10 Best Running Hydration Vests Reviewed of 2019
At Runnerclick we’ve road-tested plenty of different running vests and now we’re ready to show you the fruits of our labor. Below you will find the top 10 running vests available in 2018. Enjoy!
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Weight is only 330 grams
Comes with two 20 oz water bottles
Storage system designed for climbing and rappeling gear.
Two pockets for electrolytes or valuables
- Ultimate Direction AK 3.0
- Nathan Vapor Air
- InnerFit Hydration Backpack
- FREEMOVE Hydration Pack
- Arc'teryx Norvan 7
- TRIWONDER 5.5L
- UltrAspire Spry UltraViz 2.0
- Inov-8 Race Ultra 10
- SERG Hydration Pack
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Favorite Running Hydration Vests
1. Ultimate Direction AK 3.0
Weight is only 330 grams
Comes with two 20 oz water bottles
Storage system designed for climbing and rappeling gear.
Two pockets for electrolytes or valuables
Only one color available
This pack was designed and is fully endorsed by Anton Krupicka, an American ultra-runner with quite a few notable achievements to his name, so you can be sure this vest has been battle-tested and every detail has been thought out. Highly durable and personalized, it’s hard to go wrong with the AK 3.0. Now with added design features for carrying climbing gear on your most intense adventures.Read more
The Ultimate Direction vest is the only vest on our list designed to comfortably carry climbing gear while trail running.
At 330 grams (11.6 oz) without bottles, this vest is a bit bigger then the previous versions. but still very lightweight.
The pack offers storage capacity of 702 cubic inches, or 11.5 litres, and comes with a relatively spacious compartment specifically intended for climbing rope.
While not as cheap as some of its rivals on our list, the Ultimate Direction 3.0 is still good value given its versatility.
2. Nathan Vapor Air
No Chafe binding
Some consumer claim of leaky valve
This is one of Nathan’s key products when it comes to running vests. They’ve engineered a high-performance vest and reduced the weight as much as possible without compromising functionality or durability. Everything you need from a vest comes in spades with the Vapor Air. Give it a try today and see the difference!Read more
The Nathan Vapor fits great once you have it set up properly. There are plenty of straps involved so there may be a bit more trial and error, but it's a great option if you like to tailor the fit of your vest and you prefer a bladder to water bottles.
This pack is extremely light at only 397 grams (14 oz) - and that includes the bladder.
Including the 2-liter bladder, the vest has a total volume of 7 liters, meaning it has serious capacity for such a lightweight item.
The Nathan Vapor Air can be a touch expensive, depending on the version you choose. But the bag's many features and advantages mean it is worth every cent.
3. InnerFit Hydration Backpack
Design for Women
3 way harness
Some complained about the straps
The InnerFit Hydration Backpack is a great addition to any high endurance runners who need to ensure they have ample supplies of easily accessible water for their runs. It is made to last and will hold up well to a lot of wear and tear and use.Read more
The pack is designed to adjustable and to fit a variety of body sizes and types so it can be used in many ways by many different people. It won't slip and ride and is comfortable for those long endurance runs.
The InnerFit Hydration Backpack is durable and has protective features built in so it holds up well even against drops and falls and a lot of wear and abuse.
The backpack is fairly easy to wear and doesn’t limit your range of motion and flexibility like other packs and hydration vests often do. This is a major advantage for runners and makes it a popular tool for endurance runners everywhere.
The InnerFit Hydration Backpack lives up to its intended use and is a very practical and user-friendly tool that you will love having on hand so you have one less thing to worry about when heading out on a long run.
This hydration backpack is made to last and is a durable piece of running gear that is a smart investment for anyone who often goes on long runs.
4. FREEMOVE Hydration Pack
Loads of maximum comfort features
Great price by comparrison
Loads of room
Not especially light
Lots of straps
Some buckle issues reported
When it comes to great hydration packs designed for endurance runners, the FREEMOVE Hydration Pack is a great option to choose. It is made to last and will hold up well to a lot of wear and tear and use which makes it is perfect for long endurance runs.Read more
The pack used to store the water in the FREEMOVE Hydration Pack are made to be easily transported and easy to carry so the pack is comfortable and a simple process to get on and off.
This pack has a protective outer fabric lining that helps protect it from sun and weather elements so it lasts longer and functions as it should on even on the most endurance-testing runs!
There is slightly less flexibility with this pack but it is still very easy to use and doesn’t hinder your range of motion and flexibility much at all. It is a great piece for any runner to have if they do not want to worry about running out of water while on a run!
