The Best Hydration Packs for Running in 2018
Runners know how important it is to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to poor runs, discomfort, and other more serious injuries. The challenge is that when you are running long distances, hydration is not always immediately available.
This is exactly why hydration packs were created. These wearable hydration devices allow you to have much-needed water readily available no matter how far you are running. Because they can be worn, runners no longer have to figure out how to carry water bottles while trying to focus on the road ahead. They can also store much, much more water than a handheld water bottle or hydration belt.
Hydration packs also free runners up to plan your route based on where you want to run, not by places to stop for water. Like all gear, hydration packs are not created equal. There are several factors to consider when choosing one to buy.
The obvious factor is how much water a hydration pack can carry. Most packs have two ways to carry water: on the front with water bottles or on the back with a hydration bladder. The bladder holds more water (usually 1L to 2L), but are trickier to fill-up on the go.
Front water bottles are more convenient and allow you to carry two different types of fluids – but they don’t have the overall storage capacity of a bladder. Some packs allow for both options while others are limited to either the bladder or the front bottles. You will want to select a pack that holds enough water for your longest runs, keeping in mind that water does add weight for you to carry.
Other factors include overall fit, how easy it is to access the water, and storage capacity for extras like jackets, nutrition, keys, and a phone.
The packs listed here are unisex or made for men (even if not directly stated). If you need a women’s pack, check out our article on the best women’s hydration packs.
Here is our list of 10 hydration packs that are best suited for running…
Top 3 Best and Favorites
1. Camelbak Circuit Vest
The Circuit vest from Camelbak continues to be one of their most popular running vests, especially since the newer version is 30% lighter than previous models. This means that you can carry more water with less weight.
This vest also features a 1.5 liter Crux reservoir. This helps deliver 20% more water per sip to the runner – this means more hydration intake with less effort.
To ensure a snug fit during your run, the Camelbak Circuit comes with two adjustable straps across your sternum. You will be able to enjoy bounce free running while avoiding the pitfalls of restricted breathing from a vest that fits too tightly.
The pack doesn’t hold water bottles on the front, but there are several pockets for storing small items.
Made from a ventilated mesh material, this vest allows for multi-directional air flow which gives you maximum comfort and easy breathing. You can also store your cell phone in a zippered enclosure for safe and convenient access. There is also enough storage to carry gels, snacks, and other gear.
The Circuit vest is also a great deal at under a $100.
- Lightweight and breathable
- Excellent combination of water and gear storage
- Snug fit with adjustable straps for less bounce
- Good value
- Limited color options
2. Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest 4.0
Ultimate Direction prides itself on innovative products and the Ultra Vest 4.0 is no exception. It provides a strong combination of carrying capacity with a lightweight design. With two 17 oz soft water bottles, this vest still weighs less than 11 ounces (bottles empty).
The lightweight mesh fabric feels like it molds to your body resulting in less bounce and no chafing. The 4-way stretch nylon combined with the MicroMono mesh fabric will reduce irritation, especially around the usual problem areas like the shoulders and neck.
This vest also features Ultimate Direction’s trademark Comfort Cinch technology. This pack-tightening system sits in the rear of pack to cinch the back-to-front connectors snug. In addition to providing a custom fit for every runner, it allows for easy adjustments while you are on the go.
The two water bottles are conveniently located up front. Combined they can hold up to a liter of water or your favorite sports drink. There are also stretch mesh pockets with zippers to hold your phone and any other necessities.
The pack is also compatible with up to a 2L reservoir; however, this is not included with the vest – it must be purchased separately.
- Lightweight with custom fit adjustable sternum straps and lower back
- Convenient water bottle locations
- Reduced irritation from chafing during runs
- Higher price point
- Limited color options
3. Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set
A minimalist style system that fits close to the body, Salomon’s S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set packs a ton of features in a small package. Hydration is accessible at the front, while multiple pockets allow for storage of all the essentials.
