10 Best Running Vests Reviewed of 2018
Detailed breakdown and analysis of the top 10 best running vests available in 2018. 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 2018. Enjoy!
- Ultimate Direction Marathon
- Super lightweight
- Nathan Vapor Air
- Dual stabilization system
- Nathan Intensity
- Designed specifically for females
10 Best Running Vests
Ultimate Direction Marathon Vest
This vest is made of breathable mesh and its harness guarantees a secure, snug, and comfortable fit. Its compression straps will further eliminate bouncing during your runs for additional comfort.
This extremely lightweight vest is both breathable and eqipped with plenty of storage space.
This vest has a rear pocket that is capable of storing up to 2 liters of water or liquid. Its front pockets also have plenty of space for an additional bottle as well as storage space for your phone and keys.
This vest comes at an affordable price without sacrificing the features that long distance runners need.
The lightweight and comfortable design of this vest is one of its most appealing features. It has all the necessary features without weighing you down during your long runs.
- Internal key pocket
- Light weight
- Can hold 2 liters of liquid in the back pocket
- Additional storage space in the front pockets
- Only one color option
Nathan Vapor Air
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.
This pack is extremely light at only 263 ounces.
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.
If your primary concern is saving weight then the Nathan Vapor Air is for you. It is in the same price range as most of the vests on our list.
- Won’t weigh you down
- Bladder very easy to access and refill
- Good pocket design
- Long lasting, unquestioned durability
- 4 customized sizes
- Less expensive options with similar features exist
Designed specifically for female runners, the Nathan Intensity Race vest has extremely breathable mesh straps
At 413.9 grams this vest weigs just under a pound.
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.
This vest is one of the most affordable on our list and one of the only options available designed specifically for female runners.
- 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
- Not much storage
- Limited color options
There’s breathable and lightweight mesh to provide more air flow. The straps are fully adjustable so you can adjust them to your needs. There are bottles instead of bladders so they’re easier to clean. The bottles have wide mouth so you can put ice inside. The vest is made from high quality, firm materials so you don’t need to worry about skin irritation.
This vest is very lightweight, you will forget that you’re wearing it.
This vest is great because you can take 3 bottles of water for a run. Two are in the front pockets and there’s another one at the back.
This one is a little bit more expensive but the price isn’t very high. We assure that for this price, you will enjoy great runs and you won’t be dehydrated any more.
Many runners appreciated that there are additional storage pockets. You can store your keys or phone there.
It distributes the weight very well
Perfect for longer distances
Some buyers said that the vest was too big for them
UltrAspire Spry UltraViz 2.0
Minimal adjustment straps and low visibility features make this vest a great option if multiple runners intend to use the same vest.
At just 127 grams the Ultra Spire is the lightest vest on our list.
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.
- Extremely visible, lots of reflectivity
- 3 pockets, plenty of storage space
- Lightweight, decent fluid capacity
- Ergonomically designed
- Tends to bounce a bit
Inov-8 Race Ultra 10
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Large volume, 5 litres
- Sleek design
- High performance, no added drag
- Zipper rear pocket
- Weatherproof construction
- Only available in 2 sizes, not perfect for all body types
Patagonia Fore Runner 10L
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.
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.
With a substantial carrying capacity of 610 Cubic inches this bag is a great option for hiking as well as running.
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.
- Calibrated Support/Suspension
- Foam back panel
- Shoulder straps made from Airflow mesh
- Top loading pocket
- Extremely durable construction
- DWR exterior treatment
- Limited color choices
- A bit expensive
Camelbak Ultra 4 70 oz
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.
This pack uses burlier materials which make it heavier then most of the vests on this list.
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.
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.
- Good delivery system/bladder
- Affordably priced
- Big pockets for storage
- Great price-to-value ratio
- Slightly bigger style of a vest
- Filling bladder is a bit awkward.
Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin 3 5 Set Racing Vest
This vest is perfect for shorter trail races that test your endurance and speed. Its lightweight construction, paired with its ample storage space, make it a perfect option for short distance trail runners.
Weighing in at 720 grams, this is one of the lightest options available as far as trail running vests.
2 Front hydration pockets and one in the back. Additional storage pockets in the front and back of the vest, with flipping capability.
The price of this vest is on the higher on of the scale--but its feature are worth it if you are a trail runner who is looking for something that will help maintain or increase your speed without having to sacrifice functionality.
The sleek design of this vest appeals to many runners. Since it isn't bulky it looks like it has less storage options than it actually does because--so you will be pleasantly surprised when you see just how much you can carry with you when wearing this vest.
- Plenty of storage
- Several size and color options
- MotionFit Trail Sensisfit
- Doesn’t include the bladders
- High Price
Ultimate Direction AK 3.0
The Ultimate Direction vest is the only vest on our list designed to comfortably carry climbing gear while trail running.
At 326 Ounces this vest is very lightweight but a bit bigger then the previous version.
Relatively spacious compartment with 702 Cubic inches intended for climbing rope.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
This factor may be considered by some of runners as the most important. There are many different things that you need if you run a lot6 like good shoes, pants or jacket. People prefer to spend money on that things rather than on vests. However, we think that you should also focus on purchasing high quality vest because it may have big impact on your running. You should be aware that you can’t put everything in to your pockets and enjoy your running.
Water or phone can’t be stored in small pocket so there’s solution for it- vest. While buying vest, we really encourage you to look for good models without checking the price first. When you see that particular vest is expensive, you don’t want to buy it and perhaps it could be the best for you. Of course, the price is important and sometimes it may be a decisive factor but try to focus on quality and comfort. We have in our top 10 vests that aren’t expensive and they’re great but there are also more expensive ones for more than 50 dollars. You should decide what features you need and eliminate vests with too useless features.
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.
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 their 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 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.