5 Ways To Carry Water While Running


Runner with hydration vest on

In the years since I started running, it feels like I’ve tried every option there is to carry fluids on a run. To carry a bulky water bottle in your sweaty hands distracts you and makes a long run or a hard run more mentally challenging. Running without water puts you at risk of dehydration and heatstroke. Is there a solution to this conundrum?

Five ways to carry water while running:

  1. In a hand-held ergonomically designed bottle that straps to your hand
  2. In a hand-held, soft shell bottle that straps to your hand and shrinks as you drink
  3. In a hydration belt
  4. In a hydration vest
  5. In a hydration backpack

Thanks to sports gear creators and manufacturers, carrying water with you while you run no longer has to be a source of consternation for you. This article describes five excellent ways to make hydration easy for you.

1. Hand-Held Flask or Bottle

The first option for carrying water while you run still involves carrying a bottle in your hand. However, the bottle or flask is ergonomically modified, and it sits in a strap that is designed to fit over your hand. 

Here is an example of a hand-held bottle you can buy on Amazon called the Nathan Speed Draw

Benefits of Hand-Held Flasks

  • The strap: The first and probably the most obvious benefit of these hand-held water flasks is that they come with a strap.
  • This strap is designed to hold the water bottle tightly against a runner’s hand so that they are not required to grip it while they are running, no matter what pace. 
  • The straps are adjustable, allowing you to make it as tight or as loose as you prefer, no matter what size your hands are.
  • The straps are made from soft and flexible material to prevent discomfort. 
  • The straps are also often reflective, providing additional visibility in low light (hopefully, you are also wearing a high-visibility vest).
  • The bottle shape: The second benefit of this product is the shape of the bottle. It is flatter than a regular water bottle, and the one side curves outward to fit against your palm while the other side curves inward to make it comfortable to wrap your fingers around it when you want to drink. 
  • Insulation: Most of the bottles come with insulation to keep your water cold on hot days. 

Drawbacks Of Hand-Held Flask

  • With the hand-held flask, you are still holding a water bottle against your hand, which can exacerbate hand sweating.
  • Some people are worried about what the asymmetrically added weight will do to their running form. You can try switching the bottle between your hands to counter this as you run.
  • You feel and hear the water sloshing in the bottle as it gets emptier. This can be very distracting for some runners. Although other runners may find it helpful to focus on this feeling, they complete a hard run.
  • Even the larger models of these bottles do not carry a lot of water, so they are not the most ideal option for long runs. 

Examples Of Hand-Held Flasks For Running

Product NameStorage CapacityBonus FeaturesAmazon Link
Nathan SpeedShot Plus4.7 oz / 140 mlSmaller bottle for shorter runs or smaller handsLink
FitleticHydrapocket12 oz / 350 mlMesh pouch for ID or keysLink
NathanSpeedDraw Plus18 oz / 530 mlExpandable and zippered pocket for ID, keys, and phoneLink
NathanSpeedView18 oz / 530 mlTransparent touchscreen pouch for your phoneLink

2. Soft Hand-Held Flask 

The second option for carrying your water while you run is very similar to the first. The difference is that the water flask is soft and flexible, shrinking as you drink the water contents. 

Here is an example of a soft hand-held flask, the ExoDraw from Nathan, available on Amazon.

Benefits Of Soft Hand-Held Flasks

  • The strap: Once again, a major benefit of these soft hand-held flasks is the fact that they come with a strap
  • The strap holds the soft water bottle tightly against a runner’s hand so that they are not required to grip it while they are running. 
  • The strap is adjustable. This allows you to make it as loose or as tight as you prefer, no matter what size your hands are.
  • The straps are made from soft and flexible material to prevent discomfort. 
  • The bottle: The bottle is made from a soft and flexible material.
  • The soft-bodied bottle shrinks as you drink the water, so there is no sloshing sound or feeling while you are running,
  • Once you have finished the water, you can roll the flask up and put it in your pocket for convenience while you finish your run.

Drawbacks Of Soft Hand-Held Flask

  • The soft hand-held flask still involves holding a water bottle against your hand, so hand sweating remains a potential issue.
  • Carrying a water bottle in your one hand and not the other can affect running form and interfere with arm movements. However, you can switch the bottle between your hands while you run to even it out. 
  • As the bottle shrinks, you may have to adjust the straps to keep it firmly on your hand.
  • It can be difficult to fill up the soft bottle with water.
  • Even the larger models of these bottles do not carry a lot of water, so they are not the most ideal option for long runs. 

Examples Of Soft Hand-Held Flasks For Running

Product NameStorage CapacityBonus FeaturesAmazon Link
Osprey PacksDyna8.5 oz / 250 mlThis bottle is specifically designed for women, and it comes with a tucked away safety whistleLink
NathanExoDraw18 oz / 530 mlSmall pouch for keys or snackLink
AonijieQuick Grip16.9 oz / 500 mlMultiple storage compartments for keys, cellphones, ID, etc.Link

3. Hydration Belts

The third option for carrying water while running is to use a hydration belt, which is designed to wrap around your waist and hold your water bottles securely to the sides of your body.

Benefits Of Hydration Belts

  • The first benefit of hydration belts is the fact that your hands are free, and the swing of your arms is not impeded.
  • Furthermore, carrying your water around your waist means that it lines up with your center of gravity and does not affect your running form.
  • Hydration belts allow you to carry a lot more water at a time than do any of the hand-held options. This is both in terms of bottle size and the number of bottles, as most hydration belts have room for two. This makes them better suited for long runs.
  • Hydration belts usually come with extra pockets for storing things like your keys, ID, cellphone, snack, etc.

