Finding the Best Water Carrier for Runners

We all know we need to be drinking water when we run, but the research says we’re not correctly estimating our hydration needs. This doesn’t mean we’re necessarily dropping like flies because we’re not drinking enough water (though this certainly is a risk), but drinking too little water can drastically affect running performance and recovery. For any run over 45 minutes (or less if it’s hot out), you should be carrying water. Since there are such easy ways to carry it, you really have no excuse. Not sure which to choose? The best water carrier won’t be the same for all runners, so I’ve narrowed it down to my top eight.

From shorter training runs on up to ultra marathons, I’ll go over the ideal water carrier for any run distance. Everyone also has a different preference of how they like to carry their water, and luckily there are lots of different options. Here I’ve included:

  • vest water carriers
  • backpack water carriers
  • belt carriers
  • handheld water bottles

How much and how often you need to be taking in water while you run to stay properly hydrated can also help determine which water carrier is right for you.

Here we’ll go over the following top rated water carriers:

Vest Water CarriersBackpack Water CarriersBelt CarriersHandheld Water Bottles
Nathan Pinnacle 4L (Unisex) Hydration VestCamelbak HydroBak Hydration Pack, 50-ounceNathan Hydration Running Belt Trail Mix PlusNathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated Handheld Flask
CamelBak Circuit 34-ounce OR CamelBak Circuit 50-ounceMubasel Backpack Hydration, 70-ounceFitletic Hydra 16 Hydration BeltFitly Soft Flask Collapsible Water Bottle

Read on to find out more about our top recommendations for running hydration.

Carrying Water During Running and Determining Your Needs

Carrying water for long runs is a no-brainer for most, but I think a lot of us are guilty for skipping it at times we still probably need it. And even if we are drinking water, it’s often not an adequate amount. According to WebMD, “Seasoned runners participating in a 10-mile race drastically underestimated how much sweat they lost and consequently drank too little to stay well hydrated.”

They go onto say that you should be drinking eight ounces of water every 15 minutes.

This is because when you sweat, your blood volume decreases, making it more difficult for your heart to get oxygen to your muscles. Replenishing lost fluids means you’ll be able to stay comfortable in your run and maintain speed. Additionally, it will aid in overcoming running fatigue, as we discussed in this article, when you’re putting in a high volume of mileage day-to-day.

Generally, the consensus is that you can forego water in runs less than 45 minutes to one hour. But if you feel like you need it, or the temperature is high enough to cause you to sweat a lot, then definitely bring it on those shorter runs.

I think a lot of us surmise that “we’re totally fine” without the water, when we seemingly are. But foregoing water often affects us more than we realize, and don’t we want to be running our best?

In the (paraphrased) words of Tommy Rivers Puzey, my favorite iFit trainer, “Going without water doesn’t make you tough, it makes you stupid.”

With that, let’s dive into our list so you can find the best water carrier for you as a runner!

Vest Water Carrier for Runners

I received my first vest water carrier as a Christmas present (thanks, husband!), and I immediately started wondering where it’d been all my running life. I had wanted one for a long time, but couldn’t justify buying another one when my CamelBak pack was working just fine for me.

Here are the reasons a vest water carrier might be for you, too:

  • carries a high volume of fluid – perfect for marathoners and ultra marathoners
  • can store multiple types of liquid at one time
  • gives a better distribution of weight on the body
  • gives a snug fit, helping you to forget you’re wearing it

The biggest reason I SWITCHED TO A VEST is because I take in my nutrition in liquid form. And even though I get hydrated at the same time, a lot of times I found myself wishing I also had some plain old water. With my old backpack, I could only carry one liquid. With my vest, I can carry both.

Here are two great vest options!

Nathan Pinnacle 4L Hydration Vest (Unisex)

I have the Pinnacle and am loving it for my long runs! I’ve only used the front flasks so far, but plan to use my 50-ounce CamelBak bladder with it as the size seems compatible when I get into higher mileage runs. The straws on the front tuck in nicely and don’t get in the way at all, and are also super easy to drink from.

Additionally, I don’t get any chafing when wearing it (even in hot summer months), and I honestly forgot I had it on it fit that well.

Here are other characteristics you can expect from the Pinnacle vests:

  • Holds up to 90 ounces of hydration
  • Two 20-ounce flasks on the front
  • Room for a 1.5 Bladder (not included)
  • 360 degree reflection making it a good choice in dim light
  • lots of places to stash gels as well as water-resistant zipper pockets for phones, etc.
  • Women’s Sizes XXS – XL; Men’s XS – XL
  • Designed in tandem with champion ultra runners, Stephanie Howe and Robert Krar.