The FREEMOVE Hydration Pack is easy to use and with its backpack design it is easy to carry on long runs without adding a lot of extra weight or pressure on your back and shoulders.
This hydration backpack is made to last and you will love the durability and endurance it offers, making it a great investment options for runners of all skill levels.
5. Arc'teryx Norvan 7
Many additional features for intensive trail training
2L water storage
Adjustable straps and zippers for customized fit
Safety whistle included
Not necessary for beginners
This synthetic hydration vest is designed to keep you cool and hydrated on long trail runs. It is 3" high and 16" wide. This vest is ideal for trail runners to focus on full ranges of motion and managing moisture.Read more
This vest is designed to maximize comfort during a wide range of movements on the trail. It has a precision fit to increase stability during movement, and fits very close to the body and chest. The support comes from dual sternum straps and side tension straps to provide a personalized fit. This product also features an emergency whistle on the shoulder, 3 back mesh pockets, 2 pole carrying pockets, a weather resistant storage bag, 3 adjustable zippers, and 4 front mesh pockets for storage.
This pack weighs about 2 lbs, plus the weight of the water.
This vest has the capacity to store 2L of water
This vest tends to be on the more expensive end of the product list, but definitely a good investment for intensive trail runners.
6. TRIWONDER 5.5L
Soft and thin design
Comfortable mesh padding
Hugs your body like a glove
Suits a variety of pursuits and distances
Limited color choices
Water bottle pockets don't stretch
Widely regarded as one of the best vests on the market, the TRIWONDER Hydration Pack has carved a popular niche among trail runners. Made from waterproof nylon and polyester mesh, it's designed to withstand all weathers, ensuring your phone and energy foods won't get damaged even if you're slogging around in torential rain. Yet the design is also soft and thin, absorbing sweat and keeping you moving.Read more
This hydration pack has the sort of storage capacity as a traditional backpack, meaning it can be used in a variety of terrains and circumstances. The wide shoulder pads distribute your weight as you run, and there is little or no bouncing.
At 250 grams this product is seriously lightweight, and it's seriously aerodynamic. You won't notice it as you fly round on your run.
The name kinda gives it away here - the pack carries 5.5 litres, which should be more than enough water storage to sustain you on your run. And the bottles are stored at the front of the bag so you can easily take them out to refill.
One of the best things about this bag is the price. It's one of the cheapest items on our list, making 8th.
7. UltrAspire Spry UltraViz 2.0
Extremely visible, lots of reflectivity
3 pockets, plenty of storage space
Lightweight, decent fluid capacity
Tends to bounce a bit
You don’t need to be a top level ultra-runner to rock this vest. Durable, comfortable, and extremely visible, there are many things to like about the Spry. Made largely from mesh this vest does extremely well in hot weather, and if all this isn’t enough it comes with a reasonable priced tag.Read more
The vest is equipped with a patent-pending Max O2 Sternum - essentially a hook which allows you to fasten the vest at the front. The Sternum is designed with enhanced flexibility so it won't snap when you make an extreme or unusual movement.
At just 127 grams the Spry 2.0 is as lightweight as it gets.
This vest has 1 Liter of space that can be used for a bladder or a running jacket. This makes it an excellent option for runners who don't want to carry water in their vest but still want added storage for personal items or food while increasing low light safety.
This vest is one of the most affordable on our list and is very simple ad versatile.
8. Inov-8 Race Ultra 10
weather resistant pocket on rear
Large mesh pockets
Black color will absorb heat
This award-winning vest was made for speed, so be careful before you strap it on! This vest hugs your back comfortably and is extremely stable, designed to provide zero bounce. When you're several miles into your run, this lack of bouncing could be crucial.Read more
The Inov8's strap design is not well suited for female runners. Despite the amount of straps, however, it is relatively simple to set up and much less likely to tangle than other vests.
The Inov8 Ultra 10 sits in the middle of the pack for weight on our list. At 260 grams (9 oz) it is still quite light for its size.
The Inov8 is designed to carry 10 litres of kit, and includes two 500ml soft flasks with additional capacity for a 2-liter bladder as well. It also includes loops for holding lightweight poles and external bungees.
The Inov8 sits at the upper end of the mid priced running vests currently available. But its award-winning design and specialized features more than compensate.
9. SERG Hydration Pack
Easy to wear
Decent water capacity
Some buckle and strap issues reported
Hydration packs are a literal lifesaver for runners and the SERG Hydration Pack is a perfect example of optimal potable hydration. It is easy to use, holds a good bit of water, and is comfortable to wear in a range of running, biking, and hiking situations.Read more
SERG Black hydration includes a 70-ounce/2 liter bladder so you stay hydrated and also has convenient, deep pocket that is perfect for stashing your snack and wallet. It’s specially designed low-profile athletic cut rides above jersey pockets, below bike helmets so anyone can use it easily.
