Running With A Water Bottle: 4 Effective Ways To Carry Water On Your Run

Here are the simplest ways to take water with you when you run.

When it comes to running gear, most runners think about buying the best running shoes and perhaps splurging on a great GPS running watch.

However, if you are going to do longer runs for half marathon or marathon training or want to venture off-road and enjoy trail running, it is also important to have some way to carry water, sports drinks, or other fluids for hydration.

There are different options for how to carry water while running, ranging from running with a water bottle to more elaborate hydration vests and water bottle waist belts.

Choosing the best running water bottles, running waist packs, and other running hydration gear options will depend on how much water you need to carry, your preferences regarding the ergonomics of carrying and drinking water while you run, and your budget.

In this guide, we will discuss the different options for how to carry water for long-distance runners and trail runners, the pros and cons of running water bottles vs. hydration packs for running, and our recommendations to help you find the right solutions to prevent dehydration while running.

A person drinking from a water bottle.

Should I Be Running With A Water Bottle?

Before we look at specific recommendations for the best running hydration packs, water bottles, etc., let’s briefly discuss when you may need to carry water while running.

When you run, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat and expired respiratory gasses. 

Dehydration1Armstrong, L. E. (2021). Rehydration during Endurance Exercise: Challenges, Research, Options, Methods. Nutrients13(3), 887. can impact exercise performance and put runners at risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Therefore, it is important to have a plan for running with a water bottle or some way to carry water while running.

Some runners may not need to carry water while running shorter runs in mild temperatures, say anything under 30-45 minutes on a cool day with no sun.

They may hydrate well before the run and then do the easy run without drinking fluids. As soon as they are finished, they will rehydrate with plenty of fluids while stretching and cooling down.

Similarly, if you are running in a park or on a track with ample water fountains that are turned on, you may not need to carry water while you run. Instead, you can stop and drink water periodically throughout your workout.

Runners filling up at a water fountain.

However, depending on the type of running workout, you might not want to stop at a water fountain and drink, particularly if you are doing a longer run and building up your endurance.

Similarly, if you are doing a shorter run but there will not be access to water fountains, you will need to go running with a water bottle.

Then, once you step up to longer distances, such as runs that exceed an hour for 10k, half marathon, or marathon training, you will need to be hydrate during your long runs to prevent dehydration and support your performance.

Trail runners, ultramarathon runners, and marathon runners may need multiple hydration running gear options for during their runs.

For example, handheld water bottles for sports drinks with a carbohydrate solution and electrolytes, plus water in a hydration pack, amphipod, or hydration running belt.

This is because, for longer runs, your hydration needs will exceed what you can carry in just a simple running water bottle.

You will likely need both sports drinks with glucose or simple sugars to replace glycogen as well as regular water, depending on the length of your training session and the other type of fueling that you are having (such as energy gels, energy chews, dried fruit, or just carbs in your hydration).

Runners who live in remote areas will also need to carry water while running for almost every workout, even shorter ones, because there won’t be access to water otherwise.

Finally, even with shorter runs, carrying water in hot weather is important because you will sweat more on hot days and need to replenish your fluids. 

Generally, the recommendation is to drink 4-6 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes, depending on your sweat rate, the duration of your run, and the temperature and humidity.

Running With A Water Bottle: 4 Effective Ways To Carry Water On Your Run 1

What Are the Best Running Water Bottles and the Best Running Hydration Packs?

Here are the main types of hydration running gear for runners:

#1: Handheld Water Bottles

Handheld water bottles are good for shorter runs, but some runners find it annoying to hold something while you run.

The best running water bottles have some type of hand strap so that you can keep your fingers free, and there are also handheld soft flasks or collapsible water bottles that you can fold up and stick into the waist belt of your running shorts once you have drunk all of the fluid inside.

Another benefit of the handheld collapsible running water bottles is that they tend to be more ergonomic because the water bottle has more of a plasma consistency as you empty it, making it conform to your hand while you run.

I highly recommend the Nathan QuickSqueeze Plus Handheld water bottle.

It has an adjustable strap for customizing the fit, and you can even fit your phone right in the included pocket.

Plus, the water bottle itself has different fluid capacities, so you can get a smaller or larger bottle based on the distance you run.

Another great option for a running water bottle is the Hydrapak Tempo. It has a nice slim design, so it fits well in your hand.

The Hydrapak soft flasks are my go-to for collapsible running water bottles.

A running hydration vest.