The biggest drawback of this vest is that the bladder is not included. With the higher price tag, it would be nice if it was. On the other hand, I expect to have this vest for a very long time!

Camelbak Women’s Circuit Running Hydration Vest, 34-ounce OR Camelbak Circuit Running Hydration Vest, 50-ounce

The CamelBak Circuit Hydration Vests are a popular and well-rated choice. This is their mid-level range hydration capacity vest. In regard to what’s included, this is actually the opposite of the Nathan vests above. Whereas on those the flasks are included, here you’ll find just the bladder included. Why they don’t include both seems a little strange to me, but what can you do.

These are the characteristics of the CamelBack Circuit:

  • 50-ounce (1.5 L) reservoir included
  • Room for two compatible hydration flasks (not included)
  • 3.5 L cargo capacity
  • According to CamelBak the CRUX reservoir “delivers 20% more water per sip”
  • Front and back reflective embellishments for visibility in low light
  • Secure water-resistant front zipper pocket can easily hold your phone
  • Lightweight and breathable fabric
  • Highly adjustable side compression makes this a “one-size fits most” design

With their not being specific sizes, from reviews it sounds like runners with a larger chest circumference may not get a proper fit from these vests.

Due to their size capacity, hydration vests are great to wear during an ultra marathon or marathon race. Backpacks are another great option for high capacity water storage. Not sure if you want to carry your own water during a marathon? Read “Carrying Your Own Water in a Marathon: The Good and the Bad” to help you decide! (I’ve never run a marathon without carrying my own!)

Backpack Carrier for Runners

Camelbak HydroBak Hydration Pack, 50-ounce

The following are two of the most minimalist designs of packs from CamelBak. If you aren’t sure you want to spend the extra money on a vest or just want a more streamlined design while also having a fairly high-capacity of water storage, these work great for that. Otherwise, CamelBak also has packs with higher hydration and storage capacity, but they are heavier (lighter is better, of course, if you can swing it!)

These are the characteristics of these 50-ounce CamelBak hydration packs:

  • 50-ounce (1.5 L) hydration capacity CRUX reservoir
  • according to CamelBak the CRUX reservoir “delivers 20% more water per sip”
  • a lightweight, minimalist pack that’s great for both running and cycling
  • safe-zip pocket fits keys or a gel
  • reflective accents are helpful in low-light environments
  • ventilated mesh harness and back allow for breathability
  • both the men’s and women’s styles are “one-size fits most” with adjustable shoulder and chest straps; women’s design is shorter in the back and s-curved for a closer fit

Unlike the vests, these backpacks can only carry one liquid. But when all you need is water, these might be all you need to be fully hydrated on your run. Keep in mind that the pocket on these is not large enough for most phones.

Up until receiving my VaporHowe vest, I used a CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. which is very similar to these packs just mentioned. This won’t work for most as it’s intended for children (haha – yep!) but as someone with a small frame it worked perfectly for me. And the price point is hard to beat, too.

Mubasel Backpack Hydration, 2L

So, you might be thinking what the heck is this brand…I’ve never heard of it! Or, at least, that’s what I was thinking when researching the best water carriers for running. But I couldn’t ignore the reviews. And paired up with an unbelievably low price, I had to include it in this list. You’ll see that this has a higher hydration capacity than the previously listed CamelBak.

  • “100% leakage proof” 70-ounce hydration bladder included
  • made of waterproof nylon
  • unisex design
  • adjustable shoulder and chest straps allow a fit for chest circumferences ranging from 27″ to 53″
  • 3 mesh storage pockets stow gels, phone, etc.

Users ranging from kids, to women, to men seem to love the minimalist design of this pack that many review as giving a snug, bounce-free fit. If you’re deciding between this and the CamelBak, the price tag makes this one more alluring. This is a pretty small investment, but also consider that CamelBak offers their “if we build it – we’ll bak it” lifetime guarantee.

Belt Carrier for Runners

I’ll be totally honest, I haven’t had luck with belt carriers in the past. But to be fair, the one I ran with a long time ago only had one bottle directly in the middle and I think these ones are much better for even weight distribution and less bounce. I had a hard time ever getting them to stay down closer to my hips, and the one I had would always creep up around my waist which I found uncomfortable.

So, I didn’t include a kind like that on this list.

