How many times has this happened to you?
Weather is perfect, your mood is right, you got excited about going out and “let’s sweat it out”. Running with a water bottle is a pain in the ass because your bottle is too bulky ,and it’s just impractical to carry. So you tell yourself “I can drink it when I’m back”
Putting in your running shoes, 2 miles down the road, and you go “Should have brought some water… ”
The dehydration feeling kicks in. I did this to myself for a long time since I first started running. I have to stop running every time this happens, and grab an energy drink from a nearby convenience store. If I were to keep running, dizziness would slowly overwhelm me. After a few times of this unintelligent mistake. I’m finally willing to ask my good old friend, Google, “What’s the best way to carry water while running” and “how to run with water bottle”. Since then, I’ve invested in quite numerous creative products, to help me carry my much needed water while running.
Don’t know about everybody else, but I like it when I have some H2O with me when I’m running, compared to none. If it sounds good to you, keep reading.
So I categorize it in 3 ways, each have its pros and cons, let’s dive in!
3 Best Way to Carry Water While Running
- Handheld Bottles – As the name suggests, it’s water bottles, usually with a connecting strap (holder) attached to it, that allow you to hold on your hand while running.
- Hydration Belt / Waist Pack – A small, usually zippered pack that is worn around the waist, it helps you to carry water without you holding it, many call it water bottle belt/ water bottle holsters.
- Hydration Pack / Vest – Hand free way of carrying a large amount of water like a backpack.
Hand-Held Bottles for Runners
- Investment? Low
- Water Capacity? Small to Medium
- Easy to find the right fit? Yes
- Hold your phone? Yes
Hand-Held Bottles is the most common way to carry water while running, it’s suitable on short to medium distance runs. I like to pick one up when I’m on a morning short run. Most of the runner-specific bottles come with hand-strap, which allow you to completely relax your hand while still carrying the bottle. There are various types of design on the market, some receive good feedback, while some companies did not make it right. If you spend enough time looking through carefully, you’ll find one that fits you. Generally, all designs can be put into 4 categories.
4 Types of Hand-Held Bottle
- Soft and Insulated(With insulation sleeve)
- Soft and Not Insulated
- Hard and Insulated
- Hard and Not Insulated
Soft bottles are designed to let you point them near to your mouth and squeeze the water out. Insulated bottles help maintain liquid temperature for a longer period. While most companies claim their products to be “insulated”. Do not expect the performance to be the same with conventional thermal flasks. The best insulated bottle can retain your water temperature for 3-4 hours before warming back up.
Most of the design comes with a compartment to fit your smartphone. Some even designed to keep your key, earphone or some snacks. Water capacity ranges from 12oz(350ml) to 22oz(650ml), relatively small compared to other methods. This is the cheapest way to carry water while you’re running.
I will only use it during my short morning/evening run due to its small capacity. Another thing I’ve noticed while using this is that larger capacity bottles tire my arm out if I’m running for too long. Be careful when choosing the products or the same might happen to you.
Some runners have claimed that carrying a bottle on one side might affect your running form. Personally, I didn’t notice the difference, but you might. You can choose an affordable option to try it out before committing to a quality one. Below are my recommendations for each option.
Soft and Insulated
Nathan ExoDraw 2.0 is my favourite option when I’m going on road running for more than 2 hours. The insulated bottle keeps my water cool for the entire run. 18oz is just enough for 2-3 hours exercise. It’s surprisingly light and fits my hand comfortably.
However, what I don’t like about this is that it doesn’t have a space for my phone. I have to place my phone in my pant’s pocket, which is not the best place while running (to me).
CamelBak Water Bottle is also insulated, which keeps your water for a bit longer. Unlike Nathan ExoDraw 2.0, it comes with a large enough compartment for most smartphones, you can keep your keys, cards, and some energy bar if you have it in your pocket. Most features between these two are very similar. With 20oz of water on your hand, which is on the large and heavy side, expect to notice the water weight if you are small runners and run for more than 1-2 hours. Keep reading to see CamelBak alternative.
