity, you should be able to get away with drinking a bit every 30 minutes or so. This is something you’ll get better at the more you run, and you’ll start to get into the habit of drinking every few miles.

Comfort

Comfort is an important factor as well. Is carrying a water bottle annoying? Does a running belt feel uncomfortable?

Using a water-carrying method that annoys you or causes discomfort is incredibly frustrating. You may need to experiment a little to find what works for you.

Running Form

It’s also essential to choose a method that doesn’t interfere with your form.

Does carrying one heavy water bottle or using a belt with a water bottle hanging only on one side cause you to lean more to one side? Whatever method you choose, make sure it allows you to run with the correct form.

Best Ways to Carry Water While Running

Here are the best ways to carry water while running. You may need to experiment a little to find what method you like best.

Handheld Bottles

A handheld water bottle is the classic way of carrying your water on a run!

But it’s not the most practical method; you need to keep a good grip on the bottle even with sweaty hands, and it may throw off your form if it’s heavy or when it starts to empty and the remaining water begins to slosh around.

The best way to use handheld water bottles is to either carry two—one in each hand—or to pass one water bottle back and forth from hand to hand every five minutes or so.

Whichever you choose to do, there are two different types of handheld water bottles that you can use.

Hard Bottles

Hard water bottles come with a fabric holder that straps to your hand. This makes a big difference over traditional old water bottles, because you don’t have to grip so hard.

If you prefer carrying your water in a bottle, this could be a great choice. They’re exactly like old-school bottles, just attached to your hand.

PROS:

  • Affordable piece of equipment for carrying water
  • Comfortable on the hand and reduces hand fatigue
  • Can stop your hands from sweating
  • Easy to find the right fit for you
  • Some can also hold a phone or gels

CONS:

  • May be a distraction as you run
  • Might not carry enough water for long runs
 

Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra Handheld

This 20 oz bottle comes with a soft, hand-washable sleeve that straps around your palm using Thumb-Lock technology. It can hold a large phone in the zippered pocket, and three gels in the gel loops.


Soft Flasks

If you don’t like a hard water bottle, you may prefer a soft flask. These are made of flexible, soft material which is easier to hold since your hand can mold to it easily.

Soft bottles are great if you hate that sloshing that happens when your hard bottle gets half-empty! The softness of the bottle means that as you drink, the air gets sucked out of the bottle and it leaves no space. Convenient!

You can also pack it away into a pocket or belt when it’s empty, which is handy. They’re somewhat less insulated than hard bottles but great for shorter runs.

PROS:

  • As affordable as hard flasks are
  • More comfortable than hard flasks
  • Eliminates annoying water sloshing
  • Easy to pack away when the water is finished

CONS:

  • Not likely to hold enough water for long runs
  • Most can’t hold a phone, unlike the hard flask straps
 

Nathan ExoDraw 2.0 18 oz Handheld

This soft flask is available in either 14 or 18 oz choices, both of which come with an adjustable hand strap that fits comfortably and can also carry small items like energy gels or electrolyte tablets.


Waist Packs/Hydration Belts

Some waist packs come with a single bottle that sits in the small of the back, while others have two, one on each hip. Most use hard bottles, but you can find some with soft flasks.

If you’re already used to wearing a running belt, this could be a comfortable option. They also tend to have a good bit of storage space for nutrition, phones, car keys, etc.

PROS:

  • Great storage capacity for other items as well as water
  • Usually available in a variety of water capacities
  • Fairly affordable in most cases
  • Available in hard or soft flask varieties
  • Easy access on the go

CONS:

  • May be tricky to find the right fit
  • There may be some bounce with full water bottles
 

This handy waist pack has two 17-oz soft flasks sitting behind you, diagonally placed for easy access. In between the bottles, there’s a pouch that can accommodate a phone or other items, and a key pocket on the front of the waistband.


Hydration Vests

Hydration vests come in two varieties: those with flasks and those with a hydration bladder. Many can also accommodate both but are only sold with one or the other, so you need to buy the one you are missing.

Note that these vests often come in specific models for men and women. Ladies’ vests are designed specifically to fit a woman’s shape, making a huge difference in comfort.

Vests should be tight enough not to bounce, but not so tight that they chafe, restrict your movement, or are uncomfortable.

Another important thing to know is that there’s a difference between the water capacity of a pack and the gear capacity. You’ll often see statements like “10-liter capacity”, but be aware that this does NOT mean you can carry 10 liters of water! This refers to the space for nutrition, accessories, and other gear.

