10 Best Running Vests Reviewed of 2017

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Detailed breakdown and analysis of the top 10 best running vests available in 2017. Great for expert and novice runners a like.

Finding a convenient and hassle free way to carry water, and maybe a few small items on a run is a challenge that companies continuously try to perfect. Today we’re going to talk about running vests. For those who aren’t familiar with them or have never had the opportunity to use one, they are exactly what you would think they are. Running vests above all else, need to provide some basic functions and they need to do this while being as comfortable as possible. The good news is we’ve road tested quite a few different vests and and ready to share our findings. Below you will find the top 10 running vests available in 2017. Enjoy!

Orange Mud HydraQuiver
  • Orange Mud HydraQuiver
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • quick access pockets located on each shoulder
  • Price: See Here
Nathan Vapor Air
  • Nathan Vapor Air
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Dual stabilization system evenly compresses load
  • Price: See Here
UltrAspire Spry UltraViz
  • UltrAspire Spry UltraViz
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Quick stash pocket on back will hold 1 L reservoir
  • Price: See Here

10 Best Running Vests


Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP2

A great little running vest to make sure you’re well hydrated for the duration for your run, the Hydraquiver has turned conventional running vest design on its head. For those who don’t love a bladder you will appreciate the holster style construction to this vest. Not the best in terms of storage but overall a great vest.
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Comfort
Due to the lack of chest straps the Hydraquiver mud is an especially comfortable running vest. Most runner's will find that minimal adjustment is necessary and compared to more complicated vests it is very easy to set up.

Weight
Incredibly this pack only weighs 437 grams which is less then a pound when empty.

Capacity
Fits two water bottles from 21 to 26oz and has front pockets for keys/wallet or nutrition.

Value
The Hydra quiver has the styling of a very high end running vest without the steep price tag of a Salomon vest.
Pros
  • Very lightweight
  • Exposed back allows for a lot of airflow
  • The holster/water bottle setup makes maintenance easy
  • Glove like design equals a comfy fit
Cons
  • Little space for gear


Nathan Vapor Air

This is Nathan’s flagship product 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. It is a testament to its engineers really. Everything you need from a vest comes in spades with the Vapor Air. Give it a try today and see the difference!
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Comfort
The Nathan Vapor fits great once you have it set up properly. There are more straps involved then the Mudquiver so there may be a bit more trial and error, but it is a great option if you like to be able tailor the fit of your vest and you prefer a bladder to water bottles.

Weight
This pack is extremely light at only 263 ounces.

Capacity
With a relatively standard 2 liter capacity the Nathan Vapor Air has the average amount of space for a running vest with a remarkably low weight.

Value
If your primary concern is saving weight then the Vapor Air is for you. It is in the same price range as most of the vests on our list.
Pros
  • Won’t weigh you down
  • Bladder very easy to access and refill
  • Good pocket design
  • Long lasting, unquestioned durability
  • 4 customized sizes
Cons
  • Less expensive options with similar features exist


Nathan Intensity

If top end performance is what you seek the Intensity race vest may be the answer for you. Designed specifically to fit the female form, this vest has a perfectly engineered three-way harness to make sure the vest hugs your body. No rubbing or bouncing will slow you down along your way.
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Comfort
Designed specifically for female runners, the Nathan Intensity Race vest has extremely breathable mesh straps

Weight
At 413.9 grams this vest weigs just under a pound.

Capacity
A 2 Liter bladder is included and a specialized pocket that can fit small personal items or a smart phone is found on the front of this pack.

Value
This vest is one of the most affordable on our list and one of the only options available designed specifically for female runners.
Pros
  • Comes with 2-Liter bladder
  • Mesh shoulder straps, breathes well
  • Stabilizing harness built into the design
  • High quality, long lifespan
  • Designed specifically for the female body
Cons
  • Not much storage
  • Limited color options

UltrAspire Spry UltraViz 2.0

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 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 humble sized priced tag.
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Comfort
Minimal adjustment straps and low visibility features make this vest a great option if multiple runners intend to use the same vest.

Weight
At just 127 grams the Ultra Spire is the lightest vest on our list.

Capacity
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.

Value
This vest is one of the most affordable on our list and is very simple ad versatile.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Extremely visible, lots of reflectivity
  • 3 pockets, plenty of storage space
  • Lightweight, decent fluid capacity
  • Ergonomically designed
Cons
  • Tends to bounce a bit

Inov-8 Race Ultra 10

This vest was made for speed, so be careful before you strap it on! This vest hugs your back comfortably and is extremely stable with zero bounce. This may not sound like the most important detail, but 20 km down the trail it could just be the only thing that matters to you.
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Comfort
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 more tangle free then other vests.

Weight
The Inov8 Ultra 10 sits in the middle of the pack for weight on our list. At 260 grams it is still quite light for its size.