Soft and Not Insulated
As expected, non-insulated bottles are generally more low-priced compared to the insulated one. If you don’t mind water temperature, consider getting a non-insulated bottle. Nathan ExoShot is a good choice for running not more than 1-1.5 hours. Note that it also doesn’t hold your smartphone. 12oz water capacity is just a little more than standard canned drinks. Consider this if you don’t like heavy bottles.
LX LERMX water bottle product comes with a soft water bottle (fordable) and handheld strap. It has a zippered compartment that can store cell phones smaller than 5.5 inches. Its foldable design makes it easy to carry and store. 17oz water capacity is usually enough for a 2 hours run.
Some buyers complain that the water bottle comes with a plastic smell, and it’s hard to fill. But the majority of buyers seem to be satisfied with their purchase, saying that it is very light and easy to hold.
Hard and Insulated
Nathan SpeedShot Plus is the most popular choice among all the handheld bottles products. It is also my go-to bottle for runs less than an hour. 12oz is enough for my short run, and the pocket is large enough to hold most of the cell phone. The strap fits tight on my hand with no chafing. Its double-wall construction does the job perfectly when it comes to insulation.
If you think 12oz capacity is too small for you, check out Nathan SpeedDraw Plus, which has a similar design, but it holds 18oz of water. Reminds that it means carrying a heavier bottle.
Hard and Not Insulated
Nathan SpeedMax Plus has the largest water capacity among all handheld bottles. 22oz capacity, with a large cap opening to let you add ice to your drink. This suits well for runners who like to add ice to their blender juice. It comes with enough space for your cell phone and many other small essentials. Some runners even made the switch from a running vest to this because of its storage and water capacity.
Running Hydration Belt / Waist Pack
- Investment? Varies
- Water Capacity? Medium
- Easy to find the right fit? No
- Hold your phone? Most of the time
Hydration belts are the most popular choice for long distance runners. It’s not hard for you to spot one if you’re running a marathon. The size and scope of the hydration belt (aka Waist Pack) are quite vast. Water capacities of various designs are also different. It’s important to narrow down your choice with the criteria you set. I like to put it into 2 main categories
2 Types of Hydration belt
- Single-Bottle Design
- Two-Bottle Design
Two-bottle design allow you to carry different drinks on your runs. I like to carry sweet energy drinks on one bottle, and plain water on the other. Because energy drinks make me thirsty. Too much energy drink on a long distance run dehydrates you.
Almost all waist packs designed recently have a compartment to fit your cell phone. Water capacity ranges from 12oz(350ml) to 20oz(590ml), almost the same with the handheld method.
Price range of waist packs is so broad due to its huge variety. You can carry water hands free, and don’t have to deal with sweaty back feelings when using a hydration pack. They usually come with a big compartment that is enough for a cell phone, energy bar and other small essentials.
The significant disadvantage of this method is that the hydration belt tends to bounce if you’re not getting the right fit. I experienced this more when I’m using it for trail running, where I need to change my position and running form constantly. Chafing will happen occasionally but not a big deal. As for running on a smoother surface like a marathon, waist packs perform well most of the time without major issue.
Single Bottle Design
AiRunTech belt is one of the most popular hydration belts on the market. Designed for running, hiking and many other outdoor workouts. You can use it on multiple occasions. People like the fact that they can buy the belt and put the bottle of their choice. Its affordable price attracts many runners to invest in one.
Nathan Peak waist pack comes with a double-wall insulated bottle. If you like to maintain your water temperature for a few hours, this can be a good choice. Like AiRunTech hydration belt, it includes a pocket large enough for your cell phone and many other small articles. Many people find this belt fit on their waist easily, without major boucing issues.
However, this can be a little pricey if you’re using a hydration belt for the first time. Non insulated is more affordable if you don’t mind water temperature.
Two Side Holsters Design
URPOWER running belt holds 2 small bottles (6oz each) on both sides of the pocket. The running belt is designed to accommodate your waist and even shoulder. The thing I like the most about the design is it includes a hole for headphone cable in front. This is an inexpensive option that remains popular among runners.
