Waterborne: The 7 Best Hydration Packs for Running

Water is a dire necessity any time you’re working out, but for cardio exercises such as trail running, jogging, or wind sprints, it is particularly important. It’s too easy while riding that runner’s high to forget to drink, which can lead to overheating, dehydration, and organ failure. To combat this, any runner knows they need to have water on hand, but trying to tote it around while you’re doing road work is a hassle. You need the right hydration pack for the job, lest you find yourself a casualty of your own body’s needs.

Picking a hydration pack for running is all about fit. You need one that will fit close to your frame so that it doesn’t bounce around, chafing and chapping you or slapping against you with every stride. It has to be tight and comfortable while also being accessible, otherwise you’ll have to stop every few minutes to dig out the hose, lowering your target heart rate and knocking you right out of The Zone. It should also be easy to clean and maintain. With all this in mind, we drummed up the 7 best hydration packs for running.

Teton Sports Trailrunner 2.0

Teton Sports Trailrunner 2.0

Pro: Special pocket for wallet and gear
Con: Plastic taste lingers

Slim Pickin’s: The Trailrunner 2.0 is an inexpensive minimalist pack that is made for those who do their running off the beaten path. At 2 liters, it’s passably sized for daily runs, though made more for distance runners, so might be a little weighty for a quick mile jog. Mesh backing provides easy breathing and prevents back sweat well. The mesh straps are large enough to be comfortable without also getting in your way and they too offer excellent ventilation so your shoulders don’t get drenched. A set of thumb loops for easy adjustment allows you to fix the fit on the fly which is ideal for those who do a little rock hopping or jumping jacks during their routine.

Purchase: $30

Osprey Packs Rev 1.5

Osprey Packs Rev 1.5

Pro: Flip pocket for GPS or phone
Con: Snug on bigger frames

Diabetic’s Dream: This is a great pack for anyone who needs to carry a lot of varied stuff, since it bears a load of pockets. It’s especially good for those who need to watch their blood sugar and must have energy bars or gels on hand to ensure they don’t end up in a coma while out for their constitutional. The high carrying capacity doesn’t at all overweigh the pack since its distributed in various subtle locations for better balance. Though it’s certainly not the largest pack you can buy, it’s light weight makes it extremely comfortable and will give you plenty of volume should you decide it’s a 20 mile morning.

Purchase: $70

CamelBak Dart

CamelBak Dart

Pro: Lots of reflective points
Con: Water will get warm

Unbound: One of the mistakes that many hydration packs make when they try to reach the running community is to throw a lot of straps onto their merchandise to keep it in place. This tactic might hold the pack down, but it’s uncomfortable and restricts mobility, not to mention increases the chance of chafing. The Dart uses a single, simple strap that runs up to the chest, keeping the weight high on your back for easy access, but also preventing additional weight or stress with too many restraining bands and buckles. At 1.5 liters, it’s big enough for a couple of back-to-back 10K’s.

Purchase: $70

Geigerrig The Rig Guardian

Geigerrig The Rig Guardian

Pro: Stylish
Con: Heavy

True Tactician: There’s little on the market that can compare to the go-anywhere nature of a Geigerrig pack. First off, it looks badass. Secondly, it works equally well for biking as it does for running, which is a rarity in the hydration world. Made out of 840 ballistic nylon, this is a bombproof bag that packs up to 2 liters worth of water for serious trips. It’s easy to use and fits snugly thanks to the dual chest and waist straps, though some may find the additional belts a little awkward. It also lacks pockets necessitating that you put your gels or your protein bars in an armband or that dead sexy fanny pack you know you have.

Purchase: $86

Nathan VaporAir

Nathan VaporAir

Pro: Bright, noticeable coloration
Con: Tends to want to ride up

Lockdown: If bouncing and jostling vexes your running regimen, then the VaporAir might just cure what ails you. Broad, snug straps over your shoulders and around your hips keep everything in place like a quality day pack, preventing the 2 liter reservoir from throwing off your stride. Despite the additional parts intended to hold it in place, the pack is an absolute featherweight that breathes incredibly well. Long-term durability might be drawn into question, but we’ve found it to feel well-made, even if the weight makes it seem flimsy. Loads of pockets for quick shot bottles or other gear helps counterbalance it when full and makes accessing your stuff a breeze.

Purchase: $150

Ultraspire Zygos

Ultraspire Zygos

Pro: Can be expanded for different uses
Con: Valve is tough to open

All Day Wear: Not every hydration pack is going to be good for long hikes, but the Zygos has an extremely breathable, lightweight body that is part mesh and part nylon, making it light and extremely breezy so that whether you’re going hard or going long, it won’t cause you to become a sweaty mess. Elegant gear loops as well as pockets combine to give you a multitude of ways to carry everything you need without adding weight when you’re looking to slide down a size. Slick connecting hooks in the front make the pack easy to put on and take off, even if you’re wearing gloves during a winter excursion.

Purchase: $160

Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 3

Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 3

Pro: Loads of options
Con: Back pockets are hard to access while pack is being worn

Barely There: The Advanced Skin wasn’t made in a vacuum. Rather, it was constructed with the help of Kilian Jornet, an avid trail runner and advanced athlete who knows what a good pack should feel like. Though it’s one of the thinnest packs on the planet, it still has room for a secondary bladder, should you need a little extra H20 on the go, as well as quick draw pockets for more bottles up front. The twin link fastening system lets you choose how it straps down, which is perfect for anyone who has troubles with the standard strap and belt systems. This same system also distributes weight evenly for a cozy fit that won’t slide to the side when you change the pace.

Purchase: $216

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