Capacity
The Inov8 includes two 500ml soft flasks and is capable of holding a 2 Liter bladder as well. It also has 10 Liters space which is quite a bit for this category of packs. It also includes loops for holding lightweight poles and external bungees.

Value
The Inov8 sits at the upper end of the mid priced running vests currently available. Its highly specialized features and award winning design add a bit more to the price tag.
Pros
  • Large volume, 5 litres
  • Sleek design
  • High performance, no added drag
  • Zipper rear pocket
  • Weatherproof construction
Cons
  • Only available in 2 sizes, not perfect for all body types
  • Expensive

Patagonia Fore Runner 10L

We have a bit of a thing for Patagonia, we should just admit it (we were not paid to say that). But our bias is not without good reason. When you buy Patagonia you know you’re buying rock solid quality and this is none the less true with the Fore Runner Vest. This vest features a large top loading pocket, so you can carry quite a few things without adding torque to your back. It also achieves everything else you need from a vest in effortless style.
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Comfort
The closest product on our list to a traditional backpack, this running vest is well suited for all day comfort on day hikes or as a day pack on your next backpacking trip. It is still a capable trail running bag but it's not as much of a one trick pony as the rest of the bags on this list.

Weight
The Patagonia fore runner weighs 447 grams which is just a hair under a 1 pound. It is still an extremely lightweight bag but its large capacity makes it heavy in comparison with the ultra light vests on this list.

Capacity
With a substantial carrying capacity of 610 Cubic inches this bag is a great option for hiking as well as running.

Value
This low weight high capacity bag isn't the cheapest on our list, but the design experience of
Patagonia and the spacious drawstring design make it worth it.
Pros
  • Calibrated Support/Suspension
  • Foam back panel
  • Shoulder straps made from Airflow mesh
  • Top loading pocket
  • Extremely durable construction
  • DWR exterior treatment
Cons
  • Limited color choices
  • A bit expensive

Camelbak Ultra 4 70 oz

Designed to be your support team for medium and long distance runs the Camelback Ultra 470 offers all the perks you need: It’s light, non-irritating, comfortable and seamlessly delivers hydration with a bit of storage. Give it a try it a test drive today!
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Comfort
Most male runners will find that this vest will fit comfortably in their size. It isn't the most breathable vest o our list but it has more padding then any others which make it the right choice if you are planning on carrying an especially heavy bulky load.

Weight
This pack uses burlier materials which make it heavier then most of the vests on this list.

Capacity
With space for up to 10 liters of miscellaneous gear this durable bag can hold as much gear as you would ever need on your longest run.

Value
Less expensive but heavier materials are used which make this vest the perfect "every mans" running vest offering everything you need and nothing you don't.
Pros
  • Good delivery system/bladder
  • Affordably priced
  • Big pockets for storage
  • Great price-to-value ratio
Cons
  • Slightly bigger style of a vest
  • Filling  bladder is a bit awkward.

Ultimate Direction AK 3.0

This pack was designed and is fully endorsed by Anton Krupicka, an American ultra-runner with quite a few notable achievements to his name. Even if you don’t know who Anton is, 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.
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Comfort
The only vest on our list designed to comfortably carry climbing gear while trail running.

Weight
At 326 Ounces this vest is very lightweight but a bit bigger then the previous version.

Capacity
Relatively spacious compartment with 702 Cubic inches intended for climbing rope.

Value
Costing as much as the average product on our list the AK 3.0 vest has the same features as the most premium offerings available for an average price.
Pros
  • Minimalist design
  • Weight is only 326 grams
  • Comes with two 20 oz water bottles
  • Storage system designed for climbing and rappeling gear.
  • Two pockets for electrolytes or valuables
Cons
  • Only one color available

Some people swear that their car works better when it’s been washed. This psychological trick of the mind applies to clothing and gear as well. Having beaten down worn out clothing or gear is bound to have some effect.  The reverse is true as well, get yourself nicely outfitted and you may just notice a bit of an uptick in your energy or performance.

There isn’t much that’s more important than hydration when it comes to running. If you’ve been looking for a for a new way to keep your whistle wet, trying out a vest could be a great idea. Good for daily training and long distance runs there are very useful products.


 

The Criteria We Used For Our Evaluation Of The Best Running Vest

There are a few different criteria that we used to determine which of the running vests that is currently available on the market is the best option for runners. You should consider the factors that went into our decision before simply buying our number one pick. Perhaps you have different needs in a pack then we had in mind. For some, durability might be more important then weigh or style.  As we made our list we considered the weight, style, durability, storage capacity, and practical application of the products that we included.

Running hydration vests are not designed to replace you book bag or briefcase but if you want something that allows you to stay hydrated and fed during your longest runs then it might just be a good companion for you on your next run.

But remember, this is a product designed for Ultra runners and will be to much for 99% of runners out there. It is similar to the high end gps running watches that are only needed by elite runners. Perhaps you could do more to stay hydrated before and after your runs. Consider buying a new water bottle to stay hydrated before your run even starts.

