Best Running Vests Guide: 2021 Edition

In my opinion, every runner should have a good running vest.

Yet so many runners go without them!   They end up carrying things in their hands as they run, or wearing a fanny pack which rubs and bounces around everywhere.

I wear my running vest all the time; even if I’m just going for a shorter training run, I often find myself slipping it on.  

What do I use it for?

Keys, money, my phone, headphones, water bottle, gels, salt tablets; you name it.

I discovered the benefits of a running vest after spending years running around carrying things in my hands pockets.   

It was annoying.

A good running vest will fit snugly to your body, and provide no chafing or interference to your running form. 

I actually find that when I run with my iPhone in the back of my vest, the weight gently rolls my shoulders back a bit and helps open up my chest, improving my form!

Related article: How To Run With Your Phone: The Best Options For Carrying Your Phone While Running

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What I Look For In A Running Vest

Just like a good pair of shoes, a good running vest should first and foremost be comfortable.   If it annoys you at any point as you run, it’s not for you.

Here are some more pointers for what to look for when picking your running vest:

Pocket size and accessibility.   My running vest has a myriad of tiny sleeve pockets that are flush with the body of the vest; they’re perfect for money and gels, and I can comfortably carry up to 15 gels in them (I’ve only done this a couple of times . . .).

Hydration system.  Here’s something controversial . . . I don’t like running vests or packs with bladders in the back.  I find them cumbersome to clean and operate, a pain to refill on the move . . . and it’s hard to tell how much water you’ve got left.  Instead, I prefer a running vest with a couple of smaller bottles that hug my chest.   It makes them easier to access and manage!

Body hugging.   The running vest needs to be body-hugging while remaining comfortable; the closer everything is to your body, the less inertia and bounce will occur. Look for vests with at least one chest-strap, and adjustable straps everywhere else.

Related: How To Deal With Chafing and Running

Volume / size.  If you are going to use your own water bladder with the running vest – or want to carry extra items along – then make sure the capacity is big enough.

Related: What To Wear When Running

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Best Running Vests

Here is my selection of the top running vests:

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Nathan VaporAir Hydration Pack

Although I’m not crazy about hydration packs, if you’re looking for one the Nathan VaporAir is one of the best.

It carries up to 2l of water, and is designed with super-breathable body-mapped material.   It has two large pockets at the front for easy access, and two smaller stash pockets for gels and keys.

Finally, it’s flourescent colours help it you’re someone who trains in hours of darkness!

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Salomon Advanced Skin Backpack

Salomon describe this vest as a ‘carrying solution’ – with a multitude of front pockets, this pack is perfectly suited for a trail run or race where you may have to carry your own fuel. 

No bladder is included, but 2 x 500ml soft water bottles are, which fit snugly into front pockets for easy access.  Made from elastic power mesh; the pocket count and comfort levels makes this my kind of vest!

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Nathan VaporAiress Pack for Women

There’s a lot to love about this vest / pack designed specifically for women.  It comes with an optional 2l hydration bladder, as well as pockets at the front for bottles if you choose.

It has great reviews in terms of both comfort and practicality, and it looks great!

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Camelbak Ultra Pro Vest

Camelbak’s Ultra Pro is a simple, front-loaded running best.   Featuring two 500ml soft bottles on the front, several pockets, and two front straps.   

The back pocket is smaller – no room for a separate hydration bladder, for example – but this vest has all you need to run far!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

2 thoughts on “Best Running Vests Guide: 2021 Edition”

  1. It would be helpful if you addressed the options for a big runner. I have a 54″ chest and 50″ waist, and while they are going down, I would like something to train in *before* I get to the new, svelte me. I’ve tried a number of vests and have a couple but so far I’ve only found that I can get the straps hooked at maximum adjustment but they are uncomfortable across my shoulders. The Camelbak Circuit almost makes it and I didn’t send it back, hoping that it will in a little while.

    Reply
    • Hey Darryl,
      Thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.
      I’ve had a good look around the internet this AM and am struggling to find a running vest which states a suitable maximum size – probably best bet is to go to a larger sports store and try out a few if you can. Good luck finding one, and let me know how the Camelbak Circuit goes when you’re flying around in it!

      Thanks!
      Thomas

      Reply

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