#2: Hydration Vests

Hydration vests are the best way for trail runners, ultramarathon runners, or marathon runners who will be running for at least 90 minutes to 2 hours to carry water while running.

The running vest has a bladder that sits along your back in a lightweight pack with simple straps. There is a hose that comes out of the bladder with a bite valve that clips to one of the straps so that you have easy access to drink water while you run.

The best hydration vests for running are breathable and ergonomic. There is usually a women’s and men’s specific fit. 

A women’s hydration vest for running helps accommodate the differing anatomy of the breasts and is generally contoured more specifically to a female body shape. 

I generally find that the best hydration vests and packs do come in gender-specific fits, and I highly recommend spending a little more money to get a model designed for your body shape. 

A person running with a running vest.

This can reduce chafing and bouncing of the pack while you run.

Personally, I love the Black Diamond Distance 4L Hydration Vest, which does come in a women’s and men’s fit.

It has plenty of adjustment straps to customize the fit to your body shape, again reducing the risk of bouncing, rubbing, chafing, or simply feeling like you have a foreign object on your back. 

There are quick access pockets for collapsible water flasks, and it is super comfortable with just the right amount of storage for most trail runners and ultra runners.

Most of all, I love the suspension harness system.

I always say that when the hydration vest is well-designed and right for you, it should almost feel like it is part of your body so that you forget about it while you run.

This is definitely the case with the Black Diamond Distance Hydration Vest.

Another fantastic option is the Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest 6.0. It has more storage, yet it feels supremely lightweight and hugs your body without bouncing. 

It fits a 2.0L bladder for more water storage capacity, and I love all the pockets. Plus, you get the gender-specific fit for better comfort.

All of the Ultimate Direction hydration packs and vests truly blend performance (lightweight, leakproof, durable) with ingenuity in design, comfort, and ergonomics.

A person running with a hydration pack.

#3: Hydration Packs

A hydration pack for running is similar to a hydration vest, but it has more storage room for other running gear.

Trail runners, ultra runners, or those who are doing long runs for marathon training and may need to stash extra layers, a first aid kit, whole food options instead of just energy gels, or even a change of running shoes may want to consider getting a running hydration pack for the longer runs in addition to a hydration vest.

The Nathan Laser Light 3 Liter Hydration Pack is perfect for runners who want a small, ergonomic hydration pack. It is super comfortable, bounce-free, and very light, offering up to 3 liters of total storage with an integrated 1.5L hydration bladder. 

What I love most is that active lights deliver over 6 lumens of clear light, which is perfect for running in the dark.

Other great options are the larger hydration backpacks that are part of the Black Diamond Distance hydration pack line.

They are similar to the Black Diamond hydration vest described above but have more of a backpack design with greater storage capacity.

A runner with a waist belt.

#4: Hydration Waist Belts

Running hydration waist packs or belts strap around your waist. Some have pouches and hold little water bottles that you can fill with diluted energy gels, sports drinks, or small amounts of water. 

There is also often a bladder with a hose that you can reach down and grab when you want to drink. 

There is an anti-leak bite valve that engages the flow of water when you bite down on the hose, and then you can clip the hose back to the waist belt when you are done hydrating.

Some runners love the fuel belt design rather than a hydration vest because it keeps your back free, which can prevent overheating if you are running in hot weather.

The advantage of a hydration belt over just a handheld water bottle is that you can usually carry two or four water bottles, which allows you to have more fluid-carrying capacity.

Additionally, you can use each bottle to hold different sports drinks, water, etc., to mix and match the bottle you grab based on your hydration plan as you run.

A person running with a hydration pack.

However, some runners find that the hydration waist packs cause a lot of sloshing of the fluids, which could be annoying to listen to. 

Plus, depending on your body size and shape in terms of your hips and waist, a running waist belt may bounce up and down, shift or twist while you run, or cause chafing.

My favorite hydration waist belts and waist packs are the Nathan TrailMix Plus 3.0 Insulated Hydration Belt if you like water bottles or the Thule Rail Hip Pack if you prefer a hydration belt with a bladder.

Overall, there are quite a number of options for how to carry water while running. 

Testing out different running water bottles and hydration vests is typically the best approach to finding the product that is right for you.

Most long distance runners end up needing at least one of each of the main types of hydration running gear to accommodate differing hydration needs based on the workout distance and weather conditions you encounter on any given day in your training cycle.

What should you be carrying in your packs? Check out our guide to fueling to find out:


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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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