This pack is made to be BPA free and is FDA approved and utilizes safe and non-toxic TPU material. It is extremely light and weighs only 0.7 pounds. The SERG Hydration Pack Made of high-quality Jacquard fabric material for a strong resistant design.
The bag multiples chest straps keep the pack in place so it doesn't bounce when you move. In addition, there's a mesh bag allows you to carry essential supplies with you without having to add another pack to your load.
The FREEMOVE Hydration Pack is easy to use and with its backpack design it is easy to carry on long runs without adding too much weight or pressure on your back and shoulders.
This hydration backpack is designed to be completely pressure-tolerant and leak proof which makes it ideal for higher intensity activities like cycling, running, hiking, hunting and other outdoor adventures!
It distributes the weight very well
Perfect for longer distances
Some buyers said that the vest was too big for them
SLS3 may be a less well-known brand but they're rapidly forging a reputation with their dynamic, low-weight vests. This model offers different options and can be customized to suit runners of different disciplines. Smaller, thinner runners have reported difficulty getting the straps to fit, but if you're on the bigger side it's a brilliant option.Read more
There’s breathable and lightweight mesh to provide more air flow. The straps are fully adjustable so you can adjust them to your needs. SLS offers the option to include bottles and those bottles come in different weights, meaning you have myriad options to suit your personal needs and running strategy. The vest is made from high-quality, firm materials so you don’t need to worry about skin irritation.
This vest is extremely lightweight, even when your bottles are full.
You can choose from a number of different options regarding water storage. If you pefer to carry your own bottles with you, you can choose an option with no bottles at all. Alternatively you can include two 9.5 oz bottles, or two 24 oz flasks. The weight of the vest will depend on the option you choose but the product is specifically designed to be as light as possible.
This one is extremely cost-effective against its market rivals, one of the cheapest on our list.
Many runners appreciated that there are additional storage pockets. You can store your keys or phone there.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
There are a lot of moving parts when you are running and one poorly placed buckle or poor choice of material could result in painful chafing or tight spots. It is a difficult balance – finding a vest that will not bounce around but will also not be so constrictive that you can’t get a full breath in while going at full pace. Bear in mind that your chest will be expanding and compressing as you run. The best vests have a stretch fabric on their strap that will “breathe” with you while remaining in place. Weight distribution is also important to consider. It may seem strange to have water bottles hanging off your chest, but if you are properly packed then the weight of the gear on your back will counteract the water bottles and ensure they can’t pull you forward.
When you are 8 miles from civilization during your next trail run the last thing you want to worry about is losing your credit card or keys in the middle of the woods. An essential function of any running vest is that it will hang onto your personal belongings regardless of how much strain you put it under. Some packs have many loose straps and buckles that seem to be attracted to every branch along the trail. Simple and slick vests without any frivolous straps or buckles are the way to go, particularly for trail runners. If you primarily run in the city then you may be able to get away with an option with a few extra straps for stability. But if you are using a running vest on city streets then you may want to reconsider if you want those straps flapping around and potentially catching passers-by.
If a running vest forces you to change your form or cramps your range of motion in any way, then find a new pack. With the extremely lightweight options that now exist it’s completely possible to find a vest that doesn’t change the way, you run at all. Matt Carpenter, famous for winning the Pikes Peak Marathon and for having the highest recorded VO2 max of any runner, experimented with many different ways of carrying water during his long training runs and discovered that for some reason carrying water just in front of the armpits at the shoulder is the most efficient method while running.
Is there enough room in your pack for everything you need to carry? Consider what you may need to carry before buying a hydration pack. If you buy a vest with more storage space then you need then you are likely to fill it with superfluous items that you don’t really need. Remember it’s a running vest; you use it to go running, not hiking.
A couple bottles and a few gels and a place to keep your key is what you’re looking for. That should be enough to get you through your longest runs. Another great feature to look for are those straps on the outside of the hydration pack that will allow you to attach a jacket to the outside of your bag. These bungees will significantly increase the carrying options available to you without increasing weight very much or getting in the way. Vests such as the TRIWONDER 5.5L weigh little more than a small bag of sugar, but they are designed to maximize their capacity to distribute space, enabling them to carry a far greater weight than their own (we’ll leave you to work out how many liters the TRIWONDER can carry).
