10 Best Racing Vests Tested & Rated
Running, over time, has become an art and one of the many ways that runners practice their art is by racing. Just like a painter or a sculptor, runners have their own tools of the trade that improve their performance and help give them the edge they need. One great piece of running gear that takes the functionality of several of these tools and wraps them all up into one is racing vests.
Racing vests often combine features like hydration systems, reflective materials, and accessible storage to bring you all the necessities for a long-distance race where you don’t have time to stop and fumble with a backpack. With lots of styles to choose from, we’ve put together a list of the best racing vests on the market to help you find the right fit for you. We want you to be able to make confident, informed decisions about the tools you use to perfect your own races and running routines, so we’ve also included our criteria for the best racing vests and some of the most frequently asked questions to help you decide.
- Salomon S-Lab Racing Vest
- Nathan HPL 020 Vest
- Holds 2 liters
- Nathan Fireball Race Vest
- Best bang for your buck
10 Best Racing Vests
1. Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 3
Storage: The main compartment features a two-way zipper and is designed to provide the most amount of storage possible. A zippered pocket on the front is great for holding your phone, cash, or keys. Another zippered outer pocket, made of mesh, is stretchy and quite roomy. There are mesh pockets on either side of the vest for extra storage, and you don’t have to take the vest off or stop running to access them. The top-opening hydration system is held in place by a thermal sleeve, and the bladder can hold up to 1.5 liters.
Cost: While this is one of the more expensive vests on the list, it’s designed so well and is so durable that you will definitely get your money’s worth.
- Tons of storage
- Doesn’t bounce while running
- Doesn’t rub or chafe
- Storage pockets are easy to reach
- Comes with a whistle on a lanyard
2. Nathan HPL
Storage: The Nathan HPL 020 vest has a total storage capacity of 6 liters. The bladder holds 2 liters. Despite having a lot of storage capacity, this vest still manages to be lightweight, weighing in at only 13 ounces.
Cost: This vest is moderately priced in comparison to other similar products.
- Bladder holds 2 liters
- Belt pocket
- Stabilization harness
- Easy to adjust straps
- Some find it difficult to close and secure the bladder
3. Nathan Fireball Race Vest
This race vest is lightweight and has ample storage room. It can fit a 1.5-ounce bladder, the 12 ounce insulated hot flasks it comes with, and additional items such as your phone and keys.
This vest has plenty of storage space and has a phone pocket that can fit up to an iphone 6.
This vest comes at a great price and is highly recommended. It also comes with reflective properties--to additional safety qualities.
4. Ultimate Direction AK Mountain Vest 3.0
There are also trekking pole attachments so it’s much easier to carry them
The main compartment is waterproof
The soft flasks are included
Durable and comfortable
Some users said that the water caused skin irritation
5. Inov-8 Race Elite
There are 7 pockets
The design is very breathable
Some users said that the access to some pockets could be better
6. UltraAspire Astral
This vest uses a hydration system that sits loosely across the chest, making it easy to access and offering a wider range of motion. It comes with a 2L bladder that, unfortunately, may absorb the heat from your body while it rests against your back, but there is room to add an insulated sleeve around the bladder to try and keep it a little cooler. The micro-fiber mesh and polyester blend of fabrics is comfy and durable.
There’s plenty of room for odds and ends in this racing vest, with a large compartment, a storage sleeve, and straps in the back as well as easy to access front pockets and an inner compartment for safe storage. One of the front pockets has an elastic close so it’s super easy to reach in, get what you need, and put it back quickly while the other one has a zipper closure for items that need to be more secure. These front pockets are perfect for energy gels, salt pills, cell phones, keys, safety whistles, and whatever else you may need while running.
This is one of the more expensive selections on our list but is comparable to other name brand racing vests. It does come with the bladder and depending on what color you get it may be a little cheaper.
- Curved, open design
- Micro-fiber mesh and polyester
- Max O2 Sternum hydration system
- Plenty of storage
- Easy to access pockets
- 2L bladder
- Adjustable and easy to get on and off
- Available in multiple colors
- Runs small and a little constricting across the midsection
- Bladder absorbs body heat easily
- A little pricey
7. Ultimate Direction TO Race Vest 3.0
The fabric is really breathable
Runners stated that it was very easy to find the right size
Trekking pole loops are very interesting feature
Users said that some pockets are hard to use during the race
8. SLS3 Running Hydration Vest
This vest is designed to be resistant to sliding around while you’re wearing it. Comfortable, wide strips ensure that the weight of the vest is distributed evenly, so you’ll still have a smooth run. They’re made of breathable mesh which is great for hot days. Two reflective strips on the back are there for extra safety and visibility.
There’s a small pocket on the front for items such as keys, and a larger pocket that zips which is great for holding your phone or iPod. A back pocket, which also zips, measures 6.5 by 10.5 inches. Two 9.5 ounce flasks are included in the front pockets.
This vest is affordable and priced relatively low compared to others of its kind.
- Adjustable straps
- Comes with 2 water bottles
- Reflective stripes
- Does not include hydration bladder
10. Triwonder Marathoner Vest
Storage: A stretchy, breathable mesh pocket on the front left side of the vest is great for storing your phone. This vest only weighs 4.6 ounces.
Cost: This vest is one of the most affordable on this list.
9. Evolike Reflective Vest
Made with EvoClimate fabric, this running vest is an excellent choice for those looking for a comfortable, flexible fit. This vest comes in sizes small through extra-large, and the company has also recently added a kids’ size and an “extreme” size if you’re looking for a vest to wear over a bulky jacket. At night, this vest is visible from up to 650 feet away.
This EvoLike vest contains one pocket, which measures 4 by 6 inches.
Considering all you get with this product, the price is extremely affordable. The company also offers a 30-day money back guarantee.