Nathan Trail Mix Plus carries more water than URPOWER, it has reflective material on the belt for enhanced safety for runners at night. Other than the capacity and reflective materials, Nathan Trail Mix Plus’s feature is almost the same with URPOWER. It does come with a higher price point, runners who like a larger capacity bottle will find the price justified.
Running Hydration Vest / Pack
- Investment? Big
- Water Capacity? Medium to Large
- Easy to find the right fit? No
- Hold your phone? Most of the time
If you like going for trail runs, where the water station is not easily available, you might consider getting a hydration pack. Most hydration vests come with at least one hydration bladder to let you store water that you need for a long run, which range from 50oz(1500ml) to 70oz(2000ml).
I brought one with me every time I’m going for a long distance trail run. Choosing the one that suits your body might need a few hours of researching. Some designs need you to buy a hydration bladder yourself, if your choice doesn’t come with it, I recommend Cherainti Hydration Bladder, it gained popularity for its durable body and affordable price.
Important: There are two types of capacity in hydration vest
- Total Capacity(Water capacity + Gear capacity): Total volume of space you get in every pocket, including space for water.
- Water Capacity: Total volume of water you can carry
Companies always highlight the total capacity of a vest in their sales page, remember to look for water capacity as well. The larger capacity cost you more as expected. A vest that suits you will have proper fitting, minimal bouncing and its chafe-free. Speaking of chafing, if you are facing this problem right now, consider getting anti-chafe balm.
Note that a high quality hydration vest can be quite pricey, but you’ve got tons of variation to choose from. Many runners don’t like the sweaty-back feeling that comes with hydration vest, this is why most companies use breathable mesh material to cover the area of your back. Refilling water can take from 3-5 minutes, which is quite long compared to other methods, take note of this if you mind stopping for this long during a race.
It’s advised to first get a cheaper one if you have never used any vest before, some runners like it, some claim that it is too bulky for a run. Choosing a wrong fit might distract you more than it can help you. Below are my recommendations for hydration vest:
TRIWONDER can be a great choice for first time buyers. With a relatively low-price, you can try on a hydration vest to see if it’s for you. It has 5.5L of total capacity, with 3L water capacity. Pick an 8L total capacity version if you think it’s not enough. Breathable mesh is used for its vest construction to enhance air circulation. Note that you need to buy a hydration bladder separately if you’re getting this.
You can also choose Nathan QuickStart for your first try, it’s an more expensive option, but it does come with a 1.5L hydration bladder. With this, you get 6L of total capacity, with 2.2L water capacity. The extra space is large enough to fit your phone, snacks, or may be a thin jacket.
The Osprey Duro 1.5 is considered a premium version of hydration vest. It’s not the most expensive one, but definitely not cheap. This version does come with a 1.5L hydration bladder. Other than 1.5L space for water, there are 2 stretch mesh pockets in the front to fit your essential. It might not fit in everything you needed for a long distance trail running. If you need extra space, check out their larger version vest, Duro 6 or Duro 15.
Another interesting thing is it comes with a built in whistle for extra safety.
Salomon Advanced Skin 5 is what I think the best quality hydration vest, but it’s probably not for beginner runners. It comes with multiple pockets to fit your essential. The vest does not include a hydration bladder, you have to get one yourself. Many runners claimed that the vest is very comfortable, and easy to use. If you need extra capacity, check out Skin 12, the larger version.
Other New Ways
Running water bottles with straps, hydration belts, and hydration vests are the established way to carry water while running. But there are so many creative ways people come up with recently.
One of the ways that gained popularity in this few years is using FlipBelt Zipper with their water bottles. The belt has multiple pocket openings to fit their custom made water bottle and your small items. Suitable for short runs, or quick walking in the park, it’s an economical way to fulfill your needs.
Mud HydraQuiver is a small, lightweight trail running pack. With 24oz(710ml) water capacity, it’s suitable for short trail running, or even long distance running if water stations are available.
The pack has a back pocket for your phone, and other essentials. There is also a hole for earphones if music on the run is your thing.