Two front pockets hold hydration, three zip pockets on the chest and sides keep belongings contained, and three stretch pockets plus a back compartment hold everything else. Two 17 ounce flasks comes with the set. Drinking on the go only requires you to tilt the pack up to hydrate – no need to take the bottles out of their holders. Small zipcords also tie around the water bottle head to prevent them from sliding into the pocket holder as they get low on water.
With a mesh and elastic build, the Ultra 5 is chafe-free and lightweight. Its slight size and weight mean you’ll barely feel it on the trail. The snug fit means it won’t flap in the breeze, either. Without straps, zippers, and bungees slapping against you, you’ll forget you’re wearing this vest at all.
Depending on what you need to carry and how long you’ll be on the trail, the Ultra 5 Set is one of the best hydration packs with multiple functions. For conditions where you need to pack not just water, but also supplies like a windbreaker, cell phone, snacks, and more, this trim-fitting option can carry it all.
- 5L, 305 cubic inch capacity
- 6.7-ounce weight
- Minimal-feel while wearing it
- Front bungees can prove difficult to adjust, especially as your water supplies deplete
- Sizing runs big
4. Nathan HPL #20 Race Vest
For conditions that require a fully-stocked hydration bladder, the Nathan HPL #20 vest ranks among the best hydration packs. While no hydration vest is lightweight when full, Nathan makes it a little less cumbersome.
A three-way harness helps with adjusting the pack close to your body, minimizing bouncing and discomfort. The straps are a breathable mesh that lay flat, and mesh pouches can store gels or other must-haves.
Although the bladder itself makes up most of the backpack-style vest, the back panel is breathable mesh as well. The hydration pack also has a zippered pocket for storing other necessities.
With the bladder, the overall storage capacity is 269 cubic inches. Without, a total of 366 cubic inches are available.
The presence of zippers, adjustment straps, and bungees may be an annoyance to some runners, but there are strap-holding mechanisms in place to reduce flopping. That said, runners on the lower end of the height-weight spectrum will have more to deal with when it comes to excess straps.
- Three-way harness allows for nearly infinite adjustments
- Bottle and smartphone pockets
- 14.6-ounce weight with an empty bladder
- Can remove hydration pack for more storage space
- One-size-fits-most, so no custom sizing options
- Straps and bungees may “flop” as you run
5. Orange Mud Endurance Pack
The endurance pack differs slightly from the normal hydration vest in that the front shoulder depth is much deeper than normal which allows for additional flexibility. The end result is that this Endurance Pack can easily adjust to the curves of the female runner as well as the larger male runners.
Equipped with a 2-liter bladder, this pack provides ample hydration for your longest runs. It also features additional 2-liters of storage for other necessities you might need along the way. There are also 2 convenient shoulder pockets to hold snacks or energy bars.
The mesh material is rugged but also breathable resulting in improved comfort for the wearer. The two front straps have multiple adjustment points to aid in finding the right fit for comfort and reduced bounce.
- Total of 4-liters of storage for liquids and other gear
- Deeper shoulder depth to conform to larger runners
- Multiple adjustment locations
- Can be heavier than other packs as it is designed for more than just running
6. Ultimate Direction Marathon Vest
Ultimate Direction promises that if the Marathon Vest is so light, you’ll forget that you’re wearing it. As impressive as the claim seems, it appears to be true. The overall weight of the pack is just under five ounces, and its construction is breathable and lightweight mesh.
A bottle-compatible front pocket fits multiple varieties of trail bottles, and the rear pocket is also reservoir-compatible. It has PowerNet Mesh that aims to eliminate bouncing, so if you need to pack more hydration than one water bottle, the Marathon Vest has space.
Although it is a one-size model, the versatility of the Marathon Vest gets our vote as one of the best hydration packs. You can carry a compatible water bottle or spring for a hydration bladder that fits the pack, though the smaller, the better when it comes to keeping the bladder secure.
The mesh construction of the pack makes it less of a “backpack” and more of a vest, ensuring a close-to-the-body fit with the adjustable straps. For people of smaller stature, the straps may prove annoying once on the trail, since strap excess can flap in the breeze.