- Strong Velcro closures
- Machine washable
- Multiple sizes
- Keeps you cool
- Some find it to be thinner than expected.
Our Criteria for the Best Racing Vests
Finding the right racing vest can be just as important as finding a speedy pair of shoes or a comfortable pair of racing shorts. Just like any great piece of gear, a solid racing vest will help boost your performance to the next level and make running a much more pleasant experience. We’ve outlined the most important features and functions for a running vest to have below, taking you through our process of selecting the best racing vests for our list and providing you with informed and accurate advice on how to make your own selection when shopping.
One of the great draws of a racing vest is the storage it offers runners for long races or to keep your hands free and your belongings secure while you’re running. Many of the vests on our list have a back compartment that you can use by taking off the vest, as well as front or side pockets that give you easy access to the things you need. If you use energy gels or supplements (like caffeine pills or salt tablets), or if you need to bring along a cell phone or keyring you’ll get plenty of use out of this convenient storage. Think about the kind of extras you’ll need to bring along with you, whether you’re racing, hiking, marathoning, etc. and what kind of storage you’ll find the most valuable.
The best racing vests are composed of light cotton fibers, synthetic fibers, or synthetic cotton blends. Fabric determines how the vest will fit and features such as moisture-wicking abilities, breathability, comfort, and how lightweight it is. Vests made of 100% polyester are ranked among the best among the most breathable and apt at moisture management. Blended synthetic and cotton fibers also provide adequate moisture management properties but are far less than vests made of 100% polyester. Racing vests made from pure cotton will provide the least amount of moisture management and breathability but provide you with a good fit and adequate warmth.
To help a racer be in control of their body’s’ temperature, in both weather conditions temperatures, the advisable running vest material should be lightweight and of high-performance material designed to remove moisture away from the skin.
The best running vests are breathable and made of a blend of polyester, Lycra, or nylon. They keep you warm and dry during the winter and in the summer they help to regulate your body temperature and provide maximum breathability, comfort, moisture-wicking properties.
Weather and Seasons
Typically racing vests are meant for the hot summer seasons, but some are great for colder weather–and even help keep you warm. This is why it’s important to choose your vest based on the climate you typically run in. If you are running in cold conditions you will need to layer up and go with vests made of pure cotton. This will help keep you warm and comfortable during your cold runs. During the summer months, a light racer vest is recommended. These are typically made of pure polyester, polyester blend, or pure synthetic fiber. This allows them to regulate your body temperature wick moisture away from your body, and comfortable.
Breathability is of utmost importance during hot summer months–it’s important you stay cool and comfortable so you don’t overheat, so keep this in mind when choosing your running vest. During the winter, athletes should dress in warm running vest fabrics. It is important to note that whenever you exercise your temperature and heart rate elevates, so you need attire that will help keep these level.
Racing vests are usually the most useful during long-distance runs, which means comfort is crucial. If you’re wearing uncomfortable gear while running, you’ll quickly become aware of how much your body moves and how easily things can rub and chafe. You don’t want to get caught in the middle of a race with something that’s painful and too uncomfortable to keep wearing.
A comfortable racing vest will be stretchy, adjustable, and breathable. Adjustable straps allow you to create a more custom fit–which helps prevent any chafing due to unnecessary rubbing.
Other Important Factors To Consider
Many running vests come with weather-resistant features, additional protection from the wind and the rain, and help keep your body temperature regulated. They are lightweight thanks to their polyester or polyester blend material–others are made of high quality or compound blends.
Below are some additional features to look for when searching for your vest:
- UPF and UVR protection against rays from the sun.
- Reflectivity–enhances the safety of a runner
- Accents in the form of piping or reflective fabric.
- Moisture-wicking properties
- Pockets and storage space–and how accessible are they?
- Flat-lock seams that prevent chafing and provide a smooth fit
- Breathable mesh on the inside panel of the vest for optimal ventilation
- Check for weather resistant features: waterproof, wind resistant, water resistant, and quick drying ability. These are important because they offer you additional protection from outdoor elements, such as harsh weather.
If you typically like running at night or on busy roadways, reflective fabrics and features are very important. This allows you to be seen by drivers and bikers, reduces the chances of an accident, and increases your overall safety.
When it comes to style, it’s important to note your own preferences and look for a comfortable and flexible option that works best for you. Some racing vests will have an open chest design to better accommodate people with breasts or those who like a minimalist fit. Some will offer more coverage and fit more like a true vest than a backpack. There are plenty of different cuts and designs to choose from, so you’ll have a little liberty to individualize your comfort.
Q. What size of hydration bladder is best?
A: This completely depends on your needs and preference. If you’re running longer distances and need to be able to hydrate more you may want to go with a bigger bladder so you don’t have to worry about refilling. On the other hand, if you know you’ll have more opportunities to fill up and don’t want to bother carrying the extra weight, you might prefer a smaller size bladder. Keep your needs and your environment in mind when making your decision.
Q. The race I’m running doesn’t allow hydration vests–do I have any other alternatives?
A: Unfortunately, sometimes we’re restricted by the rules and regulations specific to each individual race. Don’t be discouraged though, there’s still plenty of options out there for you. Hydration belts are an easy to wear alternative to their vest counterparts and may be allowed at more races that have banned backpacks or racing vests. You could also try a handheld hydration pack that offers a small amount of storage and a compact design that won’t slow you down while you’re running. Race belts sometimes have extra loops and storage space to make taking extras with you on race day a breeze.
If you’re eagerly planning your next big race, make sure you always check the rules and guidelines so you can be properly prepared.
- Nathan Sports, Marathon Hydration Vest Ban: You’ve Still Got Options!, Sports Gear Manufacturer