Drawbacks Of Hydration Belts

  • Hydration belts can move around a bit while you run. This can become very distracting or even uncomfortable if the belt is too loose or too low.
  • You will feel and hear the water sloshing in the bottles around your waist. This can also be distracting to a runner.
  • It can be a challenge to pull out or replace the water bottle while maintaining your running pace.

Examples Of Hydration Belts For Running

Product NameStorage CapacityBonus FeaturesAmazon Link
FitleticHydra 12 V26 oz / 177 mlWater-resistant pouch for your cellphoneLink
Ultraspire Speedgoat 3.060 oz / 1750 mlMade with breathable webbing to dissipate heatLink
CamelBakFlash Belt17 oz / 502 mlYou can use it with almost any water bottle, not just the one that comes with the beltLink
PYFKUpgraded Running Belt18 oz / 530 mlSilica gel inside the pack, which is supposed to help the belt grip the waist betterLink

4. Hydration Vests

Hydration vests look like water life jackets, and they are designed to carry water bottles or water bladders, or both. The water bladders in hydration vests are sealed into pockets with a flexible drinking hose attached.

The bottles are often replacable, which is good as I’ve had a few split over the years. Here is an example of a hydration vest, the Vapour Air, available on Amazon

Benefits Of Hydration Vests

  • Hydration vests distribute the weight of the water that you are carrying over your shoulders and back, so it puts less strain on any one part of your body. It also distributes the weight between front and back, so your balance is not affected.
  • Hydration vests allow you to carry more water than hand-helds or belts.
  • The vests have room for multiple water storage units, so if you want to bring water and an electrolyte mix, you have the freedom to do so.
  • The straps are very adjustable, enabling you to tailor the fit to your body shape. 
  • The hydration vest is also less likely to bounce around than the hydration belt because it sits on your torso only, not at the intersection between your torso and your lower body. This makes a difference because you twist your upper body in the opposite direction to your lower body when you run.
  • You can choose if you want one that holds water bottles, which are more convenient to fill up, or water bladders, which are lighter. Some vests offer both options.
  • With the water bladder options, the vests often come with drinking hoses, which means that you do not have to try and remove and replace a water bottle while running. 
  • With the water bladder options, the vests often come with drinking hoses, which means that you do not have to try and remove and replace a water bottle while running. 
  • There are also storage pockets for your cellphone, keys, ID, snacks, etc.

Drawbacks Of Hydration Vests

  • One of the biggest drawbacks of a hydration vest is that it does cover a large portion of your torso, increasing heat retention and decreasing evaporation. Thus, you will likely sweat more in a hydration vest—but at least you can carry enough water to rehydrate.
  • These are not always a good option for ladies with larger breasts because the water bottle pockets are often located over this area. However, there are vests specifically designed for ladies, but their suitability still partially depends on your shape and size.
  • As the vests cover more of your body, there is an increased chance of pressure points developing with ill-fitting or unevenly packed vests.
  • Water bottles can be difficult to remove and replace while running.
  • Water bladders can be difficult to refill, and you also cannot see how much water is remaining in them.

Examples Of Hydration Vests For Running

Product NameStorage CapacityBonus FeaturesPriceAmazon Link
NathanVaporAir70 oz2 LPlus space for two water bottlesCropped length and crisscross straps over the chest$89.99Link
OspreyDuro50.7 oz1.5 LPlus space for one soft flaskWhistle zipper-pull and an attachment for trekking poles$109.95Link

5. Carry Your Water In A Hydration Backpack While Running

Hydration backpacks are designed to carry water only on your back, with an over-the-shoulder design resembling that of a standard backpack. 

Benefits Of Hydration Backpacks

  • Hydration backpacks are often the option that allows you to carry the most water. This makes them the best choice for long-distance running or trail running. 
  • Your sides are not covered by the pack as they are with the vest, making this option less heat-trapping.
  • The water bladders are equipped with drinking hoses for ease of use. 

Drawbacks Of Hydration Backpacks

  • Water bladders, which are the only option for hydration backpacks, are challenging to refill and clean. 
  • The weight is concentrated on your shoulders, so if you are carrying a lot of water, then it can create pressure points or cause chafing as you run. 
  • If the hydration backpack is not secured with the waist strap, it can flap up and down. 
  • If the hydration backpack is not secured with the waist strap, it can flap up and down. 

Examples Of Hydration Backpacks For Running

Product NameStorage CapacityBonus FeaturesPriceAmazon Link
VibrelliHydration Pack70 oz2 LFive-year replacement warranty$23.98Link
Black DiamondDistance 15 PackBladders are sold separately, so you can buy whatever size you wantReflective material for increased visibility in low light$149.95Link
VBGVBIGER70 oz2 LRoom for one emergency water bottle$29.95Link

Conclusion

With the heat that summer brings, you can no longer get away with have a drink of water before and after your run. You have to carry water with you, especially on longer runs. 

Fortunately, sports gear creators and manufacturers have invested time and resources into bringing you the most convenient options possible. You can strap your water bottle to your hand, waist, chest, or back with ergonomically designed products that were designed with runners like you in mind. 

If you hate having to grip onto a bulky water bottle, then you can try a modified bottle that straps flat against your palm so that you don’t have to hold onto it while you run. 

If you prefer not to have anything in your hands while you run, then you can try a belt, vest, or backpack. Backpacks provide the largest water supply, while vests offer you options of bladder or bottles or both. Belts cover less skin, so they are the least likely to minimize evaporation cooling. 

References

https://www.runnersworld.com/trail-running/a20804604/how-to-carry-water-on-a-run/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2838466/

Mark Norman

I've been running for over 6 years and now try to balance it with life as a dad to two young kids. I'm not super quick, I just try to run consistently, not always easy! I'm lucky enough to have run the London Marathon twice along with countless other half marathons and 10ks. I'm also one of the Run Directors at my local parkrun.

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