Running vests are primarily used by and created with trail runners in mind. This makes durability very important, because if the right fabric isn’t used then it will be easily torn by the conditions that trail runners find themselves in. Abrasion and tear-resistant materials are essential if you’re picking your way through forests and up craggy rock-faces. Running vests must endure constant bounce and friction for mile after mile, yet remain lightweight and breathable. This is a difficult balance to achieve. Look for a running vest with a track record of durability and avoid lower-end vests that may look like their more durable counterparts, but tear and disintegrate under the slightest pressure.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
For 99% of runners out there it’ll be too much, an unnecessary accessory that will be a hindrance rather than a help. Like the high end gps running watches which have come to dominate the market, it’s a product many people will never need. If you’re concerned about hydration, you might be better just taking on more water before and after your runs. Consider buying a new water bottle to stay hydrated before your run even starts.
If you forget you’re wearing it while you’re running, that means it’s a good product. It can be hard enough to stay cool with a lightweight running shirt on hot summer runs, you don’t need an awkward, irritating gilet weighing you down. The Ultimate Direction Marathon vest is well-designed for this, its flexible design ensures that it will soon mirror your shape, and your running style, becoming almost an extension of your body.
Other Factors to Consider
Running vests are typically available in two or three generic sizes, depending on the manufacturer. A small/medium or medium/large is what you will usually find available. It can also be very hard to find a running vest for larger runners. Most of them are designed to fit the physique of a svelte seasoned runner. There are still options available but you may be a bit more limited on your options. Setting up a running vest can honestly be a bit of a headache, especially the ones with multiple straps that need adjusting. This is one reason we like vests such as the Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 8L; they’re designed to be minimalist, so you won’t have bits flapping around everywhere as you’re going along.
When buying a vest, we really encourage you to look for good models without checking the price first. If you focus only on the price tag, you may miss out on the model that’s perfect for you. Of course, the price is important and sometimes it may be a decisive factor, but try to focus on quality and comfort. Our top 10 vests include a range of options, covering all points on the price chart. You should decide what features you need and eliminate vests with too many useless features.
If you often find that it is difficult to find shirts that fit you just right and you are often in between sizes, then aim for a vest with many adjustment options. The more generically sized vests are great if they fit you but if it is too loose or tight then you’ll have a rather uncomfortable running experience. Also, don’t be dissuaded by negative reviews about the comfort of the running vests you search for; even the most comfortable running vest can be a bit uncomfortable at times and a bit cumbersome. But if comfort is your number one priority then perhaps running isn’t the best choice of hobby for you anyway. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t find a product that makes the experience as pain-free as possible, but don’t expect your new running vest to hug you like a new Christmas sweater.
Unless you’re from Boulder, Colorado, running vests are hardly a trendy or fashionable item. They are a purely functional product, designed to keep you hydrated and alive on your next adventure. That being said there is something about the Ultimate Direction vest (and several other hydration packs on our list, come to think of it) that makes us wanna get out of the office and spend the afternoon running up a mountain.
You also need to consider the safety features of the hydration vest you are looking at. If you are ever running in low-light conditions then you should add visibility features to your must-have list – the UltrAspire vest is great in this regard. If you want something a bit more conservative consider the Inov-8 Ultra and its more reserved design.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Do I really need a running hydration vest?
If you have to ask that question then the answer is probably no. Running vests are designed for runners who already spend hours in the mountains and need a more efficient way to carry their gear.
q: Is a water bottle carrier or a bladder design better?
It depends! Do you like cleaning water bladders and replacing broken bite valves? Do you like carrying water on your back or your front like Matt Carpenter? Water bottles allow you to pour water in your mouth instead of using precious energy to suck water out of a tube while simultaneously trying to breathe. However, water bottles are probably the better choice for most people.
q: Are there any other uses for my new running vest?
Not really. Running vests are a highly specialized product with one purpose in mind. Their limited carrying space and function-oriented design make them ideal packs for running and hiking but not much else. Don’t expect to be able to carry your textbooks around campus or anything else beyond the basics.
q: Is there any alternative to using a running vest?
If you can’t swallow the idea of wearing a running vest but still want to carry more water on your next run, then consider a handheld alternative. They strap to your hand and can still hold your car keys, wallet an a gel or two.
q: Where is the best place to get my new running vest?
It can be difficult to find a retailer with a variety of running vest options. If you are dead set on buying locally then your options will likely be very limited. Running vests aren’t as particular in regards to sizing as running shoes, so consider buying them online to get the best deal and access the biggest variety of options.