The water capacity is usually referred to in ounces or liters but it’s specifically talked about in the context of the bottles or bladder. You’ll usually only get about 1.5 to 2 liters in the bladder.

Flask Only

Some hold two bottles or flasks in pockets on the front of the vest. Some of these also have space for a hydration bladder at the back, but most only offer (non-fluid) storage space.

One of the best things about these kinds of vest water holders is that they’re easy to fill on the go, unlike a hydration bladder. As there are two water bottles, you can also fill one with just water and the other with an electrolyte solution, or something similar.

PROS:

  • Generally comfortable to wear
  • Men’s and women’s choices
  • Space for various other items
  • Moderate capacity for water
  • Easy to refill on the go

CONS:

  • May be difficult to get the sizing right for you
 

Salomon Sense Pro 5

Equipped with two 17-oz soft flasks and up to 5 liters of space in 9 different compartments for other items, this vest is compact and easy to wear. Made by Salomon, you also know it will be rugged and highly durable.


With Bladder

Those vests with hydration bladders typically don’t have space for flasks, but can hold a few nutrition items, a phone, and maybe car or house keys. However, the biggest draw here is that you can drink hands-free and carry more water than any other option.

It also distributes weight nicely, so you should be able to run with your normal form quite comfortably. Take note, though, that removing and refilling the bladder can be tricky.

PROS:

  • Highest water capacity of all carriers
  • Comfortable and unobtrusive, yet easy access
  • Good storage capacity for other items
  • Come in both men’s and women’s sizes
  • PROS 5

CONS:

  • Most expensive of the water carrying options
  • Difficult to remove and refill the bladder quickly
 

Nathan QuickStart 2.0 3 Liter Hydration Pack

You can buy this vest in either 3 liter or 4 liter storage capacity. Both come with a 1.5-liter bladder, and have a zippered pocket and an elasticated pouch on the front for other storage.

Bonus Option: LifeStraw

We love the Lifestraw as a backup water option. You never quite know when you’ll run out of water, take a wrong turn on the trail, or drop and break a water bottle! The LifeStraw is easy to slip into a loop on your belt or vest, and it’s the perfect way to make sure you never run out of water on a run.

We do recommend not choosing this as your main water option. You have to carry clean, safe water with you, but carrying one will also ensure that you’re never stuck without safe water.

Note that it’s quite large, so it’s not likely to fit into a pocket or belt. But it’s an excellent option if you go on long runs or like to run trails.

Tips for Running Comfortably While Carrying Water

Tuck Away Loose Clothing

While you should be running in clothing that’s close to your body, you may find that some shirts are a little looser around the hem. Make sure you tuck loose clothing away so that it doesn’t get in the way of you reaching your water bottle or spout.

Don’t Tighten Straps Too Tight

If you’re using a belt or vest, strap it on comfortably. They should not be so tight that they affect circulation, cause pain, or restrict your freedom of movement. At the same time, they shouldn’t be so loose that the vest or belt bounces when you run.

Balance Yourself Out

While it’s not always possible, it’s a good idea to try and balance the weight across your body if you’re using water bottles. Instead of having one heavy bottle on one side—which could affect your running form or cause discomfort—balancing it out with a similarly-weighted bottle on the other side makes a difference.

It’s also a good idea to try and drink equally from each bottle. Sip from one bottle one time, and the next bottle the next time, so the water level decreases equally.

Other Water-Carrying Tips

Experiment During Training, If You Can

If you need to try and work out which method is best for you, it’s best to experiment during training and not on race day! This can be tricky, though, because it’s not viable to go out and buy everything just to test it.

If you have runner friends who use other forms of water holders, ask if you can borrow theirs for a training run so you can compare.

And once you’ve figured out which works best for you, stick to it during races. Don’t switch to another brand or model for your race—use exactly the same one you did during training.

Check What Methods Are Allowed In Races

If you’ve entered a race, make sure to check what water-carrying methods they allow.

For example, the New York City Marathon has a ban on hydration backpacks, so check before the time so you don’t arrive only to find out that you can’t use the water carrier you’ve been training with.

Keep It Clean

Make sure that whatever method you use to carry water that you keep it clean and dry it thoroughly. Dirty bottles and bladders can lead to mold growth and other funky stuff. This is even more true if you put sports drink or electrolyte tabs in there.

It’s especially important to clean hydration bladders and soft flasks, which are more susceptible to mold because they are difficult to clean and dry.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

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