Are they breathable enough?

The best running vest is the one that you forget you are wearing. It can be hard enough to stay cool with a lightweight running shirt on hot summer runs and a running vest that prevents you from staying cool and causes you to overheat will outweigh any benefits provided by the added water and supplies it provides you with. This is one area where the Ultimate Direction Anton Kupricka signature vest shines. It is extremely breathable and has one of the most minimalist designs on our list.

Does the vest provide enough Protection for Belongings

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. A branch or rough surface could easily tear a flimsy pack and pour your belongings onto the trail. 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 is 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 really need a running vest.

Do they provide enough flexibility?

If a running vest forces you to change your form or prevents you from having a full 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 who is 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 way of carrying water while running.

Does the vest fit comfortably?

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 chaffing 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 breathe as you are running. 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 will not pull down on your front or your back.

Storage Capacity…

Is there enough room in your pack for everything you need to carry? Consider what you wish you could carry before buying a pack. If you buy one with more storage space then you need then you are likely to fill it with superfluous items that you don’t really need. Remember its a running vest, your not going backpacking.

running vest capacity

A couple bottles and a few gels and a place to keep your key is what your are looking for. That should be enough to get you through your longest of runs. Another great feature to look for is straps on the outside of the 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. The Patagonia fore runner can carry a full 2 liters of gear in the back compartment.

Disappears when you need it to…

When your out of water and your granola bars are all gone you want your pack to feel like it isn’t even there. Many people are surprised when they see a running vest in person for the first time because of how thin it is and how small it is. They are often very compressible and can feel more like a thin garbage bag then a backpack. Many use the same materials that you would see in an ultra lightweight tent. This can create a difficult balance with the next criteria we considered, durability.

How durable are they?

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. Running vests must endure constant rubbing and bouncing for mile after mile and 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 only appear like their higher end counterparts but use inferior materials. They may look good at first and you may save a few bucks but you will not be confident that you wont tear a strap in the middle of a run.

 

Other Important Factors To Consider When Selecting The Best Running Vest

 

There are a few other factors that must be considered if you are considering buying a running vest. Running vests are a highly specialized item that only the most elite trail runners will ever really need. For most of us a handheld bottle with a strap or an old Gatorade bottle will be enough to get use through our runs. But if you want to take your running to the next level and increase the range of areas you can explore then consider taking a running vest on your next adventure.

They can cost twice as much as a new pair of shoes though so carefully consider what your priorities are before buying one. Perhaps your money would be better spent on some energy bars.

  • Sizing

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 the Mud Hydraquiver tops our list. t is incredibly simple yet still supportive and comfortable. You may be able to get a slightly more tailored fit with any of the more traditional designs with three or more straps but be prepared to set aside some time setting it up and adjusting it as you run.

  • Everyone’s body is different

If you often find that it is difficult to find shirts that fit you just right and you are often in between sizes then definitely go with a vest with many adjustment options. The more generically sized vests are great if they fit you but if it is to loose or tight for you then you are out of luck. Also don’t be dissuaded by negative reviews on the fit of running vests you may run into 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.

  • Style is great, but…

Unless your from Boulder Colorado, running vests are hardly a trendy or fashionable item. They are a purely function based product designed to keep you hydrated and alive on your next adventure. That being said there is something about the Patagonia Fore Runner that makes us wanna get out of the office and spend the afternoon running up a mountain. You also need to consider what safety features are in 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. Some running vest designs might make you feel like you don’t want to be seen wearing them but if you are deep in the mountains a bright fluorescent color often used in running vest will be a good choice for you. Of course if you want something a bit more conservative consider the Inov-8 Ultra and its more reserved design.

FAQ

Here are a few frequently asked questions that you may have had as you are researching which running vest is the right choice for you.

 

Q:  Do I really need a running vest?

A: If you have that question then the answer is probably no. Running vests are designed for runners who already spend hours in the mountains who need a more efficient way to carry there gear.

 

Q:  Is a water bottle carrier or a bladder design better?

A:  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?

A:  Not really. Running vests are a highly specialized products with one purpose in mind. There 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 beyond the basics in these vests.

 

Q:  Is there any alternative to using a running vest?

A:  If you can’t swallow the idea of wearing a running a vest but still want to carry more water on your net run then consider a handheld. 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?

A: 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 the biggest variety of options.


Here are some sources we used while conducting our research:

We utilize many different resources while trying to provide the best information to our readers. Some are clinical sources, some are brand specs provided by manufacturers, and some sources are even other sites which may specialize in particular information which is relative to our subject.

Sources

  1. Sky Runner, Mountin Matt, Running publication,
  2. Runner's World, 5 Ways to Stay Hydrated During a Long Run, Running enthusiast publication, Jul 14, 2016
  3. Trail Runner Magazine, Hydration Pack Hygiene, Online Trail Running Publication, Jul 27, 2016
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