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Finding the best hydration pack for runners


With a plethora of hydration packs for runners on the market, understanding which is right for each type of run can be daunting.  The hydration pack one carries for a track workout or tempo run may not be the hydration pack one prefers to carry for a long run.  Understanding the types of hydration packs available and some of their features can help runners make the most informed choice. 

Hydration packs are available in a variety of formats:  the handheld, the armband, the backpack, and the belt are some of the most common types.  Hydration systems can hold as little as 6 oz of water, to as much as 100 oz.  Some models are slosh-free, some contain extra storage capability for keys or gels, and some are pressurized.  The typical price range for a hydration pack is $40 - $150. 

For short-distance running such as a track workout, tempo run, or easy day there are a few important factors to consider.  During a workout, the weight a runner is carrying should be minimized for maximum efficiency.  Additionally, a hands-free model is most appropriate, in order to run with good form.  A pressurized hydration pack bladder also helps minimize the effort needed to sip water, and often reduces the amount of sloshing.  For a short run, hydration needs are lower, so a low-volume pack is recommended.
Recommendation: The Hydrosleeve has a lower liquid capacity and reduces the need for water bottle retrieval while running fast. (

For Medium-Distance runs, meaning runs in the 60 - 75 minute range, runners will have higher hydration needs than on short runs.  In addition, a medium-distance run may require the use of gels (or other equivalent nutrition). 

Recommendation:  If carrying a bottle in one hand while a second hand is free does not bother the runner, a hand-held hydration pack is recommended, especially if extra items, such as gels/keys/ID are being carried.  If a runner prefers to be hands-free, the beast hydration pack for runners would be the Hydrosleeve. 

For long-distance runs
, such as any run lasting longer than 75+ minutes, a higher capacity hydration system is needed.  Although a runner will carry more weight with a high-capacity system, fewer stops will have to be made for pack refills.  Long runs will likely require the runner to carry additional items, such as gels, thus storage space is often necessary.  Runners may also have energy efficiency in mind on especially long runs, which would affect whether the runner prefers to drink from a straw, or squeeze a bottle. 
Recommendation:  A backpack model which can hold 32 – 100 oz of liquid, along with additional items, is recommended to help a runner comfortably complete his or her long run while staying properly hydrated.  An added bonus of the backpack hydration model is that a straw that runs from the hydration bladder to the runner’s mouth. 

For trail running, any of the four systems may be most appropriate, depending on the run.  There are many factors to consider, such as difficulty of the trail, duration of the run, and need for extra storage space.  Many trail runners prefer to keep their hands free in order to pay utmost attention to the demands of the trail.  For these runs, an arm-band (or two), or a backpack model are recommended.  For runs on easy trails, a hand-held or belt model, where the act of diverting one’s attention to drink from a bottle will not hinder the runner may be most appropriate.  For long trail runs on difficult terrain, a backpack hydration pack is recommended for storing necessary gear, holding a large amount of liquid, and also for helping the runner keep focused on the trail ahead. 

No matter the type of running, there is a perfect hydration pack available.  Whether a runner requires extra storage space, does not like to carry items while running, or has high hydration needs, many products exist on the market to fill any need.