The following have two small bottles off to each side, which I think give these a much better fit. At least, if the reviews mean anything, then these should work great if you prefer a lower profile option than a vest or pack.

Nathan Hydration Running Belt Trail Mix Plus

With the ability to hold 20-ounces of liquid, this waist water carrier is good for mid-distance runs. Similar to the vest, you are able to hold both water as well as an electrolyte/carbohydrate drink which makes it an appealing option! This is a unisex belt that comes in the purple and teal color shown below as well as a neon yellow and black.

Here are the characteristics of this Nathan Hydration Running Belt:

  • Two 10-ounce bottles with push-pull caps
  • belt is adjustable to give a snug and comfortable fit to minimize bouncing and chafing
  • front pocket can hold up to 6.5 inch smartphones or other necessary items such as , keys, etc.
  • Extra storage in the form of bungee cords on the sides can also easily store gels
  • reflective trim gives extra safety and visibility for low-light running
  • can be worn with bottles in either the front or back

Fitletic Hydra 16 Hydration Belt

This is another water carrier from a less recognizable brand. I’ve included a range in this article in order to meet different needs and price ranges…as well as the fact that the biggest brands aren’t necessarily always better!

This unisex 16-ounce hydration belt comes in 6 different colors and is capable of stashing most of what you need! While this may not work for the longest of runs if you’re marathon training, it’s a great option for lower-mileage runs or for runners training for shorter distances.

Here are the characteristics of the Fitletic Hydra 16-ounce hydration belt:

  • Two 8-ounce water bottles included
  • utilizes patented Dura-Comfort technology – Fitletic guarantees no bouncing, riding up, or chafing
  • Fits large phones in water-resistant middle pocket
  • race bib easily attaches to the belt
  • loops on the side provide a place for energy gels to be easily stashed and obtainable
  • Available in 2 sizes: S/M, L/XL

Something to consider is that some customers state that it takes some practice getting the right placement for this belt. However, most say that once you have it placed and tightened correctly, there is no bouncing around.

Hand-held Water Bottles for Runners

I feel like most people fall in one of two camps: either they can’t stand holding anything in their hands when they run or they don’t mind it at all. I would much prefer to stuff my pockets than hold anything in my hand when I run. However, once per week I run to Orangetheory (read all about how I incorporate it into my marathon training here) and I need to have water with me. So I take my handheld water bottle which is very similar to the SpeedShot below (I’ve had it for many years at this point!) For 2.5 miles there and 2.5 miles back, I found I really don’t mind holding it anymore.

And honestly, sometimes we just don’t have a choice. If it means the difference between being annoyed about holding something and being dehydrated, I will pick annoyance any day of the week.

But, if you’re someone who always holds your phone or something else anyway, this won’t bother you a bit, I’m sure.

Nathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated Handheld Flask

One of the best things about this type of handheld water carrier (mine is a different brand but practically identical) is that you don’t have to grip your hand around it to hold it. This way, you can keep your hands in a more relaxed position closer to how you would typically run if you weren’t holding something.

  • holds 12 ounces of liquid
  • push-pull cap for easy drinking and no leaking
  • double-wall insulation is a key feature – this means your warm hand won’t heat up your water as you run
  • adjustable hand strap allows you to run without needing to grip the water bottle
  • zippered pocket can hold gels or other small essentials
  • available in 7 different colors

If you are hoping to be able to carry your phone with this Nathan handheld water bottle, you’ll probably want to look for a different option (such as this 18-ounce one) if your phone is on the larger side.

Fitly Soft Flask Collapsible Water Bottle

This particular water bottle is appealing because it looks very easy to hold (or even stash in a pocket). When I was trail running recently, I saw a fellow runner with a similar bottle and when he drank from it, he just had it hanging from his mouth without holding it. I though, “Hmm, maybe that’s the best way to drink from those soft flasks!”

Bottom line on this one is that it’s small, light, and completely shrinks up when the water is gone. It could be great to either hold on it’s own or even stuff into a larger water carrier such as a pack or belt.

  • No liquid bounce
  • soft bite easily brings out water to drink
  • leak-resistant
  • small enough to fit in the side of a shorts/pants pocket
  • comes in varying sizes of 5-ounce, 8.5-ounce, or 13.5-ounce
  • can also be used with a gel when mixed with water

As someone who is guilty of not drinking enough fluids on some of my hour-long runs, this is an ideal solution I think needs to make it into my marathon must-haves very soon!

*As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases

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