However, the tradeoff is a versatile vest that accepts water bladders for most runners’ long-distance needs.
- 248 cubic inches capacity
- iPhone 7-compatible zipper pocket
- Velcro closure mesh pocket on front
- Great value
- Larger reservoir sizes may “flop”
- One-size-fits-most, so no custom sizing options
- Doesn’t come with bottles or reservoir
7. Nathan VaporKrar 12L Race Vest
A versatile pack with plenty of room for the essentials, Nathan’s VaporKrar 12L vest means fewer stops and farther journeys. It can hold everything from the new iPhone 7 to trekking poles, and that’s alongside a full 1.8L hydration pack.
While the material appears solid, as opposed to see-through mesh, the “apparel-like fit” helps make the pack seem like part of the body. The full-coverage style means it’s close to your body, which is ideal for minimizing bounce.
Elastic front pockets make room for essentials, including soft flasks, phones, and on-the-go nutrition. A rear zipper pocket, plus an internal stash pocket, give you a place to put valuable or bulkier items.
The compression system straps help with sizing adjustments so you can obtain the ideal fit. Sternum straps are adjustable and help make the pack more comfortable, but multiple options from XS to XL allow you to measure and select the most suitable size.
- Multiple sizing options for custom fit
- Comes with 1.8L Vapor hydration bladder
- Compression system for stability
- Adjustable sternum straps
- 732 cubic inch storage capacity
- Weighs 12 ounces with the empty hydration pack
- Bulkier than other hydration pack options
- Material is breathable but not mesh
8. Salomon Agile 2 Set
If you are looking for a vest that can get you safely around those shorter runs in the city or out in the suburbs then the Salomon Agile 2 might be the right choice for you. This lightweight hydration vest is specifically designed for shorter active running sessions.
It is made from 3D Air Mesh with perforated EVA shoulder straps. The harness construction allows for a comfortable fit that is snug yet breathable. The three-point attachment design offers additional stability to the comfort and fit of the Agile 2.
Even though it is designed for shorter durations, the Salomon Agile 2 still has ample storage. There are two elastic pockets on the front that are designed to hold your water bottles. The back of the vest features a kangaroo pocket for any additional storage needs.
- Available in a variety of colors
- Has a minimalist design to handle quick runs in the city
- Comfortable and ultra-convenient
- Lower price point compared to other endurance models
- Designed only for short active sessions and is not for endurance runs.
- Back pocket is not zippered
9. Salomon Adv Skin 5 Set
If you like the Salomon Agile 2 but require a little bit more than your basic minimalist approach then you might consider stepping up to the ADV Skin 5 set from Salomon Sports. This model adds a zipped phone pocket in the front, 2 zippered side pockets and a large zipped pocket on the back.
The unique design of this vest allows you to store significant amounts of your stuff on the front and the back. All this additional storage makes the ADV Skin 5 best suited for long runs.
Your water bottles will be stored into elastic pockets located on the front of the 3D Air Mesh. The fabric is fast wicking and will stand up in a variety of weather conditions. Salomon also uses their MotionFit and Sensifit technologies to create a custom fit that can be adjusted to your specific body style.
- Available in a variety of colors
- Has a minimalist design but carries a lot of necessities
- Comfortable and ultra-convenient
- Will be bulkier than other race designed models
10. Osprey Duro 15 with 2.5L Reservoir
If you are into trail runs that could go all day then you need to take a good look at the Osprey Duro 15 and its 2.5-liter bladder. This vest has one of the largest bladders available on the vests in our list.
Even with its larger bladder, the Osprey Duro 15 is built for speed. It features bounce-free stability and surprising comfort. The Osprey is also flexible in that it can be converted for shorter runs through the use of water bottles in lieu of the large bladder.
There is ample storage with the many pockets on the front, sides, and back. Some pockets are zippered for secure access while others are designed for quick and easy access on the run.
- Large 2.5-liter reservoir for maximum hydration
- Built tough to handle extreme trail running
- Capable of holding supplies for all day running adventures
- Available only in two colors
- Bulkier than other models on the list